Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chanting Sanskrit Verses

Chanting Sanskrit Metres in Gaudiya Vaishnavism

After a long hiatus, and having to make a completely new recording at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama recording studio, there is finally a copy of Chanting Sanskrit Metres in Gaudiya Vaishnavism to be had on line, freely downloadable at Dropbox.

The text which accompanies the recording is being given here for convenience's sake. There may be some differences between this document and the recording, but for the most part it will be the same. Jai Radhe, Jagat.



ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjanā-śalākayā
cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena tasmai śrī-gurave namaH

nāma-śreṣṭhaṁ manum api śacī-putram atra svarūpaṁ
rūpaṁ tasyāgrajam uru-purim māthurīṁ goṣṭha-vāṭīm
rādhā-kuṇḍaṁ giri-varam aho rādhikā-mādhavāśāṁ
prāpto yasya prathita-kṛpayā śrī-guruṁ taṁ nato’smi

I bow my head again and again to the holy preceptor, through whose most celebrated mercy I have received the best of all names, the initiation mantra, Sri Sachinandan Mahaprabhu, Svarupa, Rupa and his older brother Sanatan, the extensive dominions of Mathurapuri, a dwelling place in the pasturing grounds [of Krishna], Radha Kund, the chief of all mountains, Sri Govardhan, and most pointedly of all, the hope of attaining the lotus feet of Sri Radha Madhava.


One of the things that attracts many people to Indian religion and to Vaishnavism in particular is the beauty of the Sanskrit language. One of the most attractive features of Sanskrit is its verse. The complex Sanskrit metres have a majestic sonority that is unmatched in any other language. A Sanskrit verse properly chanted seems to carry an authority that confirms and supports its meaning. In this little article I am going to discuss some features of Sanskrit prosody so that students and devotees can learn how to pronounce and chant Sanskrit verses in the proper manner.

We will start by reviewing Sanskrit pronunciation. Then we will discuss some of the rules of prosody. The word “prosody” means the study of metrical composition, that is to say, the rules for creating verse. Sanskrit verses are written according to strict rules and we will learn some of these rules in this class. Next we will go over the rules for a number of different types of the most popular metre. I will give examples and also tell you where you can find other examples of the same metre in the shastras such as the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam and the writings of the Six Goswamis.

For help with Sanskrit pronunciation see the Sanskrit pronunciation guide.

Sanskrit verse is written on the basis of long and short syllables. In Sanskrit these are called guru (heavy) and laghu (light). English metres are based on accented syllables, but classical Sanskrit does not have accents like English. Nevertheless, the idea of heavier and lighter syllables can be seen as something similar to accented and unaccented syllables.

Generally, each verse should contain four lines of a predetermined number of syllables, in which the long and short syllables have a fixed order. So, for example, in order to write a Sanskrit verse in the metre known as mālinī, we must start with six short syllables followed by two longs, then another long, followed by short-long-long, short-long-long. So our first job is to learn to distinguish between long and short syllables, otherwise we won’t ever be able to properly pronounce or chant a Sanskrit verse.

Now, how can we distinguish between long and short syllables? In Sanskrit there are only five short vowels: a, i, u, ṛ and ḷ. So in the word ṛṣi, we have two short syllables. All the other vowels—ā, ī, ū, ṝ, e, ai, o, au—are considered to be long. Thus, the word rādhā contains two long syllables, rā-dhā. So, if we wish to correctly pronounce Sanskrit verse, we must be very careful to clearly make a difference between short vowel sounds and long ones. This is especially important for Westerners who are reading transliterated texts to remember.

If a vowel has no macron or line over it, then it is a short vowel and should be pronounced in that way. Exaggerate the shortness and length of the vowels. The distinction must be made clear. Now, this is especially true of the first Sanskrit vowel, a. Westerners who see this letter have a tendency to pronounce it ā. The correct pronunciation is like the “u” as in “sun.”

