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Authority and Auspiciousness in Gaurana's Laksanadipika.


In the introduction to his Telugu long poem the Navanathacaritramu (Deeds of the Nine Naths) Gaurana (fl. 1375-1445 CE) describes how he came to compose the text and extols his own virtues in the process. He recounts how the work's patron Muktisanta, lord of Srisailam's Bhiksavrtti matha, decided whom he should call to compose the Nafhs' tale. Chief among Muktisanta's concerns were the poet's qualifications: Who, he wondered, was "well-practiced... in judging the properties of tasteful rasa-filled literature" (sarasasahityalaksa-navivekamulan... alavadda vamdu)! (1) This praise might simply seem cliched. Through the alliterative sa-rasa-sahitya, for instance, Gaurana invokes the concept of rasa, which had long been deemed an indispensable feature of poetry and which--owing to the influence of Kashmiri poeticians--had helped to constitute the prevailing paradigm in Sanskritic poetics. What poet then would not claim to infuse a poem with rasa?

But more important in this praise, I would suggest, is the word laksana--'property', 'characteristic', or by extension any 'rule' or 'definition' based on such a feature. From this perspective, rasa is just one in a battery of other laksanas that poetry should have in order to appeal to the discerning literary elite. Scholars of Sanskritic poetics had enumerated and posited many such features. Aside from defining the discipline's namesake alamkaras (rhetorical ornaments or figures of speech), alamkarasastra also maintained thematics, characterology, narrative structure, and generic form among its core concerns. More to the point, being educated in poetics and related linguistic disciplines--especially metrics, dramaturgy, and grammar--was a qualification that few poets would disavow. Such learning, then, was not so much exceptional as to be expected.

Still, stereotyped though it may be, Muktisanta's commendation indexes more tangible traces of Gaurana's erudition and more unexpected senses of laksana. Not just a poet, Gaurana was also a poetician. In this latter capacity, he was the author of two non-identical Sanskrit works--each available in a single manuscript, both bearing the title Laksanadipika (A Light on the Properties). (2) The laksanas that Gaurana illuminates here are not, however, the many definitions of the myriad rhetorical ornaments. Rather, he is generally unconcerned with the usual subjects of Sanskrit poetics. He barely considers matters of meaning. He does not care to consider what makes poetry poetry, or what makes it interesting or beautiful or generally pleasing to the mind and ear. Nor does he care to reflect much on the concept of rasa to which he nods in his Telugu work. The poeticians' laksana notwithstanding, his use of the term stands much closer to the laksana of divination--that is to say, the tellingly auspicious or inauspicious mark on an animal, object, or person. And so, just as a diviner claims the power to descry an entity's fate by reading marks on its body, Gaurana's work promises to elucidate those characteristics of literary composition that can anticipate and actualize both favorable and unfavorable outcomes for the patrons and performers of poetry.

In taking up this issue, Gaurana's Laksanadipika (LD) belongs to what David Shulman has dubbed the "Andhra alankara school." (3) From at least the early fourteenth century, the poeticians of this school had begun to delineate the laksanas of auspicious composition. While earlier Sanskrit poeticians typically analyzed poetry to the level of the word or utterance, the Andhra poeticians developed rubrics for analyzing the metaphysical properties of poetic language's basic components--the phoneme (Sanskrit varna) and the metreme (Sanskrit gana). They understood these linguistic units to have deep affinities with divine energies that structure reality. Thus when reciting a poem, to utter a word--or even a few unmeaningful sounds--could be to invoke great and potentially perilous powers, especially when beginning a work. Lest danger ensue, a poet must--with the help of the poeticians' insight into these laksanas--be sure that his work's opening sounds are auspicious. Just as they developed this auspicious analysis, the Andhra poeticians had also begun to describe new literary forms, which Gaurana calls cdtuprabandhas. These forms were relatively short, multi-stanza, quasi-musical panegyrics in a mixture of prose (gadya) and verse (padya). Their panegyric character, it seems, made auspiciousness of the utmost importance. Stories of poetry's awesome power abound from at least the fourteenth century. A poet could lay waste to kings and kingdoms or make the same thrive with a well-placed (or even misspoken) syllable. It was to understand these linguistic powers that the Andhra poeticians posed their fine-grained analysis.

While Gaurana is an early proponent of this analysis of literary auspiciousness, he did not invent it. Rife with quotations, the very texture of the Laksanadipika might suggest that we are dealing with a derivative work, at best a useful digest of earlier texts. However, as I will show in what follows, Gaurana has not merely reproduced received opinion in his LD. More than this, he offers a purposeful and novel synthesis wherein he brings together and hierarchizes a wide range of materials. He primarily draws on poetry and poetics, often from the Andhra school. But--and by all accounts unlike his poetological predecessors and successors--Gaurana takes explicit recourse to authoritative texts on ritual and astrology.

In what follows, I will analyze how Gaurana synthesizes these materials: What topics are at issue? What principles govern his inclusion or exclusion of certain texts and what relationships (such as relative importance, priority, or subordination) does he forge between them? And why should astrological and ritual authorities end up as the bedrock of his project? As an opening proposition, I would suggest that as an early member of the Andhra school Gaurana seeks to ground what was an unstable body of poetic knowledge in the Telugu country. Gaurana works to resituate the Andhra school's decidedly literary precepts in a framework outside of literary or linguistic sastra. Ultimately, Gaurana not only redefines what constitutes poetic knowledge but also what it means to be a poet. To describe Gaurana's intervention more precisely, the next section will trace the discourse on auspiciousness in alamkarasastra and highlight the peculiar project of the Andhra school and Gaurana. From there I will detail how Gaurana hierarchizes his sources to construct a coherent system on auspiciousness in poetry. This section and the conclusion will show that Gaurana's revision of the auspicious analysis is driven by a ritual understanding of poetic practice that drives him to redefine the class of poets itself.


Most works in Sanskrit poetics show a concern for auspiciousness in one of two ways. First, they propose that any poetic enterprise should begin with a mangala verse so that the poets might complete their work and so that their audiences might understand and enjoy it. (4) A seminal example is available from Dandin's Kavyadarsa 1.14, which stipulates that a work may properly begin with a benediction, an obeisance, or some indication of the subject matter (asirnamaskriya vastunirdeso vapi tanmukham). Second, the body of the work should be generally auspicious. So, poets should avoid even inadvertently inauspicious meanings (amahgalartha); from Vamana's Kavyalahkara onward, such usages are basically categorized as a variety of distasteful or offensive (aslila) diction. (5) In both cases poeticians focus on the semantic powers of language--first the power to invoke and communicate with deities, second the power and problem of intentional and accidental reference.

The Andhra school shares these same anxieties, but it goes further, beyond language's capacity for meaning to the powers of generally meaningless phonemes and metremes. As Shulman characterizes it, the Andhra school ultimately recognizes a "dense grid of sonic waves and energies that, while bearing their own inherently positive or negative charges, interact decisively with one another, with various divine presences, and with context, intention, velocity, density, volume, and other determining factors that shift and transform." (6) In this, its poeticians add a new area of analysis to the normal considerations of beauty, pleasure, and rhetorical ornamentation.

