Pathak, Shubha. 2014. Divine Yet Human Epics: Reflections of Poetic Rulers from Ancient Greece and India. Hellenic Studies Series 62. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_PathakS.Divine_Yet_Human_Epics.2014.
2. The Epic Metaphor of the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata: Ānandavardhana and Rājaśekhara’s Expedient Influence
The Rāmāyaṇa’s and the Mahābhārata’s Many Self-Designations
|Sanskrit term||English translation||(Number of) References in critical edition||(Number of) References in supplementary passages|
|1.1.77; 1.2.30; 1.4.1, 6, 26||1.29*; 1.44*; 1.152* 2; 1.153*; 1.154* 10, 14; 1.202*; 1.203* 38; 1.205*; 1.215* 10; 1.App. I.1.2, 47; 1.App. I.2.15|
|7.85.19||7.1327* 2; 7.1331*; 7.1527* 4; 7.1530* 7; 7.1533* 4; 7.1534* 6; 7.1543* 27, 29, 34; 7.App. I.9.23|
|1.1.78; 1.4.11, 20, 25; 1.5.3||1.203* 21; 1.App. I.1.3, 17, 295, 297|
|6.3703* 15; 6.3709* 1|
|7.100.26||7.1522* 1, 9; 7.1524* 3; 7.1526*; 7.1527* 5; 7.1530* 10; 7.1540* 14, 18; 7.1542* 2|
|1.2.31, 41; 1.3.1||1.195* 11|
|1.2.34, 35, 36||1.4*; 1.5*; 1.13*; 1.203* 18; 1.App. I.1.300|
|7.1464* 2; 7.1467*; 7.1471* 3; 7.1473* 1; 7.1542* 6|
|1.2.34, 40, 41; 1.3.29; 1.4.6, 8, 11, 13||1.151* 1; 1.152* 1; 1.195* 8; 1.197* 2; 1.200* 1; 1.203* 1, 9, 18, 20, 27, 32, 33; 1.206* 1, 4; 1.212* 1; 1.215* 5, 11; 1.219* 2; 1.App. I.1.283; 1.App. I.2.14|
|7.84.3; 7.85.17, 18||7.1326* 1, 2; 7.1329* 7; 7.1337* 3; 7.1516* 4; 7.1519* 4; 7.1520* 4; 7.1521* 2; 7.1527* 23; 7.1537* 14; 7.1540* 9; 7.1542* 13; 7.1543* 11, 23; 7.App. I.13.27, 32, 37, 55|
|1.217* 4; 1.218*|
|7.84.13, 14||7.1338* 2; 7.1339*|
|7.85.23; 7.86.1, 2||7.1337* 1, 7; 7.App. I.9.22, 27, 28, 33, 43|
|itihāsa||account of the way things had been||(0)||(2)|
|purāṇa||story of yore||(0)||(2)|
|6.3703* 2; 6.3704* 1|
|7.1540* 1; 7.1541* 10; 7.App. I.13.31|
|Sanskrit term||English translation||(Number of) References in critical edition||(Number of) References in supplementary passages|
|purāṇa||story of yore||(2)||(0)|
|1.1.16; 1.2.29, 30, 235, 238, 239, 240, 241, 243; 1.53.27, 31, 32, 35; 1.56.1, 30, 32; 1.57.106; 1.93.46||1.20* 1, 5, 6; 1.75*; 1.485* 2; 1.App. I.1.1; 1.App. I.5.16, 21; 1.App. I.32.27|
|18.5.53||18.46*; 18.48* 1|
|itihāsa||account of the way things had been||(14)||(16)|
|1.1.17, 24, 52; 1.2.31, 32, 33, 237; 1.54.23; 1.56.16, 18, 19||1.22* 4; 1.25*; 1.App. I.1.45; 1.App. I.32.31; 1.App. I.33.1, 11, 13; 1.App. I.39.13|
|18.5.31, 39, 43||18.33* 1; 18.34*; 18.38* 6; 18.App. I.2.1, 5; 18.App. I.3.2, 19, 49|
|1.1.19, 51||1.App. I.3.27|
|1.1.48, 51||1.App. I.4.8|
|1.1.205; 1.56.17; 1.57.74|
|18.32* 1; 18.57*|
|1.53.28, 33; 1.55.3; 1.56.2||1.21* 2, 4; 1.191*; 1.App. I.31.3, 22, 26; 1.App. I.33.7, 20|
|1.54.18; 1.56.1, 3||—|
|—||1.187*; 1.App. I.1.13, 34, 35|
The Rāmāyaṇa as a kāvya: An incipient composition of compassion
jagāma tamasātīraṃ jāhnavyās tv avidūrataḥ || …
