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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Time = Space Series. Part 26 – Sabda Veda, Chandas & Poetry (Ma Nishaada…)

शुक्लाम्बरधरं विष्णुं
शशिवर्णं चतुर्भुजम् ।
प्रसन्नवदनं ध्यायेत्
सर्वविघ्नोपशान्तये ॥

Shuklaambaradharam Vissnnum Shashivarnnam Caturbhujam |
Prasannavadanam Dhyaayet Sarvavighnopashaantaye ||

Let’s start with this Sloka as a sample to see how 8 and its harmonics are integrated with Poetry. In this sloka there are 4 lines (a line is called Pada and Pada means feet in Sanskrit) and each line has 8 Sanskrit Aksharas (Only vowels and vowels with consonants imposed on them should be counted and pure consonants are not part of the count.) This is usually written in 2 lines as shown in English below.

This is the most popular way of creating a sloka or poem in most of the Indian languages. This “metre” resonates as 32 aksharas in 4 padas. You may want to correlate this with 1,3,2,2 where the last 2 stands for your feet. So feet (pada) measures 1/4th of the overall length of the subtle body (8 units) and 4 padas create the full blown subtle body. So such a constructed poem is a throbbing and vibrating energy body or a living organism and hence carries the power of the words it contains.

If all the padas have equal metre say 8 units then it is called Sama Vrtta, and if all are different it is called Vi-Sama Vrtta (not equal). This 8 and 32 is the same as Adi Tala in carnatic music and ashta tala in sculpture. Can you make the connection now?

In Sanskrit this metre is called as “Chandas” and in Tamil it is called “Chandam”. Chandas is also one of the 4 important Vendagas and is called as the feet of the Vedas. Let me ask you as to which language the Vedas are available in its primordial form? The most popular and incorrect answer is Sanskrit. This is the level of awareness we have. Lets quickly look at these important points about Vedas and I shall correlate this with our topic of discussion.

·      Unlike other faiths Hindus don’t attribute the Vedas as word of god or given by some prophet. We consider Vedas as the breath of god (“Nishwasitam”) and not the word which means, Vedas are not created by god, but the breath. If there is no breath that person would not leave and hence it is associated with the very presence of god.

·         Vedas are also Apourusheya which means it is not created by man and Anaadi,that does not have a beginning.

·        But you can ignore them stating these are blind beliefs. Let’s look at how this correlated with the science. Vedas are created by Pranava and these should be considered as the harmonics of the primordial vibration and nothing more.

o   If it is pure vibration then the “which language it is written?” sounds stupid isn’t. If it’s pure vibration it has to be expressed in “Hz or wavelength” equivalent in ancient India. This is what Chandas or metre is all about. This measures pure vibration and anyone capable of tuning themselves to those frequencies have SEEN the Vedas and not created them. Hence all our rishis are Mantra Drishtas and not Karthas.

Difference between Vedas and Poetry:

Vedas contains both poetic verses (Padya) and prose (Gadya). All the poetic verses are called Chandas and it complies with the rule as stated above. The difference between normal poetry and Vedas are, Vedas contain tonal variations (high pitch and low pitch) apart from the time, space variations but in Poetry there are no tonal variations. What has tonal variations and are not part of Vedas are called Slokas. So to sum up:

·         Vedas are both in Padya and Gadya. What is in Padya is called chandas and it has tonal variations in addition to the time space variations.
·         What has tonal variations but not part of Vedas is called as slokas.
·         What does not have tonal variation but comply with the chandas rules are called Poetry.

Harmonics and types in Chandas:

We saw every line to have 8 matras / units / aksharas. There are variations and these are the harmonics available.

·        Gayatri – This is a very special chandas with the mantra where instead of 4 padas, there are only 3 padas and hence it is called Tripada Gayatri. Each pada has 8 Aksharas and hence 24 Aksharas in Gayatri Mantra. This is also the only chandas where a mantra is named after the chandas. Some people write it as 6 letters per line and 4 padas which makes it 24.

·         Ushnik Chandas – 7 letters per pada and 28 letters in all.

·        Anushtub Chandas – This is the fundamental and popular one with 8 matras per pada and 32 in all. Ramayana the first poetry was set in this metre.

·         Brihatee Chandas - 9 letters per pada and 36 letters in all

·         Pangti Chandas - 10 letters per pada and 40 letters in all

·         Trishtup Chandas - 11 letters per pada and 44 letters in all

·         Jagti Chandas - 12 letters per pada and 48 letters in all. This has a subtype called bhujangam which is split as 6-6 and that moves like a snake. (Ex. Subramanya Bhujangam)

·        Shikarini Chandas - 17 letters per pada and 68 letters in all. In Soundarya Lahiri it is split as 6 and 11 by Adi Shankara.

·         Udkriti Chandas – 26 letters per pada and 104 letters in all.

·         Dhandakam – above 26 per pada. Ex. Garuda Dandakam by Vedantha Diskshitar.

The reason I have given all the above is to emphasis that nothing in our religious scriptures, literatures are without a grammar, order, form or proportion. Everything confirms to a mathematical proportion.

Just like Vedas are the breath of god, Chandas is the breath of every mantra. The mantra is powerful only if it is recited to this metre. This is the reasons some of the poem even if it is not related to religion stands the test of time.

“Ma Nishada” …..Origin of Poetry:

Would you believe that the first poetry in this universe started with a curse?

Sage Valmiki saw a hunter who killed one of the birds of a pair which were in love. The sage got enraged and cursed the hunter, O, Hunter, may you not fare well anytime as you killed one of pair of the Krouncha birds which were happily engaged in love”.

mA niShAda pratiShThA.n tvamagamaH shAshvatI.n samAH |
yatkrauJNchamithunAdekamavadhIH kAmamohitam.h ||       (bAlakANDa 2.14)

The above sloka also meant “O Lord of Lakshmi, it will bring you eternal glory for having killed a male of a happy couple who lost his head completely in lust..” This male is Ravana who lost his head in lust despite being happily married with his wife Mandodari. The other interesting connection I have this sloka with this series is that the Mamuni Mayan is the father of queen Mandodari and father in law of demon king Ravana.

Once the sage realized that this curse also meant something very auspicious and referred to Rama avatar he wrote Ramayana which is the origin of poetry as known in the world and it is called Adi Kaavya. Valmiki Ramayana set in Anushtub Chandas which is an octet.

So if you look at both the poetry and classical music composition:

·         The rhythm in which it is set is a pulsation of time which confirms to a divine proportion.
·        The raga and the pitch variation is a pulsation of space / frequency which again confirms to a divine proportion. We did not discuss about ragas though.
·         The words used are divine and we have seen the divinity of the letters and words.
·         The meaning of the song / poem usually exhorts the qualities of the god and hence is divine.
·       The classical music and poetry invoke the subtle divine energy in the aural form just as much the sculpture (when it confirms to the divine proportion) invokes the subtle energy from in its visual form.
·    This is how we see that “one became many” and binding factors in this process of evolution being the numerals 5 and 8.

Alas! Today, we are the fanatic fans of musicians who lacks morality & humility, who is ignorant of any divine proportion, most of the music we hear is a cacophony and very mechanical, the words are indecipherable and lacks depth, the meaning of the song - if at all any are just suggestive of sexual emotions and nothing else and the dance movements we see are the gyrations of the hip with a great blend of fitness training exercises associated with it. This is not to negate some of the fine works we see even today but to stress that we had such high science and taste which we seems to be losing / lost for no good reason other than ignorance.

As a wise man said, “Indians are the most ignorant about their rich past and scientific traditions.”

Happy reading!