So in the following verse by Raghunath Das Goswami from Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī (14), written in the previously mentioned mālinī metre,

yad-avadhi mama kācin mañjarī rūpa-pūrvā
vraja-bhuvi bata netra-dvandva-dīptiṁ cakāra
tad-avadhi tava vṛndāraṇya-rājñi prakāmaṁ
caraṇa-kamala-lākṣā-sandidṛkṣā mamābhūt

O Queen of Vrindavan! Ever since a certain manjari named Rupa anointed my eyes with light here in the land of Braj, a deep desire has arisen within me to see the crimson of your lotus feet.

Here each line begins with six short syllables, ya-da-va-dhi ma-ma; vra-ja-bhu-vi-ba-ta, and so on. The whole charm of this verse depends on the correct pronunciation of these six short syllables. If I butcher the pronunciation by pronouncing them all long, yā-dā-vā-dhi mā-mā, or even worse mixing long and short sounds where only the one or the other is called for, the effect is lost.

Now that this is clear, we have something else to learn about long and short syllables. If the vowel is long, it is clear that the syllable is long. However, if a short vowel is followed by a conjunct consonant, it is also considered to be a long syllable for the purposes of prosody. Thus in the word kṛ-ṣna, though the syllable kṛ on its own would normally be considered short, because it is followed by the conjunct consonant ṣna, that is to say, the consonants ṣ and ṇa joined together, the previous short syllable kṛ is considered to be long. In the verse just cited from Vilāpa-kusumāñjali:

yad avadhi mama kācin mañjarī rūpa-pūrvā
vraja-bhuvi bata netra-dvandva-dīptiṁ cakāra

There are a number of examples of this: kācin, netra-dvandva. Short vowels followed by a visarga (the h with a dot under it) and anusvāra (the m with a dot over it, or sometimes under it) are also considered long. Remember that the ten aspirated consonants, kha, gha, cha, jha, ṭha, ḍha, tha, dha, pha, bha are not conjunct consonants, but are simple.

So that is the first important thing to learn: distinguish between your long and short consonants. Exaggerate the length of your long vowels, though you do not have to exaggerate the length of the vowel sound preceding a conjunct consonant. The existence of the extra consonant sound will automatically lengthen the syllable without your having to make any extra effort.


Now, the next important thing to learn about in Sanskrit verse is the caesura. Caesura or hiatus, known as yati in Sanskrit, is the natural pause which occurs within a line of poetry. Thus, in a line of eight syllables, you might have a caesura or pause after four syllables. In such short verses there is some irregularity and this pause is not so important. In general, the longer the metre, the more fixed and regular the caesura.

For example, in longer verses such as śardūla-vikrīḍita, which has nineteen syllables to the line, the caesura is especially important. If you stop after five, or ten syllables rather than at the officially prescribed pause after twelve syllables, your recitation will sound choppy and confused. As an example, we will refer once more to the verse from Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī:

yad avadhi mama kācin /
mañjarī rūpa-pūrvā

Here we have fifteen syllables with a caesura after eight. Another example: Take a look at the verse by Raghunath Das from Muktā-carita that was given in the mangalacharana:

nāma śreṣṭhaṁ /
manum api śacī /
putram atra svarūpam

This verse is written in the mandākrāntā metre, which means that it has seventeen syllables to the line, with two caesurae: the first after four syllables, the second after another six. Note that the word śacī-putram, “son of Sachi,” is a compound word, but that the caesura comes in the middle of it.

It is rarer that a single word like śacī or suta on its own will be split by the caesura (śa-cī, su-ta). That is considered pretty bad form. On the other hand, splitting a compound word like śacī-suta is much more common, so watch for that kind of thing.

The second line of the verse also has a permissible irregularity which should be watched for:

rūpaṁ tasyāgrajam uru-puriṁ māthurīṁ goṣṭha-vāṭīm

The words rūpaṁ tasya agrajam have been combined in sandhi and the first letter of agrajam has been joined with the last a of tasya. This is quite permissible, though some poets think that it is not the best style. Some would even consider this to be decadent versification. The Goswamis do it fairly often. However, if you know how to count syllables and recognize where your caesura is supposed to be, you won’t get thrown off by it.