tasyābhyāśe tu mithunaṃ carantam anapāyinam |
dadarśa bhagavāṃs tatra krauñcayoś cāruniḥsvanam ||
tasmāt tu mithunād ekaṃ pumāṃsaṃ pāpaniścayaḥ |
jaghāna vairanilayo niṣādas tasya paśyataḥ ||
taṃ śoṇitaparītāṅgaṃ veṣṭamānaṃ mahītale |
bhāryā tu nihataṃ dṛṣṭvā rurāva karuṇāṃ giram ||
tathā tu taṃ dvijaṃ dṛṣṭvā niṣādena nipātitam |
ṛṣer dharmātmanas tasya kāruṇyaṃ samapadyata ||
tataḥ karuṇaveditvād adharmo ’yam iti dvijaḥ |
niśāmya rudatīṃ krauñcīm idaṃ vacanam abravīt ||
mā niṣāda pratiṣṭhāṃ tvam agamaḥ śāśvatīḥ samāḥ |
yat krauñcamithunād ekam avadhīḥ kāmamohitam ||
tasyaivaṃ bruvataś cintā babhūva hṛdi vīkṣataḥ |
śokārtenāsya śakuneḥ kim idaṃ vyāhṛtaṃ mayā ||
cintayan sa mahāprājñaś cakāra matimān matim |
śiṣyaṃ caivābravīd vākyam idaṃ sa munipuṃgavaḥ ||
pādabaddho ’kṣarasamas tantrīlayasamanvitaḥ |
śokārtasya pravṛtto me śloko bhavatu nānyathā || …
ājagāma tato brahmā lokakartā svayaṃ prabhuḥ |
caturmukho mahātejā draṣṭuṃ taṃ munipuṃgavam || …
upaviṣṭe tadā tasmin sākṣāl lokapitāmahe |
tadgatenaiva manasā vālmīkir dhyānam āsthitaḥ ||
pāpātmanā kṛtaṃ kaṣṭaṃ vairagrahaṇabuddhinā |
yas tādṛśaṃ cāruravaṃ krauñcaṃ hanyād akāraṇāt ||
śocann eva muhuḥ krauñcīm upa ślokam imaṃ punaḥ |
jagāv antargatamanā bhūtvā śokaparāyaṇaḥ ||
tam uvāca tato brahmā prahasan munipuṃgavam |
śloka eva tvayā baddho nātra kāryā vicāraṇā ||
macchandād eva te brahman pravṛtteyaṃ sarasvatī |
rāmasya caritaṃ sarvaṃ kuru tvam ṛṣisattama ||
dharmātmano guṇavato loke rāmasya dhīmataḥ |
vṛttaṃ kathaya dhīrasya yathā te nāradāc chrutam ||
rahasyaṃ ca prakāśaṃ ca yad vṛttaṃ tasya dhīmataḥ |
rāmasya sahasaumitre rākṣasānāṃ ca sarvaśaḥ ||
vaidehyāś caiva yad vṛttaṃ prakāśaṃ yadi vā rahaḥ |
tac cāpy aviditaṃ sarvaṃ viditaṃ te bhaviṣyati ||
na te vāg anṛtā kāvye kācid atra bhaviṣyati |
kuru rāmakathāṃ puṇyāṃ ślokabaddhāṃ manoramām ||
yāvat sthāsyanti girayaḥ saritaś ca mahītale |
tāvad rāmāyaṇakathā lokeṣu pracariṣyati ||
yāvad rāmasya ca kathā tvatkṛtā pracariṣyati |
tāvad ūrdhvam adhaś ca tvaṃ mallokeṣu nivatsyasi ||
ity uktvā bhagavān brahmā tatraivāntaradhīyata |
tataḥ saśiṣyo vālmīkir munir vismayam āyayau ||
tasya śiṣyās tataḥ sarve jaguḥ ślokam imaṃ punaḥ |
muhur muhuḥ prīyamāṇāḥ prāhuś ca bhṛśavismitāḥ  ||
samākṣaraiś caturbhir yaḥ pādair gīto maharṣiṇā |
so ’nuvyāharaṇād bhūyaḥ śokaḥ ślokatvam āgataḥ ||
tasya buddhir iyaṃ jātā vālmīker bhāvitātmanaḥ |
kṛtsnaṃ rāmāyaṇaṃ kāvyam īdṛśaiḥ karavāṇy aham ||
udāravṛttārthapadair manoramais tadāsya rāmasya cakāra kīrtimān |
samākṣaraiḥ ślokaśatair yaśasvino yaśaskaraṃ kāvyam udāradhīr muniḥ ||
went to the bank of the Tamasā River, not too far from the Ganges. …
In that vicinity, the venerable one spied a couple of sweet-sounding cranes,
who were unflagging in their motion and devotion.
But, as he looked on, an outcast hunter having evil designs
and brimming with hostility smote one of the two, the male.