While Gaurana's Laksanadipika is not the first work to pursue this analysis of auspiciousness, the unique intensity with which he engages the school's concerns is on display in the opening of his work, where he lays out his project's syllabus:
[1] The origin of the phonemes, their manifestation, and their number;
[2] their planets and elemental seed; [3] their proper and improper
usage and the distinction between harsh and pleasing phonemes; [4]
precepts about their use and their powers (felicitous and
infelicitous); [5] the names of the metremes; [6| their presiding
deities, their planets, and their powers; [7] the compatibility and
incompatibility of the metremes; [8] their signs according to the
sidereal zodiac and tropical zodiac; [9] consideration of the ambrosial
periods and the strength of planetary influence; [10) the method of
worshipping the Mother deities; and [11] the characteristics of
authors, patrons, literary compositions. (7)

As this table of contents reveals, Gaurana is almost completely silent on traditional matters of meaning. He speaks not of a composition's being beautiful, interesting, or pleasing; nor does he speak much about language's capacity for communication or representation. Instead he addresses those powers of language that precede any of the recognizable semantic operations. This is clear from his treatment of rasa, which comprises a strikingly brief nine verses. (8) Here he communicates the essential information on the rasas--what they are and which are compatible or incompatible with which. Beyond this, he only enumerates their presiding deities (adhidevatas) and the colors (varnas) associated with them. Though quoting almost verbatim from Amrtanandayogin's Alankarasangraha, Gaurana presents only a fifth of what Amrtanandayogin offers and an even smaller fraction of what one can find on rasa in other works of poetics. Gaurana himself speaks to this explicitly when he alludes to the many varieties of the rasa of passion (srngara) by saying that these are elaborated elsewhere by those "who are learned precisely in the discipline [of rasa]" (tacchastrakovidaih). Thus, as he says, rasa is important: "However well made it may be, he goes on to say, an utterance without rasa is as tasteless as a dish without salt" (sadhupakam andsvadyam bhojyam nirlavanam yatha tathaiva nirasam vakyam). Nevertheless, Gaurana seems to identify the study of things like rasa as a distinct field of knowledge. Such inattention to ordinary aesthetics and its affective and semantic dimensions is typical of his work.

In large part, Gaurana and the Andhra school's special interest in auspiciousness would have had its roots in the forms of poetry that occupied their attention. These are what Gaurana and most other Andhra poeticians call catuprabandhas. In south Indian literary culture, catu popularly refers to verses that circulate orally and are accompanied by stories that explain the circumstances of their utterance. (9) But these catus are distinct from the Andhra school's catuprabandhas, which are poems with a prosimetrical shape and encomiastic character. Gaurana manifests this panegyrical orientation when he emphasizes that poetry in general and cdtuprabandha in particular "should give results such as fame and therefore should be free of stain" (kavyam klrtyadiphaladam syat tato dosavarjitam), and that the proper subjects of these compositions should be persons like gods, brahmans, gurus, kings, vassals, and ministers. (10)

Further, as panegyrics catuprabandhas are considered to be particularly powerful. The definition of the udaharana, the archetypical cdtuprabandha, shows this clearly. Its stylistic form and the content of the work are wholly oriented towards representing and praising an eminent--if not royal--subject. And, more importantly, this form is imbued with a metaphysical content. Structurally it consists of nine sections, each in turn consisting of a verse and short paragraph of metered prose. Grammatically, each section is committed to one of the eight declensions (vibhaktis) identified by Sanskrit grammar, and praises its eminent subject with long sequences of nominal compounds. Thus, the compounds describing the subject in the first section are all declined in the first case (the nominative), in the second section the second case (accusative), and so on; the ninth section is called the sdrvavibhaktika verse and contains noun phrases declined in each of the cases. (11) With this structure, according to Gaurana's predecessor Amrtanandayogin, the work is understood to propitiate vibhaktidevatas, the goddesses that preside over the declensions. Exalting and exemplifying these grammatical/divine entities in this way is understood to be auspicious for the similarly exemplified and exalted subject. Specifically, Amrtanandayogin says, "the divinities that preside over the declensions--whom the wise call Virajanti (Radiance), Kirtimati (Fame), Subhaga (Prosperity), Bhogamalini (She who wears the garland of pleasure), Kalavati (Artistry), Kantimati (Glamour), Kamala (Wealth), Jayavati (Victory)--give a gift that corresponds to their name when pleased by this praise." (12)

Such poetry can thus bring about wonderful results. But. the Andhra poeticians caution, it can just as well have dire consequences. It is with this concern that Gaurana explicitly frames his work, offering four verses (three quotations, one original) that voice his project's rationale:
"If a poet should utter a verse without knowing all of this [i.e., the
metaphysical properties of language],
like a monkey up a Ketaka tree he would be all pierced through with
thorns." Similarly, it is said in The Crown-jewel of Literature:
"He who knows neither all the meters nor their properties, and yet
still writes prose and verse--he is the Death of kings."
And in Moonlight on Astonishment: "If even a single fault is seen, a
myriad of observances are wasted. Such is the innate power of faults.
So, what are we to do?"
And my very own: "With an intellect adept in the deed of designing
amazing poesy a wise and ambitious man should avoid faults like
poison." (13)

The verses all make the same claim: Understanding these properties of literary language and avoiding infelicitous usage are critical for the maintenance of one's life and livelihood. As the first quotation suggests, the poet himself is imperiled by reckless usage. Further, as the second quotation and Gaurana's own verse argue, royal personages (presumably insofar as they are the patrons of literature) find their own wealth and well-being imperiled by poets who are untutored in such material. Anecdotal evidence of this state of affairs seems to have circulated in Andhra well into the nineteenth century. (14) Some premodern metrical treatises even exemplify these laws with verses attributed to preternaturally powerful poets. For example, in his Telugu Laksanasiromani (Crest-jewel of rulebooks, ca. 1750 CE), Pottapai Veiikataramanakavi exemplifies a rule governing the inauspicious placement of phonemes by citing a verse--attributed to the notorious Dread Poet Vemulavada Bhlmakavi--which allegedly caused the royal patron's ruin. (15)

This level of concern is a significant departure from the approach generally available in alamkarasdstra from Dandin onward. Where an auspicious mangala benediction was once an option alongside other incipits, (16) for the Andhra school it is a requirement. At the same time, the auspicious beginning is no longer just about propitiating gods for the removal of obstacles to the poet's composition and the audience's understanding, as commentators often explain. The Andhra school does come to demand that poets should propitiate deities known as the matrkas (the mothers or phoneme goddesses) at the start of any work. However, this practice--called matrkapuja--diverges from the wider practice of reciting a mangala verse in crucial ways. For one, even though mangala verses may be predictable, poets do have a great deal of room for innovation. The Andhra poeticians, on the other hand, come to stipulate a fixed ritual visualization (dhyana) as part of the matrkapuja. Second, while both practices are expressly for an auspicious beginning, the literary mangala verse is also meant to ensure that the work be well understood and generally well received in the world. The matrkapuja of the Andhra school, on the other hand, is primarily meant to satisfy the larger demand to negotiate the elemental and potentially perilous powers associated with language. Poetry then, according to the Andhra school, is a serious business demanding great precision on the part of the poet.

Given this anxiety, what does the Andhra analysis look like? Typically it consists of two lists under the rubric of ganavarnasubhasubhaphala (the auspicious and inauspicious outcomes of phonemes and metremes). Consider first Gaurana's presentation of the phonemes:
The definitions should be like so: a is the deity of everything, red is
its color, it has power over everything, a: Parasakti, white,
attraction, i: Visnu, dark, protection. I: Mayasakti, tawny, and
control over women, u: Vastu. dark, and control over kings, u: the
Earth, dark, and control over kings, r : Brahma, yellow, mastery of the
celestial objects, r: Sikharidirupa, dark, destroys fever. l and l: the
Asvins, white and red, destroy fever, e: Virabhadra, yellow, grants all
aims. (17) anusvara: Mahesa, red, gives contentment, visarga:
Kalarudra, red, severs the bonds [of existence?], ka: Prajapati,
yellow, livelihood, kha, ga, and gha give glory, but ha infamy, ca and
cha give delight and comfort respectively. ja brings sons. Danger and
death come from jha and na. ta and tha are of hardship and discomfort.
Glamour and inglamorousness from da and dha respectively. Confusion
from na. ta and tha make war. da and dha give comfort, na vexes.
Danger, comfort, death, difficulty, and vexation: These are the
respective products of the labials [pa, pha. ba, bha, ma], ya gives
glory; ra gives pain; la and va bring affliction, sa brings comfort, sa
hardship, and sa bestows comfort, ha causes pain, la bestows
affliction, ksa produces prosperity. (18)

A few features of the analysis demand attention here. First, it is quite schematic: For each phoneme is stipulated some power or effect. This manner of organizing the material is common to all members of the Andhra school. Examples rarely punctuate these basic definitions. Second, the poeticians' schemas do not always agree in their particulars. Gaurana remarks upon this explicitly: After giving the schema quoted above, he quotes in full a slightly different list given in the Sahityacudamani (Crest-jewel of Literature), which has been attributed to the Reddi king Pedakomati Vema (r. 1402-1420 CE). One poetician might identify a phoneme as being positively charged while another might mark the very same entity as hazardous. Gaurana, for instance, says that na results in infamy, while the Sahityacudamani says it brings prosperity. Furthermore, Gaurana's treatment of the vowel sounds (Sanskrit svaras) is altogether more robust than what we find in other texts from Andhra alankarasastra: Each vowel (and the first consonant, ka) is given its own divinity (daivatyam) and color in addition to some commonly stipulated outcome (phala). And as we will see below, more fundamental differences are apparent insofar as schemas differ even in the number of phonemes they postulate.

