: Vishvanatha Kaviraja, one of the greatest Sanskrit scholars and literary critics of medieval India and inarguably the greatest scholar of Odisha, has found a place in the Kendriya Sahitya Akademi’s prestigious Makers of Indian Literature series. The 172-page book on the medieval Sanskrit poetician and grammarian has been written by Dr Ananta Charan Sukla, an eminent writer and philosopher of art, religion and language, now based in Cuttack.
Coming of a family rich in learning and culture and serving as the prime minister to the erstwhile king of the Ganga dynasty which ruled Odisha in the fourteenth century with Cuttack as its capital, Vishvanatha established himself as a great linguist, poet, critic and politician having mastered over 18 languages. But unfortunately, many of his works are lost to us, says Sukla, the author.
Vishvanatha’s popularity has been unquestionable in both the history and practice of Sanskrit poetics over centuries that followed him despite some adverse remarks on the originality of his theoretical exercise, he says.
My book attempts at offering a comprehensive account of his treatment of poetry, presents the historical data in its theoretical perspectives, surveys the development of Sanskrit poetics from the earlier times till his entry, and discusses different topics he considered relevant for a complete examination and assessment of the subject matter he deals with such as the definition, structure and end of poetry, Sukla said.
It is highly unfortunate that only some five of his invaluable works are available today. Out of these, two works are published and have received wide acclaim.
They are Sahityadarpana, a complete critique of all the forms of Sanskrit literature and the only book of its kind, and Chandrakala, a classic play, Sukla explains further.
Sahityadarpana shows Vishvanatha’s wide range of reading, philosophical depth, masterly control over a comprehensive style and, above all, a daring spirit in analysing the works of the well-reputed authorities with arguments as original as reasonable, he explores. Sahityadarpana has been accepted as almost a first book of Sanskrit criticism and is a common name for students of Sanskrit literature, he added.
The book has two long chapters with an elaborate introduction to the life and works of Vishvanatha providing all historical data. While the first chapter deals with Sanskrit poetics in the making, the second one discusses Vishvanatha’s theory of poetry explaining the intricate structure of his poetics.
Sukla is a former Professor of English at the Sambalpur University.
He is the founder-editor of the International Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics (JCLA), the official organ of the Vishvanatha Kaviraja Institute established by him in 1977.
Sukla’s numerous publications include The Concept of Imitation in Greek and Indian Aesthetics (1977), Estetica Indiana Contemporanea (1996), Art and Representation (2001), Art and Experience (2003) and Art and Essence (2003), the latter three published by the US-based Greenwood Publishing Group’s Praeger Publishers.
His forthcoming publication Art and Expression by the same publisher awaits release this year.
Sukla has also been a visiting Professor at the Universities of Liverpool, Cambridge, Cardiff, Lampeter, Uppsala (Sweden), Siena (Italy) and Helsinki (Finland).
He is the honorary member of the LORO Group of Studies in Comparative Aesthetics, Italy.