When his mate saw him downed on the ground, with his contorting body bathed in blood,
she cried out compassionately.
And, when the righteous sage saw the bird brought down by the hunter in this way,
compassion came over him.
Then, in the depth of his compassion, the priest thought, “This is unjust!”
As he heard the she-crane shrieking, he said these words:
“You never will have peace, outcast,
because you slew one of the two cranes when he was deluded by desire.”
As [the sage] was saying this, and taking everything in, a thought occurred to him:
“What is this that I have said while in the throes of sorrow for this bird?”
Thinking it over, that smart man with the powerful intellect understood.
That man, who was the best ascetic of all, said these words to his student:
“Let what I created while in the throes of sorrow—a thing that is composed in quarters; that is regular in its number of syllables; and that can be accompanied by song, dance, and stringed instruments—
be known as verse and not otherwise.” …
Then lord Brahmā himself—the four-faced, exceedingly splendid creator of the cosmos—came
to see the best ascetic of all. …
Yet, even with the grandfather of the universe sitting right in front of him at that time,
Vālmīki found his mind wandering back to the earlier events and contemplated them:
“That evil man whose mind had been seized by spite,
who causelessly could kill such a sweet-sounding crane, did wrong.”
Sorrowing once more for the she-crane
once he had turned his thoughts inward, he sang that verse again while stuck in his sorrow[, this time to Brahmā].
Then Brahmā smiled and said to that man who was the best of all ascetics:
“What you have composed is a verse. Have no doubt about it.
On account of my desire alone, did you create this eloquent utterance, priest.
Author all the adventures of Rāma, you superlative sage!
Narrate to humankind the story of righteous, virtuous, intelligent, resolute Rāma
just as you have heard it from Nārada.
The public and private story of that intelligent man
Rāma (accompanied by Sumitrā’s son [Lakṣmaṇa]), of the surrounding demons,
and of Videha’s daughter [Sītā]—whether what happened is common knowledge or a secret—
will be made known to you in its entirety, even that of which you are unaware.
Nothing that you pronounce in this poem will be untrue.
Compose the noteworthy narrative about Rāma that consists of verses and that makes hearts happy!
The Rāmāyaṇa narrative will make the rounds among human beings
for as long as mountains and rivers remain ranging over the earth.
And you will live in my upper and lower worlds
for as long as the narrative about Rāma that you compose circulates.”
After saying this, venerable Brahmā vanished from where he had been.
At this, the ascetic Vālmīki and his students marveled.
Then all his students intoned that verse once more.
