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Chandass
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  APPLIED CHANDAS (Alathoor Vijayakumar) CHANDAS or PROSODY is defined as the science of versification. That is, when sentences are formed in verse form, certain rules have to be followed to maintain the metre or the rhythmic timings as well as the rhyme. This booklet shows how Chandas can be applied to composing, teaching and rendering carnatic music for bringing out the correct meanings. As a corollary this paper will also show how wrong usage of timings for the sake of maintaining the thalam can sometimes totally distort the meaning of the lyric. As mentioned above Chandas designates the exact length of time for which each syllable is to be sustained. For this there are a few simple rules to be followed, which are as follows. 1. All words are built up of two types of syllables. a. The short syllable known as 'Laghu'. This is supposed to be sustained for about 1/5 th  of a second for achieving normal speaking speed. A short syllable is called a 'hrasvam'. A laghu is identified by the sign (|) above the relevant syllable. b. The long syllable called a 'Guru' which has to be sustained for 2/5 th  of a second. This is known as a d  ī  rgha. A guru is identified by the sign (U). 2. Syllables ending with am or an are guru-s. e.g. in ùTôeLp [po´gal]   ùTôe [po´]   is a guru 3. The Syllable before a double consonant is a guru. e.g. In LÚlTô [karupp¡]  Ú   [ru]   is a guru and in AdLô [akk¡]  A  [a]   is a guru although the relevant letters are themselves hrasva-s which are normally Laghu-s as per rule no.1. This rule 3. does not apply when the double consonant is the first syllable of the next word. Let us now see how Chandas can be applied to analyse lyrics to help to achieve correct pronunciation. U | | | U | v ā  ri ja bha v ā  a meaning one born in a lotus, in other words, refers to Brahma. The above is a phrase from Ty ā gar ā  ja Kr   ti Ś r  ī   R ā map ā dam ā in Amr   tav ā hini. The total number of Aks   arak  ā la-s for this phrase is as follows. v ā  = 2(U), ri = (1) ; ja = (1) ; bha = (1) v ā  = (U) ; a= (1)  Thus the total number of aks   arak  ā la-s for this phrase is 2+ 1 + 1 + 1 + 2+ 1 = 8 and this makes it ideal for Ā di-t ā lam. The phrase consists of one Guru followed by three Laghus then a Guru extended by one aks   arak  ā lam. Such an extension of an already long syllable for any length of time is permissible as this does not affect the meaning. In fact this technique is used to achieve the correct t ā lam. Let us see what happens when the syllables are slightly modified. In fact many vocalists sing it this way for convenience ofthalam. U | | U U v ā  ri ja bh ā  v ā  The total length U + | + | + U + U or 2+ 1 + 1 + 2+ 2 = 8 remains unaltered. However the meaning changes as follows. One who was the meaning of lotus . Thus we see that it has taken a meaningless form. This short exercise shows how Chandas can be used to verify objectively whether pronunciation of the phrase in a particulr manner is correct or not. Going further Chandas can be used as a tool to arrive at the correct pronunciation even at the stage of teaching the songs as follows. Take the phrase bha kta ja na ka ly ā  n   a This consists of seven syllables as shown above. Now let us apply the U, | symbols to the syllables. a. Bha ; although this is ‘hrasva; since it precedes the conjunct consonant ‘kta’, it is a Guru, and so the sign U is applied to it. b. ‘kta’ is hrasva and hence the sign | is applied to it. Going on these lines the phrase assumes the following Ch ā ndasya shape. U | | | U U | bha kta ja na ka ly ā  n   a The total number of aks   arak  ā la-s is “U + | + | + | + U + U + |” : “2+1+1+1+2+2+1” = 10 and this makes it suitable for 2 ā varta-s of Khan   d   a C ā pu. This exercise does not end here. The syllable bha in bhaktha is a Guru requiring to be sustained for two aks   arak  ā la-s. Hence it has to be pronounced as follows. First say bhak for one aks   arak  ā lam, hold your breath for the second aks   arak  ā lam and then say ta in the third.  However for convenience of gamaka-prayogam the rust word of this phrase is often sung as | bh ā  | Kta |. This in no way affects the syllable to syllable aks   arak  ā la value. The only difference being that ‘bha’ instead of being pronounced as a hrasva followed by holding of the breath for one aks   arak  ā lam, which together make a Guru, is pronounced as ‘bh ā ’ which being a d  ī  rgham constitues again one Guru only. This kind of alliteration is normally acceptable as the beauty of our music is very much dependent on gamakas. But let us examine what happens to the bhava in this.particular case. ‘Bhakta’ as correctly pronounced means ‘pertaining to devotion’. | bh ā  | kta | as pronounced with modification to help gamaka pray ō gam means ‘inferior’. One other meaning can also be extracted out of this, treating the word as a combination (sandhi) of the two words ‘bh ā ’ and ‘akta’. This sandhi is called savarn   a-d  ī  rgha-sandhi. ‘Bh ā ’ means ‘lustre’ or ‘shadow’ and ‘aktha’ means ‘oil’ or ‘ointment’. Hence alliteration in this case cuases total distortion of the bh ā va and hence alliteration in this application is totally unpermissible and so should be shunned by a singer. However if alliteration does not in any way affect the meaning, in other cases it can be applied to enhance the beauty of the song. To put all this concisely the following is the process to be followed to achieve correct pronunciation. 1. First write down the words correctly. 2. Apply the U, | signs carefully to all the syllables using the rules of Chandas. 3. From this arrive at the total number of aks   arak  ā la-s for the sentence. 4. Using this apply the t ā la structure. 5. If there is any difficulty in achieving the ‘t ā la- ā varta’ at any place, modify the syllables without losing sight of the following rules a. A d  ī  rgham, although has to be sustained for 2 aks   arak  ā la-s can be extended to any length of time. b. Alliteration may be applied to enhance the beauty of the lyrics or to achieve the correct t ā la only after ensuring that no distortion of the meaning takes place. One may feel that this exercise is too elaborte for something a vocalist does every day, but one should also remember that perfection can never be achieved without properly directed effort.
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