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VEDIC METRES

Dr. Rani Sadasiva Murty, RSVidyapeeth, Tirupati Basically all the Vedic metres are grouped into eight metrical classes as : Daiv, susr, Prjpaty, Yju, Smn, rch, ri and Brhm. Among the available texts on Vedic Prosody, this classification is found in the RP, UNS, NS, CS, AP, VM and JC. In each of these eight classes again there are seven varieties of metres. They are Gyatri, Usnih, Anutubh, Brhati, Pankti, Tritubh and Jagati. In addition to these seven metres, in ri class there are two more groups consisting of seven metres each. (Rinam tu tray vargah saptaa eakadhetarah) 1 Much information is not available abhout these eight classes in the CS, AP, VM and JC. But in the RP, along with the information given in the remaining works some additional particulars also are given in detail. NS and UNS also do not give much information than CS and other texts. General Characteristics of the eight classes These eight classes have distinct characteristics. In each of these eight classes the seven prime metres occur starting with Gyatr except in ri class. Out of these eight classes the number of syllables in a Daivi metre, an suri metre and A Prajapatya metre together is equal to that of a metre in ri metre. Similarly the number syllables in a Yjusi metre, a Samni metre and an rci together is equal to that of a Brahmi. Except in the ri metres no where in these metrical classes the foot division is strictly observed. In Vedic literature Ari metres are frequently used. Stray and countable examples only can be cited for metrical compositions in the other seven classes. A hymn or a verse is normally composed in ri class. In this class a hymn or verse consists of four feet. But in the rest of the classes all the compositions are limited to single foot normally. The nature of these eight classes individually is found to be as under: Daivi Metres Metres of this class start with single syllable and end with seven syllables. The metres of this class are seven in number. The metres of this class are seven in number. They are Gyatr, Unih, Anutubh, Brhati, Pankti, Tritubh and Jagati. In this class the first metre Gyatr is monosyllabic. Each succeeding metre after Gyatr is increased by one syllable in ordinal sequence. Thus a Unih of this class is di-syllabic. An Anutubh is tri-syllabic. A Brhati is tetra-syllabic. A Pankti is penta-syllabic. A Tritubh is sexi-syllabic and the seventh one jagati is hecta-syllabic. These seven metres while being employed in this class are called Daivi Gyatr, Davi Unih, Daivi Anutubh, Daivi Brhati, Daivi Pankti, Daivi Tritubh and Daivi Jagati. The word Davi is prefixed to each of these seven metres. The peculiarity of this class is that a unit can also be mono-syllabic and forms a metre.
1. RP.XVI.14