Again and again, in their delight and extreme amazement, they declared:
“The sorrow that has been sung by the great sage into four equisyllabic quarters
has become, through its repeated repetition, verse!”
That thoughtful man Vālmīki came to this conclusion:
“Let me compose the whole Rāmāyaṇa poem in couplets of this kind.”
Then the celebrated, consummately clever ascetic composed the renown-making poem about this renowned man Rāma—
with hundreds of heart-warming, equisyllabic verses having elevated words, meanings, and meters.
According to this account, the Rāmāyaṇa kāvya comes from the critical conversion of Vālmīki’s sorrow (śoka) into verse (śloka).  To stress this transformation, the poem juxtaposes these two similar-sounding terms (which have been boldfaced in the passage above) at three points: when Vālmīki identifies as verse his poetic outcry over the crane killing, when the sage’s persisting sorrow compels him to sing his verse to Brahmā, and when Vālmīki’s disciples declare that his sorrow has become verse (Rāmāyaṇa 1.2.17, 28, 39).
The Mahābhārata as an itih ā sa: An old eyewitness account of the way things had been
samīpe pārthivendrasya samyak pārikṣitasya ca ||
kṛṣṇadvaipāyanaproktāḥ supuṇyā vividhāḥ kathāḥ |
kathitāś cāpi vidhivad yā vaiśaṃpāyanena vai ||
śrutvāhaṃ tā vicitrārthā mahābhāratasaṃśritāḥ |
in the presence of this king of kings who was Parikṣit’s son,
that I heard the various, highly auspicious, multivalent narratives
belonging to the Mahābhārata—which were articulated originally by Kṛṣṇadvaipāyana—
related again by Vaiśaṃpāyana, in just the way in which they had occurred.
Ugraśravas also elaborates on the Mahābhārata’s second transmission, by Vaiśaṃpāyana:
itihāsam imaṃ cakre puṇyaṃ satyavatīsutaḥ ||
parāśarātmajo vidvān brahmarṣiḥ saṃśitavrataḥ |
mātur niyogād dharmātmā gāṅgeyasya ca dhimataḥ ||
kṣetre vicitravīryasya kṛṣṇadvaipāyanaḥ purā |
trīn agnīn iva kauravyāñ janayāmāsa vīryavān ||
utpādya dhṛtarāṣṭraṃ ca pāṇḍuṃ viduram eva ca |
jagāma tapase dhīmān punar evāśramaṃ prati ||
teṣu jāteṣu vṛddheṣu gateṣu paramāṃ gatim |
abravīd bhārataṃ loke mānuṣe ’smin mahān ṛṣiḥ ||
janamejayena pṛṣṭaḥ san brāhmaṇaiś ca sahasraśaḥ |
śaśāsa śiṣyam āsīnaṃ vaiśaṃpāyanam antike ||
sa sadasyaiḥ sahāsīnaḥ śrāvayāmāsa bhāratam |
karmāntareṣu yajñasya codyamānaḥ punaḥ punaḥ ||
vistaraṃ kuruvaṃśasya gāndhāryā dharmaśīlatām |
kṣattuḥ prajñāṃ dhṛtiṃ kuntyāḥ samyag dvaipāyano ’bravīt ||
vāsudevasya māhātmyaṃ pāṇḍavānāṃ ca satyatām |
durvṛttaṃ dhārtarāṣṭrāṇām uktavān bhagavān ṛṣiḥ ||
Satyavatī’s son composed this auspicious account of the way things had been.
In olden days—at the mandate of his mother and Gaṅgā’s intelligent son [Bhīṣma]—righteous,
virile Kṛṣṇadvaipāyana (Parāśara’s son), a learned priestly sage who fulfilled his vows,
fathered in Vicitravīrya’s field
the next generation of Kurus, who were like the three fires of divine Agni.
After begetting Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Pāṇḍu, and Vidura,
the intelligent man went back again to his ashram to resume his austerities.
Once these three had been born, had aged, and had departed for their final destination,
the great sage uttered the Bhārata in the human world.
