An Introduction to Indian Literary Theory

By Prof. Sreenath V.S   |   IIT Bombay
Learners enrolled: 1961
Poetics is the theory of literary forms and devices, and the term is familiar to us mainly through the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s work of the same name. Aristotle’s Poetics is believed to be an incomplete treatise and the work that we have with us today is a systematic attempt to define only one genre, namely the art of tragedy. The treatise explores the various aspects of the genre, providing answers to what goes into the making of a tragedy and how it evokes the right kind of aesthetic response in a spectator. This attempt to systematize the study of poetry or all forms of literary composition is not specific to Greek or western literature but can be found in all literatures worthy of the name. In the Indian  literary history, the term poetics in its broadest sense was concerned with two domains of art, namely nāṭya (play which blended drama, music, and dance) and kāvya (poetry and other forms of literary composition). The factors that distinguished nāṭya from kāvya in terms of form as well as content were so discernible that Sanskrit poetics virtually got bifurcated into two streams, namely nāṭyaśāstra and kāvyaśāstra. The nāṭyaśāstra tradition of poetics, as the term denotes, focused primarily on nāṭya or performance of plays on stage with the accompaniment of dance and music; these aspects were technically termed in Sanskrit as āṅgika (pertaining to gestures) vācika (verbal elements) āhārya (make-up and dress) and sāttvika abhinaya (representation of emotions). Kāvyaśāstra, on the other hand, was exclusively concerned with the ontology of kāvya (poetry and literary prose). The proposed course aims to introduce the students to the eight major schools in Indian aesthetics which functioned as the foundation of these two streams of poetics, such as rasa, dhvani, vakrokti, aucitya, alaṅkāra, anumāna, guṇa and doṣa.

INTENDED AUDIENCE: B.A and M.A students of English literature. At present, many universities in India have incorporated Indian literary theory in their syllabus. Some of the major universities in India that offer courses on Indian poetics include JNU, Delhi University, Jadavpur University, EFLU, Central University of Haryana, Kerala University, Calicut University, Madras University, etc.
Course Status : Completed
Course Type : Elective
Duration : 8 weeks
Category :
  • Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit Points : 2
Level : Postgraduate
Start Date : 22 Aug 2022
End Date : 14 Oct 2022
Enrollment Ends : 22 Aug 2022
Exam Date : 30 Oct 2022 IST

Note: This exam date is subjected to change based on seat availability. You can check final exam date on your hall ticket.

Page Visits

Course layout

Week 1:  Literature before theory
Week 2: An Overview of Sanskrit Literary Theory
Week 3: Theory of Rasa
Week 4: Theory of Alaṅkāra
Week 5: Theory of Dhvani
Week 6: Theories of Riti, Guna and Doṣa
Week 7: Theory of Aucitya
Week 8: Theory of Vakrokti

Books and references

1. Chari, V.K. Sanskrit Criticism. Motilal Banarsidass, 1993.
2. Chandran, Mini and V.S, Sreenath. An Introduction to Indian   Aesthetics: History, Theory and Theoreticians. Bloomsbury,2021.
3. Deshpande, G T. Indian Poetics. Popular Prakashan, 2009.
4. De, Sushilkumar. Some Problems of Sanskrit Poetics. K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1959.
5. ___. History of Sanskrit Poetics. Firma K.L Mukhopadhayay. 1960.
6. ___.Sanskrit Poetics as a Study of Aesthetics. University of California Press, 1963.
7. Pollock, Sheldon. Trans and Ed. A Rasa Reader: Classical Indian Aesthetics. Columbia University Press, 2016.

Instructor bio

Prof. Sreenath V.S

IIT Bombay
Prof. Sreenath V.S is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IISER Bhopal. His areas of interest include Literary Theory (both Western and Eastern), Comparative Aesthetics, and South Asian Studies. He has published articles in journals such as EPW, Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), Journal of Indian Philosophy (Springer), South Asian Review (Taylor and Francis). His book An Introduction to Indian Aesthetics: History, Theory, and Theoreticians (co-authored with Prof. Mini Chandran) was published by Bloomsbury India in 2021. He is the recipient of the Meenakshi Mukherjee Memorial Prize 2022, awarded by Indian Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies.

Course certificate

The course is free to enroll and learn from. But if you want a certificate, you have to register and write the proctored exam conducted by us in person at any of the designated exam centres.
The exam is optional for a fee of Rs 1000/- (Rupees one thousand only).
Date and Time of Exams: 30 October 2022 Morning session 9am to 12 noon; Afternoon Session 2pm to 5pm.
Registration url: Announcements will be made when the registration form is open for registrations.
The online registration form has to be filled and the certification exam fee needs to be paid. More details will be made available when the exam registration form is published. If there are any changes, it will be mentioned then.
Please check the form for more details on the cities where the exams will be held, the conditions you agree to when you fill the form etc.


Average assignment score = 25% of average of best 6 assignments out of the total 8 assignments given in the course.
Exam score = 75% of the proctored certification exam score out of 100

Final score = Average assignment score + Exam score

YOU WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CERTIFICATE ONLY IF AVERAGE ASSIGNMENT SCORE >=10/25 AND EXAM SCORE >= 30/75. If one of the 2 criteria is not met, you will not get the certificate even if the Final score >= 40/100.

Certificate will have your name, photograph and the score in the final exam with the breakup.It will have the logos of NPTEL and IIT Bombay. It will be e-verifiable at nptel.ac.in/noc.

Only the e-certificate will be made available. Hard copies will not be dispatched.

Once again, thanks for your interest in our online courses and certification. Happy learning.

- NPTEL team

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