His writings were all in Sanskrit. Daṇḍin's account of his life in Avantisundarī states that he was a great-grandson of Dāmodara, a court poet from Vidarbha who served, among others, the Pallava king Siṃhaviṩṇu and King Durvinīta of the Western Ganga dynasty:
Dāmodara was married in Kāñcī and fathered three sons; his middle-born, Manoratha, had four sons; Manoratha’s youngest son, Vīradatta, married a Brahmin woman, Gaurī, and they had several daughters and, eventually, a son, Daṇḍin. Daṇḍin then reports that he lost his mother at the age of seven and his father shortly thereafter, and that as an orphan, he had to flee Kāñcī because of an enemy invasion and was able to return only once peace was restored.
Yigal Bronner concludes that 'These details all suggest that Daṇḍin’s active career took place around 680–720 CE under the auspices of Narasiṃhavarman II Rājasiṃha in Kāñcī (r. 690/1–728/9)'. A range of evidence points to an association with the Pallava dynasty and its court at Kanchipuram in what became Tamil Nadu.
Daṇḍin was widely praised as a poet by Sanskrit commentators such as Rajashekhara (fl. 920 CE), and his works are widely studied. One shloka (hymn) that explains the strengths of different poets says: दण्डिन: पदलालित्यम् (daṇḍinaḥ padalālityaṃ: "Daṇḍin is the master of playful words").
Daṇḍin's works are not well preserved. He composed the now incomplete Daśakumāracarita, and the even less complete Avantisundarī (The Story of the Beautiful Lady from Avanti), in prose. He is best known for composing the Kāvyādarśa ('Mirror of Poetry'), the handbook of classical Sanskrit poetics, or Kāvya, which appears to be intact. Debate continues over whether these were composed by a single person, but 'there is now a wide consensus that a single Daṇḍin in authored all these works at the Pallava court in Kāñcī around the end of the seventh century'.
The Kāvyādarśa is the earliest surviving systematic treatment of poetics in Sanskrit. Kāvyādarśa was strongly influenced by Bhaṭṭi's Bhaṭṭikāvya. In Kāvyādarśa, Daṇḍin argues that a poem's beauty derives from its use of rhetorical devices – of which he distinguished thirty-six.
He is known for his complex sentences and creation of long compound words (some of his sentences ran for half a page, and some of his words for half a line).
The Kāvyādarśa is similar to and in many ways in disagreement with Bhāmaha's Kāvyālaṃkāra. Although modern scholars have debated who was borrowing from whom, or responding to whom, Bhāmaha appears to have been earlier, and that Daṇḍin was responding to him. By the tenth century, the two works were apparently studied together, and seen as foundational works on Sanskrit poetry.
Daśakumāracarita and AvantisundarīEdit
Daśakumāracarita is a prose text that relatesthe vicissitudes of ten princes in their pursuit of love and power. It contains stories of common life and reflects Indian society during the period, couched in colourful Sanskrit prose. It consists of (1) Pūrvapīṭhikā, (2) Daśakumāracarita Proper, and (3) Uttarapīṭhikā.
Overlapping in content with the Daśakumāracarita and also attributed to Daṇḍin is the even more fragmentary Avantisundarī or Avantisundarīkathā (The Story of the Beautiful Lady from Avanti). Its two fragmentary manuscripts tell a story that is reflected by a later, fragmentary Sanskrit poem, the Avantisundarīkathāsāra (Gist of the Story of the Beautiful Lady from Avanti) and a fragmentary a thirteenth-century Telugu translation.
The two texts may represent separate compositions on the same theme by the same author, or are parts of one prose work by Daṇḍin that was broken up early in its transmission.
- Bronner (2011), p. 70.
- Gupta, D. K. (1970). A critical study of Daṇḍin and his works. Delhi: Meharchand Lachhmandas. Gupta, D. K. (1972). Society and culture in the time of Daṇḍin. Delhi: Meharchand Lachhmandas.
- Bronner (2011), p. 75.
- Bronner (2011), p. 76.
- Bronner (2011), p. 68, 69, 75.
- first translated into English by P.W. Jacob, Hindoo tales, or, The adventures of ten princes, freely translated from the Sanscrit of the Dasakumaracharitam (London: Strahan & Co., 1873).
- Bronner (2011), p. 71–73, quoting 77.
- Söhnen, Renate. 1995. “On the Concept and Presentation of ‘yamaka’ in Early Indian Poetic Theory”. In: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies Vol. 58. No. 3 p 495–520.
- Yigal Bronner, 'A Question of Priority: Revisiting the Bhamaha-Daṇḍin Debate', The Journal of Indian Philosophy, 40 (2012), 67–118. DOI 10.1007/s10781-011-9128-x
- Avantisundarī kathā and Avantisundarī kathāsāra, ed. by S. K. Ramanatha Sastri (Madras: Dixon Press, 1924); Avantisundarī of Ācārya Daṇḍin, ed. by Sūranād Kunjan Pillai, Trivandrum Sanskrit Series, 172 (Trivandrum: University of Travancore, 1954); Avantisundarī kathāsāra, ed. by G. Harihara Sastri (Madras: Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute, 1957).
- Bronner (2011), p. 75, 77.
- Bronner, Yigal (29 April 2011). "A Question of Priority: Revisiting the Bhāmaha-Daṇḍin Debate" (PDF). Journal of Indian Philosophy. 40 (1): 67–118. doi:10.1007/s10781-011-9128-x. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
- Kavyadarsa - word, pdf
- Rahman, Aminur (2012). "Poetics". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
- Kavyadarsha of Dandi, Sanskrit text
- Kavyadarsa, Paricchedas 1 and 2 (input by Somadeva Vasudeva) at GRETIL
- Kavyadarsha, Paricchedas 1; 2.1-144, 310-368 (input by Reinhold Grünendahl) at GRETIL
- Works by Daṇḍin at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)