Sanskrit Metrics

In these materials Ram Karan Sharma explains aspects of Sanskrit metrics. Meters are essential structural elements in Sanskrit poetry and chanting. These extracts are taken from lectures given by Dr. Sharma. For a complete introduction to Sanskrit prosody see Croaking Frogs by Les Morgan. That guide to Sanskrit metrics and figures of speech uses contemporary teaching methods to explain traditional Indian Sanskrit prosody and verse forms.

Ram Karan Sharma was recorded beginning in September, 2005 and continuing through 2010. The audio segments were very lightly edited to eliminate background noise, false starts, and interruptions. In cases where more than one audio take was available, the final form may be a composite edited to provide the clearest version.

Structure of vārṇika meters (15:29)There are two types of Sanskrit meter. Vārṇika meters are based on syllables, while mātrika meters are based on moras. Dr. Sharma explains the structure of vārṇika meters and gives an example of how to parse them.
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Structure of mātrika meters (14:05)Mātrika meters are based on the number of moras. Dr. Sharma explains the structure of mātrika meters using ārya meter as an example.
Mixed meters (20:10)Some meters have both vārṇika and mātrika characteristics. An example of this type is vaitālīya (ghostly) meter. In this meter, the first part of each line is based on vārṇika principles, with the remaining portion of the line based on mātrika principles.
Classification by line variation (2:06)Another way to classify meters is by the degree of similarity between lines.
Mātra have their own gaṇas (2:01)Mātras (moras) have their own system of grouping into gaṇas (categories). One type of mātragaṇa is based on combinations of four mātras, with five possible permutations.
Anuṣṭubḥ Class (25:29)Anuṣṭubḥ is the name of a class of meters, but the term is often used without clearly identifying which member of the class is actually being used. It is a very common meter, and is also called simply “śloka meter” because of its widespread use. A complete stanza or padya consists of four quarter-verses or pādas of eight syllables each. A pādaḥ (“foot”) is the fourth part of something, a quarter line. A complete stanza of four quarters (thirty-two syllables) written in śloka meter is sometimes called a śloka, but in common terms almost any verse is also called a śloka regardless of its actual meter.
Śārdūlavikrīḍitaṁ Meter (10:25)Śārdūlavikrīḍitaṁ (शार्दूलविक्रीडितम् 12/7) meter (“Tiger play”) is a member of the Atidhṛti class, all of which have nineteen syllables per quarter. All four pādas follow the same pattern.It is defined as It is defined as: सूर्याश्वैः मः सजौ सततगाः शार्दूलविक्रीडितम् । The pattern is: म स जस् तताः सगुरव । The first pause is after the twelfth syllable, and the second pause is after the nineteenth syllable.ardhonmīlitalocanaḥ sthiramanā / nāsāgradattekṣaṇaḥ
candrārkāvapi līnatāmupanayan / niṣpandabhāvena yaḥ ।
jyotīrūpam aśeṣabījam akhilaṁ / dedīpyamānaṁ paraṁ
tattvaṁ tatpadam eti vastu paramaṁ / vācyaṁ kim atrā’dhikam ॥ Haṭhapradīpikā 4.41 ॥
Vasantatilakā Meter (10:27)Vasantatilakā (वसन्ततिलका) meter (the “Spring ornament”) is a member of the Śakvarī class, all of which have fourteen syllables per quarter. All four pādas follow the same pattern. It is defined as: उक्ता (ज्ञेयं) वसन्ततिलका तभजा जगौ गः । The pattern is: त भ ज ज ग ग । There is no pause mentioned in the definition. Example: saṅkalpamātrakalanaiva jagat samagram
saṅkalpamātrakalanaiva manovilāsaḥ ।
saṅkalpamātramatim utsṛja nirvikalpam
āśritya niścayam avāpnuhi rāma śāntim ॥ Haṭhapradīpikā 4.58 ॥