A Question of Priority: Revisiting the Bhāmaha-Daṇḍin Debate

Yigal Bronner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


As has been obvious to anyone who has looked at them, there is a special relationship between the two earliest extant works on Sanskrit poetics: Bhāmaha’s Kāvyālaṃkāra (Ornamenting Poetry) and Daṇḍin’s Kāvyādarśa (The Mirror of Poetry). The two not only share an analytical framework and many aspects of their organization but also often employ the selfsame language and imagery when they are defining and exemplifying what is by and large a shared repertoire of literary devices. In addition, they also betray highly specific disagreements regarding the nature and aesthetic value of a set of literary phenomena. It has thus long been clear to Indologists that the two are in conversation with one another, but the nature of the conversation and its directionality have never been determined: Was Bhāmaha responding to Daṇḍin’s Kāvyādarśa? Was Daṇḍin making a rejoinder to Bhāmaha’s Kāvyālaṃkāra? Were the two authors contemporaries who directly interacted with one another? Or was their interaction indirect and mediated through other texts that are no longer extant? Determining the nature of the interrelations between the two authors and their texts may teach us a great deal about the origins of Sanskrit poetics, the direction in which it developed during its formative period, and the way in which some of the disagreements between Daṇḍin and Bhāmaha metamorphosed in later time. By reviewing existing scholarship, considering new evidence, and taking a fresh look at some of the passages that have long stood at the center of this debate, this article sets out to answer the question of the texts’ relationship and relative chronology.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)67-118
Number of pages52
JournalJournal of Indian Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Alam{dot below}kāraśāstra
  • Bhāmaha
  • Dan{dot below}d{dot below}in


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