Vritta Ratnakara- A treatise on chandas

Statement of Work and the Encoding style..

Sujatha R
5 min readNov 28, 2023

As a communication engineer, I often felt that chandas is like the train tracks.. It allows carriage after carriage of payload to be transmitted with stability and ease. Like the FM frequency for radio, like the 4G and wireless wireless scheme for sending data, chandas is like a carrier of chants.

I was listening to this work on Chandas in vyomalabs.. What caught my attention is the appealing style of introduction, statement of work, prior works, novelty factor, followed by fundamentals and the building blocks, and encoding schemes.

It seemed like reading and parsing wireless protocol standards .. Except for the elegance, brevity and poetic style of writing which is missing in the later. And the teacher made the Sanskrit verses very accessible. On some accounts, the lessons seemed like a rule book. A bit of intuition and play with vocal anatomy, helps in internalizing this complex topic. Writing about a few opening lines of this work.

Statement of Work

The ocean of gems on the topic of vrutti / chandas,
in the work ‘Vrutta Ratnakara’,

for the perineal flow of this knowledge.
for fueling easy comprehension by every seeker child,

hereby is presented, the models and illustrations ‘lakshaNa/laksheya’,

authored by this devout Kedaara, son of ‘pavya’,
on saluting Shankara, who is accompanied by Gauri and Vinayakam, and venerated by other Gods

सुखसन्तानसिद्ध्यर्थं नत्वा ब्रह्माच्युतार्चितम् । गौरीविनायकोपेतं शङ्करं लोकशङ्करम् ।। १ ।। वेदार्थशैवशास्त्रज्ञः पव्येकोऽभूत् द्विजोत्तमः । तस्य पुत्रोऽस्ति केदारः शिवपादार्चने रतः ।। २ ।।
तेनेदं क्रियते छन्दोलक्ष्यलक्षणसंयुतम् । वृत्तरत्नाकरं नाम बालानां सुखबुद्धये ।। ३ ।।

Prior Work & Novelty Factor

Pingala and previous acharyas,
have expounded on the classical Chandas,
on the two fold scheme of meters,
based on “syllable” and “time”
of varna/akshara and maatra..

I shall expound the same..
in just 6 chapters, in just 136 verses,
with brevity, I shall elucidate the same..

पिङ्गलादिभिराचार्यैर्यदुक्तं लौकिकं द्विधा । मात्रावर्णविभागेन छन्दस्तदिह कथ्यते ।। ४ ।।षडध्यायनिबद्धस्य छन्दसोऽस्य परिस्फुटम् । प्रमाणमपि विज्ञेयं षड्रिंशदधिकं शतम् ।। ५ ।।

The Building blocks of Syllables

The entire marvel of poetry is pervaded by these 10 literals. “M Y R T N B R S .. G L”

म्यरस्तजश्नगैर्लान्तैरेभिर्दशभिरक्षरैः ।
समस्तं वाङ्गयं व्याप्तं त्रैलोक्यमिव विष्णुना ।। ६ ।।

The Octal shorthand notation

The 8 triads of 3 bits are as follows:

The All Gurus triad is “M”
The All Laghu triad is “N”

The beginning Laghu, the middle Laghu, are Y & R
The beginning Guru, the middle Guru, are B & J
The ending Guru, the ending Laghu, are S & T

सर्वगुर्मो मुखान्तौ यरावन्तगलौ सतौ
ग् मध्याद्यौ
ज्भौ त्रिलो नोऽष्टौ भवन्त्यत्र गणास्त्रिकाः ।। ७ ।।

At this point, I wondered for a moment why this synthetic layer of octal notation? Binary notation is far clearer for the mind to place the pattern. In the absence of visual equations and printed texts, sound was a medium of transmission. Hence octal notations and codenames provided compression of 3 bits.

Combinations with Time Series

With mAtra vrutti, 5 unique combinations possible in time = 4 or chatush-kalA..

Modern day Fibonacci series in action : 1, 2, 3, 5. For a sequence to have time = 4 units, 5 combinations of syllables are possible with laghu and guru aksharas. LLLL, LLG, LGL, GLL, GG.
First time, I heard about Fibonacci & Maatra Chandas by Field Medalist Manjul Bhargava, who opened up my curiosity in this topic..

