Main Metres in the Pāḷi Canon

compiled by

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
(July 2008)

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For more information on the metres see my Outline of the Metres in the Pāḷi Canon,
and for a comprehensive list of metres used in Pāḷi (all periods) see my Metre Tables.

 

2.3 Siloka (Śloka, aka Vaktra [=Vatta])

Here is an analysis of the pathyā (normal) structure of the Siloka, which has 8 syllables to the line:

Odd (prior) line:

 ⏓ ⏓ ⏓ ¦ ⏑ − − ×

Even (posterior) line:

 ⏓ ⏓ ⏓ ¦ ⏑ − ⏑ ×    x 4

 

In the 2nd & 3rd positions two successive shorts ⏑⏑ are normally avoided, as we can see through changes that have been made in syllabic length. However, there appear to be texts (e.g. Dhammapada) in which this rule is not always applied.

In the odd lines 7 variations (vipulā) occur, besides the normal structure, they are:

 

 

a.k.a.

javipulā

navipulā

bhavipulā

mavipulā

ravipulā

savipulā

tavipulā

  ⏓ ⏓ ⏓ ¦ ⏑ − ⏑ ×

  − ⏓ − ¦ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ×

  − ⏓ − ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ ×

  − ⏓ − ¦ − − − ×

  ⏓ ⏓ ⏓ ¦ − ⏑ − ×

  ⏓ ⏓ ⏓ ¦ ⏑ ⏑ − ×

  − ⏑ − ¦ − − ⏑ ×

Anuṭṭhubha   

1st vipulā

2nd vipulā

3rd vipulā

4th vipulā

5th vipulā

6th vipulā (very sporodic)

There is normally a caesura (word break) after the fifth syllable in the 3rd vipulā, and after the fourth syllable in the 4th vipulā.

 

2.6 Tuṭṭhubha (Triṣṭubh), & Jagatī

Tuṭṭhubha normally has 11 syllables to the line, and is defined thus:

 − ⏓ − ¦ ⏓ ⏑ ⏓ ¦ − ⏑ − ×    x 4

Jagatī is similar, but has an extra short syllable in penultimate position, giving a line of 12 syllables, thus:

 − ⏓ − ¦ ⏓ ⏑ ⏓ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ ×    x 4

An extended form may be produced by a line having a caesura (word break) at the 5th syllable, and restarting from the same syllable, giving the line:


⏓ − ⏓ − ¦

5 & 5
− , ⏔


⏑ ⏓ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ ×

 

Occasionally replacement takes place, whereby two short syllables are presumed in the 6th & 7th positions, and replaced by one long one. The line then has one syllable less than expected:


⏓ − ⏓ − ¦ −,

6 & 7


¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ ×

 

2.8 Upajāti, Vaṁsaṭṭhā (Vaṁśasthā), and Rucirā

These are the fixed metres in the canon that have been derived from Tuṭṭhubha and Jagatī, their profile looks like this:

i) Upajāti (from Tuṭṭhubha):

⏓ − ⏑ − ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ×    x 4

ii) Vaṁsaṭṭhā (from Jagatī):

⏓ − ⏑ − ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ ×    x 4

iii) Rucirā (from Jagatī, with resolution of the 5th syllable, giving a 13 syllable line):

⏓ − ⏑ − ¦ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ ×   x 4

 

2.10 Vetālīya (Vaitālīya) and Opacchandasaka (Aupacchandasaka)

The first of these metres, Vetālīya, has 14 measures in the odd lines, and 16 in the even, with the cadence at the end of each line being − ⏑ − ⏑ ×.

Opacchandasaka, the second of the metres, has 16 measures in the odd lines, and 18 in the even. The cadence is similar to Vetālīya, but with an extra long syllable in penultimate position − ⏑ − ⏑ − ×.

The most common forms of the odd lines are:

− − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ (−) ×

⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ (−) ×

− ⏑ ⏑ − ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ (−) ×

The most common forms of the even lines:

− − − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ (−) ×

⏑ ⏑ − − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ (−) ×

− ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ (−) ×

with occasional resolution of a long syllable giving rise to other patterns in the opening.

Through syncopation of syllables in adjacent groups we occasionally find different patterns in the openings, so that sometimes

− − ⏑ ⏑ > − ⏑ − ⏑

⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ > ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ⏑

⏑ ⏑ − − > ⏑ − ⏑ −   etc.

 

2.12 Rathoddhatā and Pupphitaggā (Puṣpitāgrā)

These are the two fixed metres derived from the above.

