Somdev Vasudeva's picture
Gonda Fellow
Somdev Vasudeva

My research is dedicated to recovering an epistemological dispute among Kashmirian rhetoricians in twelfth century, the final period of Kashmirian dominance in the field of Sanskrit aesthetics.

I am using my IIAS/Gonda fellowship to work on the Alaṅkāraratnākara of Śobhākareśvara. This is perhaps the last voice of this tradition to have a major impact on the development of aesthetics in the rest of India. Śobhākareśvara began a concerted effort to reformulate figures of speech as discrete and unusual forms of cognition, as non-ordinary ways of knowing that was destined to be a major influence on South Indian authors (such as Appayadīkṣīta and Jagannātha) for the next five hundred years. Despite this his work is barely known. Śobhākara challenged innovations proposed in the Alaṅkārasarvasva, or the “Treasure of Ornaments”, the most successful work of the Kashmirian rhetorician Ruyyaka, completed around 1150 AD. While Śobhākara finds fault with many specific innovations Ruyyaka proposes, at the same time he is sympathetic to Ruyyaka’s project of radically rethinking the semantic and epistemological foundations – imported from grammar and pramāṇaśāstra – upon which alaṅkāraśāstra was built. A particular new idea was Śobhākara’s analysis of the cognitive modality supposedly underlying various types of figurative speech. As I hope to demonstrate, he does this by deploying the epistemological theories developed by a specific aauthor, the tenth century Kashmirian Naiyāyika Bhaṭṭa Jayanta. Rather uniquely, this involves discussions of what might be called a Naiyāyika modal logic, going beyond just the alethic modality. To bring this out I plan to focus on Śobhākara’s discussion of a group of figures involving metaphor (rūpaka), non-difference (abheda), doubt (sandeha), transformation (pariṇāma), conjecture (vitarka), assumption (utprekṣā), error (bhrāntimat), impression (ullekha), intuition (pratibhā), and conditionality (kriyātipatti). I am preparing an edition, a basic translation and running annotation of this section, and hope to now to find time to produce a synthetic discussion that defines its place in the history of Sanskrit rhetorics. 


  • Sanskrit

Country of origin

United Kingdom

Period of stay at IIAS

01/10/2016 to 31/03/2017

Home institute

Research topic

Sanskrit Aesthetics

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