Appendix: The Evolution of Siloka & Tuṭṭhubha


In order to give a broader perspective on the nature of Pāḷi verse composition a sketch is presented here of the development of two of the metres in their Vedic, Pāli, and Classical forms. The Vedic period probably starts around 2500 - 2000 B.C.; the Pāḷi canonical period begins around the turn of the 6th century B.C. and continues until the 2nd century B.C.; which is when the Epic and Classical period roughly begins. There is some overlap, but nevertheless we can broadly distinguish these three periods, and point out how the metres were developing.

1) Anuṣṭubh / Siloka / Śloka

In the early part of the g Veda the Anuṣṭubh was a samavṛtta metre showing the following structure:

⏓−⏓−¦⏑−⏑× (x 4)

sometimes light syllables are found in the 2nd, 4th & 6th positions, though 2 successive light syllables in the 2nd & 3rd position was normally avoided (as it was in the other periods also). Interestingly enough, in the light of later developments, the cadence ⏑−−×, which became the pathyā (normal) form almost never occurs.

Over time variations from this basic pattern started to emerge, which eventually gave rise to a new metre having two dissimilar lines, which we may describe thus:

Odd line:


Even line:

⏓⏓−⏓¦⏑−⏑× (x 2)

By the time of the Pāḷi Canon the samavṛtta Anuṣṭubh as an independent metre has more or less fallen into disuse, and the Siloka has emerged as a definite Addhasamavutta metre, the normal pattern of which can be described thus:

Odd line:


Even line:

⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−⏑× (x 2)

as shown in the main body of the book (2.4), in the early period there were 7 variations allowed in the prior line, including the Anuṭṭhubha. By the end of the canonical perod, the Anuṭṭhubha variation was normally avoided.

In the Classical period (which includes post-canonical Pāḷi works), not only the Anuṭṭhubha, but the 5th & 6th vipulās had also fallen into disuse. Other changes that have taken place are the normal avoidance of resolution; and also of the pattern −⏑− in the 2nd, 3rd & 4th syllables of the even line.

In the Classical Śloka the pathyā structure accounts for 85% - 95% of all odd lines, and the metre then can be described thus:

Odd line:


Even line:

⏓⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−⏑× (x 2)

with only 4 variations occasionally appearing in the prior line.


2) Triṣṭubh / Tuṭṭhubha / Upajāti

The Triṣtubh is the most popular metre in the Fg Veda, accounting for approximately 2/3 of all the lines in that collection (of about 10,000 verses). In the Vedas there are two main forms of the metre distinguished by the position of the diaeresis:

1) ⏓−⏓−,¦⏑⏑−¦−⏑−× (x 4)

2) ⏓−⏓−¦⏓,⏑⏑¦−⏑−× (x 4)

Note that the diaeresis, whether it occurs after the 4th or the 5th syllable, is normally followed by two light syllables. The openings occasionally appear as ⏓⏑−−, and the break sometimes shows other patterns: with the early diaeresis: ,−⏑− ,⏑−⏑ ,⏑⏑⏑ ; with the later diaeresis: ,−⏑ are fairly common.

In the early period mixing Jagatī lines into Triṣṭubh verses was normally avoided, but in the late period it is acceptable and quite common.

In the very earliest part of the Pāḷi period also mixing of the two metres was normally avoided, later, as we have seen (2.6ff 3.2), it is normal to find the two metres mixed together in composition, whichever one predominates. The pattern in the early and middle Pāḷi period can be described thus:

−−¦⏓⏑⏓¦−⏑−× (x 4)

The most significant changes are the possibility of resolution, particularly of the 1st syllable; the establishment of the break −⏑⏑ as the dominant form, the loss of the two distinct forms, and with that the loss in the significance of the diaeresis.

Even in the late part of the Canon the Tuṭṭhubha has been replaced by the Classical Upajāti, which is more restricted than its earlier counterparts, having the normal pattern:

⏓−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−× (x 4)