These phoneme lists are always accompanied by an equally schematic presentation of the metremes or ganas. For his, Gaurana cites Visvesvara's Camatkaracandrika:

The ma-metreme--all heavy syllables, the Earth its divinity--gives security.

The ya-metreme--light in the first syllable, Water its divinity--makes wealth.

The ra-metreme--light in the middle, Fire its divinity--bestows prosperity.

The sa-metreme--heavy at the end. Wind its divinity--causes destruction.

The ta-metreme--light at the end, Sky its divinity--gives prosperity.

The ja-metreme--heavy in the middle, the Sun its divinity--causes pain.

The bha-metreme--heavy at the beginning, the Moon its divinity--bestows comfort. (19)

Aside from detailing their material consequences, the poeticians grant each metreme an elemental deity. These divine associations remain fixed throughout the tradition. However, as in the case of the phonemes, the poeticians may disagree about whether a metreme will produce a positive or negative outcome.

Still, the powers of phonemes and metremes are not entirely static. Combination and meaning can modulate a poetic element's inherent properties. For instance, a is positive, unless it is used in a compound in its negative sense. The same can be said for a (which can represent a plaintive or angry cry) and n, the consonantal core of the negative particle na. On the other hand, inauspicious sound sequences can become auspicious when they combine to denote something auspicious, such as a deity. Gaurana makes this plain by presenting a short series of maxims from other poetological treatises. For example, he cites Visvesvara: "When referring to auspicious things or mentioning gods, metremes and phonemes--like stones imbued with divinity--cannot be faulted" (mangalarthabhidane ca devanam ahkane 'pi va, gana na dusya varnas ca devatadhisthitds'mavat). (20) That is to say, any malefic properties established in the raw material can be ameliorated if the sound or sound sequence manifests something auspicious through its referential powers.

Initial sounds and sound sequences in poetry have become here objective facts, and their inherent properties can be subverted precisely through their capacity for meaning. Visvesvara's simile is telling in that it points to the transmutation of a mundane object (here a stone) through certain procedures of installation (adhisthana), as indicated by the phrase "imbued with divinity" (devatadhisthita). In this way poetic language is framed in ritual terms in the Andhra school.


Andhra's auspicious analysis is then predictable in its basic form and interests if not necessarily stable in the particulars. As noted above, Gaurana actually highlights the differences in opinion within the school, setting his view against that of the Sahityacudamani. But Gaurana goes on to suggest that the Sahityacudamani's analysis is not merely different but dubious, saying "here and there it conveys what I have said. Even so, the absence of an understanding between [the two lists]--that can be overlooked, since it [the Sahityacudamani] lacks a proper foundation" (ity anena kvacit kvacit asmaduktarthah pratiyate | tad apy amulatvat parasparavijnanam upeksaniyam |). (21) The rival text appears to be problematic because it lacks a properly authorative basis (amulatvat). Thus, though Gaurana had other--and earlier--works on poetics at hand, the authority of these works was apparently debatable.

It is this instability and a corresponding demand for precision that seem to determine the scope of Gaurana's project. For most of the Andhra poeticians, the analysis stops with the phoneme and metreme lists (items 3 through 6 in the syllabus detailed above). But if we recall Gaurana's plan for the Laksanadipika, we see that his presentation of the phonemes, metremes, and their consequences is but a fraction of the material. The lists are preceded by remedial discussions of what these entities are, and they are succeeded by a series of more advanced discussions that build upon the basic schema and detail how metrical elements are combined to different effects. In this, Gaurana appears to address the problem of baseless authority. By expanding the scope of the analysis, Gaurana seems to be building--or, perhaps more accurately, shoring up--the system. Throughout his project, Gaurana turns to two sources outside of poetics: mantrasdstra and astrology (jyotihsastra). The following sections will work through the ways that Gaurana uses these in his argument. In the first, I will show the place of mantrasdstra in Gaurana's remedial investigation of the phonemes and their metaphysics. Next, I will move up a level to Gaurana's analysis of metremes, their combinations, and his use of jyotihsastra. Finally, I will turn to the ways that Gaurana pushes beyond sastra to the authority of exceptional poetic practitioners.

3.1. The nature of phonemes and mantrasastra as a model

The phonemic analysis cited above would seem to bear the influence of tantra and its subfield mantrasastra, the study of verbal formulas (mantras) used in tantric ritual. On the whole, tantric works elaborate a complex metaphysics where sonic energies emanate from the divine to constitute the fabric of the universe as we (should) know it. The critical importance of sound and speech are predictably apparent in mantrasastra. The field's texts build upon this metaphysics and concern themselves especially with its practical application in constructing ritually efficacious verbal formulas: Here the power of mantra is not semantic--neither does it force, nor does it beseech a deity to act; rather, its power is rooted in the way sound pervades all of reality, such that there is no separation between language, the human, and the divine. (22) The proper construction and application of mantras simply makes manifest the divine powers that inhere in sound. Thus the digests of mantrasastra stipulate not just the phonemes' affinities with various divine powers but also general prerequisites and procedures for using mantras, instructions for particular mantras, and instructions for visualization rituals (dhyana). Earlier studies of the Andhra school have noted the similarities between the tantric and the poetic and attempted to draw more precise connections. David Shulman, for instance, compares Visvesvara's analysis in the Camatkaracandrika to a similar phoneme-by-phoneme list produced by Abhinavagupta in the Tantraloka. (23) Earlier work by Sarasvati Mohan also notes the similarity between the tantric analysis and Andhra's poetics, going so far as to present extracts from poetological treatises side-by-side with extracts from tantric works.

More than this, however, Mohan argues for explicit continuities between the two traditions, with Gaurana functioning as an apparent nexus. (24) But Mohan's claim--that the system of the Andhra school is indebted to the researches of the tantric school--requires qualification. The tantric materials and those of the Andhra certainly share a formal shape. But even if a general relation to tantric modes of thought can be presumed, no direct links are apparent and the tantra-inflected analysis of phonemes and metremes occupies distinct sections of most works from the Andhra alamkarikas. The case of Gaurana illustrates the limits of Andhra alamkarasdstra's use of mantrasastra. Despite the robust descriptions of the powers of phonemes available in mantrasastra manuals, Gaurana does not directly appropriate these sections in his auspicious analysis. Rather, he draws on mantrasastra in only two places: first in the sections leading up to the standard auspicious analysis and second for the fundamentals of propitiating the matrkas.

While most treatises from Andhra contain only the auspicious analysis, the LD begins not with that analysis itself but with a remedial discussion of the phonemes. It is here that Gaurana first harkens to non-poetological texts of tantra. In particular, he references two works--the Saradatilaka (The Forehead-mark of Sarada) of Laksmanadesika and the Prapahcasara (The Essence of the Emanation) attributed to Sankaracarya--both of which exemplify the field of mantrasastra. Gaurana deploys these works to set the poetic system on a proper foundation by defining the phonemes, the fundamental elements of language and literature. Where do these phonemes come from? What are they made of? How many are there? Gaurana stands out in the Andhra school for spending nearly twenty verses answering these questions before giving his version of the standard phonemic analysis. The explanation describes how sounds are physically produced; but, in much greater detail, it describes the phonemes' metaphysical character. For Gaurana, mantrasastra's comprehensive and systematic treatment of the matter offers a necessary and well-wrought foundation for any subsequent poetic analysis.