In the older metres, anuṣṭubh, triṣṭubh and jagatī, to which we will be directing our attention shortly, there is some tendency for the caesura to be irregular, even within the same verse. In some other metres also, there may be differences in the way particular authors treat the caesura, though in the longer, more classical meters, they will usually be more consistent than they are in the first few types of metre with which we will be dealing.

As a general rule, it may be said, that there will be a natural pause following a certain number of syllables in each line of the verse. It will usually come at the end of a word and except for a few metres which you are not likely to encounter in standard works, nearly always on a long syllable.

1. anuṣṭubh

Now we can start with some examples of major types of metre. We will begin with the older metres which are the most common in the Puranas and the Mahabharata. Remember that the caesuras in these metres might be irregular. In fact, because these are shorter metres, it might be said that the caesura is less important. So don’t get upset if there appears to be little regularity with anuṣṭubh, triṣṭubh and jagatī.

The first metre we will look at is called anuṣṭubh. It is also known as zloka. Now you may have heard the word śloka being used in connection with any Sanskrit verse; that is not entirely incorrect, but the original meaning is a type of verse which has four lines of eight syllables each.

We find anuṣṭubh verses everywhere. It is one of the most liberal types of metre in its formation and therefore one of the easiest to write. The writer of the anuṣṭubh verse is not obliged to determine the length of every syllable. The first four syllables of each line are totally irregular. The next four syllables have to be either short-long-long-(optional/long) in the first and third lines and short-long-short-(optional/long) in the second and fourth lines. The caesura in the verse is not very important. In this, as well as in triṣṭubh and jagatī, which we will come to presently, the last syllable in a line is often short; even so, it is always counted as a long. So,

dharmakṣetre kurukṣetre
samavetā yuyutsavaḥ
māmakāḥ pāṇḍavāś caiva
kim akurvata sañjaya

long, long, long, long, caesura, short, long, long, long
short, short, long, long, caesura, short, long, short, long.
long, short, long; caesura (after 3 this time); long, short, long, long, short;
short, short, long, short, short. long, short, short.

This is the most familiar of all metres and the easiest to chant. You make the least mistakes chanting precisely because the length of the syllables is not relevant for a great part of each line and the caesura is not important.

So we will chant some verses from canto 1, chapter 2, Srimad-Bhagavatam:

nārāyaṇaṁ namaskṛtya naraṁ caiva narottamam
devīṁ sarasvatīṁ vyāsaṁ tato jayam udīrayet
munayaḥ sādhu pṛṣṭho 'haṁ bhavadbhir loka-maṅgalam
yat kṛtaḥ kṛṣṇa-sampraśno yenātmā suprasīdati
sa vai puṁsāṁ paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
ahaituky apratihatā yayātmā samprasīdati
vāsudeve bhagavati bhakti-yogaḥ prayojitaḥ
janayaty āśu vairāgyaṁ jñānaṁ ca yad ahaitukam
dharmaḥ svanuṣṭhitaḥ puṁsāṁ viṣvaksena-kathāsu yaḥ
notpādayed yadi ratiṁ śrama eva hi kevalam

(2) triṣṭubh

The next kind of verse is called triṣṭubh. Triṣṭubh verses contain eleven syllables to the line. Though not as common as the anuṣṭubh, they are sprinkled throughout the Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata and of course in the Bhagavata Purana. This metre is found in a primitive and somewhat irregular form in the Ṛg-Veda, the Upanishads, the Brahmanas, etc.

(i) indravajrā and upendravajrā

There are different kinds of of triṣṭubh. The most common of these are indravajrā and upendravajrā. The only difference between these two is that the first syllable is long in the one and short in the other, so the distinction is not particularly important. Most authors like to mix these two metres in one kind of verse which are then called upajāti; that is why we are treating them together here. The metre is thus (first syllable optionally short or long), long, short, long, long, short, short, long, short, long, long.

