Alaṃkāraśāstra is the name that came to be most associated with the discipline of Sanskrit poetics, a field that is primarily concerned with the way poetic language works as different from ordinary speech. The name is derived from what has historically been its main category of analysis, namely, alaṃkāra, or the "ornament" of speech. The earliest extant works that are dedicated to this and related topics are Bhāmaha's Kāvyālaṃkāra (c. 600?) and Daṇḍin's Kāvyādarśa (c. 700). Between the ninth and the twelfth centuries in Kashmir, the discussion underwent an extended formative period, during which it fashioned itself as a scholastic discipline and became, perhaps for the first time, the recipient of significant royal support. It was in Kashmir that some of the major treatises in this discipline were composed, such as Udbhaṭa's (now lost) Bhāmahavivaraṇa, Ānandavardhana's Dhvanyāloka, Mammaṭa's Kāvyaprakāśa, and Ruyyaka's Ālaṃkārasarvasva. During and following this formative Kashmiri period, Alaṃkāraśāstra was an extremely productive discipline throughout the Indian subcontinent, and it was extremely influential on the models of vernacular poetry, both in South Asia and beyond. Perhaps its last and most productive period was in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when authors such as Appayya Dīkṣita in the south and Jagannātha Paṇḍitarāja in the north were busy reinventing it as a prestigious theory that attracted thinkers from other disciplines and provided space and tools for addressing philosophical and theological issues outside poetics proper.

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Suggested citation: Bronner Y., R. Kedem. "Alaṃkāraśāstra." Pandit. <>. Updated on January 07, 2017 08:22 pm IST.