When asked to do so by Janamejaya and thousands of priests,
he instructed his student sitting nearby, Vaiśaṃpāyana.
As that [student] sat with the sacrificial priests, he recounted the Bhārata to them
at their unceasing urging, in the interstices of the sacrifice.
Dvaipāyana told thoroughly of the Kuru dynasty’s intricacies, of Gāndhārī’s righteousness,
of the maid’s son [Vidura]’s sagacity, of Kuntī’s constancy.
The venerable sage spoke of Vasudeva’s son [Kṛṣṇa]’s magnitude, of Pāṇḍu’s sons’ veracity,
of Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s sons’ maleficence.
When Ugraśravas’ tale later turns back on itself, the scene of its second telling comes into still sharper focus:
idaṃ paścād dvijaśreṣṭhaṃ paryapṛcchat kṛtāñjaliḥ ||
kurūṇāṃ pāṇḍavānāṃ ca bhavān pratyakṣadarśivān |
teṣāṃ caritam icchāmi kathyamānaṃ tvayā dvija ||
kathaṃ samabhavad bhedas teṣām akliṣṭakarmaṇām |
tac ca yuddhaṃ kathaṃ vṛttaṃ bhūtāntakaraṇaṃ mahat ||
pitāmahānāṃ sarveṣāṃ daivenāviṣṭacetasām |
kārtsnyena itat samācakṣva bhagavan kuśalo hy asi ||
tasya tad vacanaṃ śrutvā kṛṣṇadvaipāyanas tadā |
śaśāsa śiṣyam āsīnaṃ vaiśaṃpāyanam antike ||
kurūṇāṃ pāṇḍavānāṃ ca yathā bhedo ’bhavat purā |
tad asmai sarvam ācakṣva yan mattaḥ śrutavān asi ||
guror vacanam ājñāya sa tu viprarṣabhas tadā |
ācacakṣe tataḥ sarvam itihāsaṃ purātanam ||
tasmai rājñe sadasyebhyaḥ kṣatriyebhyaś ca sarvaśaḥ |
bhedaṃ rājyavināśaṃ ca kurupāṇḍavayos tadā ||
and requested this of him afterward:
“Sir, you have witnessed with your own eyes what Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s sons and Pāṇḍu’s sons did.
I would like you to narrate their adventures, priest.
How did the rift among those men of effortless action arise,
and how did that great war that ended the lives of so many beings break out
among all my forefathers, whose powers of reason were possessed by fate?
Report this in its entirety, venerable one, for you are the proper person to do so.”
Upon hearing that man’s words, Kṛṣṇadvaipāyana
instructed his student sitting nearby, Vaiśaṃpāyana:
“Report to this man all that you have heard from me—
how in olden days there was a rift between Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s sons and Pāṇḍu’s sons.”
Heeding his teacher’s words, that man, a superlative sage himself, then
related to that king, the sacrificial priests, and the surrounding warriors
the entire ancient account of the way things had been—
and thus the kingdom-wrecking rift between Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s sons and Pāṇḍu’s sons.
ākhyāsyanti tathaivānye itihāsam imaṃ bhuvi ||
idaṃ tu triṣu lokeṣu mahaj jñānaṃ pratiṣṭhitam |
vistaraiś ca samāsaiś ca dhāryate yad dvijātibhiḥ ||
alaṃkṛtaṃ śubhaiḥ śabdaiḥ samayair divyamānuṣaiḥ |
chandovṛttaiś ca vividhair anvitaṃ viduṣāṃ priyam ||
and others still will narrate it.
This great knowledge placed in the three worlds—
which is kept by priests in its full and its brief forms,
and which is ornamented with elegant words and divine and human devices
and is endowed with assorted meters—is beloved by the learned.
