The backdrop of the Srikanthacarita and the Mankhakosa

by Dhrubajit Sarma | 2015 | 94,519 words

This page relates “Chandas or the metre” as it appears in the case study regarding the Srikanthacarita and the Mankhakosa. The Shrikanthacarita was composed by Mankhaka, sometimes during A.D. 1136-1142. The Mankhakosa or the Anekarthakosa is a kosa text of homonymous words, composed by the same author.

The metre i.e. chandas is mandatory for versified poetry. It is said that which is set in metres is called padya.[1] The word chandas has been derived from several roots and therefore, it bears so many meanings in general. However, almost all the scholars have unanimously agreed with two roots–i) chand (to cover) and ii) chad (to please) as responsible for formation of the word chandas. In Vedic literature also, the word chandas is found to have used in various senses. The chandas is said to be the feet of the Vedapuruṣa.[2] Even, the grammarian like Pāṇini[3] employed this word as a synonym to the Vedas. The word chandas has been mentioned 112 times in the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini in that sense. Kātyāyana, in his vārttika and Patañjali in his Mahā.employed this word in the same sense. In the Prātiśākhyas also, the word has been employed in the sense of the Vedas. Sāyanācārya also used the word chandas in aforesaid meaning. Again, Yāska defined chandas in his Nirukta (ch.VII. 3) as chandāṃsi chādanāt. Anundoram Borooah[4] used the word ‘rhythm’ as synonymous to the word vṛtta. Though there are several derivative meanings of the word chandas, but generally it indicates some numerical arrangement of syllables. The Vedic metres are different from that of the classical metres. The number of syllables in each foot of a mantra is of primary concern in case of the Vedic metres, whereas in classical Sanskrit, the number as well as laghu, guru etc. are taken into consideration. There are seven Vedic metres viz. Gāyatrī, Uṣṇik, Anuṣṭubh, Vṛhatī, Paṅkti, Triṣṭubh and Jagatī. The metre Gāyatrī consists of twenty four syllables and the other six metres starting from Uṣṇik to Jagatī have an increase of four syllables respectively. Gaṅgādāsa, in his Chandomañjarī (Chandomaňjarī), wrote about the metrical arrangements of a verse as follows–

A verse in Sanskrit is of four feet or quarters or pādas. Each pāda is regulated either by a number of syllables (akṣaras) or by a number of syllabic instant or measures (mātrās).The metres regulated by akṣaras are called vṛttas and those regulated by mātrās are called jātis. A vṛtta is divided into three classes viz. samavṛtta, ardhasamavṛtta, and viṣamavṛtta. Again, yati or pause or caesura is a part of a verse, at which the reader is required to stop his breath and then proceed on. 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 anusvāra, visarga or by a conjunct consonant. The last syllable of a pāda is optionally long or short according to the exigence of the metre, whatever be its natural length. Three successive syllables form a gaṇa (triad).

The Śrīkaṇṭhacarita of Maṅkhaka consists of twenty five cantos. The first canto contains fifty six verses, the second one fifty eight verses, the third one seventy eight verses, fourth one sixty four verses, the fifth one fifty seven, the sixth one seventy four, the seventh one sixty six, the eighth one fifty six, the ninth one fifty six, the tenth one sixty one, the eleventh one seventy five, the twelfth one ninety seven, the thirteenth one fifty two, the fourteenth one sixty eight, the fifteenth one fifty, the sixteenth one fifty nine, the seventeenth one sixty seven, the eighteenth one sixty one, the nineteenth one sixty six, the twentieth one sixty five, the twenty first one fifty three, the twenty second one fifty eight, the twenty third one fifty six, the twenty fourth one forty four and the last canto i.e. the twenty fifth one possesses one hundred and fifty two verses. Thus, there are altogether sixteen hundred forty nine (1649) verses in the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita.

Maṅkhaka is found to have composed the verses of his Śrīkaṇṭhacarita in both the classes i.e. vṛttachandas (metres counted by letters) and mātrāchandas (metres counted by syllabic instants). But the use of the vṛttachandas are greater than the mātrāchandas. Again, among the vṛttachandas, the samavṛttas are preponderating. Very few numbers of Ardhasamavṛttas are employed viz. Puṣpitāgrā, Aparavaktra and Viyoginī, and viṣamavṛtta is conspicuous by its rare use of Udgatā metre. Mātrāchandas used in the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita are viz. Āryā, Gāthā, and Vaitālīya-Aupacchandasika. Maṅkhaka exhibited his genius in skilled use of as many as twenty-nine metres in his poem. It is worth mentioning here that a metre should be changed at the end of each canto[5] and Maṅkhaka abided by this rhetorical rule strictly. The poet allowed the change of metre while keeping in mind the gravity of subject matter. Again, the metres used in the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita are suitable to the sentiment delineated therein the concerned poetry, while examining them in the light of the rules framed by the rhetoricians.

The principal metres employed in the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita are as follows:—

[1. Vṛtta type of metre (akṣarachandas)]

[2. Jāti type of metre (mātrāchandas)]

Footnotes and references:


chandovaddhapadaṃ padyaṃ/
Sāhityadarpaṇa., VI. 313


chandaḥ pādau tu vedasya/
Pāṇinīyaśikṣā., 41


bahulaṃ chandasi/ Aṣṭādhyāyī, 2. 4. 39;

also, chandasi ca/ Ibid., 5. 1. 67


Borooah, A., Prosody, page xcv.


ekavṛttamayaiḥ padyaravasāne’anyavṛttakaiḥ/
Sāhityadarpaṇa., VI. 320

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