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Vedic Hymns, Part I (SBE32), by Max Müller, [1891], at

This subject is so important, and affects so large a number of passages in the Veda, that it requires the The four principal Pâdas.most careful examination. The Vedic metres, though at first sight very perplexing, are very simple, if reduced to their primary elements. The authors of the Prâtisâkhyas have elaborated a most complicated system. Counting the syllables in the most mechanical manner, they have assigned nearly a hundred names to every variety which they discovered in the hymns of the Rig-veda a. But they also observed that the constituent elements of all these metres were really but four, (Sûtras 988, 989):

1. The Gâyatra pâda, of eight syllables, ending in  ̆  ̄.

2. The Vairâga pâda, of ten syllables, ending in  ̄  ̄.

3. The Traishtubha pâda, of eleven syllables, ending in  ̄  ̄.

4. The Gâgata pâda, of twelve syllables, ending in  ̆  ̄.

Then follows an important rule, Sûtra 990: 'The penultimate syllable,' he says, in a Gâyatra and Gâgata pâda is light (laghu), in a Vairâga and Traishtubha pâda heavy (guru).' This is called their vritta.

This word vritta, which is generally translated by metre, had evidently originally a more special meaning. It meant the final rhythm, or if we take it literally, the Vritta = versus. turn of a line, for it is derived from vrit, to turn. Hence vritta is the same word as the Latin versus, verse; but I do not wish to decide whether the connection between the two words is historical, or simply etymological. In Latin, versus is always supposed to have meant originally a furrow, then a line, then a verse. In Sanskrit the metaphor that led to the formation of vritta, in the sense of final rhythm, has nothing to do with ploughing. If, as I have tried to prove (Chips from a German Workshop,

p. xcvi

vol. i, p. 84), the names assigned to metres and metrical language were derived from words originally referring to choregic movements, vritta must have meant the turn, i. e. the last step of any given movement; and this turn, as determining the general character of the whole movement, would naturally be regulated by more severe rules, while greater freedom would be allowed for the rest.

Having touched on this subject, I may add another fact in support of my view. The words Trishtubh and Anushtubh, names for the most common metres, are generally derived from a root stubh, to praise. I believe they should be derived from a root stubh, which is preserved in Greek, not only in στυφελός, hard, στυφελίζω, to strike hard, but in the root στεμφ, from which στέμφυλον, stamped or pressed olives or grapes, and ἀστεμφής, untrodden (grapes), then unshaken; and in στέμβω, to shake, to ram, στοβέω, to scold, &c. In Sanskrit this root is mentioned in the Dhâtupâtha X, 34, shtubhu stambhe, and it exists in a parallel form as stambh, lit. to stamp down, then to fix, to make firm, with which Bopp has compared the German stampfen, to stamp; (Glossarium, s. v. stambh.) I therefore look upon Trishtubh as meaning originally tripudium, (supposing this word to be derived from tri and pes, according to the expression in Horace, pepulisse ter pede terram, Hor. Od. iii. i8,) and I explain its name 'Three-step,' by the fact that the three last syllables  ̆  ̄  ̆, which form the characteristic feature of that metre, and may be called its real vritta or turn, were audibly stamped at the end of each turn or strophe. I explain Anushtubh, which consists of four equal pâdas, each of eight syllables, as the 'After-step,' because each line was stamped regularly after the other, possibly by two choruses, each side taking its turn. There is one passage in the Veda where Anushtubh seems to have preserved this meaning:

X, 124, 9. anu-stúbham ánu karkûryámânam índram ní kikyuh kaváyah manîshâ´.

Poets by their wisdom discovered Indra dancing to an Anushtubh.

In V, 52, 12, khandah-stúbhah kubhanyávah útsam â´

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kîrínah nrituh, in measured steps (i. e. stepping the metre) and wildly shouting the gleemen have danced toward the spring.

Other names of metres which point to a similar origin, i. e. to their original connection with dances, are Pada-paṅkti, 'Step-row;' Nyaṅku-sârinî, 'Roe-step;' Abhisârinî, 'Contre-danse,' &c.

If now we return to the statement of the Prâtisâkhya in reference to the vrittas, we should observe how careful its author is in his language. He does not say that the penultimate is long or short, but he simply states, that, from a metrical point of view, it must be considered as light or heavy, which need not mean more than that it must be pronounced with or without stress. The fact that the author of the Prâtisâkhya uses these terms, laghu and guru, instead of hrasva, short, and dîrgha, long, shows in fact that he was aware that the penultimate in these pâdas is not invariably long or short, though, from a metrical point of view, it is always heavy or light.

It is perfectly true that if we keep to these four pâdas, (to which one more pâda, viz. the half Vairâga, consisting of five syllables, might be added) we can reduce nearly all the hymns of the Rig-veda to their simple elements which the ancient poets combined together, in general in a very simple way, but occasionally with greater freedom. The most important strophes, formed out of these pâdas, are,

1. Three Gâyatra pâdas = the Gâyatrî, (24 syllables.)

2. Four Gâyatra pâdas = the Anushtubh, (32 syllables.)

3. Four Vairâga pâdas = the Virâg, (40 syllables.)

4. Four Traishtubha pâdas = the Trishtubh, (44 syllables.)

5. Four Gâgata pâdas = the Gagatî, (48 syllables.)

Between the Gâyatrî and Anushtubh strophes, another strophe may be formed, by mixture of Gâyatra and Gâgata pâdas, consisting of 28 syllables, and commonly called Ushnih; likewise between the Anushtubh and the Virâg, a strophe may be formed, consisting of 36 syllables, and commonly called Brihatî.

