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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vedic metre refers to the poetic metre in the Vedic literature. The study of Vedic metre, along with post-Vedic metre, is part of Chandas, one of the six Vedanga disciplines.[1]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Chandas - The Vedic Metres by Dr. Shreehari Gokarnakar (OLA 28)
  • Introduction to Vedic Chanting
  • Talk on Scientific origin of Vedic meters and Musical note by Dr. Ravi Prakash Arya.



The seven major Vedic metres[2]
Metre Syllable structure No. of verses[3] Examples[4]
Gāyatrī 8 8 8 2447 Rigveda 7.1.1-30, 8.2.14[5]
Uṣṇih 8 8 12 341 Rigveda 1.8.23-26[6]
Anuṣṭubh 8 8 8 8 855 Rigveda 8.69.7-16, 10.136.7[7]
Bṛhatī 8 8 12 8 181 Rigveda 5.1.36, 3.9.1-8[8]
Pankti 8 8 8 8 + 8 312 Rigveda 1.80–82.[9]
Triṣṭubh 11 11 11 11 4253 Rigveda 4.50.4, 7.3.1-12[10]
Jagatī 12 12 12 12 1318 Rigveda 1.51.13, 9.110.4-12[11]

In addition to these seven, there are fourteen less frequent syllable-based metres (Varna-vritta or Akshara-chandas):[12]

8. Atijagati (13x4); 9. Śakkarī (14x4); 10. Atiśakarī (15x4); 11. Ashṭi (16x4);
12. Atyashti (17x4); 13. Dhritī (18x4); 14. Atidhritī (19x4); 15. Kṛiti (20x4);
16. Prakṛiti (21x4); 17. Ākṛiti (22x4): 18. Vikṛiti (23x4); 19. Śankṛiti (24x4);
20. Atikṛiti (25x4); 21. Utkṛiti (26x4).

Note: all metres have several varieties (from 2 to 30 depending on the case).

There is also the metre called Dandaka which is the general name given to other metres of this class exceeding the measure (26x4) of Utkriti (Dandaka is the No. 22 on the list compiled by H.H. Wilson[13]).

There are several other minor metres found in the Vedas, of which the following are two examples:

Virāj: 4 lines of 10 syllables.[14]
Kakubh: 3 lines of 8, 12, 8 syllables.[15]


E. V. Arnold classified the hymns of the Rigveda into four periods, partly on the grounds of language and partly of metre.[16]

In the earliest period, which he calls "Bardic", when often the names of the individual poets are known, a variety of metres are used, including, for example, a ten-syllable version of the triṣṭubh; some poems of this period also often show an iambic rhythm (ᴗ – ᴗ –) in the second section of the triṣṭubh and jagatī metres.

The second period, the "Normal", has more regular metres.

The third period, the "Cretic", shows a preference for a cretic rhythm (– ᴗ –) in syllables 5 to 7 of the triṣṭubh and jagatī following a 4th-syllable caesura.

The last period, called "Popular", contains several hymns which also occur in the Atharvaveda collection; in this period also the anuṣṭubh tends towards the form it had in the epic period, with a trochaic cadence ( ᴗ – – x) in lines 1 and 3.

Gāyatrī metre

The shortest and most sacred of Vedic metres is the Gāyatrī metre.[17] A verse consists of three octosyllabic sections (pāda).[17][18] The following is an example of the opening of a Rigvedic hymn in Gāyatrī metre:

The hymn:
इन्द्रमिद्गाथिनो बृहदिन्द्रमर्केभिरर्किणः इन्द्रं वाणीरनूषत ॥१॥

Transliteration in 3x8 format:
índram íd gāthíno br̥hád
índram arkébhir arkíṇaḥ
índraṃ vā́ṇīr anūṣata

Musical beats:
/ – ᴗ – – / ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ /
/ – ᴗ – – / ᴗ – ᴗ – /
/ – – – – / ᴗ – ᴗ – /

/ DUM da DUM DUM / da DUM da da /
/ DUM da DUM DUM / da DUM da DUM /

The chanters have loudly chanted to Indra,
the singers have sung their songs to Indra,
the musicians have resounded to Indra.