The recourse to mantrasdstra is exemplified by Gaurana's first two points: on the phonemes' origin (varnodbhava) and manifestation (varnavyakti). Initially, poetological texts seem to have some standing insofar as their linguistics assumes the metaphysics of tantra. When discussing the phonemes' origin, Gaurana first cites the Sahityacudamani, which explains that the "cause of their birth [is] Siva--the divine god who is the bindu--joined with his female counterpart" (vadanti vibudhas same varnanam janmakaranam sivaya saha divyam tarn devam bindvatmakam sivam). (25) The references to Siva, the bindu ("singularity" or "drop"), Siva's female counterpart (Siva), and the phonemes' descending from these are commonplaces in tantra's linguistic metaphysics. As Padoux translated the cosmogony presented in the Saradatilaka, from Siva, "the supreme Lord,... was born the [phonic] energy [sakti]. Out of that came the nada and out of nada, bindu, which is a manifestation of the supreme energy, and which itself divides into three"; from the tripartite bindu (viz., bindu, nada, bija) comes sabdabrahman, which takes the shape of the kundalini; thence come the phonemes, then speech; then the gods, the elements, and the whole phenomenal world. (26) The only difference seems to be the Sahityacudamani's reference to Siva where the ST speaks of sakti or Siva's "[phonic] energy," which is grammatically and conceptually figured as female.

Gaurana ultimately accepts the view of the Sahityacudamani. Nevertheless, he appears to find it wanting because the sequence of its analysis diverges from the tantric description. Gaurana follows the Sahityacudamani excerpt with a half-line of verse from Saradatilaka 1.113: "the phonemes are born from the bindu, which consists of Siva and Sakti" (Jata varna yato bindoh sivasaktimayad atah). Here he effectively glosses the Sahityacudamani's "female counterpart" or Siva with Sakti, the female manifestation of the god Siva's generative power. Further, in citing the Sradatilaka Gaurana is not just glossing the Sahityacudamani but correcting it. The bindu is not, strictly speaking, made up of Siva alone (bindvatmakam sivam). As the Saradatilaka has it, the bindu is that stage of the emanation constituted by Siva who is still conjoined with Sakti; it is only in later stages that the two divide (and thus unleash the previously latent sakti). (27)

Mantrasastra's pre-eminence, alongside the relative status of his two sources, becomes even more evident as Gaurana determines the number of actually existing phonemes (varnasamkhya). (28) The controversy stems from competing accounts in his two mantrasdstra authorities. The opinion of the ST--that the phonemes are fifty-one--is the first to be adduced. Next come opinions from poetics and grammar: the number forty-nine from Camatkaracandrika; sixty-three or sixty-four (from Sambu by way of a Tribhdsyaratnakara). (29) These are proposed but summarily ignored. In the end, Gaurana must bring the authority of the PS to bear on the issue. His judgment revolves around the status of the retroflex la and the conjunct ksa. On the first account, the difference between the dental la and the retroflex la is dissolved at the metaphysical level: He argues that they must have been born of the same phonemic deity (matrka), since the retroflex is not said to have one of its own (lalayor abhedah antarmatrkaydm lakdrasyanuktatvac ca). Nonetheless, he finds a way to save the retroflex la by acknowledging that there are fifty-one aksaras or graphemes, even if there are only fifty metaphysically significant varnas or phonemes. (30) Similarly, some do not count the conjunct ksa since it can be divided into its constituent parts, ka and sa. Gaurana, for his part, marshals mantrasastra authorities to maintain ksa as a discrete phoneme. Namely, the PS recognizes ksa as a conjunct, but ascribes to it an appropriately conjunct deity--the man-lion avatar of Visnu (ksakaras tena samjato nrsimhas tasya devata). Having given this pronouncement, Gaurana also cites two further works, the Mantradarpana (31) and the poetological Kavikanthapasa, to corroborate his decision. But these just add volume to the chorus. Beyond the argument grounded in the number of phonemic deities, Gaurana's judgment is conclusively ratified by the authority of its teacher: "There are fifty phonemes," he concludes, "precisely because this is what was taught by Sankaracarya" (sankaracaryena pdrthakyenoktatvat tasmad varnah pahcasad eva). Thus, not only does the PS explain the metaphysical rudiments of the system, but there is also a hierarchy among the tantric texts, one seemingly based in the relative authority of their authors.

That said, Gaurana does not merely appeal to the authority of mantrasastra. He also tries to emulate the structure of its analysis. On the whole, mantrasastra more fully explicates the qualities of each varna, describing more than just the fruits of their use. As we have seen in the case of the conjunct consonant ksa, the PS stipulates a deity (devata) for each syllable. What is more, as the fourth chapter of the PS details, syllables may each be individually connected to celestial bodies, an explicitly feminine generative power (sakti), and some color (varna). Gaurana's peculiarly robust analysis of the vowels--wherein he stipulates not just the power but also color and divinity of each sound--takes this same form. And so, having documented (with appropriate citations) the metaphysical presuppositions of a systematic phonemic analysis, Gaurana presents the phonemes' attributes with the same precision as mantrasastra, if not the same content.

Mantrasastra's model status persists in later sections on the matrkapujana that Gaurana prescribes as a preliminary to any literary recitation. The core of this procedure appears to be dhyana or ritual visualization of a matrkd. (32) Gaurana offers four elaborate gadya passages for the precise visualization of the matrkas of brahmans, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras respectively. But he finds it necessary to turn to mantrasastra for issues of fundamental ritual method. Citing ST 6.12-15, he describes the basic procedures for honoring a matrka--namely that such a deity should be borne on a throne whose base is the "lotus of phonemes" (yarnabjenasanam dadhyad murtim mulena kalpayet avdhya pujayet tasyam devim avaranais saha). Gaurana then goes further and draws on PS 7.7 to specify the exact dimensions and formation of this phonemic lotus. To worship the matrkas without taking into account these basic procedures, he says, amounts to a fault (evam akarane dosah). (33)

Thus, while poetological texts dictated the necessity for the auspicious analysis of phonemes, only mantrasastra could provide for Gaurana the necessary theoretical foundations for understanding the phonemes' metaphysical and ritual entailments. The only content that tantra determines is the number of phonemic elements. Beyond that, but no less crucially, it stipulates the framework for understanding these elements, their attributes, and methods for propitiating them.

3.2. Astrological authorities in the analysis of metremes

The dictates of mantrasastra carry less weight, however, when Gaurana moves to the metreme. One reason may be that, more than the phoneme, the metreme is a unit particular to versification. A second and related reason is that some form of the metreme analysis predates the Andhra materials and seems to have been available in Sanskrit samgitasastra. Indeed, Gaurana's contemporaries and immediate predecessors seem to have already presented a particularly robust analysis of the metremes' properties. So, for example, Gaurana cites another poetological text--this time the Sahityaratndkara, a work of the Andhra school--on the metaphysical origins of the metreme deities, which are forms of Siva (ganadevata sahityaratnakare-bhujalagnimarudvyomasuryasomatkasamjnikah murtayah sankarasyastau gananam devatdh smrtah). (34) For this much at least, poetics was sufficient. What is more, Gaurana's immediate predecessors--Sahityacudamani, Sahityaratnakara, and Sahityacandrodaya--attribute further associations to the metremes, namely colors (varna), planets (graha), and sidereal and tropical zodiac signs (naksatra, rasi) for each metreme.

Yet the presentation of these other attributes belies the apparent precedence of poetic sastra: Poetics does not always determine the logic that governs these advanced associations. The question Gaurana raises to introduce the metremes' colors alludes to the possibility that another, non-poetic framework must be introduced. He does not begin by asking, "What are the colors of the metremes?" (gananam ke varnah), but rather "The metremes have the color of which things?" (kesam varnah). (35) The question reveals that before specifying the colors of the metremes it is necessary to specify the grounds on which these colors can be specified in the first place. To provide such background, Gaurana cites the Sahityacudamani, which declares that "the colors of the metremes are just the colors of their presiding deities" (svasvadhidevatandm ye varnas te ceti vis'ruta). In this case, poetics has stipulated a framework for generating further attributes. But Gaurana shows that the rules for applying this framework often reside under the jurisdiction of non-literary texts.