For devotees, the most familiar verses in this metre in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition are found in Vishwanath Chakravarti’s Gurvaṣṭaka. Many of the verses in this hymn are pure indravajrā, each line beginning with a long syllable, but others in the same aṣṭaka are upajāti, such as nikuñja-yūno rati-keli-siddhyai, which starts with a short. It does not make much difference.

Caesura in this metre is somewhat irregular, usually 5/6, but might be 4/7 or 6/5 and sometimes mixed. In Gurvaṣṭaka we find a regular caesura after five syllables even though it splits words in two. saṁsāra-dāvā nala-līḍha-loka- 5/6 trāṇāya-kāruṇya-ghanāghanatvam 6/5 prāptasya kalyāṇa-guṇārṇavasya 6/5 vande guroḥ śrī caraṇāravindam 5/6

In Bhagavad Gita 2.26, the caesura comes after six syllables. This is an exception, because the last syllable before yati is short:

vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro 'parāṇi.
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī

Most of the eleventh chapter, “The Universal Form', is written in an upajāti metre which also includes some elements of another meter called śālinī.

tvam eva mātā ca pitā tvam eva
tvam eva bandhuś ca sakhā tvam eva
tvam eva vidyā draviṇaṁ tvam eva
tvam eva sarvaṁ mama devadeva

kālo ‘smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ
ṛte'pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣyanti sarve
ye 'vasthitāḥ pratyanikeṣu yodhāḥ

tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha yaśo labhasva
jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham
mayaivete nihatāḥ pūrvam eva
nimitta-mātraṁ bhava savyasācin

droṇaṁ ca bhīṣmaṁ ca jayadrathaṁ ca
karṇaṁ tathānyān api yodhavīrān
mayā hatāṁs tān jahi mā vyatiṣṭhā
yudhyasva jetāsi raṇe sapatnān

If you chant indravajrā and upendravajrā verses regularly, you will observe that the caesura is not as important as it will be in the metres of fourteen syllables and more.

(ii) svāgatā and rathoddhatā

There are a number of other kinds of triṣṭubh metres, of which I will give some examples here. svāgatā and rathoddhatā are sister metres. The caesura usually comes after three syllables in these metres, but occasionally after the fourth or the fifth. The first few verses of the 35th chapter of BhP’s tenth canto, known as yugala-gīta are written in svāgatā with caesura after four or five syllables. By the way, the reason that this chapter has this name is because the verses are written in pairs (yugala).

valgita-bhrur adharārpita-veṇum
komalāṅgulibhir āśrita-mārgaṁ
gopya īrayati yatra mukundaḥ

vyoma-yāna-vanitāḥ saha siddhair
vismitās tad upadhārya salajjāḥ
kaśmalaṁ yayur apasmṛta-nīvyaḥ

Once again, if you want a consistent caesura, you have to split the words. So it is not so important as in other, longer metres.

(iii) rājahaṁsī

This particular variety of triṣṭubh is has a more regular caesura after six syllables.
Short-short-short, long-short-long long-short-long-short-long

This metre is most noticeably found in the Gopī-gīta, chapter 31 of the rāsa-līlā. It is thus often called indirā.

jayati te’dhikam janmanā vrajaḥ
śrayata indirā śaśvad atra hi
dayita dṛśyatāṁ dikṣu tāvakās
tvayi dhṛtāsavās tvāṁ vicinvate

śarad-udāśaye sādhu-jāta-sat-
sarasijodara-śrī-muṣā dṛśā
suratanātha te śulka-dāsikāḥ
varada nighnato neha kiṁ vadhaḥ

(3) Jagatī Metres. (12 syllables)

The third and last of the primitive Sanskrit metres, by which I mean ones which can be found in very early Sanskrit literature, including the Veda, is called jagatī. This metre has 12 syllables to a line and the caesura can come after 5, 6 or 7 syllables. The primary type of jagatī is an upajāti like that of the triṣṭubh which we have just explained, where the first syllable can be either long or short. So the metre is:
short-long short-long long-short-short-long short-long short-long

with the first syllable optionally long. Much of the Brahma-stava (10.14) is in this metre. The gopis» lament to the creator god or fate (vidhātā), when Akrura comes to take Krishna and Balaram away to Mathura in BhP x.39.19-30, is in this metre.

