Quote for the day!


(According to legend, the very first couplet in
മഞ്ജരി inspired by which കൃഷ്ണഗാഥ was written.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Going in circles?

Well, this is another digression from word roots. This is about വൃത്തങ്ങള് - meters. In particular, those meters with very few letters.

(Most of the material I read long ago in Ravivarma's വൃത്തശാസ്ത്രം and elsewhere. Now, writing from memory, so there may be some inaccuracies.)

Obviously, the shortest meter must be of one letter. Strange as it may seem, indeed there are names for such meters.

One with a single laghu is named ഖഗ. Its
ലക്ഷണം is:


The one with a single guru is ശ്രീ. Its ലക്ഷണം is:
I also remember one two-letter meter: ശിവം. Its ലക്ഷണം is:
Interesting, but one might wonder, were there really poems made in these meters?

I don't know. I suspect not many, if at all. I believe that these were defined for the sake of completeness. (It is a very interesting detour that the വൃത്തശാസ്ത്രം has very deep binary mathematics embedded in it. For example, it talks about determining the number of വൃത്തം in a given ഛന്ദസ്സ് - which is equivalent to evaluating 2^n.)

The ശാസ്ത്രം also indicates that meters with less than five letters (five, if I remember correctly, may be it is six; someone please correct me), were intended for the devas. This might be a reference to Sanskrit. The next set of meters are for men and the last set are for asuras. Perhaps devas had richer vocabulary enabling them to communicate in terse, one or two letter lines!

One can find nursery rhymes in five letter meters. E.g.:
ക ഖ ഗ ഘ ങാ...
ക ഖ ഗ ഘ ങാ...
എനിക്കും താ ചേട്ടാ
A six-lettered meter I know is തനുമധ്യ. It is two guru's, two laghus and two gurus. Literally, the name means "thin in the middle"; figuratively, it means beautiful woman. Unfortunately, I only remember the first and last lines of the shlokam:

പണ്ടങ്ങള്‍ വെടിഞ്ഞും

Technically, this doesn't exactly fit the വൃത്തം (e.g. the first line is ഗഗഗലഗ, instead of ഗഗലലഗഗ, but I guess if you sing it appropriately it fits in).

P.S. A ശ്ലോകം with more than 24 letters in a line are called ദണ്ടകം. There are lots of കഥകളിപ്പദങ്ങള്‍ in ദണ്ടകം format.


Nikhil Narayanan said...

Raavile-etymology ariyumo?
Raav is night in Tamil , rite?

Vinod said...

Hi Nikhil,

I also have had the same question. So I looked it up.

രാവ് (ഇരവു)is night in Tamil. And രാ is night in malayalam.

രാവിലെ was originally രാവിലേ, meaning "it being still dark, very early in the morning" (to quote Gundert from his dictionary).

I guess, over time the word changed to just രാവിലെ and the meaning changed to just morning. (Incidentally, there is no രാവിലെ listed in Gundert's dictionary).

Hope this helps.

Nikhil Narayanan said...

രാവിലേ -engane vannu?
can you split this word up?

Vinod said...

രാവിലേ = രാവില്‍ + ഏ
ഏ is an adverb forming particle. Compare the following pairs:
നേര് -> നേരേ
മുമ്പ് -> മുമ്പേ
വഴി -> വഴിയേ

Thus രാവിലേ is actually an adverb as in അവന്‍ രാവിലേ പുറപ്പെട്ടു. The current short form is also an adverb as in നാളെ രാവിലെ.

[If we want to split this into the finest level, we can write:

രാവിലേ = രാ + ഉ് + ഇല്‍ + ഏ

രാ = root meaning night (from Tamil's ഇരവു)
ഉ് = particle to make it a noun
ഇല്‍ = in (ആധാരിക പ്രത്യയം)
ഏ = particle to make it an adverb]

Hope this helps.