Colors and deities aside, the properties have a distinctly astrological character, with the metremes subsisting under the influence of planetary and zodiacal bodies. For this reason, Gaurana turns to both astrology and poetics, albeit to different ends. (36) To open up the discussion of the metremes' planets, Gaurana does have at his disposal a poetic text--this time the Sahityaratnakara: "Intelligent men say that the metremes of Fire, Earth, Sky, Water, and Wind correspond to the list of planets starting with Mars" (vahniksmakhambumarutam vadanti manisinah ganan bhaumadikan tattatganandm ca yathakramam). As we saw with mantrasastra and the phonemes, Gaurana here uses astrology to reinforce the poetological statement. In this case, he uses the Brhajjataka (The Big Book on Nativities), Varahamihira's seminal fourth-century astrological compendium: "As [it says] in the Brhajjataka: 'For the groups associated with Fire, Earth, Sky, Water, and Wind, the lords are, in order, [the plan-ets] beginning with Mars'" (sikhibhukhapayomarut gananam adhipa bhumisutadayah). The Brhajjataka reference here grounds the equivalencies set out in the Sahityaratnakara. The reference to an older attestation of the two sets (elemental and planetary) serves to make the implicit framework explicit. Nonetheless, an ellipsis remains. The list of elemental deities omits the Sun and the Moon, which preside over the ja-metreme and bha-metreme respectively. Gaurana notes this and explains that they ja-metreme and bha-metreme are omitted because they already have planetary correspondences in their deities--the Sun and the Moon (jaganabhaganau [...] nijadhidevatagrahau). This time, however, he cites the Sahityacudamani, which gives the list of planets--Sun and Moon inclusive--to go along with the metremes. Here the reference provides the requisite exhaustiveness. Presumably the Sahityacudamani could not have been used alone since the ordering of its list follows the poetic ordering. Its metreme list starts--as most metreme list are wont to do--with the ma-metreme, (37) which has Earth as its divinity and Mercury as its planet (mayarasatajabhagananam budhakavikujasaurijivaravicandrah). Subsequently, even though its list of planets covers more than that of the Brhajjataka, its manner of sequencing--and thus establishing correspondences--does not fully adhere to astrological precedent.

But when it comes to resolving true discrepancies, it is precisely astrology's system that becomes most consequential. So much is borne out when Gaurana elaborates upon the implications of using metremes in certain combinations. His base text for defining the metremes is the Camatkaracandrika. Yet Gaurana here considers each metreme in turn, with an eye toward the neutralization of inherently inauspicious metremes and the evaluation of conflicting poetological assertions. The most problematic case in this regard is the bha-metreme, which has the Moon as its presiding deity and planet. Visvesvara describes the bha-metreme as bestowing comfort (saukhyadayi). But Gaurana finds a dissenting opinion in the Sahityacandrodaya, which claims that "When a dim-witted poet uses it at the start of a prose or verse poem, the bha-metreme--black on account of the Moon--spells the end for the poem's patron" (kavina gadyapadyadau prayukto mudhacetasa krtanto bhagano bhartuh krsnavarninisakare). This view from the Sahityaratnakara is completely recast by Gaurana, who explains that the Moon's qualities are inherently mutable:
Tradition has it that the Moon is dark in color; but it has been well
established that it consists of water. As Varahamihira says: "While the
Moon, which is made of water [...]." [And] water is actually
transparent in color.... As a crystal is red in the presence of the
China Rose, so does the Moon's color depend on the influence of
this-or-that conditioning factor. As it is said in the Samhitasara:
"The Moon's color depends on the influence of this-or-that conditioning
factor. Red, yellow, white, and dark: these are the four colors of the
Moon. The colors of the Moon are produced by the colors of the [other]
Therefore, the Moon's being black in color is actually possible; [and]
a black Moon is fatal. Even this statement is made according to the
very same text [i.e., Samhitasara): "When there's a red Moon, war. When
it's dark, death--no doubt. When it's yellow, there's good fortune.
When it's white, the most auspicious circumstances." Thus does the
Moon-governed bha-metreme bestow fruit in accordance to its color. (38)

The discussion is concluded with a reference to the Sahityaratnakara (unfortunately damaged in the manuscript), which seems to explain that given the reflective character of the Moon relative to the other planets, the bha-metreme also takes on properties of the metreme that follows it. While Gaurana employs the poetological text to render his conclusion absolutely clear, he relies on exposition from Varahamihira and the Samhitasara (39) to make his case. Gaurana presents two conflicting but equally traditional pieces of wisdom regarding the Moon's properties. On the one hand, he labels the Sahityaratnakara's view as traditional wisdom or aitihya, while on the other hand, he notes an equally well-established or prasidha view that the Moon consists of water. Because these two views seem to be equally valid, Gaurana must in the end resort to a more rigorous method.

By citing Varahamihira and the Samhitasara, Gaurana reproduces the work of these texts in order to establish the basic properties of the Moon as well as any further attributes that these entail. In this case, Gaurana does not throw out what he identifies as traditional views, but he does show them to be incomplete insofar as they lack the requisite background of astrological research. And while the Moon's reflective color makes it and the bha-metreme special cases, this case nonetheless exemplifies a general principle: The celestial bodies can all come under the influence of one another and stand in relationships of compatibility (maitri) and enmity (satrava, satrutd). Therefore, the metremes do too. Gaurana makes this point explicitly elsewhere in the Laksanadipika: "The best sages reckon the affinity and enmity between the metremes according to the affinities and enmities of their presiding planets" (gananam satrutamaitri vijneyau munipumgavaih tadisanam grahanam ca satrutvan maitrya sada). (40) Thus astrology becomes the fundamental resource for analyzing metrical auspiciousness because it has already described and established the properties of the astrological entities that condition the metremes.

3.3. Auspiciousness and poetic authority

All of this so far suggests that Gaurana did not consider all poetic practice to be properly auspicious and authoritative. Were it so, there would be no need for his treatise. Yet despite developing a metaphysical phonetics and prosody rooted in mantrasastra and jyotihsastra, Gaurana further argues that only two classes of language users can truly satisfy his poetics of auspiciousness. On the one hand, Gaurana deems authoritative the practice of great poets (mahakaviprayoga). On the other, he ultimately maintains that only brahmans are inherently auspicious enough to compose properly auspicious poetry.

On the first account, Gaurana appeals throughout the LD to the practice of great poets as a way of corroborating precepts certified by sastra. But, more strikingly, the practice of great poets can be a precedent in itself. Gaurana's discussion of the ta-metreme bears this out:
The [particularities] of the ta-metreme [are given] in the
Whenever followed by the Wia-metreme, the ta-metreme whose divinity is
the Sky, grants every desire for the author and patron.
FOR example, it is said in Amaru's poetry:
"jyakrstibaddhakhatakamukha." Now, one might say: No--the ta-metreme is
intrinsically harmful; so how could it engender any benefit? The reply
would be that it bestows good fortune if it is linked with an
auspicious meter, just as an onion gains a pleasant fragrance through
contact with sandal. Yet--it has been said that there is a flaw in
using the ta-metreme: "fa: the Sky [its divinity], a light syllable at
the end, destruction." And: "For the Sky, void." But even so, great
poets who know the standards of speech have accepted it at the
beginning of treatises and among the literary ornaments. Therefore, the
ta-metreme can only be auspicious. For example: "astyuttarasyam" in the
Kumarasambhava. And Saiikaracarya: "omkarapanjarasukhim." Furthermore,
the treatises also say that the ta-metreme is auspicious. In the
Camatkaracandrika: "The ta-metreme: Sovereignty is its fruit, a light
syllable at the end, the Sky its god." And in the Sahityacandrodaya:
"The fa-metreme always bestows every blessing." (41)

What Gaurana points to here is another disagreement within the Andhra school. The Sahityaratnakara holds that the ta-metreme is permissible so long as it is followed by the bha-metreme. The objection, however, takes issue with the notion that malefic metremes can be made positive. Unexpectedly (given what we have seen so far) Gaurana does not turn to jyotihsastra. It may be that the science is useless here: The firmament as such may have little significance for the astrologer; it is primarily the medium in which celestial signs are manifested. Because it was unaddressed, the Andhra poeticians were free to take up the problem and define some of the sky's properties at their own discretion. But, as the foregoing has shown, Gaurana also believes that poetology lacks a solid theoretical foundation. For this reason he can only look to what "great poets" have done. They are imagined to "know the standards of speech."

