Aucityavicāracarcā is a work of sāhitya śāstra (rhetorics) which expounds on the importance of aucitya (propriety) in kāvya (poetry). This text was composed by the eleventh century Kashmiri poet Kṣemendra. Being a direct disciple of the dhvani-proponent Abhinavaguptācārya, Kṣemendraenriched the dhvani-theory by elaborating on the concept of aucitya—arguing that only when enrooted in aucitya, does rasa give life to a poetic composition. Although previous scholars such as Ānandavardhana had mentioned aucitya as a crucial aspect of poetry, it is Kṣemendra who introduced aucitya as the central element on whose foundation rests the appeal of poetry.
In the text, Kṣemendra establishes the role of aucitya in distinguishing evocative poetry from mundane speech. Having defined aucitya, he proceeds to illustrate the function of aucitya in each of twenty-seven facets of kāvya, classified as—mīmāmsa-sambaddha, sāhitya-sambaddha, vyākaraṇa-sambaddha, lokatantra-sambaddha, and kavi-sambaddha. Drawing from the kāvyas of various poets, he provides both examples and counterexamples for each type of propriety, thus justifying the argument that aucitya (or lack thereof) is undeniably the key to the success (or failure) of a literary piece.
This text—up to and including the topic of śāntarasaucityam—has been prescribed for the Sāhitya Ācārya (M.A.) examination by RSVP Tirupati.
In this set of English lectures, Srimati Visalakshi Sankaran guides us through Kṣemendra’scoherent style of presenting illustrative examples along with succinct explanatory vrttis, giving students a thorough grounding on the essential role that aucitya plays in elevating ordinary speech to the status of extraordinary poetry. Thorough study of this text will equip enthusiasts of Samskrta literature with a sense of propriety, which in turn will empower them to better appreciate and savour the works of great poets.