— Rigveda 1.7.1, Translator: Frits Staal[18]

The Gāyatrī metre is considered as the most refined and sacred of the Vedic metres, and one that continues to be part of modern Hindu culture as part of Yoga and hymns of meditation at sunrise.[19]

The general scheme of the Gāyatrī is a stanza of three 8-syllable lines. The length of the syllables is variable, but the rhythm tends to be iambic (ᴗ – ᴗ –), especially in the cadence (last four syllables) of each line. However, there is one rare variety, used for example in Rigveda 8.2.1–39, in which the cadence is trochaic (– ᴗ – x).[20] Another cadence sometimes found (especially in the first line of a stanza) is (ᴗ ᴗ ᴗ x). The last syllable of a line may be long or short indifferently.

The Gāyatrī metre makes up about 25% of the entire Rigveda.[21] The only metre more commonly used in Rigveda than Gāyatrī is the Tristubh metre. The structure of Gāyatrī and other Vedic metres is more flexible than post-Vedic metres.[22]

One of the best known verses of Gāyatrī is the Gayatri Mantra, which is taken from book 3.62.10 (the last hymn of the 3rd book) of the Rigveda.

When the Rig-Veda is chanted, performers traditionally recite the first two padas of Gāyatrī without making a break between them, in accordance with the generally used saṃhitā text. However, according to Macdonell, "there is no reason to believe that in the original text the second verse was more sharply divided from the third than from the first."[23][24] When the Gayatri Mantra is recited, on the other hand, a pause is customarily made after each pada.

When there is a pause, a short syllable at the end of a line can be considered long, by the principle of brevis in longo.

Although the Gāyatrī is very common in the Rigveda, it fell out of use early and is not found in Sanskrit poetry of the classical period. There is a similar 3 x 8 stanzaic metre in the Avestan scriptures of ancient Iran.[25]

Jagatī metre

The jagatī metre has lines of 12 syllables, and its overall scheme is:[26]

/ x – x – / x ᴗ ᴗ – / ᴗ – ᴗ x /

where x = a syllable which is either long or short. Occasionally in the first half of the line, ᴗ – may be substituted for – ᴗ or vice versa.

Other authors divide the line differently. For example, E. V. Arnold divides it into three "members" as follows:[27]

/ x – x – / x ᴗ ᴗ / – ᴗ – ᴗ x

He calls the central section the "break", since at this point the mainly iambic rhythm of the opening is broken.

The first hymn of the Rigveda to use jagatī throughout is 1.55, of which the first stanza is as follows:

diváś cid asya varimā́ ví papratha
índraṃ ná mahnā́ pr̥thivī́ caná práti
bhīmás túviṣmāñ carṣaṇíbhya ātapáḥ
śíśīte vájraṃ téjase ná váṃsagaḥ

Musical beats:
/ ᴗ – ᴗ – / ᴗ ᴗ ᴗ – / ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ /
/ – – ᴗ – / – ᴗ ᴗ – / ᴗ – ᴗ ᴗ /
/ – – ᴗ – / – – ᴗ – / ᴗ – ᴗ – /
/ ᴗ – – – / – – ᴗ – / ᴗ – ᴗ – / 

/ da DUM da DUM / da da da DUM / da DUM da da /
/ DUM DUM da DUM / DUM da da DUM / da DUM da da /
/ DUM DUM da DUM / DUM DUM da DUM / da DUM da DUM /
/ da DUM DUM DUM / DUM DUM da DUM / da DUM da DUM /

Though e'en this heaven's wide space and earth have spread them out,
nor heaven nor earth may be in greatness Indra's match.
Awful and very mighty, causing woe to men,
he whets his thunderbolt for sharpness, as a bull.