Gaurana never actually explains how this class of great poets is defined, nor does he detail the source of their knowledge. But these great poets are a fairly familiar group which is claimed by Sanskrit literary culture at large. Among them, Kalidasa, Bharavi, Magha, and Sriharsa stand out as the authors of the pancamahakavya or five great Sanskrit poems (Kumarasambhava and Raghuvatnsa; Kiratarjuniya; Sisupalavadha; Naisadhacarita respectively) canonized as such by the fourteenth century. (42) Aside from these major four, Gaurana also cites Banabhatta and Subandhu, who are frequently included in other lists of great poets and are noteworthy for having set the template for major works of prose poetry. Beyond this standard cast of classical poets, he cites Saiikaracarya. We have seen Gaurana cite his authority on linguistic metaphysics through the Prapancasara; and in the present case, this authority is borne out through his stotra composition. Gaurana's move here dovetails with later south Indian representations of Sankara as a poet supreme. (43) Gaurana also has occasion to cite the mangala verse of Bhasarvajna's philosophical treatise the Nyayasara--a surprising choice, though the author is not unknown to Sanskrit literary culture. So, while Gaurana never details the criteria for determining the authority of poets, he nevertheless relies on figures who would have constituted a canon or at least had a broad pedagogical currency.

Even though Gaurana provides no justification for the greatness of those particular poets, he does go on to define the true poet's character in the conclusion to his study on auspiciousness. His starting definition comes from the Sahityacudamani: "A man who is pure, clever, calm; who is praised by respectable folk, trained in the arts, learned; who is sweet voiced and expert in poetry; who knows what to do; who knows omens; who is kind, born of a noble clan; whose body is auspicious and who knows the properties of the metremes--such a man is a poet" (kavilaksanam sahi[tya]cu[damanau] sucir daksah santas sujanavinutah [...] kalavedi vidvan kalamrduvadah kavyacaturah krtajno daivajnas sadayas satkulabhavah subhnkaras chandoganagunaviveki sa hi kavih). (44) Excepting extraordinary charisma, martial valor, and romantic prowess, the poet described here resembles the heroic subject or nayaka of poetry and drama. (45) The qualities the manual demands are primarily virtues acquired by education and breeding. Traits gained through education (an acquaintance with omens, knowledge of the arts, poetry, and the metremes in particular) shade into qualities conducive to noble comportment, such as the ability to speak in a pleasing manner. Others, like being born into a good family, are ineluctably congenital. Nonetheless, "being born in a good family" could be interpreted variously. In the dramaturgical domain, though the nayaka is most often a ksatriya, some subtypes are open to vais'yas and brahmans. So, according to this initial definition, the poet could also come from a vais'ya or ksatriya background. This theoretical diversity is reinforced by the literary record of Gaurana's day, which is populated by kingly poets and connoisseurs such as the Sahityacudamani's author, the Reddi king Pedakomati Vema, who proudly claimed a sat-sudra identity. (46)

Still, Gaurana did not accept such a diverse class of creators. Most definitions of poets descend from their compositional tendencies rather than social identities, (47) but Gaurana goes on to limit the social composition of the poet class by singling out purity as an essential attribute. He argues: "The word pure used at the beginning of the verse means 'brahman.' As Sruti says: 'Pure is the brahman, pure is the poet.' Thus a poet is simply a brahman and not a sudra, et cetera.... Surely, Sruti is the exemplar here. [As it is said] in the Yajurveda: 'Pure is the poet'" (asya padyasyadau prayuktena sucisabdena vipra ucyate | tatha srutih | sucir vipras sucih kavir iti | tasmad vipra eva kavih | na tu sudradayah | tatha hi | na sudro na ca vaisyas tu na narendrah kadacana | vipra eva kavir nunam atrodaharanam srutih | yajusi | sucih kavir iti[parallel]). (48) Thus purity (sucita) is made synonymous with brahmanhood. With such an equation, Gaurana's Laksanadipika moves from a study on auspiciousness toward making broader social arguments about auspiciousness and poetic authority: Poetry must be auspicious and unsullied. Purity is the basis of auspiciousness here. In addition to the purity and auspiciousness of the language stuff (as reckoned by mantrasastra and jyotihsastra), the poet's own purity (or lack thereof) inheres in the poet's work. Only a brahman, it would seem, is vested with the requisite purity says Gaurana's Vedic citation. Thus comes Gaurana's final recommendation that "the poetry of non-brahmans--of sudras and their like--should be repulsive, just like milk from a dog" (sunidugdham yatha tyajyam padyam sudrakrtam budhaih gavam iva payo tatha kavyam viprena nirmitam). (49) In the end, just as the stuff of language has powers that transcend its semantic capabilities, so, too, does the poet have a certain metaphysical constitution. Yet, where the properties of phonemes and metremes may be attenuated or exacerbated, it is not so for the would-be poet. According to Gaurana, there is simply no procedure whereby poets can modulate the metaphysical consequences of their caste.


In this way Gaurana's Laksanadipika argues for a new standard of authority in poetics. Treatises on poetics can hold valid opinions in decidedly poetological matters (such as the technical terms for the metremes and the very necessity of analyzing poetry's auspiciousness). However, Gaurana generally finds poetics to be an unstable body of knowledge with many internal contradictions. Therefore, when it touches topics that are not strictly literary and when poetic manuals disagree, authority must shift elsewhere--to mantrasdstra when it comes to the metaphysics of phonemes and to jyotihsastra for the metremes' astrological properties. Gaurana does not go so far as to justify the authority of these texts, which likely stood as self-evidently authoritative sastras in his eyes. On the other hand, what was neither self-evident nor unassailable was the validity of poetics.

So a new rigor would have been essential, given the stakes of the poetics of auspiciousness. Gaurana makes this clear with the alarmist way in which he frames the Laksanadipika project. The knowledge it contains is a matter of prosperity or destitution, of life and death. In this light Gaurana's work in the Laksanadipika is driven by an anxiety about the power of poetry and the power of poets themselves. The titles of the few other similarly focused works from the tradition echo this need for poetic regulation. They label poets as beasts to be reined in with the anonymous Kavikanthapasa (Leash for the Poet's Throat), or wild elephants to be prodded and tamed with the Kavigajahkusamu (Goad for Poet-Elephants) by Gaurana's son Bhairavakavi, or an invasive species of serpents to be kept in check by their raptorial natural predator in the Kavisarpagarudamu (An Eagle to Poet-Snakes). In being fashioned to counter poetic dangers, these texts resonate with stories of medieval south Indian poets, such as Vemulavada Bhlmakavi, who routinely cursed kings with his malefic compositions. (50)

Thus, the central force behind the Andhra school's development may have been the poeticians' anxiety over poetry's power, especially when it is used to celebrate royal power. In her study of Tamil pattiyah Jennifer Clare has highlighted this courtly cause by detailing the complete coevality of their similar phoneme analysis and the description of specifically Tamil genres of pirapantam panegyric. Seen against the backdrop of earlier Tamil poetics, she argues, the coincidence of these two subjects in the pattiyal suggests that the function of Tamil poetry was generally reoriented towards the praise of royal patrons. In this regard, she understands the pattiyah as a project meant to demonstrate Tamil's capacity to express royal power. (51)

The connection between the Tamil and Andhra materials remains to be discerned, and I would hesitate to follow the pattiyal parallel too closely, given its focus on Tamil as such. Even as it speaks to Telugu materials, the Andhra school exemplified by Gaurana was first formulated in Sanskrit, and royal panegyric had long been at the core of Sanskrit traditions of kavya. (52) Alongside the massive and related literature of stotra, both went largely untheorized in Sanskrit poetics. (53) So, given the genre's practical centrality and its virtual absence from theoretical discussions in alamkdrasdstra, the Andhra poeticians must have found something new worth defining. And what they found were not just panegyrics, but cdtuprabandhas with an explicitly metaphysical form and function.