In a collection of hymns, however, like that of the Rig-veda, where poems of different ages, different places, and

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different families have been put together, we must be prepared for exceptions to many rules. Thus, although the final turn of the hendecasyllabic Traishtubha is, as a rule, the bacchius,  ̆  ̄  ̄, yet if we take, for instance, the 77th hymn of the tenth Mandala, we clearly perceive another hendecasyllabic pâda of a totally different structure, and worked up into one of the most beautiful strophes by an ancient poet. Each line is divided into two halves, the first consisting of seven syllables, being an exact counterpart of the first member of a Saturnian verse (fato Romae Metelli); the second a dijambus, answering boldly to the broken rhythm of the first member a. We have, in fact, a Trishtubh where the turn or the three-step,  ̆  ̄  ̄, instead of being at the end, stands in the middle of the line.

X, 77, 1-5, in the Pada text:

1. ābhrā-prŭshāh nă vâ̄kâ̄ ̍ prŭshă̅ văsū,
   hăvīshmāntāh nă yāgñâ̄h ̍ vĭ-gâ̄nŭshāh | &c.

Another strophe, the nature of which has been totally misapprehended by native metricians, occurs in IV, 10. It is there called Padapaṅkti and Mahâpadapaṅkti; nay, attempts have been made to treat it even as an Ushnih, or as a kind of Gâyatrî. The real character of that strophe is so palpable that it is difficult to understand how it could have been mistaken. It consists of two lines, the first embracing three or four feet of five syllables each, having the ictus on the first and the fourth syllables, and resembling the last line of a Sapphic verse. The second line is simply

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a Trishtubh. It is what we should call an asynartete strophe, and the contrast of the rhythm in the first and second lines is very effective. I am not certain whether Professor Bollensen, who has touched on this metre in an article just published (Zeitschrift der D. M. G., vol. xxii, p. 572), shares this opinion. He has clearly seen that the division of the lines, as given in the MSS. of the Samhitâ text, is wrong; but he seems inclined to admit the same rhythm throughout, and to treat the strophe as consisting of four lines of five syllables each, and one of six syllables, which last line is to submit to the prevailing rhythm of the preceding lines. If we differ, however, as to the internal architecture of this strophe, we agree in condemning the interpretation proposed by the Prâtisâkhya; and I should, in connection with this, like to call attention to two important facts: first, that the Samhitâ text, in not changing, for instance, the final t of martât, betrays itself as clearly later than the elaboration of the ancient theory of metres, later than the invention of such a metre as the Padapaṅkti; and secondly, that the accentuation, too, of the Samhitâ is thus proved to be posterior to the establishment of these fanciful metrical divisions, and hence cannot throughout claim so irrefragable an authority as certainly belongs to it in many cases. I give the Samhitâ text:

1. Āgnē tăm ādyā | āsvām nă stōmāih | krătūm nă bhādrām,
         hrĭdīsprĭsăm ri̅dhy̆â̄mâ̄ tă ōhaīh.
2. Ădhâ̄ hy āgnē | krătōr bhādrāsyă | dākshāsyă sâ̄dhōh,
         răthî̄r rĭtāsyă brĭhătō băbhû̄thā, &c.

Now it is perfectly true that, as a general rule, the syllables composing the vritta or turn of the different metres, and described by the Prâtisâkhya as heavy or light, are in reality long or short. The question, however, is this, have we a right, or are we obliged, in cases where that syllable is not either long or short, as it ought to be, so to alter the text, or so to change the rules of pronunciation, that the penultimate may again be what we wish it to be?

If we begin with the Gâyatra pâda, we have not to read

p. c

long before we find that it would be hopeless to try to crush the Gâyatrî verses of the Vedic Rishis on this Gâyatra Pâdas.Procrustean bed. Even Professor Kuhn very soon perceived that this was impossible. He had to admit that in the Gâyatrî the two first pâdas, at all events, were free from this rule, and though he tried to retain it for the third or final pâda, he was obliged after a time to give it up even there. Again, it is perfectly true, that in the third pâda of the Gâyatrî, and in the second and fourth pâdas of the Anushtubh strophe, greater care is taken by the poets to secure a short syllable for the penultimate, but here, too, exceptions cannot be entirely removed. We have only to take such a single hymn as I, 27, and we shall see that it would be impossible to reduce it to the uniform standard of Gâyatrî pâdas, all ending in a dijambus.


xcv:a See Appendix to my edition of the Prâtisâkhya, p. ccclvi.

xcviii:a Professor Kuhn (vol. iii, p. 450) is inclined to admit the same metre as varying in certain hymns with ordinary Traishtubha pâdas, but the evidence he brings forward is hardly sufficient. Even if we object to the endings  ̆  ̄  ̆  ̄ and  ̄  ̄  ̆  ̄, V, 33, 4, may be a Gâgata, with vyûha of dâsa, the remark quoted from the Prâtisâkhya being of no consequence on such points; and the same remedy would apply to V, 41, 5, with vyûha of eshe. In VI, 47, 31, vyûha of asvaparnaih; in I, 33, 9, vyûha of indra and rodasî; in II, 24, 5, vyûha of mâdbhih would produce the same effect; while in I, 121, 8, we must either admit the Traishtubha vritta  ̄  ̆  ̄ or scan dhūksh̆ān. In III, 58, 6, I should admit vyûha for năr̆â̄; in IV, 26, 6, for māndr̆ām; in I, 100, 8, for gy̆ōtīh, always supposing that we consider the ending  ̄  ̄  ̆  ̄ incompatible with a Trishtubh verse.

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