suri Metres

In this class too the seven metres Gyatr and others exit. Here the number of syllables begins with fifteen and decreases by one syllable in each succeeding metre. As the number of the metre increases the number syllables decreases in it. Hence the last metre possesses In this class the distribution of syllables to the seven prime metres is as follows: Gyatr: 15 syllables, Unih : 14 syllables, Anutubh : 13 syllables, Brhati : 12 syllables, Pankti: 11 syallbles, Tritubh : 10 syllables and Jagati : 9 syllables respectively. The name the seven metres are prefixed by the term suri such as - suri Gayatri, suri Unih, suri Anutubh etc., Prjpaty Metres Here also the number of metres is only seven starting with Gyatr. The first metre of this class Gyatr is octo-syllabic. In each succeeding metre, the syllabic number is increased by four regularly. The last metre possesses 32 syllables. The syllabic strength of the seven metres in this class. The syllabic strength of the seven metres in this class is : Gyatr: 8 syllables, Unih : 12 syllables, Anutubh : 16 syllables, Brhati : 20 syllables, Pankti: 24 syallbles, Tritubh : 28 syllables and Jagati : 32 syllables respectively. Here the metres are called Prajapatya Gyatr, Prajapatya Unih and so on. Yjui Metres The first metre Gayatri of this class is sexi-syllabic. The syllabic number in each succeeding metre grows in numerical order by one syllable. The last metre of this class has twelve syllables. The syllabic strength of metres in this class is: Gyatr: 6 syllables, Unih : 7 syllables, Anutubh : 8 syllables, Brhati : 9 syllables, Pankti: 10 syallbles, Tritubh : 11 syllables and Jagati : 12 syllables respectively. Here the metres are called Yajui Gyatr, Yajui Ushnih and so on. Samni Metres Numerical quantity of syllables in a Samni metre is doubled to that o a Yajushi metre. The number of syllables in each succeeding metre is raised by two. The first metre of this class has twelve syllables. The syllabic strength of metres in this class is: Gyatr: 12 syllables, Unih : 14 syllables, Anutubh : 16 syllables, Brhati : 18 syllables, Pankti: 20 syallbles, Tritubh : 22 syllables and Jagati : 24 syllables respectively. Here the metres are prefixed by Samni and called Samni Gyatr, Samni Unih and so on. rci Metres The number of syllables in the archi metre is triple to that of a Yajushi metre. The first metre cosists of eighteen syllables and the last metre has thirty six syllables. The syllabic strength of the metres in this class is : The syllabic strength of metres in this class is: Gyatr: 18 syllables, Unih: 21 syllables, Anutubh : 24 syllables, Brhati : 27 syllables, Pankti: 30 syallbles, Tritubh : 33 syllables and Jagati : 36 syllables respectively. Here the metres are called rci Gyatr, rci Unih and so on. ri Metres The syllabic strength of a Daivi metre, an Asuri metre and a Prajapatya metre together is equal to that of the syllabic strength of one ri metre. This is the only class of metres with four feet classification. In this class there four groups of metres namely Praggayatri Chandamsi (Pre Gyatr metres) (5), Brhacchandamsi (Prime metres) (7), Aticchhandamsi (Metres prefixed with the word Ati- in their names) (7) and Krticchandmasi (Metres suffixed by the word Krti in their names) (7). The first metre of this class Ma Chandas has four syllables in all the four feet together with single syllable distributed to each foot of it. Thus after the five Praggayatri metres the sixth one in order

and the first one of the Prime metres, Gayatri possesses twenty four syllables in all the four feet together with a distribution of six syllables to each foot of it. In this class each succeeding metre, is raised by four syllables regularly. In the science of prosody the significance of this metrical class is note worthy. Some prosodial treatises deal with the metres of this class only. They ignore the rest of the seven classes. Even in RP its author Saunaka declares saying Taih Pryo mantrah slokasca vartante 2 . It means that a hymn (Mantra) or a verse (Sloka) is usually composed in these ri metres only. This approves the domain of this metrical class which is extended to both Vedic and Classical sections of Sanskrit literature. The metres of this class are called ri Gyatr ri Usnih and so on. The syllabic strength in the Prime metres is illustrated for a better understanding: Gayatri: 24 syllables, Unih : 28 syllables, Anutubh : 32 syllables, Brhati : 36 syllables, Pankti: 40 syallbles, Tritubh : 44 syllables and Jagati : 48 syllables gradually with a raise of four syllables in each succeeding metre. The strength of the other two groups too is enriched by four syllables in the same order and the last metre which belongs to the fourth group consists of 104 syllables. Brahmi Metres As an Ari metre is equal to the total of a Davi, an Asuri and A Prajapatya in syllabic strength, A Brahmi metre is equal to the total of a Yajushi metre, a Samni metre and an Arci metre. But unlike Ari class this is formed of single foot metres only. This has seven metres beginning with Gyatr, as in the case of the other metrical classes except Arshi. Here the metres are named Brahmi Gyatr, Brahmi Ushnih and so on. Among these the metre Gyatr first of the seven is formed of 36 syllables. Each succeeding metre (between Gyatr and Jagati) is enhanced by six syllables regularly. The syllabic strength of these metres is : Gyatr: 36 syllables, Unih : 42 syllables, Anutubh : 48 syllables, Brhati : 54 syllables, Pankti: 60 syallbles, Tritubh : 66 syllables and Jagati : 72 syllables. Halaaydha, a celebrated commentator on CS of Pingala has for the first time, presented a method in matrix form showing the syllabic strength of the seven prime metres in these eight classes. Later the same matrix is shown in the VM and in the commentary of Harsata on JC. On the same lines another matrix for the Arshi metres also can be prepared. Both the matrices are presented for the appreciation of the readers.