In this light, we must certainly grapple with Mundoli Narayanan's admonition against "over-ritualizing" artistic activity in premodern India. (54) But in developing a poetics of auspiciousness, the Andhra poeticians' project was intent on reading panegyric as beholden to standards associated with ritual practice. This was particularly true for the Laksanadipika as it situated poetics against canons of knowledge necessary for ritual. But even more for Gaurana, refining the poetics of auspiciousness also demanded redefining poetic authority Poeticians and patrons did not only need to verify that practice was auspicious in light oi sdstras, tantras, and the precedents set by great poets of the past. They also had to consider the auspiciousness and authority of the composer himself. And so, in producing an image ol the poet that naturalizes the coincidence of poethood, brahmanhood, and purity, Gaurana's definition of the poet is not so much pure description as it is his argument's prescriptive culmination: Redescribing poetic work as a ritual activity wherein auspiciousness is paramount, the Laksanadipika urges patrons to seek praise from only a brahman few. By the same token, such an argument's presence reminds us that the class of real poets must have been much more expansive than Gaurana would have liked to admit.


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Fisher, Elaine M. "'Just Like Kalidasa': The Sakta Intellectuals of Seventeenth-Century South India." Journal of Hindu Studies (2012): 1-21.

Jamison, Stephanie W. "Poetry: kauuvi, kavi, kavya." In Le Rgveda entre deux mondes: Quatre conferences au college de France en mai 2004. Paris: College de France, 2007.

Minkowski, Christopher. "Why Should We Read the Maiigala Verses?" In Sastrarambha: Inquiries into the Preamble in Sanskrit, ed. Walter Slaje. Pp. 1-24. Abhandlungen fur die Kunde des Morgenlandes, vol. 62. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008.

Mohan, Sarasvati. "Gaurana and His Sanskrit Works." Annals of Oriental Research (University of Madras) 20(1965): 1-10.

Narayana Rao, Velcheru. "Multiple Lives of a Text: The Sumati Satakamu in Colonial Andhra." In Ritual, Caste, and Religion in Colonial South India, ed. Michael Bergunder, et al. Pp. 330-58. Halle: Franckesche Stiftungen, 2010.

Narayanan, Mundoli. "Over-Ritualization of Performance: Western Discourse on Kutiyattam." TDR: The Dance Review 50.2 (2006): 136-53.

Padoux, Andre. Vac: The Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras, tr. Jacques Gontier. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1990.

Patel, Deven M. Text to Tradition: The Naisadhlyacarita and Literary Community in South Asia. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2014.

Pingree, David. Jyotihsdstra: Astral and Mathematical Literature. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1981.

Pollock, Sheldon. The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 2006.

Shulman, David. "Notes on Camatkara." In Language, Ritual and Poetics in Ancient India and Iran: Studies in Honor of Shaul Migron, ed. David Shulman. Pp. 249-76. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences & Humanities, 2010.

Shulman, David, and Velcheru Narayana Rao. A Poem at the Right Moment: Remembered Verses on South India. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 2001.



An early draft of this paper was presented at the 44th Annual Conference on South Asia (2015) as part of the panel "Trust the Texts'? Canon, Authority, and the Making of Vernacular Literary Histories." I thank all those in attendance for their comments. I am also indebted to Whitney Cox, Velcheru Narayana Rao, Stephanie Jamison, and two anonymous reviewers for the Journal for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper. All remaining errors and inadequacies are my own.

(1.) Gaurana, Navanathacaritradvipadakavyamu, 1.

(2.) These are (1) D. 1494, GOML Chennai; (2) D. 12952, GOML Chennai. Throughout this article I will draw on these two works almost indiscriminately. Earlier scholars--chief among them Sarasvati Mohan--saw them as two discrete albeit similarly themed works. Others, as Mohan reports, have found reason to doubt that Gaurana composed both works. See Sarasvati Mohan, "Gaurana and His Sanskrit Works," 4. My contention, which diverges from both of these perspectives, is that D. 12952 is likely a supplement (part commentary, part revision with additions) to D. 1494. Thus for the purposes of my argument I treat them as constituting a single project, if not a single text.

(3.) David Shulman, "Notes on Camatkara," 259.

(4.) Christopher Minkowski, "Why Should We Read the Mangala Verses'?" 10.

(5.) Kavyalamkarasutravrtti 2.1.20. For an expanded discussion on the same paradigm, see Camatkaracandrika 1.39-41.

(6.) Shulman, "Notes on Camatkara," 271.

(7.) D. 1494 fol. 23a. 11. 4-6. : varnanam udbhavah pascad vyaklisamkhyatatah param I bhutabijavicaras ca tato varnagrahav api II anarhanahavedhas ca ruksasnigdhavicarand I prayoganirnayas tesam subhasubhaphalani ca II gananam cabhidhanani svarupany adhidevatah I varnabhedagrahas tatra subhasubhaphalani ca II mitramitravicaras ca naksatrani ca rasayah I mrtavelagrahavasthamatrkapujanakramah II kartuh karayitus caiva prabandhandm ca laksanam I

(8.) D. 1494 fols. 30b, 1. 5 - 31a. 1. 4.

(9.) David Shulman and Velcheru Narayana Rao, A Poem at the Right Moment, 135-37.

(10.) D. 1494 fols. 31a, 1. 4; 33a, I. 3.

(11.) Ibid., fols. 32b, 1. 4 - 33a, 1. 3.

(12.) Alahkarasangraha 11.13-14: virdjanti kirtimati subhaga bhogamalini | kalavati kdntimati kamala jayavatyapi [parallel] eta vibhaktyadhisthatryo devatah kathita budhaih I dadatyetah stutipritah svasvanamasamam phalam [parallel]

(13.) D. 1494 fols. 23a, 1. 6 - 23b, 1. 2: etat sarvam avijnaya yadi padyam vadet kavih | ketakdrudhakapivat bhavet kantakaved- hitah [parallel] m ca sahityacudamanau | anekachandasam samyag ajnatva laksanani ca | karoti gadyapadyani prabhunam mrtyur eva sah [parallel] camatkaracandrikaydm | ekasminn api nastam syad drste dose vratayutam I dosasyaitavati saktih sahaja m nu kurmahe [parallel] mamaiva I tasmad vismayakdranakavitanirmanakar-makusaladhiya | sudhiyd visavat tyajyo nayakarajyabhilasina dosah [parallel]

(14.) See, for example, Gurajada Apparao, Kanyusulkum, 113. The Telugu play--habitually cited as a representative text of colonial reform movements in southern India--features the character Polisetti fretting over a verse extemporaneously sung on his behalf. Finding the composition inauspicious, he cries out: "Stop, stop, stop! Or do you plan to kill me with that rhyme?" (vdddu, vdddu, vdddu! pasam petti sampestava?).

(15.) Laksanasiromani 1.121-22.

(16.) Giuliano Boccali, "The Incipits of Classical Sargabandhas," 188.

(17.) The list quoted above leaves out three of the vowel sounds (o, and the diphthongs ai and au). However, because Gaurana elsewhere acknowledges sixteen vowels, this seems to be a problem of the manuscript record. It may be that the other complex vowels have simply been grouped with e, the first of their order. Vis'vesvara gives a precedent for this at Camalkaracandrika 1.21 cd: "The set of four starting with e give pleasure, speech, liberation, and prosperity" (ekaradyds ca catvarah kamavahmoksabhutidah).

