Chhandas - The Science Of Metres

Chhandas are the basic rules used while writing the verses in Sanskrit. They help the verse have meaning and also makes the verses sound beautiful. The study of Vedic meters is the part of Chhandas and thus is included in one of the six Vedangas.

We can say that any composition that has a musical sound to it, is actually a chhanda. Chanda has been one of the Vedanga. Vedic verses are composed with the help of several chhandas.

A List Of Six Vedangas

  • Shiksha

It is the study of phonetics and pronunciation. The Shiksha Vedanga focuses on the letters of the Sanskrit language/ They helped the way words are formed and expressed.

  • Vyakarana

The Vedanga Vyakarana is the analysis of grammar and linguistics. Thus, it is a precise approach towards words and sentences constructed to express ideas and thoughts.

  • Nirukta

The Nirukta Vedanga is the study of etymology. It is in respect to the interpretation of the Sanskrit scriptures provided in respect to the ancient texts.

  • Kalpa

It is the study of instructions provided during rituals and rites of passage. Moreover, it helps you explore the duties of an individual.

  • Jyotisha

This is the study of timekeeping. This Vedanga deals with the astronomical and astrological aspects of selecting the most dates and times to perform the Vedic rituals.

  • Chhandas

The study of chhandas plays an eminent role in the growth of Sanskrit poetry and classical music. Each mantra or hymn is divided into padas, which may be 8, 11 or 12 syllables.

Let Us Discuss The Chhandas In Detail

Chhandas are referred to as the poetic meter in ancient scriptures, especially the Vedas. Chandas is one of the six Vedangas, as discussed earlier. They support the study of Vedas and various other Hindu scriptures written in Sanskrit.

The Vedas have laid the foundation for Yoga and Hinduism. When it comes to the chhandas, the various Vedic Hymns are studied using the analysis of the number of syllables per verse and any patterns within the verses.

In Sanskrit, the term “pada” is used as a unit to measure the construction of various Vedic hymns and verses. The measurement of the hymns depends upon the number of syllables used in the construction of hymns. Syllables are classified into two categories, Guru and Laghu. The length of a Matra determines the context, purpose and its usage in the real world. It is also an error-correcting mechanism.

Chhandas And Its Reference To Vedas

The Six Vedangas were introduced to help an individual understand the Vedas. While Rig Veda and Sama Veda are in the form of verses, the Yajur Veda has prose and poetry. Vedas is an oral tradition and thus, the abbreviation in chhandas helps to identify the swara in the verses and thus, correct it, if need be.

Chhanda is the meter count that helps to ensure the form of a verse. Thus. no alteration can be made to the verses. Any attempt to do so can hinder the spiritual significance of the spiritual hymns and verses. Chhanda shastra by Pinglanaga composed in the 5th and 6th century BC is considered as the oldest text available on the subject.

The utter knowledge of Chhanda Vedanaga plays an important role in the composition of smriti literature. It is also a foundation course in the emergence of Indian Classical Music and Sanskrit poetry. In addition to this, it is also a framework for various languages.

Basic Principle Of Chhandas

  • The six Vedangas help you with a better understanding of Vedas. They are being used in any kind of verses we use in our daily lives. However, we can try to understand the characteristics of Chhandas.Sage Pingalacharya is the maharishi who organised and categorised the Chhandas in the form they are present in right now. In certain studies, it is also said that without Chhandas, one cannot even pronounce a word, let alone a statement.Phonetics are the foundation of all the sounds that we can create through our vocal cords. To utter a word, one has to create a physical sound through their vocal tract, which is called Akshar. It can not be destroyed. Each Akshara in Sanskrit can have one or two matras. The letters with one matraa are known as Hrswa and the one with two matraas are Deergha. It can be referred to as the binary system of building words through blocks. While the Akshara gets its matraa from this concept, the consonants get it from the Swara associated with it.There are 26 categories under which the chhandas are listed. It is decided on the basis of the number of aksharas in the four lines of the verse. The number of syllables in the Chhandas are according to the listing of 26 chhandas noted down below. The first one being, Ukta has one syllable, the second one Atyukta has two and so on.


The List Of 26 Chhandas

  1. Ukta
  2. Atyukta
  3. Madhya
  4. Pratishta
  5. Supratishta
  6. Gayatri
  7. Ushnik
  8. Anushtup
  9. Brihati
  10. Pankti
  11. Trishtup
  12. Jagati
  13. Atijagati
  14. Shakwari
  15. Atishakwari
  16. Ashti
  17. Atyashti
  18. Dhriti
  19. Atidhriti
  20. Kriti
  21. Prakriti
  22. Aakriti
  23. Vikriti
  24. Sankriti
  25. Atikriti
  26. Utkriti

There are a number of chhandas, and thus, it becomes difficult for any new student to understand. The poets use Chhands between 8 to 21. Most of the works in Ramayana and Mahabharata have used Anshtup.

In addition to the chhandas, the verses are also categorized according to the pattern of their syllables. These patterns are described as Vrittas. As the number of syllables in a verse increases, the Vrittas in the verse also increases.

Chhandas And Its Relation To Natyashastra

Chhandas in the Natyashastra are called Vritta. Vrittas constitute four feet and they have diverse meanings. Like we discussed earlier, chhandas are 26 in number and determined by the letters in each verse.

All the Vritta are categorized into three types.

Rama: Even

Ardhasama : Semi Even

Visama: uneven

The combination of Chhandas and Vrittas is remembered as the illuminator of performance in Natyashastra.

Chhandas, meaning rhythm, determine the pulses and structure of this physical world. This music is determined by your thoughts, your emotions and your belief systems. Chandas is considered as one beautiful mathematical tradition that helps to understand the Sanskrit Puranas and scripture. Chandas is a Vedanga that is holy and pure like the Vedas.

To conclude, Chhandas point towards how a mantra, hymn or verse can be constructed with some definite rules. With the study of Chhandas, the mantra can be recited in a certain way and thus, During the study of Vedic learning centres, you can ensure the specific study of Mantras, thereby learning how to reciprocate the rituals and ceremonies in the correct way.


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