Syllabic strength of the Metres in the Eight Metrical Classes


Metre Gyatr Daivi 1 suri 15 Prajapatya 8 ri 24 Yajushi 6 Samni 12 rci 18 Brahmi 36
2. RP XVI.9

Unih 2 14 12 28 7 14 21 42

Anutubh Brhati 3 4 13 12 16 20 32 36 8 9 16 18 24 27 48 54

Pankti 5 11 24 40 10 20 30 60

Tritubh 6 10 28 44 11 22 33 66

Jagati 7 9 32 48 12 24 36 72

Syllabic Strength of the Ari Metres


Name of the Metre No. of Syllables in a foot No.of syllables in all the four feet 3

I . Praggayatri metres (5) M 1 4 Pram 2 8 Pratim 3 12 Upam 4 16 Samm 5 20 II. Prime metres (7) Gyatr 6 24 Unih 7 28 Anutubh 8 32 Brhati 9 36 Pankti 10 40 Tritubh 11 44 Jagati 12 48 III. Ati - Metres (7) Atijagati 13 52 Sakvari 14 56 Atisakvari 15 60 Asti 16 64 Atyashti 17 68 Dhrti 18 72 Atidhrti 19 76 IV. Krti-Metres (7) Krti 20 80 Prakrti 21 84 Akrti 22 88 Vikrti 23 92 Samkrti 24 96 Abhikrti 25 100 Utkrti 26 104 Derivations, Definitions and Varieties of the Prime Metres Gayatri, Unih, Anusthubh, Brhati, Pankti, Tristhubh and Jagati are praised in the Vedic prosodic Texts as Brhacchandamsi or Prime metres, for their most repetitive occurrence in Sanskrit literature. At times, all the other metres are included in these seven metres. According to some scholars all other metres are mere modifications of these seven PRIME metres. Some of the definitions given for these metres and some popular sub- varieties of these metres are given here.

1. Gyatr This the splendid one with a great sanctity among the metres. In the entire Sanskrit literature this metre has the most adorable status in the Vedic performances and rituals. The word Gyatr is derived in five or six ways in various texts.

a) In the Daivata Brahmana Gyatr gyateh stuti karmanah 3 and Gyato mukhdudapataditi ha brhmanam 4 . Are the two derivations given in the D. Br. Here Sayana in his commentary interprets these two in the following way: He explains the first derivation that Gyatr means praising, and through praising, this metre brings to light the deities. Hence this is called Gyatr. (Gyati stauti praksayati daivatni iti gyatri.) 5 The second one has been explained as: From the face of the Prajapati, while he was reciting the Vedas, the essence of the Vedas has sprung. That essence itself is Gyatr. (Gytah vedajtam sabdayatah prajpatermukht eva vedasrabhut udapatat udagacchat. Tatah atopi gyatrityarthah) 6. There itself he states two more versions, according to them: The metre Gyatr singing a song advises men not to waste the time in this futile world and to be away from such world to praise her. She protects the ritualists who follow her advice. Hence called Gyatr. (Gyanneva tryate playati ca s gyatri y vai khalu gyati ca vrdh samsre m klisyta, taducchittaye mmeva bhajadhvamiti svayam sabdayati ca. Tath Kurvam duhkhtmakt samsrt tryate playati ca s gyattriti nirucyata iti sesah.) 7. Following smrtis , Sayana speaks of a fourth way of deriving this word: Gaytri protects him, who praises her through singing. Hence is called Gyatr. (Gtram tryate yasmt, gyatri tena s smrt iti) 8 . b) In the Nirukta As has been mentioned in the Nirukta of Yaska, the word Gyatr is derived from the verb gyati, which does mean praising. And it is meant that the gods are praised by this, hence this is Gyatr. (Gyatri gyateh stutikarmanah. Tath hi giyantge tuyante devath). 9 As stated in the VD Gayatri protects those chan in praise of her. So she is called Gyatr. (Gtram trndgyatri) 10. Yaska further reports that according to Manu the word Gayatri is formed, by the phenomenon called Metathesis from the word trigamana (Trigaman vai viparit). While explaining this instance Yaska observes that this metre often moves among the three Vedas Rk, Yajus and Sman and so this is primarily called Tri-gyat and due to the transposition of the letters it has been changed to Gyat+ri). There is another way of deriving the word Gyatr. Here the words of Manu are stated: Gyatr has obtained its three feet from three Gods, (one foot from each God). (Tribhya eva tu devebhyah pdam pdamaduduhat) 11. According to another way of derivation given by Manu, from the face of the Lord Brahma, having received three feet from three Vedas, this Gyatr has come out . (Gyato brahmanah mukht tribhyo vedebhyah sakst udapatat nirgt pdasah iti manvathopapattih.) 12. Thus a number of derivations have been given by different authors to this word Gyatr.
3,4,5,6 D. Br. 7 and 8 . Sayana on D. Br. 9- Nirukta 10. VD 11 and 12. Manusmriti

