Sunday, August 1, 2010

sanskrit alankara - upama alankara (उपमा and पूर्णोपमा) (simily and complete simily)

today i am trying to start a new string of blogs for those who are interested in Sanskrit literature and all other Indo-aryan languages. I started reading a very old book on the online Digital Library of India. It is known as "Alankaramanihaara". I thought I should bring this knowledge in Digital domain and that too in English language for those whosoever is interested in this language. I may be too simplistic in my approach towards the language and may offend some of the Pandits, but my aim is to sensitize people towards this gem of language and not to make them fumble in the grammar.....

"Alankaara" in Sanskrit means literally "that which adorns - ornaments". Thus they are the ornaments of the poetry. They are rough equivalents of English figure of speeches like metaphor, pun etc, but they are far more developed and more widely used. There maybe not even a single sentence in Sanskrit works which doesn't have an Alankaara. Whereas it is a luxury in English poetry.

I am starting the thread with the most ubiqitous of the Alankaras in Sanskrit literature - "Upamaa" (उपमा).
The characteristic of the Upama alankaara is as follows:
उद्भूता भाति साम्यश्रीरुभयोर्यत्र सोपमा|
(When the beauty of equality between the thing equated and the thing equated to pleases the hearts of connoisseurs, it is known as "Upamaa", उपमा)
this is the definition of Kuvalayaananda.

Let's discuss the conditions mentioned in the definition.
the "Pleases the hearts of connoisseurs" clause has been inserted to prevent the term from encompassing somethings such as सागरस्सागरोपम:(the sea is like sea) from falling in the category of upamaa. it is not enticing to compate sea with sea and it doesnt evoke any pleasurable feeling.

let's see another definition
वाक्यस्यार्थोपस्कारकं यत्सादृश्यं चारु सोपमा|
the beautiful similarity which is enhancing the meaning of hte sentence is know as Upamaa.
This is the definition given by Pandit Jagannatha in his work "Rasagangaadhara".

let us not get into the differences between these two heavyweights. They were at loggerheads. all we need to know is that upamaa is equivalent to english "simily".

Now let us go forward from the definition. there are two kinds of upamaa basically, known as पूर्णोपमा (complete upamaa) and लुप्तोपमा (elided upamaa).

पूर्णा लुप्तेत्यलङ्कारज्ञैस्सा द्विधोदिता|
उपमानं चोपमेयं धर्मो वाचकमित्यद:|
चतुष्टयमुपात्तं चेत्सा हि पूर्णोपमा मता||
(the specialists of alankaara science say that there are two types of upamaa -पूर्णोपमा (complete upamaa) and लुप्तोपमा (elided upamaa). If the upamaa has all of the following four elements, it is a पूर्णोपमा otherwise it is a लुप्तोपमा - उपमेय, उपमान, धर्म, वाचक)

let us understand these four ingredients which are necessary for a पूर्णोपमा -
1. उपमेय - it is the thing which is to be compared
2. उपमान - it is the thing to which the उपमेय is compared
3. धर्म - it is the characteristic which is common in both the abovementioned things
4. वाचक - it is the grammatical word which denotes equality


  1. Congratulations for opening a website devoted to Alankarashastra, particularly Arthalankaras. It was much needed. Your treatment is elaborate.Your website is brimming over information. May your website rouse not only curiosity among along Alankara students, but remove misconceptions(if any)regarding the same.
    My name is Jagannatha.I live in Mysore. I would like to send you some Alankara poems of mine written in Samskrta itself for your kind perusal.I tried the email address of yours thrice . But I received error message. My email:

  2. hello, i m vey happy to see such great site with great discussion. I love it. Thanks for sharing it with us.