aho vidhātas tava na kvacid dayā
saṁyojya maitryā praṇayeṇa dehinaḥ
tāṁś cākṛtārthān vinuyaṅkṣy apārthakaṁ
vikrīḍitaṁ te’rbhaka-ceṣṭitaṁ yathā

yas tvaṁ pradarśyāsita-kuntalāvṛtaṁ
mukunda-vaktraṁ sukapolam unnasam
karoṣi pārokṣyam asādhu te kṛtam

There are a large number of other jagatī metres. The only one worth mentioning here is druta-vilambita. The most famous example of this metre, which is fairly popular, is in BhP 1.1.3. Caesura is usually prescribed after four, but in this example comes after seven.

nigama-kalpa-taror galitaṁ phalam
śuka-mukhād amṛta-drava-saṁyutam
pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayam
muhur aho rasikā bhuvi bhāvukāḥ

The ripened fruit of the Vedic desire tree made sweeter by the nectar from the mouth of Shuka; this is the Bhagavatam; oh connaisseurs of poetry, oh knowers of the sentiments, drink its juice constantly until the end on your time on this earth.

(4) Vasanta-tilakā

There are a number of thirteen syllabled metres, but I have not found any examples in BhP. One fourteen syllabled metre is very popular throughout Sanskrit kāvya, and is also found frequently in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, especially in the chapters dealing with madhura-rasa. It is called vasanta-tilakā, which means the “the ornament of spring.” From this point on, caesura is much more regular than in the first few examples that have been given. In vasantā, natural caesura after eight syllables is held consistently by all poets.

long-long-short-long short-short-short long
short short long short long long.

dA-dA-da-dA da-da-da-dA
da-da-dA da-dA-dA

Examples are the first madhura-rasa verses in the tenth canto, the pūrva-rāga (x.15.42-43), as well as the veṇu-gīta (x.21.7-19). In rāsa-līlā, the appeal of the gopis to Krishna not to reject them (x.29.31-41) and a few other verses including the last of the rāsa-līlā (x.33.40):

vikrīḍitaṁ vraja-vadhūbhir idaṁ ca viṣṇoḥ
śraddhānvito 'nuśṛṇuyād atha varṇayed vā
bhaktiṁ parām bhagavati pratilabhya kāmaṁ
hṛd-rogam āśv apahinoty acireṇa dhīraḥ

Note that the words apahinoty acireṇa are enjambed on the caesura. Because of sandhi, the ty at the end of apahinoti is read with the following a as a part of acireṇa: hṛd-rogam āśv apahinoty acireṇa dhīraḥ.

Uddhava’s glorification of the gopis (x.47.58-62), RukminI’s letter to Krishna (BhP x.52.37-43), two famous verses in the meeting at Kurukshetra (x.82.40 and CC Antya 4.153) and (x.82.49, CC Madhya 1.81 and 13.136), which we will chant here:

āhuś ca te nalina-nābha padāravindaṁ
yogeśvarair hṛdi vicintyam agādha-bodhaiḥ
geha-juṣām api manasy udiyāt sadā naḥ

Verses not in madhura-rasa also, such as the prayers by Kaliya (BhP x.16) and the maGgala prayers to Shukadeva at the beginning of Suta Goswami’s recital (BhP 1.2.2-3) are also in vasanta-tilakā.

yaṁ pravrajantam anupetam apeta-kṛtyam
dvaipāyano viraha-kātara ājuhāva
putreti tan-mayatayā taravo 'bhinedus
taṁ sarva-bhūta-hṛdayaṁ munim ānato ‘smi

This is one of the most popular metres in Sanskrit kāvya. About 40% of Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī, 20% of Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, 23% of the verse in Ānanda-vṛndāvana-campū, 10% of the verses in Rupa’s plays, is in vasantā. Of the lyric metres, it is second in frequency only to śārdūla-vikrīḍita, which we will be seeing presently.