Varieties of Gyatr The RP, KS, CS and in such other works, nearly twenty varieties of Gyatr are explained. Tripad, Catushpad, Pdanicrd, Atipdanicrd, Ngi, Vrhi, Vardhamn, Pratisth, Dvipadvirt, Tripadvirt, Usniggarbh, Yavamadhy, Hrsiyasi, Bhurikpadapankti,

Pdapankti, Atinicrt and Dvipadgyatri are some well known varieties of Gyatri. All these varieties of Gayatri are possible only in Arsi class. 2. Unih According to the Nirukta and D. Br., there are two possible ways for deriving this word from the following two verbs. One is the root sn-which means to bathe. The other one is Snih which means to feel affectionate for. Nirukta mentions various possibilities in defining this word. It says: Firstly, because of its richness by four syllables than Gayatri it is called Unih. (Unih ut snt, gyatritaschaturbhiraksharairadhikairudveshtit iva). 13 Secondly, this is praised as the most dearest metre of Gods (Snihyateh v syt knti karmanah, snigdhamistam devatnm kntametacchandah) 14. Thirdly this is compared with a diadem (crownet). Because, this metre has four syllables in excess than its precedent metre. This is the special feature of this metre. Varieties of Unih Pura Unih, Kakubh, Paronih, CAtussaptaki, Kakumnyankusir, Tanusir, Pipilikmadhy and Anutubhgarbh are some varieties of Unih in Ari class. 3. Anutubh The derivations of the word Anustubh are found in the NIrukata and D. Br. As mentioned in the NIrukta: This is said to have come into existence on account of changing the three octo syllabic feet of Gayatri to four octo syllabic feet. Hence this is called Anustubh. (Anutubhanusthobant. Gyatrimeva tripadm satim chaturthena pdennusthobhatiti ca brhamanam) 15. Gyatri is originally foremed of three octo syllabic feet. By the addition of one more octo syllabic foot, the three feet become four octo syllabic feet and this Anustubh is off-shooted. (Gyatri tribhiratksharaih pdaih sampyate. Tasya ca punaraparah caturthah pdo bhavati. Yena tmeva anustubh anusthobhati, tasmt anustubh. 16). D.Br. also explains the derivation of Anustubh in the similar lines as in the Niukata. Varieties of Anutubh Anutubh has eight important varieties. They are Catushpt, krti, Pipilikmadhy, kvirj, Nastarup, Jyotismati, Virj(1), Virj (2) and Mahpadapankti.
13. (Nirukta VII.12). 14. (N. VII.12) 15. D. Br. 16. N.VII.12

