Saturday, September 13, 2008

Deivathin Kural # 66 of (Vol 2) of 01 Jan 2008.

Om Namah Sivaya.

Deivathin Kural # 66 of (Vol 2) of 01 Jan 2008.

(Note 1. We are to remind the readers that herein, 'he' as a word stands for 'she' as well. When Tamil or Sanskrit words are transliterated in English, the single vowel will indicate a short utterance and a double vowel will indicate a longer pronounciation. Words in Sanskrit script not being available, the transliteration spellings and thereby the pronounciation, especially of names may be at variance from what it should be! Note 2. It may please be noted that the talk is dated some time in the late 1950's and early 60's.

Chandas: The Feet of the Vedas

The Grammer For Poetry

1. We hear of a Tamil word, 'Sandat Tamizh'. Any poem as compared to prose is preferred by devotees. So for the word, 'sandam', the origin is from 'Chandas'. Earlier I had given the meaning of 'Chandas' as the Vedas themselves. For the 'srushti' (or the very creation), symbolically represented by the 'Aswaththa Tree', Bhaghwan Sri Krishna says, the Vedas are like the leaves of the tree. He says, "...chandamsi yasya parnaani...". He too uses the word 'chandas' in lieu of the word 'vedas'. But to-day, I am going to talk to you about, 'Chandas' as a part of the 'Shadangas', which forms the Feet of the Veda Purusha. So, Chandas would mean, all the rules and regulations governing poetry.

2. Rik and Saama Vedas are completely in poetry form. Yajus is partially prose and poetry mixed. Since the whole of Vedas was mainly made up of poetry, Veda itself got the name of 'Chandas'. If you want to wrap a cloth around yourself, you can do that. To do so as a 'Veshti or Dhoti', you need some method of doing so. To wear a saree, you need a more complex procedure. But if you want to wear a suit, to make it suited to you, you need an expert, called the Tailor. He will take the measurement of the length of your hands, legs, torso, sleeves, circumference of the hips and tummy and the neck; and so on. Or you can go on certain general measurements in which all can be fitted. Similarly, for poetry, to suit the thought being expressed, different forms were used namely, metre, rhythm, comparison, alliteration and iteration; to organise and embellish the presentation. That part of the Shadanga of Veda, that governs the poetic metric styles, is known as 'Chandas'.

3. Pingala's 'Chandas Suthra' is the main book of authority. In each of the Veda's, you will come across the 'List of Contents' known as 'Anukramaani', such as, 'Rik Sarva Anukramani', 'Atharva Vediya Bruhad Sarva Anukramanika', 'Bruhad Devata' and in most of the 'Prathi Saakhyam' of the various branches of the Veda too, the Metric System of the Vedas contained therein, have been explained. Two more books of authority on the subject are, 'Chando Manjari' and 'Vruththa Rathnakaram'. Chandas is considered as the 'Feet' of the Veda Purusha, as I said earlier. Anyone who has been initiated with a Mantra, (that is, those who have taken a 'Mantra Upadesam' from a Guru), while practicing the 'Japa', would initially say the name of the Rishi and touch their own head, say the Chandas and touch their nose and say the name of the Devata and touch their heart.

4. All the Veda mantras are in the form of Chandas. Other poems not in Veda are called Slokas. The prose in Sanskrit is 'Gadyam' and the poetry part are the 'Padyam'. In Telugu too, Poetry is 'Padyam' and in Tamil, it is 'Seyyul'. Chandas with a specific name, defines as to how many lines will be there, and how many Matras will be there in each line. Each poem may have one line of a certain length and another line of a different length. These lines are known as 'Paadam'. Coming to 'Matra', the method of calculation is that each syllable will have one Matra, an elongated syllable having two and a short one considered as half a Matra. Each type of Chandas is called a Virutham, each Virutham having so many lines or Padam, each Padam having so many Matras. So, when we say, Anushtup or Aryaa Virutham, that defines a particular type of poem like a Sonnet or an Ode.

5. Padam is 'Adi' in Tamil and 'Foot' in English. I called the 'Chandas' as the Veda Purushas feet. In each Chandas too there are a certain number of 'lines' or Paadams. Like in the 'Dohe' in Hindi and 'Kural' in Tamil, have two lines/paadams each. The 'Naaladiyar' in Tamil for example, has four lines each. ('Adiyaar' in Tamil and 'Paadar' in Sanskrit have a different connotation, referring to the 'Feet of God'. They are people who are all the time seeking the Feet of the Lord.) 'Kaal' in Tamil means, Leg and one-fourth. The animal body has four legs. (Either four legs or two legs and two hands, making four limbs.) One of the them, means 'one-fourth', which is a quarter or 'kaal'. The body is in two parts, the upper and lower half, with the hip in the center. That is half or 'arai' or middle. Similarly, each 'seyyul' or poem can be made up of four, 'kaal' or 'foot' or 'adi' or 'paadam'. Thus the closeness of meaning, in words across languages, across the continents, is actually an area for deeper study, contributing towards a sense of unity and integration!