In fact, the Mahābhārata asserts itself as the basis of all intellectual efforts:
na cākhyānam idaṃ vidyān naiva sa syād vicakṣaṇaḥ ||
śrutvā tv idam upākhyānaṃ śrāvyam anyan na rocate |
puṃskokilarutaṃ śrutvā rūkṣā dhvāṅkṣasya vāg iva ||
itihāsottamād asmāj jāyante kavibuddhayaḥ |
pañcabhya iva bhūtebhyo lokasaṃvidhayas trayaḥ ||
asyākhyānasya viṣaye purāṇaṃ vartate dvijāḥ |
antarikṣasya viṣaye prajā iva caturvidhāḥ ||
kriyāguṇānāṃ sarveṣām idam ākhyānam āśrayaḥ |
indriyāṇāṃ samastānāṃ citrā iva manaḥkriyāḥ ||
anāśrityaitad ākhyānaṃ kathā bhuvi na vidyate |
āhāram anapāśritya śarīrasyeva dhāraṇam ||
idaṃ sarvaiḥ kavivarair ākhyānam upajīvyate |
udayaprepsubhir bhṛtyair abhijāta iveśvaraḥ ||
but does not know this tale, is not at all learned.
After hearing this anecdote deserving to be heard, a person takes pleasure in no other,
just as, after the song of a he-cuckoo is heard, the caw of a crow seems raucous.
The ideas of poets arise from this optimal account of the way things had been,
just as the three worlds are structured from the five elements.
Stories of yore traverse the sphere of this tale, priests,
just as the four kinds of creatures traverse the sphere of space.
This tale is the seat of all accomplishments and merits,
just as sundry mental acts are the seat of all the senses.
On earth, no narrative exists that does not depend on this tale,
just as no body survives that does not fare on food.
This tale sustains all the princes among poets,
just as a nobly born lord sustains the lackeys who aim to advance.
Although this itihāsa allows that other poems will appear after it, it declares that they will not deviate far from the path that it has broken. The poets whom the Mahābhārata precedes and who draw material from its many narratives thus cannot create anything altogether new. That the itihāsa takes pains to minimize the inventiveness of its successors, so as to silence any suggestion of having been excelled, is attested by the following verse, which has been inserted into most of the northern-recension manuscripts contributing to the first volume of the Mahābhārata’s critical edition, after the selection that I just have cited:
sādhor iva gṛhasthasya śeṣās traya ivāśramāḥ ||
just as the three other stages of life are incapable of surpassing that of a truly honorable householder.
If Vyāsa’s successors indeed derive their narratives from his, these poets are highly unlikely to outdo him in the area of authoring immense itihāsas. These poets, to achieve eminence in their own rights, need to play on another field.
Ānandavardhana and Rājaśekhara :Interpreters Unifying the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhvrata as Kāvyas and as Itihāsas
The Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata in Ānandavardhana’s view: Poems suggestive of single essences
vyaṅktaḥ kāvyaviśeṣaḥ sa dhvanir iti sūribhiḥ kathitaḥ ||
has alluded to that other meaning.
Then Ānandavardhana clarifies this definition: “Poetic suggestion occurs where a meaning distinct from the expressed one, is shown—by the expressed meaning and by the word that expresses it—to be the main point, it being the case that the suggested meaning is paramount” (vācyavyatiriktasyārthasya vācyavācakābhyāṃ tātparyeṇa prakāśanaṃ yatra vyaṅgyaprādhānye sa dhvaniḥ |) (Dhvanyāloka, comment on 1.13). Subsequently, to align his idea of dhvani with earlier aesthetics, Ānandavardhana has it subsume the concept of rasa:
rasādiparatā yatra sa dhvaner viṣayo mataḥ ||
subserve the essences, etc.
Although Ānandavardhana enriches the rasa notion, he maintains many of the elements advanced in its earliest extant exposition, which appears in ancient thinker Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra (Treatise on the Dramatic Arts) (a work composed collectively ca. 100 BCE–200 CE).
bībhatsādbhutasaṃjñau cety aṣṭau nāṭye rasāḥ smṛtāḥ ||
and the two termed the abhorrent and the amazing.
Associated with the rasas in his system are several types of states, or bhāvas, one type of which is specified in the following verse:
jugupsā vismayaś ceti sthāyibhāvāḥ prakīrtitāḥ ||
and abhorrence and amazement are known as the steady states.