Rathoddhatā (a Vetālīya even pāda):

 ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ ×    x 4

Similarly Pupphitaggā (from Opacchandasaka) in the canon is still somewhat flexible:

⏔ ⏔ ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ − ×

⏔ ⏔ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ − ×    x 2

with occasional resolution of a long syllable elsewhere. In its post-canonical form the opening of the first line was fixed as ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ and the second as ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑.

 

2.13 Āpātalikā

This metre has 14 measures in the odd lines, and 16 in the even, as with Vetālīya, but with a different cadence: − ⏑ ⏑ − ×.

In the canon the most common forms of the odd lines:

⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ − ×

− − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ − ×

the even lines:

− ⏑ ⏑ − − ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ − ×

− ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ − ×

when it attains to its classical form, it is then known as Vegavatī, and is restricted to:

⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ − ×

− ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ − ×    x 2

 

2.14 Svāgatā

In the canon this metre has two dissimilar lines repeated to make up a verse, and the structure was still quite fluid:

Svāgatā odd lines:

− ⏑ − ⏑ ¦ − − ⏔ ⏓

− ⏑ ⏑ − ¦ − − ⏔ ⏓

Svāgatā even lines:

− ⏑ − ⏑ − ¦ − ⏔ − ⏓

− ⏑ ⏑ − − ¦ − ⏔ − ⏓

In the later period however the even line is fixed and repeated four times, so that the structure is then defined as:

− ⏑ − ⏑ ⏔ ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ − ⏓   x 4

 

2.16 Old Gīti

There are two structures to the metre: the first is the normal form; the second is an extended form, which after the line break, restarts with a full gaṇa, thus:

Normal structure:

 − ¦  ¦ ⏔ − ¦ ⏓, − ⏓ ¦ ⏔ − ¦  ¦ ⏔ − ¦ ⏓   x 2

Extended structure:

 − ¦  ¦ ⏔ − ¦ ⏓, ⏔ − ¦ ⏔ − ¦  ¦ ⏔ − ¦ ⏓   x 2

Resolution occasionally produces different patterns e.g. −− > ⏑⏑−

replacement sometimes produces different patterns e.g. ⏑⏑− > −−

but −⏑⏑ is very rarely found in any gaṇa.

 

2.17 Gīti, Ariyā (Āryā), and their derivatives

In the gaṇacchandas metres in the Pāli canon, there are two structures to the line, they are:

Gaṇacchandas 1st line:

⏔ − ¦  ¦ ⏔ − ¦  ¦ ⏔ − ¦  ¦ ⏔ − ¦ ⏓

Gaṇacchandas 2nd line:

⏔ − ¦  ¦ ⏔ − ¦  ¦ ⏔ − ¦    ⏑    ¦ ⏔ − ¦ ⏓

The only difference between the two lines lies in the 6th gaṇa.

Ariyā, which is the most common metre in this class, has the first line described above followed by the second, this gives a mattā count of 30 + 27.

Gīti has the first line repeated to make up a verse, mattā = 30 + 30.

Uggīti has the second line followed by the first, mattā = 27 + 30.

Upagīti has the second line repeated, mattā = 27 + 27.

 

2.19 Hypermetres, Veḍha & Gubbinī

The structure of both of these gaṇacchandas hypermetres is similar and can be defined as follows:

Opening:

 

¦

⏔⏔

¦

 

Middle:

 

⏔⏔

¦

 

can be repeated

 

End:

 

⏔⏔

¦

¦

−⏓

 

 

Veḍha is restricted to compounds, while Gubbinī is not.

 

2.20 The fixed metres: Akkharacchandas type 2 (Akṣaracchandas)
aka Vutta (Vṛtta).

Pamitakkharā (from gaṇacchandas):

⏔ − ¦ ⏑ − ⏑ ¦ ⏑ ⏑ − ¦ ⏑ ⏑ ⏓    x 4

Upaṭṭhitā:

− − ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏓    x 4

Dodhaka (a Vegavatī even line repeated):

− ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ ⏑ − ⏓    x 4

Aparavatta, which is derived from Vetālīya, shows the following structure:

⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ ⏓

⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ¦ − ⏑ − ⏑ ⏓    x 2

Upaṭṭhitappacupita:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

⏔ − − ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ − ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ − ⏓

⏔ − ⏔ ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ − ⏑ − ⏓

⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏓

⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ − ⏓

There are normally word-breaks after the 8th syllable in the 1st line; 5th syllable in the 3rd line; and 7th syllable in the 4th line.

Uggatā (from gaṇacchandas):

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ − ⏓

⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ − ⏑ ⏓

⏔ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ −

⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ − ⏑ ⏑ ⏑ − ⏑ − ⏑ ⏓