(5) Longer metres

The next group of metres are primarily found in poetical works. They are completely absent from most puranic literature with the exception of the BhP, which is one of the reasons that the Bhagavata is so special.

(i) Mālinī: “the garlanded woman”

We have already seen an example of mālinī from Raghunath Das’s Vilāpa-kusumāñjalī. It has fifteen syllables to a line with a very clear caesura after eight syllables. It is one of the easiest metres to recognize because each line starts with six short syllables followed by two longs. mālinī is also found in the Bhagavatam, in the section of BhP known as the bhramara-gīta (x.47.12-21). One gopI, usually said to be Radha, is speaking to the bumblebee:

madhupa kitava-bandho mā spṛśāṅghriṁ sapatnyāḥ
kuca-vilulita-mālā-kuṅkuma-śmaśrubhir naḥ
vahatu madhupatis tan-māninīnāṁ prasādaṁ
yadu-sadasi viḍambyam yasya dūtas tvam īdṛk

Elsewhere, this metre is used in the first verse by the mahishis when feeling separation (prema-vaicittya) from Krishna (x.90.15). And again in one of the verses at the very end of the tenth canto, no doubt familiar to you all:

jayati jana-nivāso devakī-janma-vādo
yadu-vara-pariṣat svair dorbhir asyann adharmam
sthira-cara-vṛji-nighnaḥ susmita-śrī-mukhena
vraja-pura-vanitānāṁ vardhayan kāmadevam

Verses of this metre are found scattered throughout the Goswamis» literature, most memorably the Rādhikāṣṭakas of Rupa and Raghunath, many verses of Rupa’s plays, etc.

(ii) Tūṇaka

Another nice metre of fifteen syllables to the line is tūṇaka, which means “an archer’s quiver.” Starts with a long, and then alternating short-long.

mahyam ātma-pāda-padma-dāsyadāstu rādhikā

mahyam ātma-pāda-padma-dāsyadāstu rādhikā

mahyam ātma-pāda-padma-dāsyadāstu rādhikā

(iii) Mandākrāntā

The name of this metre translates as “slowly overcome.” This lyrical metre of 17 syllables to the line is very distinctive for having a pronounced caesura at two places on each line. First four longs, caesura, then five shorts and a long, caesura, then long, short-long-long, short-long-long.

dA-dA-dA-dA /
da-da-da-da-da-dA /
dA-da-dA-dA da-dA-dA

This metre was made famous by Kalidas in his Meghadūta. Rupa Goswami’s Uddhava-sandeśa is also in this metre. There are no examples that I know of in BhP. We have already cited Raghunath Das’s verse previously:

nāma-śreṣṭhaṁ manum api śacīputram atra svarūpaṁ
rūpaṁ tasyāgrajam urupurīm māthurīṁ goṣṭhavāṭīm
rādhā-kuṇḍaṁ girivaram aho rādhikā-mādhavāśām
prāpto yasya prathita-kṛpayā śrī-guruṁ taṁ nato ‘smi

Svarupa Damodar’s famous verse describing the three desires of Krishna which lead to his incarnation as Caitanya MahAprabhu, quoted in CC Adi 1.6, is in this metre.

śrī-rādhāyāḥ pranaya-mahimā kīdṛśo vānayaivā-
svādyo yenādbhuta-madhurimā kīdṛśo vā madīyaḥ
saukhyaṁ cāsyā mad-anubhavataḥ kīdṛśaṁ veti lobhāt
tad-bhāvāḍhyaḥ samajani śacī-garbha-sindhau harīnduḥ