These steady states, upon interacting with other sorts of states, actually turn into the essences, as Bharata’s gustatory imagery illustrates:
And Ānandavardhana borrows from Bharata the system of states for which “essences, etc.” serves as a shorthand.
teṣāṃ nibandhane bhāvyaṃ taiḥ sadaivāpramādibhiḥ ||
They should be prepared by those who always are attentive.
More specifically, such authors are to assemble words and meanings in a way that encourages the essences and states to be evident (Dhvanyāloka, comment on 3.32).
- the compassionate
- the erotic
- the irascible
- the abhorrent
- the amazing
- the heroic
- the humorous
- the fearsome
To this octet, Ānandavardhana adds the peaceful (Dhvanyāloka, comment on 3.23).  As Ānandavardhana exemplifies the evocation of the first and the last of the rasas in his series, he shows his audience the variety of affects that effects this rasa range.
The Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata from Rājaśekhara’s perspective: Pathbreaking poetic accounts of the way things had been
arthagranthaḥ kathābhyāsaḥ kavitvasyaikam auṣadham ||
itihāsapurāṇābhyāṃ cakṣurbhyām iva satkaviḥ |
vivekāñjanaśuddhābhyāṃ sūkṣmam apy artham īkṣate ||
vedārthasya nibandhena ślāghyante kavayo yathā |
smṛtīnām itihāsasya purāṇasya tathā tathā ||”
“The supreme remedy of poetic expertise is the stringing together of subjects and the regular study of narratives
from the Vedas and their supplements and recensions and from the accounts of the way things had been and the stories of yore.
The best poet sees even subtle subject matter by means both of the accounts of the way things had been and of the stories of yore, as if with a pair of eyes
purified by the salve of discernment.
Just as poets are commended because their compositions treat the subject matter of the Vedas,
so too are commended poets whose compositions treat the subject matter of the law codes, of the accounts of the way things had been, and of the stories of yore.”
More precisely, Rājaśekhara produces this passage to prove to his peer poets that they will gain as much acclaim by drawing story material from the stores of such human-made śāstras as itihāsas, purāṇas, and smṛtis (law codes) as by tapping topics from śāstras of divine origin, like the Vedas and their various parts.
“bahv api svecchayā kāmaṃ prakīrṇam abhidhīyate |
anujjhitārthasambandhaḥ prabandho durudāharaḥ ||
rītiṃ vicintya vigaṇayya guṇān vigāhya
śabdārthasārtham anusṛtya ca sūktimudrāḥ |
kāryo nibandhaviṣaye viduṣā prayatnaḥ
ke potayantrarahitā jaladhau plavante ||
līḍhābhidhopaniṣadāṃ savidhe budhānām
abhyasyataḥ pratidinaṃ bahudṛśvano ’pi |
kiñcit kadācana kathañcana sūktipākād
vāktattvam unmiṣati kasyacid eva puṃsaḥ ||”
“Although it certainly is the case that a hodgepodge is expounded ad nauseam as one desires,
a composition connected with a topic that is treated steadfastly (rather than being abandoned for something else) is difficult to compose.
Once he has thought about style, has considered other qualities, has examined a multitude of words and meanings, and has turned phrases well and has worded things right,
a scholar should strive in the area of composition. Who crosses the ocean, without the support of a ship?
Only for some man who also is very observant as he practices every day, in the presence of smart people who have absorbed the secret of words’ conventional meanings,
does a bit of rarefied language open out at a certain time—with great difficulty—from the finishing of well-turned phrases.”
Arguing here that—to adopt Archaic Greek lyric poet Archilochus’ terms—being a hedgehog expert in one field (i.e. a poet who devotes his composition to a single topic) is harder than being a fox somewhat familiar with many (i.e. a poet whose work ranges readily from topic to topic), Rājaśekhara recommends that authors attempting to address a certain subject become acquainted with the various verbal elements that are available for its exposition, and that these poets compose under the supervision of their successful predecessors.
yasya praṇetā tad ihānavadyaṃ sārasvataṃ vartma na kasya vandyam? ||
that primeval poet who had emerged from an anthill and by the master poet who was Satyavatī’s son?