4. Brhati 6

The derivation of the word Brhati is found in the Nirukta and D. Br., only. The NIrukta derives this as the enriched form of Anustubh. The word Brhati is derived from the verbal root Brh which means to grow (vrddhau), (Brhati paribarhant). According to the Nirukta Brhati grows up by four syllables than Anustubh. (Parivrddhsau bhavati anustubhah caturbhirakshraih) 17. D. Br. Also derives this similarly. It says in this connection that Brhati springs from the verb brhati which means growing up. (brhati brhate vrddhikarmanah) 18. The growth of this metre is viewed from Anustubh. This grows up by one syllable in each of the four feet of Anustubh. Thus four syllables are added in Brhati than Anustubh. Varieties of Brhati Pathy, Nyankusrini or Skandhogrivi or Urobrhati, Uparitdbrhati, Purastdbrhati, Catuspt, Vairjabrhati, Mahbrhati, Satobrhati, Virdurdhvabrhati, Vistrabrhati, Pipilikmadhy, Viamapad and Urdhvabrihati are some important varieties of Brhati. 5. Pankti It is called pankti because it has five feet. (Panchabhih pdaih panktirityucyate) 19. This is the statement given in the Nirukta. It is pankti, fr it is associated with the number five. (Pancasankhyyogt panktisabhdah) 20 as explained in D. Br. Moreover this is the fifth metre with 5 feet. (Panchamam panktih pancapad) 21. Varieties of Pankti Satahpankti, Prastra Panti, strapankti, Vistrapankati, Samstrapankti, Akara Pankti, Pada Pankti, Pthy, Jagati, Virt, Satobrhati, Dvipad and Siddh are some important varieties of Pankti. These are the varieties available in the CS, RP, KS, UNS, NS, JC and RAVM. 6. Tritubh Tristubh is the sixth among the seven Prime Metres. The Nirukta and D. Br., have similar definitions for this word Tristubh. This wor is derived from the verb stobhati which is preceeded by tri. Tri means well spread. (Tirnatam). This mtre is better spread than Gayatri and other metres. Hence this is Tirnatam. This is employed in the act of praising. (Stobhati). Hence this is also treated as something praiseworthy. Thus the two qualities Tirnatam and Stobhati form the attributes to this metre. According to another view mentioned there , this metre praises the three points of Indras weapon Vajrayudha. So this is called Tritubh. (Yat trih astobhat tat traituptvam. Iti vijnayate). Tis is derived from the root Stubh which means to praise. Varieties of Tritubh Jagati Abhisrini, Virtsthn, Virdrup, Mahbrhati, Yavamadhy, Panktyuttar or Virdpurv, Purstd Jyotih, MadhyeJyotih and Uparitjjyotih are the ten important varieties of Tristubh. 17. N.VII.12 18. D. Br.
19. N.VII.12 20. D. Br. 21. D. Br.

7. Jagati This the seventh and the last of the seven Prime Metres. TheNirukta and D. Br. Have the same derivation for the word Jagati. According to them, Jagati is one which has a speed and motion and finally stands at the end. (Jagati gatatamam chandah, antyam ityarthah) 7

and (Jagati gatatamama chando jajjagatirbhavati kipragatirjaj malkurvannashtajateti hi brhmanam) D. Br.. Varieties of Jagati Mahpankti,Mahsatobrhatti, Jyotishmati and two or three nameless varieties are found in various prosodial treatises belonging to this metre. In this manner the eight possible classes of Vedic metres, the presence of seven Prime metres in these eight classes and the special deal of the four groups of metres in Arsi class, the procedure of syllabic distribution, the definitions of the seven Prime Metres and their varieties as found various texts on the Vedic Prosody are explained at length in this article.
N.VII.12

Sl No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

Texts used for preparing this article and their abbreviations Name of the Text Author Abbreviation Rgveda RV Yajussamhita YS Yajurveda YV Samaveda SV Atharvaveda AV Taittiriya Samhita TS Aitareya Brahmana A.Br. Daivata Brahmana D.Br. Rk-Prskhya Saunaka RP Chandassstra Pingala Naga CS Sarvanukramani of Rgveda Katyayana KS Nidnasutra Patanjali NS Upanidnasutra Grgya UNS Rgvedanukramani Venkata Madhava RAVM Jayadeva Chandas Jayadeva JC Vedartha Dipika Shadgurusishya VD Yajurveda Sarvanukrama Sutra YSS Atharvavediya Brhatsarvanukramani ABS Vaidika Chando Mimamsa Yudhisthira Mimamsak Vedic Prosody Its Nature, Dr. Rani Sadasiva Origin and Development Murty