(iv) Śikhariṇī

This lyrical metre of 17 syllables to the line with caesura after six syllables is also very distinctive. Once again there are no examples that I know of in BhP. Krishna Das Kaviraja’s famous maṅgala verse to Chaitanya is in this metre:

yad advaitaṁ brahmopaniṣadi tad apy asya tanubhā
ya ātmāntaryāmī puruṣa iti so» syāṁśa-vibhavaḥ
ṣaḍaiśvaryaiḥ pūrṇo ya iha bhagavān sa svayam ayaṁ
sa caitanyāt kṛṣṇāj jagati paratattvaṁ param iha

The first six syllables contain one short and then five longs. After the caesura there is a run of five short syllables before ending the line with two longs, three shorts and a long.

da-da-da-da-da-dA-dA da-da-da-dA

Rupa and Raghunath’s Caitanyāṣṭakas are in this metre. Rupa Goswami’s Haṁsadūta contains 142 verses in śikhariṇī metre.

(iv) Pṛthvī

Pṛthvī is another metre of 17 syllables to the line which is comparatively less used than the two previously mentioned. One well-known stanza makes it worth mentioning, however. That is the following verse from Vidagdha-mādhava by Rupa Goswami which is found in the mangala verses of Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Adi 1.4).

anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
hariḥ puraṭa-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandīpitaḥ
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandanaḥ

This elevated, effulgent, taste of sacred rapture is the wealth of devotional love; the Lord never gives it at any time; yet, out of his mercy, he came in this Age of Quarrel to distribute this treasure to the world, becoming incarnate in his golden form. The son of Sachi is like a lion; may he dwell in your hearts forever.

The caesura is after eight syllables. There is no clear grouping of longs and shorts together as is usually found in the longer metres. Even so, the rhythm is clear and distinctive:
short-long-short, short-long-short, short-long, caesura,
short-short-short, long-short-long, long-short-long.

da-dA da-da-dA da-da-dA da-da-da-dA da-dA-dA da-dA

(v) Nardaṭaka

There is another rarer metre with 17 syllables. Outside of BhP, I have never seen it used anywhere but in Ānanda-vṛndāvana-campū and once in Mādhava-mahotsava. But since an important chapter of BhP is written in this metre, I thought that I would mention it here. The chapter is BhP 10.87, the Veda-stuti, and the verses 14 to 41 are written in nardaṭaka metre.

This metre again has lots of short syllables, but broken up frequently with longs. Starts with four shorts, long short long, caesura after seven, three shorts, long-short-short, long-short-short-long.

da-da-da-da-dA da-dA /
da-da-da-dA da-da-dA da-da-dA

The best known example of this is verse 23, which is quoted twice in CC (Madhya 8.224, 9.123) where the Vedas say that they too worship Krishna in the mood of the gopis:

nibhṛta-marun-mano 'kṣa-dṛḍha-yoga-yujo hṛdi
yan munaya upāsate tad arayo 'pi yayuḥ smaraṇāt
striya urugendra-bhoga-bhuja-daṇḍa-viṣakta-dhiyo
vayam api te samāḥ samadṛśo 'ṅghri-saroja-sudhāḥ

Caesura after seven. There is one irregularity in the metre of this particular verse. The word, bho-ga, in the third line has been split over the caesura. But then, BhP is rather tolerant of irregularities...

(vi) Śārdūla-vikrīḍita.

Śārdūla-vikrīḍita is quite a common metre despite being one of the longest. Its name means “the play of the lion.” It is a lyric metre very much favoured by classical poets and verses such as yaḥ kaumāra-haraḥ, etc., are in this metre.

To give you an idea of the popularity of śārdūla, in the collection of poetry compiled by Sridhara Pandit, a contemporary of Jayadeva Goswami, 44% of the 2380 stanzas are in this metre, that is more than a thousand. Jayadeva himself uses it frequently in Gita Govinda and there are literally hundreds of examples to be found in the plays of Rupa and the campūs of Jīva and Kavi Karṇapūra. There are nineteen syllables to the line. Caesura is invariably after 12.
Long-long-long short-short-long short-long short-short-short-long /
Long-long-short long-long-short long:

dA-dA-dA da-da-dA-da-dA da-da-da-dA /
dA-dA-da-dA-dA da-dA

Only a couple of examples are to be found in BhP, however, though these are, appropriately enough, at its beginning and end. Thus, the janmādy asya verse is in this metre, as is dharmaḥ projjhitaḥ kaitavo 'tra. The mangala verse to the concluding chapter of the Bhagavatam, used as one of the prayers to be chanted before reciting Bhagavad Gita, is as follows:

yaṁ brahmā-varuṇendra-rudra-marutāḥ stunvanti divyaiḥ stavaiḥ
vedaiḥ sāṅga-pada-kramopaniṣadair gāyanti yaṁ sāmagāḥ
dhyānāvasthita-tad-gatena manasā paśyanti yaṁ yogino
yasyāntaṁ na viduḥ surāsura-gaṇā devāya tasmai namaḥ

Another noteworthy verse in this metre is found in BhP x.14.35 from Brahma-stava.

eṣāṁ ghoṣa-nivāsinām uta bhavān kiṁ deva rāteti naś
ceto viśva-phalāt phalaṁ tvad-aparaṁ kutrāpy ayan muhyati
sad-veṣād iva pūtanāpi sakulā tvām eva devāpitā
yad-dhāmārtha-suhṛt-priyātma-tanaya-prāṇāśayās tvat-kṛte

(vii) Srag-dharā

Sragdharā (“wearing the garland”) is the longest lyrical metre used in Sanskrit poetry. There are longer metres, but they are very rarely used. This is again a very distinctive metre with caesura after each group of seven syllables. The first group in each line has mostly long syllables, the second mostly short, the third primarily long again. Thus:

dA-dA-dA-dA da-dA-dA da-da-da-da-da-da-dA /
dA-da-dA-dA da-dA-dA

Thus, in Krishna Das Kaviraj’s (or Rupa Goswami’s, depending on whose authority you accept) Rādhā-kṛṣṇayor aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā-smaraṇa-maṅgala-stotram.

śrī-rādhā-prāṇa-bandhoś caraṇa-kamalayoḥ keśa-śeṣādy-agamyā
yā sādhyā prema-sevā vraja-carita-parair gāḍha-laulyaika-labhyā
sā syāt prāptā yayā tāṁ prathayitum adhunā mānasīm asya sevāṁ
bhāvyāṁ rāgādhva-panthair vrajam anu caritaṁ naityikaṁ tasya naumi


So to conclude, if you wish to get full enjoyment from learning to read and chant Sanskrit verse, you should try to master the intricacies of Sanskrit metres. Especially if you want to memorize verses, it is a good idea to analyze carefully the caesurae and so on. This will often help, not only in chanting the verse, but also in understanding it, as the meaning and the verse structure are often related. We have gone over some of the major ones here. There are, of course, many others, especially the song metres of Jayadeva and the āryā metres which are very much liked by Rupa in his plays and are also found in great quantities in Jīva Goswami’s Gopāla-campū. These will have to wait for another occasion.

If you wish to have a copy of the tape, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I can be reached on email at In the meantime, enjoy the nectar of the Bhagavatam: pibata bhāgavataṁ rasam ālayam.


Atmarama said...

Much, much appreciated, very nicely done. Could you perchance give a short, essential bibliography?

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I look forward to listening to the audio files. Radhe Radhe!

Satya devi dasi said...

Is that you speaking on the recording?

Jagat said...

Yes, 'tis I.

Prem said...

dear Jagat,

I happened to see this quote from the Upanishads:

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.

brihadaranyaka upanishad

Do you know the sanskrti verse for this?

Thank you.

Jagat said...

kāma-maya evāyaṁ puruṣa iti |
sa yathā-kāmo bhavati tat-kratur bhavati |
yat-kratur bhavati tat karma kurute |
yat karma kurute tad abhisampadyate || (BAU 4.4.5)

Translation is OK.

Prem said...

Thank you very much Jagat

Spirits said...

Thank you very much, i needed this!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Do you know in which meter is gopala mantra chanted (both dasakshari and ashtadashakshari)?