(18.) D. 1494 fols. 24b, 1. 6 - 25a, 1. 6: etal laksanam bhavet | akaram sarvadaivatyam raktam sarvavasikaram | akarah syat parasaktih sve- tarn akarsanam bhavet | ikaram visnudaivatyam sydmam raksakaram param | mayasaktir iti [?]tatm pitam strinam vasikaram | ukdro vdstudaivatyah krsno rajavasakara[...] | ukaram bhumidaivatyam syamam rajavasikaram | rkaram bramhmano jneyam pitam grahamisanam |sikhamdirupam rkaram amjanam jvaranasanam | asvinibhyam lulu cobhau sitaraktau jvarupahau | ekdram virabhadram syat pitam sanarthasiddhidam | amkaram tu mahesam syat raktavarnam sukhapradam | ahkaram kalarudram ca raktam pasanikrmtind | prajdpatyah kakdrah syat pito vrttipradayakah I caturbhyah kadivarnebhyo laksmir apayasas tu na | pritisaukhye caelum putralabho jo bhayamrtyudau | jhanau tathau khedadukhe sobhdsobhdkarau dadhau | bhramanam nad api tathau syad yudhyat sukhadau dadhau | nah pratapi bhitisaukhyamaranaklesatapakrt | pavargo yas tu laksmido ro ddham vyasanam lavau | sah sukham tanute fas tu khedam sas sukhadayakah | ho dahakrd vyasanado lah ksas sarvasamrddhikrt |

(19.) D. 1494 fols. 26b, 1. 6 - 27a. 1. I: ksemam sarvagurur dhatte magano bhumidaivatah I karoty arthan adilaghur yagano jaladaivatah I (bhuti)dayi madhyalaghu ragano vamhnidaivatah | ksayam karoty amtyagurus sagano vayudaivatah | bhu(ti)m amtyalaghur dhatte tagano vyomadaivatah | rujakaro madhyagurur jagano bhanudaivatah I adau gurus saukhyadayi bhaganas camdradaivatah | Gaurana's citation omits the na-metreme. But we find it in Camatkaracandrika 1.35cd: "The na-metreme--all light syllables, the sacrifice its divinity--produces wealth" (dhanankarah sarvalaghur nagano yajnadaivatah)

(20.) Camatkaracandrika 1.42

(21.) D. 1494 fol. 25b. 11. 4-5.

(22.) Patton E. Burchett, "The 'Magical' Language of Mantra," 831.

(23.) Shulman, "Notes on Camatkara," 258-60.

(24.) Sarasvati Mohan, "Introduction," in The Camatkaracandrika of Sri Visvesvara Kavicandra, 72-73.

(25.) D. 1494 fol. 23b, 11. 2-3.

(26.) Andre Padoux, Vac, 87.

(27.) Ibid., 106.

(28.) Quotations follow D. 1494 fols. 23b, 1. 5-24a, 1. 3.

(29.) Camatkaracandrika omits the retroflex la. The augmented number of sixty-three (or numerologically significant sixty-four) presumably comes from the addition of jihvamuliya, upadhmaniya, and a number of transitional or weakly articulated forms. See Padoux, Vac, 161-62.

(30.) The use of aksara in the sense of "grapheme" is common in Kannada materials from the tenth century on. See Sheldon Pollock, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men, 307-9.

(31.) This is the only time Gaurana cites Mantradarpana, suggesting that it is less authoritative than the ST and PS.

(32.) D. 12952 fols. 50-55. Sources for these dhyanas are not entirely forthcoming. Gaurana cites a Nidhipradipika for the dhyanas articulated in prose. These same passages are available in the eighteenth-century Telugu manuals. See Anandarahgaratchandamu 2.269-87 and Laksanasiromani 1.35, 110, 134, and 139. Both texts, perhaps under the influence of Gaurana's work, cite a Nidhipradipika or Siddhapradipika. The matrkas described do not correspond to any of the common lists of eight matrkas or names of the goddess, nor do they correspond to the matrkas named in the PS or ST. Gaurana also cites earlier works (Sahityacandrodaya, Sahityacuddmani, and Sahityaratnakara) that declare the necessity of the matrkapujana; however, it is not clear whether these works prescribe specific procedures for doing so.

(33.) D. 1494 fols. 29b, 1. 5-30a, 1. 2.

(34.) D.1494 fol. 26a, 1. 5.

(35.) Ibid.

(36.) Quotations for this paragraph follow D. 1494 fol. 26b, 11. 2-4.

(37.) For instance, Gaurana cites the Sahityacuddmani, which itself follows Vrttaratndkara 1.6ab.

(38.) D. 1494 fols. 28a, 1. 3-28b, 1. 1: nanu candrah krsnavarna ity aitihyam I salilatmaka iti prasiddhah | tatha varahamihirah | salilamaye sasini [...] | salilasya suklarupatvam eva | [...] latha | japdkusumasamnidhyat sphalikasya raktateti I sasini ca tattadupadhivasat tatladrupata vidyata eva | tatha samhitasare I sanais'carah tattadupadhivasat tattadrupata vidyata eva | raktam pitam sitam krsnam candravarnacatustayam | grahavarnena varnas ca sasahkasya prajayate | tasmac candrakrsnavarnatvam sambhavaty eva krsnacandro mrtyukrt | etad apy uktam yatha tasminn eva | raktacandre bhaved yuddham krsne mrtyur na samsaya | pite subham vijaniyat svete subhataram bhavet | iti candradhisthito bhaganah tattadvarnanurupaphalam dadati [parallel]

(39.) The identity of this text is not clear to me. As the quotation is not in Prakrit (and elsewhere Gaurana leave: non-Sanskrit quotations untranslated), it does not appear to be identical with the work of the same name by Saiikuka. Dating might preclude its being the Samhitasara of Krsna, which Pingree (Jyotihsastra, 115-16) identifies as a slightly later revision of the fifteenth-century Jyotirnibandha of Suramahatha Sivadasa.

(40.) D. 1494 fol. 28b, 11. 3-4.

(41.) D. 12952 fols. 41, 1. 2-42, 1. 2: taganasya sahityaralnakare | nityam bhaganasannidhyat sarvabhi-sthaphalapradah | kartuh karayitus caiva tagano vyomadaivatah | tatha coktam amarukavye | jyakrstibaddhakhata-kamukheti |maivam | prakrtya hanidas taganah | katham sreyah karisyati | yadi subhaganayukta[s] subhado bhaved iti cet | yatha palanduh srikhandayogena in sugandhi bhavet | mca taganaprayoge dosam aha | to dyaur antyalaghuh ksayam iti | gagane sunyam iti | evam saty api va vakyapramanajnair mahakavibhis tarkagranthddau ndnalamkdresu cdmgikrtatvat tagana[s] subhada eva | tatha kumdrasambhave | astyuttarasyam iti | [parimalakrsnavijaye dhauya-daparvatasyapumsa?] iti | mantramaharnave | omkarapanjarasukhim iti | samkardcaryah | kimca laksanagramthesv api taganas subha ity ucyate | camatkaracamdrikayam | isatvam antyalaghukas tagano vyomadaivata iti | sahityacandrodaye | taganas sarvasaubhagyadayakas sarvada bhavet iti |

(42.) Deven Patel, Text to Tradition, 60-62.

(43.) Elaine M. Fisher, "'Just Like Kalidasa'," 15-16.

(44.) D. 1494 fol. 30a, 11. 3-5.

(45.) Compare the core qualities of the nayaka described in a text likely known to Gaurana, Singabhupala's Rasarnavasudhakara 1.61-63: "... The hero is male and full of good qualities. His qualities are magnanimity, nobility, steadfastness, cleverness, radiance, and righteousness; further, he is well-born, well-spoken, grateful, modest, pure, composed, charismatic, artistic, and pleasing to people. The learned have taught that these are the universal qualities of the hero" (... ndyako gunavan puman | tadgunas tu mahabhagyam audaryam sthairyadaksate [parallel] aujjvalyam dharmikatvam ca kulinatvam ca vagmitd | krtajnatvam nayajnatvam sucitd manasalitd [parallel] tejasvita kalavattvam prajaranjakatddayah | ete sadharanah proktah ndyakasya gund budhaih [parallel]).

(46.) Vamanabhattabana, Vemabhupalacarita, 3. For more on sat-sudras see Theodore Benke, "The Sudracarasiromani of Krsna Sesa."

(47.) See, for example, the seven types enumerated in Alahkarasahgraha 2.1-6.

(48.) D. 12952 fol. 34, 11. 9-15.

(49.) D. 1494 fol. 30a, 1. 5.

(50.) Velcheru Narayana Rao, "Multiple Lives of a Text: The Sumati Satakamu in Colonial Andhra," 353-54.

(51.) Jennifer Steele Clare, "Canons, Conventions, and Creativity," 79.

(52.) Pollock, Language of the Gods, 70-74. See also Stephanie Jamison. "Poetry: kauuvi, kavi, kavya," 146-47.

(53.) Yigal Bronner, "Singing to God, Educating the People," 114-15.

(54.) Mundoli Narayanan, "Over-Ritualization of Performance."
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