Rājaśekhara refers here to Vālmīki and Vyāsa, respectively. But, unlike Ānandavardhana, who calls both composers kavīśvaras (master poets) (Dhvanyāloka, comment on 3.18–19), Rājaśekhara reserves this title for Vyāsa and labels Vālmīki the “primeval poet” (kaviḥ purāṇaḥ). The sages’ distinct designations reflect the different roles that these authors play in Rājaśekhara’s model of poetic production. His representation also clarifies why the road originated by the two ascetics—an “avenue of eloquence” (sārasvataṃ vartma)—relates to Sarasvatī, the goddess of knowledge who is Brahmā’s wife.
so ’smi kāvyapumān amba pādau vandeya tāvakau ||”
Mother, let me worship at your feet.”
After praising her son, Sarasvatī asks him to conceal his precocity and to act like an infant, and she lays him on the surface of a boulder so that she can go bathe in the heavenly Ganges. In Sarasvatī’s absence, Uśanas (a.k.a. Śukra), son of the celestial sage Bhṛgu, happens upon the lone child and takes him to his ashram (Kāvyamīmāṃsā, 27–28).
yat krauñcamithunād ekam avadhīḥ kāmamohitam ||”
because you slew one of the two cranes when she was deluded by desire.”
This narrative is notable because it illustrates how Rājaśekhara incorporates an earlier idea into his own conception of poetic creativity. He seems to tell the story to prompt other poets to avail themselves of rasa resources while bringing new works into being.
anarghatām ānayati svabhaṅgyā yollikhya yat kiñcid ihārtharatnam ||”
“Glory in the highest to that goddess Sarasvatī, who is speech itself (the path to prosperity for poets),
who, by depicting in her own way anything—in this world—that is a gem among objects, renders it priceless.”
Sarasvatī is associated with brilliance here by Sharma as well. Glossing “ ‘in her own way’ ” (svabhaṅgyā) as “ ‘by means of brilliance’ ” (pratibhayā), he observes of Sarasvatī’s action, “This is the power of brilliance, because of which, words and meanings—despite being common to all people—reach some pinnacle of pricelessness” (pratibhāyā eṣa prabhāvo yatsarvajanasādhāraṇā api śabdārthau kāmapi anarghatākoṭīm āsādayataḥ |  ) (Kāvyamīmāṃsā, 226n).
sa kavigrāmaṇīr atra śeṣās tasya kuṭumbinaḥ ||”
“He whose brilliance does not diminish in the course of creating narratives about subjects that are not base,
is the chief of poets in this world. All the other poets are his attendants.”
The prestige of brilliant poets is based on the originality that sets them apart from others:
ullikhet kiñcana prācyaṃ manyatāṃ sa mahākaviḥ ||
as he depicts something old, let that great poet be esteemed.
This fresh vision that great poets have is rooted, in turn, in their brilliance, an implication that Sharma brings to light as he comments on this couplet’s second line: “Whoever ‘depicts’ (i.e. shines on) ‘something’ (i.e. that which is indescribable) ‘priorly’ (i.e. first) in that way, ‘let that great poet be esteemed’ (i.e. let him be lauded)” (tathā kiṃcanānirvacanīyaṃ prācyaṃ  prathamam ullikhet pratibhāyāt sa mahākaviḥ manyatām anumodyatām |) (Kāvyamīmāṃsā, 195n). In glossing the verb ullikhet (“he should depict”) with the verb pratibhāyāt (“he should shine on”), Sharma does not provide a synonym so much as point to the pratibhā by whose virtue poets innovate.
Several activities in which a poet engages over the course of his day correspond to certain of Sarasvatī’s own acts in the story about the birth of her son (Kāvyamīmāṃsā, 24–26, 27, 29). These correspondences suggest that she symbolizes an eloquent poet striving to produce poetry. 
The Continuing Connection of the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata in the Twentieth Century
Metaphor and the Sanskrit “epics”
The Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata as epics like and unlike the Iliad and Odyssey