Bhajagovindam, except for the first verse, follows matra chandas of 16 unit. It is much more relaxed and does not call for certain pattern of arrangement. As long the maatra duration of each quarter matches the time duration. Also, the number of syllables could be varying in each quarter.

A precise definition of Laghu & Guru syllables

These 4 kind of aksharAs are Guru. Rest is Laghu..

सानुस्वारः , विसर्गान्तः, दीर्घः , युक्तपरः

सानुस्वारो विसर्गान्तो दीर्घो युक्तपरश्च यः ।
वा पदान्ते त्वसौ ग्वक्रो ज्ञेयोऽन्यो मात्रिको लृजुः ।। ९ ।।

  1. Aksharas ending with visarga and anuswara qualify as Guru akshara रुः कः जुः , कं जं भं
  2. Aksharas ending with long deergha vowel qualify as Guru akshara.. आ ई ऊ ऋ ए ऐ ओ औ , की जू
  3. An akshara having a युक्त akshara ie mixed consonant as its next akshara, makes that akshara Guru akshara. तृष्णा भिक्षा

While 1 & 2 are intuitive, I always pause on 3. What causes this scenario to be Guru?

With युक्त akshara, which is very common in Sanskrit chants, the pronunciation seems a little difficult. However, if we transfer the load of one consonant to the previous akshara, it makes it easier. Notice ‘la kshmi’ is to be pronounced as ‘lak shmi’.. And there is a sense of doubling dweetvam and resonance while changing gears from one consonant to another. So it is like ‘lakk shmi’. And hence, lakk makes it a Guru syllable due to rule of युक्तपरः akshara

Units of a Verse

The 4 quarters are called ‘paada’. When a small pause is taken, ‘yati’ it is called.

चतुर्थः अंशः — पादः । विच्छेदसंज्ञिका यतिः

Verse Types: PAdas & its Symmetry

Odd and Even quarters are called ‘yuk’ and ‘ayuk’. समं, अर्धसममं, विषमं are the kinds of वृत्तं.

When all the 4 quarters/paadas have the same number of aksharAs, समं वृत्तम् it is ..

When 1st and 3rd quarters have same akshara count, and 2nd and 4th have same count, अर्धसममं वृत्तम् it is..

When the 4 quarters do not have same count, विषमं वृत्तं it is.

समं वृत्तम् can have upto 26 aksharas in a quarter. Beyond that, it is called ‘danDakam’ and there exist many types.

When the number of pAdas are not 4, ‘gAtha’ it is called.

Some Exceptions and finer details

The last akshara of a pAda has some freedom wrt Laghu/Guru. The युक्तपरः rule may not apply if the next quarter begins with युक्त akshara

Signature of various Meters.

For every signature of Chandas, there is a special codeword.
The very definition and example the Chandas is embedded in the phrase. There is brevity & poetic encoding. How amazing is this.

Code word for शिखरिणी Meter

This meter is seen in Saundarya Lahari.

What does the codeword indicate? There are 17 aksharas in each quarter, making it 5 ganas and 2 trailing bits. The triads of akshara distribution is य म न स भ followed by one laghu guru of ल ग.. यमनसभलागः in शिखरिणी

There is a yati break at 6th and 17th. This is poetically conveyed as rasa [6 rasas] and rudra [11 rudras], and hence रसैरुद्रैश्छिन्ना

रसैरुद्रैश्छिन्ना यमनसभलागः शिखरिणी ।

शिवः शक्त्या युक्तो यदि भवति शक्तः
प्रभवितुं न चेदेवं देवो न खलु कुशलः स्पन्दितुमपि ।

Code word for स्रग्धरा meter

This meter is seen in Vishnu Sahasranamam Dhyanam.

What does the codeword indicate? There are 21 aksharas in each quarter, making it 7 ganas. The triads of akshara distribution is म र B न भ followed य य य ie म्रभ्नै ‘र्यानां त्रयेण’

म्रभ्नैर्यानां त्रयेण त्रिमुनि यतियुता स्रग्धरा कीर्तितेयम्

There is a 3 equal yati breaks. त्रिमुनियतियुता. This characterises this meter. स्रग्धरा कीर्तितेयम्



Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns