Malatimadhava (study)

by Jintu Moni Dutta | 2017 | 58,180 words | ISBN-10: 8120813057 | ISBN-13: 9788120813052

This page relates ‘Definition of Chandas (metres)’ from the English study on the Malatimadhava of Bhavabhuti:—A Prakarana type of Drama in ten acts revolving around the love-story of Malati (from Padmāvatī) and Madhava (from Vidarbha). This study discusses the history of its author and the literary, social, religious, historical and cultural aspects of the Malatimadhava.

Part 6.1 - Definition of Chandas (metres)

Metre is another important element of poetic composition. The importance of metrical form of a composition is that it can easily influence a reader by its charming power as well as it plays the part of the uddīpanavibhāva which keeps the readers’ mind aloof from the worldly affairs and thus helps the readers in relishing the rasa.[1] The art of the use of the proper metres in a drama is the main criterion of the quality of the author.While composing a verse the poet gives the physical form to his or her feelings through the arrangement of letters in a particular manner which gives rise to some sound is known as metre. The importance of metre in poetic composition is emphasised since the ancient times. It has been noticed that the early rhetoricians were very vague on the application of metres in a composition.

Having emphasizes on the importance of metre, Bharata opines that there is no word without metre and a metre cannot exist without word.[2] Vāmana, in his Kāvyālaṃkārasūtravṛtti, has said that chandoviciti is a science.[3] Metre is an essential element for the proper recitation with correct pronunciation of the vedic verses. In as much as, it is said in the Bṛhaddevatā that one who performs a sacrificial rite without knowing the rṣi, chanda and devatā (deity) concerned with the particular mantra he or she becomes sinful.[4]

Kṣemendra, in his Suvṛttatilaka, rightly says that a poet should employ all the metres in their compositions only after considering their suitability to the rasas and the subject described.[5] In the pāṇinīyaśikṣā, the metre is treated as the feet of the vedapuruṣa.[6]

According to Pāṇini the word chanda i.e. metre is derived from the root √chand which means gladdening or pleasing while he says chandayati hlādayantiti chandaḥ canderādeśca chah.

Daṇḍī, the famous prose writer recognizes the position of metre in the literary work. According to him metrical knowledge is the ship for crossing the deep sea of poetry. [7]

In case of Veda there are found seven metres viz.,

  1. gāyatrī,
  2. uṣṇik,
  3. anuṣṭup,
  4. vṛhatī [bṛhatī],
  5. paṅkti,
  6. triṣṭup and
  7. jagatī.

Accordingly the gāyatrī metre consists of 24 syllables whereas four letters increases of the rest metres respectively.

The number of syllables in vedic metres can be shown here—

  1. gāyatrī - 24;
  2. uṣṇik - 24+ 4 =28;
  3. anuṣṭup - 28 +4 =32;
  4. brhatī - 32 +4 =36;
  5. paṅkti - 36 +4 =40;
  6. triṣṭup - 40 +4 =44;
  7. jagatī - 44 +4 =48.

In classical Sanskrit literature usually two kinds of metres are found namely:

  1. vṛtta and
  2. jāti.

Gaṅgādāsa, in his chandomañjarī says that a verse in the classical Sanskrit is known as padya, which may be called a stanza. Every padya has four divisions, each one is called as caraṇa or quarter, padya in the first place is deemed to have two varieties viz., vṛtta and jāti. A vṛtta is a stanza in which the metre is regulated by a number of syllables (akṣararas), on the other hand a jāti is a stanza in which the metres are regulated by syllabic instances (mātrās).[8]

In the poetry,there are three vṛttas, namely:

  1. samavṛtta,
  2. ardhasamavṛtta and
  3. viṣamavṛtta.

The samavṛttas or regular metres are those which contain all the four quarters of equal measure. The ardhasama vrttas or semi regular metres are those which are partially uniform in as much as they contain quarters of two types which may differ from one another and the third one i.e. viṣama or irregular vṛttas are those where all the lines are dissimilar.[9] The yati or pause is the point at which the tongue takes a break and it lies at the end of a quarter in a stanza.[10]

A syllable consisting of a long vowel (dīrgha), or preceding a dipthong, or associated with anusvāra or followed by an aspirate (visarga) is necessarily long. It is however, left to the choice of the poet to treat the last syllable of a quarter of the verse long, even if it is in fact a short one. Again a syllable is short or long i.e. hrasva or dīrgha according to its vowel is short or long. But short vowel becomes long in prosody when it is followed by a conjunct consonant. The last syllable of a pāda is optionally long or short according to the exigense of the metre, whatever be its natural length.[11] For the purpose of counting the number of syllables, they are always grouped in a set of three which is said to constitute a metrical foot or gaṇa. A short vowel is denoted by symbol ‘ᴗ’ whereas a long vowel is denoted by the symbol ‘˗’.

The gaṇas with their symbolic representations are shown below.

Name of gaṇa Symbols English Equivalent
magaṇa ˗ ˗ ˗ Molossus
nagaṇa ᴗ ᴗ ᴗ Tribrachys
bhaga ˗ ᴗ ᴗ Dactyl
yagaṇa ᴗ ˗ ˗ Bacchius
jagaṇa ᴗ ˗ ᴗ Amphibrach
ragaṇa ˗ ᴗ ˗ Amphimacre
sagaṇa ᴗ ᴗ ˗ Anapaest
tagaṇa ˗ ˗ - Anti-bacchius

When all the three letters are long, the gaṇa is called magaṇa; when all the letters are short the gana is called nagaṇa; when the first letter is short it is yagaṇa; when the first letter is guru it is called bhagaṇa; when the middle letter is guru it is called jagana; when the middle letter is laghu it is called ragaṇa; when the last letter is guru it is called sagaṇa and when the last letter is laghu it is tagaṇa.[12]

Footnotes and references:


Vide,Chutia,L. Gogoi., A note on Kavisikṣā in the studies in Indology,p.126


chandohīno na śabdo’stina chandaścaśabda varjitam /




aviditvā ṛṣimcchando /
daivataṃ yogaṃ eva ca //
yo’dhyāpayejjaped vāpi /
pāpīyān jāyate tu saḥ //


Suvṛttatilaka, II.37


chandaḥ pādau to vedasya /


chandovicityāṃ sakalastatprapañco nidarśitaḥ/sā vidyā naustitīrṣūṇāṃ gabhīraṃ kāvyasāgaram /


padyaṃ catuṣpadī taccha vṛttaṃ jātiriti dvidhā /
vṛtamakṣarasaṃkhyātaṃ jātirmātrākṛtā bhavet ///


samamardhasamaṃ vṛttaṃ viṣamañceti tat tridhā /
samaṃ samacatuṣpādaṃ bhavatyardhasamaṃ punaḥ /
ādistṛtīyavad yasya pādasturyo dvitīyavat /
bhinnacihnacatuṣpādaṃ viṣamaṃ parikīrtitam //


yatirjihneṣṭaviśrāmasthānaṃ kavibhirucyate /


sānusvāraśca dīrghaśca visargo ca gururbhavet /
varṇaḥ saṃyogapūrvaśca tathā pādāntagoapi vā //


mastrigurustrilaghuśca nakāro bhādiguruḥ punarādilaghuryaḥ /
jo gurumadhyagato ralamadhyaḥ soantaguruḥ kathitoantalaghustaḥ /

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