— Rigveda 1.55.1, Translator: Ralph T. H. Griffith

There is usually a word-break (caesura) after the fifth syllable, but sometimes after the fourth.[26]

A recent study including nearly all the 12-syllable lines in the Rigveda showed the following percentages of long (heavy) syllables in each position in the line, confirming that the 6th position is nearly always short (light):[28]

51%, 87%, 51%, 95%, 67%, 10%, 17%, 97%, 3%, 98%, 1%, 83%

See also


  1. ^ James Lochtefeld (2002), "Chandas" in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A-M, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, page 140
  2. ^ Tatyana J. Elizarenkova (1995). Language and Style of the Vedic Rsis. State University of New York Press. pp. 111–121. ISBN 978-0-7914-1668-6.
  3. ^ Sharma 2000, pp. 232.
  4. ^ Wilson 1841, pp. 418–422.
  5. ^ Arnold 1905, pp. 10, 48.
  6. ^ Arnold 1905, p. 48.
  7. ^ Arnold 1905, p. 11, 50 with note ii(a).
  8. ^ Arnold 1905, p. 48, 66 with note 110(i).
  9. ^ Macdonell (1916), p. 440.
  10. ^ Arnold 1905, pp. 48 with table 91, 13 with note 48, 279 with Mandala VII table.
  11. ^ Arnold 1905, pp. 12 with note 46, 13 with note 48, 241-242 with note 251.
  12. ^ The numbering given below follows that of H.H. Wilson in the cited work, pp.422-426.
  13. ^ Wilson 1841, pp. 426.
  14. ^ Ralph T. H. Griffith, Hymns of the Rig Veda, Appendix II. Metre, 1896. List of various Vedic metres , see « Viraj ». Retrieved 15-11-2021..
  15. ^ Ralph T. H. Griffith, Hymns of the Rig Veda, Appendix II. Metre, 1896. List of various Vedic metres , see « Kakup or Kakubh ». Retrieved 15-11-2021..
  16. ^ Arnold, E. V. Vedic metre in its historical development, Cambridge University Press, 1905; pp. 12–13, 48.
  17. ^ a b Annette Wilke & Oliver Moebus 2011, pp. 392–394.
  18. ^ a b Frits Staal (2014). Gerald James Larson and Eliot Deutsch (ed.). Interpreting across Boundaries: New Essays in Comparative Philosophy. Princeton University Press. pp. 217–219. ISBN 978-1-4008-5927-6.
  19. ^ Annette Wilke & Oliver Moebus 2011, pp. 393–394.
  20. ^ Macdonell, A. A. A Vedic Grammar for Students, p. 439.
  21. ^ A history of Sanskrit Literature, Arthur MacDonell, Oxford University Press/Appleton & Co, page 56
  22. ^ Stephanie Jamison; Joel Brereton (2014). The Rigveda: 3-Volume Set. Oxford University Press. pp. 71–75. ISBN 978-0-19-972078-1.
  23. ^ Macdonell, A. A. A Vedic Grammar for Students, p. 438.
  24. ^ See now however also Gunkel and Ryan (2018).
  25. ^ Macdonell, A. A. A Vedic Grammar for Students, p. 438.
  26. ^ a b Kiparsky, P. (2018). "Indo-European origins of the Greek hexameter". In Hackstein, O., & Gunkel, D. (2018). Language and Meter (pp. 77–128). Brill; pp. 91–2.
  27. ^ Arnold, E. V. (1905) Vedic metre in its historical development, Cambridge University Press; p. 13.
  28. ^ Gunkel, Dieter & Ryan, Kevin (2011). "Hiatus avoidance and metrification in the Rigveda." In Proceedings of the 22nd Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference, ed. Jamison, S. W.; Melchert, H. C.; Vine, B; p. 57.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 May 2023, at 09:22
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