The Prosody of the Patna Dharmapada


The prosody of the Patna Dharmapada is essentially the same as the prosody found in the Pāḷi rescension of the text. In the description below I will follow in outline my Introduction to the Prosody of the Dhammapada, and will add in comparative statistics from the Pāḷi text in square brackets.

1: Preliminaries


As in the Pāḷi text we find in the Patna Dharmapada that resolution of a presumed heavy syllable into two light syllables is a common feature of the prosody. Here also we see that the rule of resolution has been adhered to. The rule states that when resolution takes place it always involves the first two syllables of a word (including words that appear in compound, and after a prefix).

In the following text I have counted 67 instances of resolution, roughly half of which involve the 1st syllable in the line. Most of the resoltuions occur in Śloka lines, but some also in Tuṭṭhubha / Jagatī lines, which are marked in red below (the lines marked in green are from a very unusual Aupacchandasaka line).

There is another possible case of resolution at 375a, but I believe there we need to read -bhavati = -bhoti.


There is also a rule of replacement, where 2 presumed light syllables are replaced by a heavy one, and there we can understand again that it is the first two syllables in a word that are light. Replacement in this text takes place at 115c, 227c, 228c, and 350c, which are all Triṣṭubh lines.

Changes in word form

There are many changes that take place in the forms of words in order to meet the requirements of the metre. Below an attempt has been made to collect all the instances of this phenonema that I have noticed. Some forms are doubtful because of a lack of evidence, and I have tried to err on the side of caution.

long ī at the end of a word (14 instances [36]): There is a great discrepency between the Pāḷi and Patna texts here, because in the former many present tense verbs have their endings lengthened m.c. (e.g. ramatī, vijjatī, jayatī, nayatī, āpajjatī, palavatī, sahatī, bhāvayatī, labhatī). This makes me think that the underlying morphology of these verbs in the original dialect was most probably ramate, vijjate, jayate, nayate, āpajjate, palavate, sahate, bhāvayate, labhate.01

ratī 60c, 211b
munī 127d
īva 156b
gatī 211a
sugatī 213d
khāntī 239a
ayiragarahī 302c
vaṭṭhī 351b, 352b, 353b, 354b, 355b, 356b

long ī medially (13 instances [14]):

satīmā 9d
bitīyatā, 11b
satīmato, 28a, 78a
paṭīlābho 82c, 334c
ahirīkena 164a
hirīmatā 165a
tritīyaṁ 210d
satīmanto 231a
satīmatāṁ 244d
jutīmanto 265e
[a]nupaśśīnāṁ 268a

other vowels lengthened medially (1 instance [6]):

-śārīro 147e
appāmātto 301a

consonants doubled unhistorically (3 instances [6]):

soggatiṅ 101d
kaṭukapphalaṁ 174d
akkuśalā 414b

shortening of vowels (6 instances [6]):

bhuñjeyă 295c
mucceyă 303b, 304b, 305b
paṭijāggreyă 312d
śiccheyă 375c

consonant groups simplified (7 instances [4]):

dukham 1e, 75b, 273c The 1st and 3rd of these appear to have no metrical reason for the simplification of the cluster.02
dukhena 80c
-dukhaṁ 144d
dukhā 145c
dukhitaṁ 260a

anusvāra dropped (12 instances [12]):

addhāna 141b
paṭivadeyu 197b
phuseyu 197d
viśśāsa 212c, 272c
yesa 270d
pūjeyu 285b
garaheyu 285b
devāna 292d
māccāna 334d
buddhāna 341d, 357d

Another important matter affecting the prosody of the text is the inclusion of svarabhakti vowels (broken or partial vowels), which are written in the text, but are normally ignored when reciting. We find svarabhakti vowels in the following words (here and in the text itself I mark svarabhakti vowels with superscript):

[a]nupariyagu 247b
ayiragara 302c
ayirakāntaṁ 339d
ayirapathesu 120b
ayirapravedite 348c
ayiraṁ 71b
ayi 120b
ayiro 246d
arahanto 245c
arihati 94d, 95d, 287b
ariyāṇāṁ 15d, 69a, 314b, 315b
ariyasaccāni 218c
ekacariyām 313b
essariyaṁ 178c
kayi 11c, 97ab, 98ab, 110a, 130b, 318a, 320c
kayirātha 29c, 74a, 85d, 97c, 98c
kileśehi 264d
naggacari 195a
paṭikayirātha 109c
prabhūtarata, 119a
payirāgate 104c, 105c
payirodametha 264c
payirupāsati 191b, 192b
rājariṣayo 247b
vayiraṁ 307d
viharantaṁ 7a, 8a
sacittapariyodamanaṁ 357c

It appears that owing to metrical licence these vowels were sometimes pronounced, and we must count the vowel towards the metre in the following words:

arahatāṁ 314a, 315a
kileśam 3d
garaheyu 285b
viharan 26c,
viharaṁti 245c
viharāma 255d, 256d, 257d

Conjuncts not Making Position

In Pāḷi words do not normally begin with a conjunct consonant, There are exceptions such as words like brāhmaṇa, but we nearly always need to disregard the conjunct in these cases to correct the metre.03 if in the morphology there could be a conjunct at the beginning of a word, normally it is first assimilated and then simplified, so that e.g. v. 2: *ppasannena >> pasannena (cf. 348, vippasannena, where the conjunct reappears in a compound).

In Patna on the other hand normally the conjunct is written though in many cases we can see from the metre that this is orthographic only. In the following list I identify the places where I believe we have to ignore the conjunct in order to produce a correct reading metrically:

krodhaṁ 402a
cchijjati 362a
ṭṭhāṇesu 45c
ṭṭhāṇehi 292c
ṭṭhānāni 210a
ttāṇatā 366d
praṁñavā 317d
praṁñā 62c
praṁñāya 136c, 329f
praṁñe 205c
prakkhittā 233c
pracinantaṁ 128a
prapuṣpakāni 134c
prabhavanti 84c
pramatta- 137a
pravrajito 239c
prahāya 291c
prācchanti 25c
prāṇe 246c
prāmojjaṁ 61c
precca 3a, 4a
preccasārī 411a, 412a
byūhaya 363c
brahmuṇā 320b
brāhmaṇ- 34bd, 35d, 36d, 37b, 38d, 39d, 40d, 41b, 43d, 44d, 45d, 46b, 47d, 48d, 49d
mrīyanti 14c
vrajanti 144c
śreyo 381d
sapraṁñaṁ 9a, 10a

sometimes a conjunct that appears mid-word also has to be ignored:

anubrūhaye 181d
apraṁñassa 62a
aśraddho 332b
ujjuṁ 323c
vītajjaraṁ 40c

but there are also some places where we have to count the conjunct in order to get a good reading metrically:

prajehiti 131d, 132d
pratīto 176c
pradhānaṁ 195c
prabhāṁ 247g
prāṇesu 196c
prāpuṇema 120d

There are many places where we simply can't tell from the metre whether we should mark the preceding syllable as light or heavy. As the majority have to be marked light, I mark the following as light also:

praṁñassa 63b
praṇidhāya 302d
praduṣṭena 1c
pramajjati 20b, 21b 32f
pramajjittā 20a, 21a
pramajjeyā 27a
pramuñcati 133b
pravattāraṁ 206a
pravaddhaṁti 138c
pravuccati 236d, 37f
praśaṁsito 287d
prasannena 2c
prasahate 8e
prahare 46a
prātto 25d, 199c
priyā 'priyaṁ 58b
priyāpriyaṁ 74d
brahmacārī 228ad


2: The Metres

In the text which follows there are 1734 lines in all (as against 1733 in the Pāḷi Dhammapada); and just as in the Pāḷi text there are just five metres found in the Patna Dharmapada:

1. Śloka (1393 lines = 696 pādayugas = 80% [86%])

2. Vaitālīya (96 lines = 6% [5%])

3. Aupacchandasaka (88 lines = 5% [0.5%]) The reason for there being a higher percentage of Aupacchandasaka lines in Patna is because of the inclusion of the Uraga Verses, which also accounts for the total percentage of Śloka verses being less.04

4. Triṣṭubh (129 lines = 7% [7%])

5. Jagatī (28 lines = 2% [2%])

I will give here a short description of the metres, though they are in all respects similar to the metres we find in Pāḷi Canonical prosody.


The Śloka metre accounts for 80% of the verses in the Patna Dharmapada. It is an eight-syllable ardhasamavtta metre, having a normal or regular structure and 6 variations. The distribution of the lines is as follows:

Pathyā (580 pādayugas, 83% [82%])

mavipulā (44 pādayugas, 6% [7%])

bhavipulā (30 pādayugas, 4% [3%])

navipulā (22 pādayugas, 3% [2%])

ravipulā (9 pādayugas)

savipulā (6 pādayugas)

Anuṣṭubh (3 pādayugas)

The Pathyā (normal) structure is as follows:


As in all the Śloka lines the opening syllable of both the prior and the posterior lines may be a light syllable or a heavy syllable or occasionally two light syllables, when a heavy syllable is presumed resolved. 29 of the Śloka lines (just over 2%) show resolution at the 1st syllable: 8a, 9c, 20c, 21c, 39a, 51c, 61cd, 92a, 107a, 108ac, 113d, 125d, 173d, 178a, 183a, 205ab, 271c, 274d, 283e, 291e, 296d, 299a, 324b, 349a, 357b, 367b.05 The 2nd, 3rd and 4th syllables are either light or heavy, though sometimes we can see that two lights are avoided in 2nd and 3rd positions, this is by no means always adhered to. Syllables have been changed in weight to avoid this opening at the following places: 40c, 165a, 352b, 353b, 354b, 355b, 356b, and I also count pr- as making position at 176c and 335c to avoid this opening. The opening is found at 6b, 87b, 198c, 312c, 323b, 370d.06 The last syllable is always counted as heavy, no matter what its natural weight, because there is a short pause after it (it is marked as × in the descriptions).

What was said above about the opening of the prior line also applies to the opening of the posterior line. Then comes the characteristic cadence to the pādayuga (pair of lines), light-heavy-light-heavy. The distinguishing mark of the Pathyā is the cadence of the prior line, and it is mainly the different structure of that section that account for the variations (vipulā).

The variations make up some 17% of the Śloka lines. The most common one in the Patna Dharmapada is mavipulā which has the following structure:


Many times (though not invariably) we find the opening of the prior line looks like this: −−⏑−¦, and there should be a break after the 5th syllable. If both of these characteristics are missing I think we are no longer dealing with mavipulā, but with an irregular line, and I mark 274a as such.

The other variations are less common and can be distinguished by their prior line cadences:









There is a further variation that turns up at 261c, 339a, and 357a, which I call the Anuṣṭubh variation, owing to its similarlity to the Vedic metre of that name. Its structure is as follows:


That is, the prior line and the posterior line show the same structure. In the Śloka variations there is one other that is tolerated occasionally in the Pāḷi Canonical texts, but which doesn't appear here, that is the tavipulā, which has the following structure ⏓⏓⏓¦−−⏑×.07

In this text as it stands there are some Śloka lines that are either short of a syllable or two, as 273b with 6 syllables, and 184a with 7 syllables; or have one syllable extra as at 6d, 73c, 147c, 158a, 174b, 207a, 209a, 212b, 232b, 245c, 257c, 259c, 306b, 307d, 312c, 340a, 360f, and 370d. Most of these lines can be corrected quite easily, and seem to be a question of orthography, rather than malformation. See the notes attending these lines.

Vaitālīya & Aupacchandasaka

These two metres are Mātrācchandas metres, whose structure is defined not by a syllable count, but by the number of mātras there are in a line, In Indian prosody a light syllable () is counted as one mātra and a heavy one () as two.08 and by structure of the opening and the cadence. In this text there are 96 lines (6% of the total) in the Vaitālīya metre; and 88 (5%) in Aupacchandasaka.

The basic form of the Vaitālīya line is as follows:


We can see from this outline that the opening comes in pairs of two syllables, there being 6 mātra in the prior and 8 mātra in the posterior line. Sometimes syncopation alters this structure, but not in a haphazard way, but always respecting the underlying structure of the line.09 The cadence, which is similar to that of the Śloka posterior line cadence, is always the same.

The two metres are similar in all respects except that there is an extra heavy syllable in penultimate position in the Aupacchandasaka metre, so that the structure is defined like this:


Sometimes these metres are mixed together in a verse, as at 52, 149, and 151; and we also find one verse having a mixture of Śloka (ab) and Vaitālīya (cd) at 100 and 101.

As the openings in these metres are in every respect similar, they can be treated together for description. In the prior line the form of the openings is as follows:

−−⏑⏑ 3c, 4c, 28a, 33ac, 52c, 104a, 105a, 119c, 131c, 132ac, 137c, 148c, 149a, 150c, 151ac, 160c, 161c, 162c, 213a, 239a, 276c, 277c, 363a, 398ac, 399ac, 400ac, 401ac, 402ac, 403ac, 404ac, 405ac, 406ac, 407ac, 408ac, 409ac, 410ac, 411ac, 412ac, 413c, 414c (58 lines = 62%)

⏑⏑−⏑⏑ 3a, 4a, 78ac, 101c, 118ac, 131a, 137a, 148a, 160a, 213c, 214ac, 239c, 300c, 301d, 362c (18 lines = 19%)

others (18 lines = 19%):

−⏑−⏑⏑ 28c, 52a, 100c, 162a, 362a — this is a variation of the opening listed above, where the 1st syllable has to be counted as light to fit the metre.

−⏑⏑− 150a, 161a, 276a, 286a

−−− 149c, 301a

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑ 120a

⏑−⏑⏑⏑⏑ 119a — the 2nd syllable is probably to be counted as light

−⏑−⏑ 277a, 300a, 363c — this is a syncopated form

−⏑⏑⏑ 413a, 414a — these two lines are irregular, being one mātra short

The most common posterior opening looks like this:

⏑⏑−−⏑⏑ 4b, 28b, 78d, 131bd, 132bd, 137d, 148b, 149b, 150d, 151b, 160b, 213d, 239d, 276bd, 277d, 300bd, 362b, 363b, 398bd, 399bd, 400bd, 401bd, 402bd, 403bd, 404bd, 405bd, 406bd, 407bd, 408bd, 409bd, 410bd, 411d, 412d, 413bd, 414d (53 lines = 56%)

the following three are variations on this line:

⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑ 161b — with 3rd syllable resolved

−⏑−−⏑⏑ 28d, 148b — with pādādiguru

⏑⏑−⏑⏑⏑ 162d — with light 4th syllable

−−−⏑⏑ 3d, 4d, 33bd, 52bd, 78b, 100d, 101d, 119b, 120b, 137b, 148c, 150a, 151d, 161d, 162b, 213b, 214bd, 239b, 277b, 301bc, 362d, 363d, 411b, 414b (28 lines = 30%)

others (10 lines):

−⏑⏑−⏑⏑ 3b, 118b, 149c, 301e, 412b

−−−− 101b, 118b

−⏑−⏑⏑⏑ 119d — with syncopation

−⏑−⏑⏑− 120d — with pādādilaghu and syncopation

⏑−⏑−−⏑⏑ 160d — irregular with 10 syllables and syncopation

Triṣṭubh & Jagatī

The Triṣṭubh and Jagatī are syllabic metres (varṇacchandas) having very similar structures. The difference being that Triṣṭubh has 11 syllables to the line, and Jagatī has the same structure with an extra light syllable is penultimate position.

In this text there are 129 lines in Triṣṭubh metre and 28 in Jagatī. There is usually 4 lines to the verse, but 291 and 329 contain 6 lines; and very unusually 247 has 7 lines. Verses written in Triṣṭubh metre prevail, while there are only 2 verses in Pure Jagatī, the others are mixed.

Pure Tristubh: 9, 10, 30, 65, 80, 84, 85, 109, 114, 121, 134, 143, 144, 195, 196, 210, 227, 228, 238, 246, 290, 291, 293, 332, 381

Pure Jagatī: 156, 278

Mixed Triṣṭubh/Jagatī: 71, 89, 115, 211, 247, 260, 302, 326, 329, 350

Mixed Triṣṭubh/Śloka: 11 ab = Śloka, cd = Triṣṭubh.

The outline of these metres is as follows:


In the opening we sometimes find the 1st syllable has been resolved ⏑⏑−⏑−¦ (9c, 115d, 144d, 291e, 350b, 381d); and occasionally we come across the Vedic opening: ⏓−−−¦ (vv. 109bd, 196b, 247d) .

The breaks come in various forms, with the structure −⏑⏑ prevailing (78%), no matter where the caesura is found:

¦−,⏑⏑ 9a, 10ac, 30d, 65c, 71ab, 80b, 84ad, 114ad, 121ac, 134b, 143c, 156ab, 195ad, 210cd, 211cd, 246cd, 247a, 260abcd, 278a, 290c, 291de, 293c

,¦−⏑⏑ 9b, 10b, 30b, 65b, 71c, 80ad, 85b, 89b, 109a, 114c, 115d, 121bd, 134a, 143a, 144abd, 156d, 195c, 196abd, 210b, 227ad, 228ad, 238abd, 246a, 247fg, 278c, 290ab

¦−⏑,⏑ 9c, 30a, 65ad, 84b, 85d, 89c, 115ab, 134c, 143d, 144c, 196c, 210a, 211ab, 238c, 291c

,−¦−⏑⏑ 9d, 71d, 156c, 247e, 278d

also with resolution:

,¦⏑⏑⏑⏑ 109c, 114b

we find the ravipulā, navipulā and savipulā breaks occasionally (13%):

,¦−⏑− 109bd, 134d, 143b, 247d, 293b

¦−,⏑− 227b, 228b

¦⏑,⏑⏑ 84c, 89ad, 291b, 293d, 302d

,¦⏑⏑⏑ 278b

,¦⏑⏑− 11c, 85a, 246b, 247b, 291a

as in the Pāḷi verses there are many irregular breaks (9%), which include the following:

¦−,− 115c, 227c, 228c — replacement of two presumed light syllables by one heavy at the 6th

,¦−− 290d, 291f — replacement of two presumed light syllables by one heavy at the 5th

¦−,⏑⏑− 85c — pausing at the 5th and restarting from the same position

¦−,−⏑− 293a — pausing at the 5th and restarting from the same position

¦−,−⏑ 80c — pausing at the 5th and restarting from the same position, with the 6th replaced

,¦−−⏑ 195b — having an irregular heavy 6th syllable

,¦−−−− 10d, 11d — very irregular lines

247c — a malformed line