Vedic meter

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

Overview[edit]

The major Vedic meters[2]
Meter 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]

There are several other minor metres found in the Vedas, such as:[citation needed]

  • Virāj: 4 lines of 10 syllables
  • Kakubh

Gāyatrī meter[edit]

The shortest and most sacred of Vedic meters is the Gāyatrī metre.[12] A verse consists of three octosyllabic sections (pāda).[12][13] The following is an example of the opening of a Rigvedic hymn in Gāyatrī meter:

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

Translation:
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[13]

The Gāyatrī meter is considered as the most refined and sacred of the Vedic meters, and one that continues to be part of modern Hindu culture as part of Yoga and hymns of meditation at sunrise.[14]

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).[15] 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 meter makes up about 25% of the entire Rigveda.[16] The only meter more commonly used in Rigveda than Gāyatrī is the Tristubh meter. The structure of Gāyatrī and other Vedic meters is more flexible than post-Vedic meters.[17]

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."[18][19] 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.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  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), p. 232.
  4. ^ Horace Hayman 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. ^ a b Annette Wilke & Oliver Moebus 2011, pp. 392-394.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Annette Wilke & Oliver Moebus 2011, pp. 393-394.
  15. ^ Macdonell, A. A. A Vedic Grammar for Students, p. 439.
  16. ^ A history of Sanskrit Literature, Arthur MacDonell, Oxford University Press/Appleton & Co, page 56
  17. ^ Stephanie Jamison; Joel Brereton (2014). The Rigveda: 3-Volume Set. Oxford University Press. pp. 71–75. ISBN 978-0-19-972078-1.
  18. ^ Macdonell, A. A. A Vedic Grammar for Students, p. 438.
  19. ^ See now however also Gunkel and Ryan (2018).
  20. ^ Macdonell, A. A. A Vedic Grammar for Students, p. 438.
Bibliography

External links[edit]