How to Calculate?

6. Normally all Veda Mantras and othe Slokas too are in four parts. Mostly, they will be made up of 'four equal parts'. That 'equal' is 'samam' in Sanskrit. What is not equal or unequal, is 'vi-samam'. This word 'vishamam' has come to mean doing mischief, since anything parochial,
and partial is not in order. So the poetical 'Vruththams' can be 'Sama' or 'Vi-sama'. If all the four lines are dissimilar, that is known as 'Visama Viruththam'. There are Chandas in which, alternate lines will be similar. That is, the first and third lines will be similar and second and fourth will be alike. The first and second; and third and fourth; will have similar dissimilarities! This Viruththam is known as, 'Ardha Sama Viruththam'. Normally all the four lines will be equal, as in the famous, "sukhlaam bharatharam vishnum sasi varnam chathurbhujam I prasanna vadanam dhyaayet sarva vigna upasaantaye II", each line has eight aksharas. Only the consonents and the combination of 'vowels and consonents' like, 'kaa', 'ke', and 'kshe'; will count as one. Thus each line, ie., paadam will have eight aksharas each. Now see the first two paadams of the same sloka written seperated in to eight aksharaas in each paadam:- "su + khlaam + bha + ra + tha + ram + vi + shnum" / "sa + si + va + rnam + cha + thur + bhu + jam". The interesting point to note is that, in writing these in any other language, as in English here, they look like more than one letter / akshara each. In Sanskrit, we have 'joint-letters', which are formed by putting together more than one, fractions of letters. Each joint letter will count towards one akshara only. This equal four akshara meter is known as 'anushtup' chandas, to be found in Vedas as well as subsequent literature.

The Story of How the Chandas Came into Literature.

7. The way the sounds are raised and lowered in the swaras of the Vedas, is not done in the subsequent literature. The first time anything was written in 'Anushtup' chandas, without intonation, was by Valmeeki. He also did not do so intentionally, but happened to stumble upon this method of expression, on the spur of the moment. The story is like this. One day he chanced to notice two (Krouncha) love birds in the forest. Within a fraction of a second, a hunter had killed one of the birds, with an arrow. The Rishi could see the intensity of love of the bird alive, turning into shock and horror. He ended up cursing the hunter that, 'he may never have any good luck because of his cruel treatment of one of the love birds'. Then he felt bad, that after all the hunter was only earning his livelyhood, and that he as a Rishi should have had better sense, than cursing him like this. Then somehow the Rishi was mulling over the words of his outburst. He noticed that, his curse had come out without his volition and happened to be in perfect 'Anushtup' chandas. His words were as follows:- "maa nishaada pratishtaam tvam / agama: saasvathee: samaa: I yat krouncha mithunaat ekam / avadhee: kaama mohitam II". The surprising thing was not only that it was in perfect 'Anushtup' chandas, but also that, it conveyed a second meaning. The sloka could be interpreted to mean, as though addressed at Maha Vishnu, 'Hey! Lakshmi Pathe! For this action of Yours, of punishing one of the couple for his lust, will always bring you name and fame!' It was as though he was addressing Sri Ramachandra Murthy, for having killed the lustful Ravana, (thus hurting and seperating him from Mandodary), Rama would be attaining to everlasting fame! Realising the divine directions, he took upon himself to compose the Raamaayana Maha Kavyam, in the same meter.

8. Non-Veda form of Sloka, without intonations, came into being for the first time then. Prose will be forgotten. The poetical form within the confines of measured metric discipline, will facilitate ease of memory. That is why, all writings in the olden times were in poetical form only. (That is why, all children start their learning with nursery rhymes, I suppose!) Once printing technology became available, people were quick enough to realise that they could be lazy enough. They came to the conclusion that there is no need to memorise, as they could always refer to the book. That is when, prose started growing. Still it is poetry, which has more beauty and power. The first poetical literature is Ramayanam. That is why, Vaalmeeki's 'magnum opus', is called the 'Aadi Kaavyam'.

9. It was divine grace that 'chandas' could be the reason for the birth of Ramayanam. The vehicle of conveyance for all Stotras, Puranas and Kavyas, was the Slokam form, which was very much an off-spring of Chandas.

(To be continued in the next e-mail, in which we will get to know about different types of 'Chandas'.)




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