A Practical Grammar of the Pāli Language


Charles Duroiselle

(2nd edition, Mandalay, 1915)

(Editor's note: the following is based of the Medieval Pāḷi prosody Vuttodaya, and should not be taken as a guide to Canonical prosody. There are a number of mistakes in it, as the author doesn't seem to have understood his source completely, these have been corrected in the text with the original cited in the notes.

Despite various shortcomings the work presents a succinct account of Pāḷi prosody during the Medieval period. I have used the metrical markings that are standard on this website though Duroiselle occasionally used other marks to distinguish syllablic weight (or length as stated here). All footnotes in this article are by the present writer)


Chapter 15: Prosody

626. Prosody is that part of Grammar which treats of the laws of versification.

A gāthā in Pāli poetry, is a stanza.

A pāda is the fourth part of a stanza, called also a quarter verse.

A vaṇṇa is a syllable in a pāda.

A short syllable is termed lahu.

A long syllable is called garu.

A foot is termed gaṇa.

627. The mark represents a short syllable, and the mark a long syllable. A foot containing two long syllables is termed , that is, ga + ga, the initial syllable ga of the word garu being used to represent a long syllable. A foot of two short syllables is termed , that is la + la, the initial syllable of the word lahu being employed to represent a short syllable.

628. The following are the four varieties of a dis-syllabic foot.





la la or lā



ga ga or gā



la ga



ga la


629. The eight tri-syllablic feet, known in Pāli as the aṭṭhagaṇa are as follows:





























Short And Long Syllables.

630. The short vowels in Pāli are a, i, u, the long vowels are ā, ī, ū, e, o. When a, i or u is followed by a double consonant, it is prosodically long. For instance, the first as well as the second a in cakkañca, is long because followed by kk and ñc respectively. Before niggahita () a short vowel is also always prosodically long. Thus in saccaṁ, the a before is long. In poetry, a naturally short vowel is occasionally lengthened and a naturally long one shortened to meet the exigencies of the metre. In order to make a short vowel long, the consonant following it is sometimes doubled. Conjuncts are also sometimes simplified to comply with the needs of the metre.01


Varieties Of Meters.

631. There are three classes of metres, termed Sama, Addhasama, and Visama. Strictly speaking these are three classes of Akkharacchandas (syllabic) metres. Besides these there are also Mattāchandas and Gaṇacchandas metres, which are treated together later under the rubric Jāti (639).02 When the syllables in all the pādas are exactly alike the metre is called Sama; when those in the first and third and those in the second and fourth pādas are alike it is Addhasama; and when all the pādas or verses are different, the metre is termed Visama.


1. The Sama Class.

632. In gāthas of this class, the syllables in each pāda may range from six up to twenty-two. The names of the seventeen kinds of metres That is, the 17 kinds listed by Vuttodaya. Normally 26 kinds of metres are listed in the prosodies, from 1 syllable up to 26; and then there are the Daṇḍaka class of metres, from 27 syllables upwards.03 are as follows:


6 syllables


7 syllables


8 syllables


9 syllables


10 syllables


11 syllables


12 syllables


13 syllables


14 syllables


15 syllables


16 syllables


17 syllables


18 syllables


19 syllables


20 syllables


21 syllables


22 syllables

633. These are again subdivided according to the kind of feet employed in each stanza; as the four pādas are similar, the scheme of only one pāda is given for each kind of metre:

1. Gāyatti, having pādas of six syllables. There is one variety: Again these statements about the number of metres in each class only refer to what is found in Vuttodaya; in Vttnaratnākara, for instance, there are three metres in the Gāyatrī section, and in my edition of that text ten more are found among the variant readings.04

Tanumajjhā, −−⏑¦⏑−−.

2. Uṇhi having pādas of seven syllables. There is one variety:

Kumāralalitā, ⏑−⏑¦⏑⏑−¦−


3. Anuṭṭhubhaṁ having pādas of eight syllables. There are five varieties.

(i) Citrapadā, −⏑⏑¦−⏑⏑¦−−.

(ii) Vijjummālā, −−−¦−−−¦−−.

(iii) Māṇavakaṁ, −⏑⏑¦−−⏑¦⏑−.

(iv) Sāmaṇikā, −⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑.

(v) Pāmaṇikā, ⏑−⏑¦−⏑−¦_⏑−.

4. Brahati having pādas of nine syllables. There are two varieties.

(i) Halamukhī, −⏑−¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑−.

(ii) Bhujagasusubhatā, Text: Bhujagasusu.05 ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦−−−.

5. Panti having pādas of ten syllables. There are seven varieties.

(i) Suddhavirājitaṁ, −−−¦⏑⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦−.

(ii) Paṇavo, −−−¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−−¦−.

(iii) Rummavati, −⏑⏑¦−−−¦⏑⏑−¦−.

(iv) Mattā, −−−¦−⏑⏑¦⏑⏑−¦−.

(v) Campakamālā, This description agrees with (iv) Rummavati above, as it does in Vuttodaya. According to the Sanskrit prosodies however, Campakamālā is distinguished from that metre by having a caesura after the 5th syllable.06 −⏑⏑¦−−−¦⏑⏑−¦−.

(vi) Manoramā, ⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦−.

(vii) Ubbhāsakaṁ, Text describes the last syllable as being long (), but Vuttodaya states to marā lca, (this metre has) tagaṇa, magaṇa, ragaṇa, and a short (light) syllable.07 −−⏑¦−−−¦−⏑−¦⏑.

6. Tuṭṭhubhaṁ having pādas of eleven syllables. There are eleven varieties.

(i) Upaṭṭhitā, This is sometimes listed amongst the Panti class of metres, having the scheme −−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−.08 −−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−−.

(ii) Indavajirā, −−⏑¦−−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−−.

(iii) Upindavajirā, Text: Upavajirā (cf. Sanskrit Upendravajrā).09 ⏑−⏑¦−−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−−.

Remark. When the quarter-verses of Indavajirā and Upavajirā are mixed together in a stanza in any order, the stanza is them called Upajāti.

(iv) Sumukhī, Text: Sumukkī.10 ⏑⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦⏑−.

(v) Dodhakaṁ, −⏑⏑¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑⏑¦−−.

(vi) Sālinī, −−−¦−−⏑¦−−⏑¦−−.

(vii) Vātummī, Text: Vātummissā.11 −−−¦−⏑⏑¦−−⏑¦−−.

Remark. There are pauses after the fourth and seventh (last) syllables.

(viii) Sirī, Text: Surasasirī.12 −⏑⏑¦−−⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦−−.

(ix) Rathoddhatā, −⏑−¦⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−¦⏑−.

(x) Svāgatā, −⏑−¦⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑⏑¦−−.

(xi) Bhaddikā, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−¦⏑−.

7. Jagatī Spelt Jagati in the text against its earlier spelling Jagatī. Same with Atijagatī below.13 having pādas of twelve syllables. There are fourteen varieties.

(i) Vaṁsaṭṭhā, ⏑−⏑¦−−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑−.

(ii) Indavaṁsā, −−⏑¦−−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑−.

(iii) Toṭaka, ⏑⏑−¦⏑⏑−¦⏑⏑−¦⏑⏑−.

(iv) Dutavilaṁbita, ⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−.

(v) Puṭa, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦−−−¦⏑−−.

Remark. There are pauses after the fourth and twelfth (last) syllables.

(vi) Kusumavicittā, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−−¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−−.

(vii) Bhujaṅgappayāta, ⏑−−¦⏑−−¦⏑−−¦⏑−−.

(viii) Piyaṁvadā, ⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑−.

(ix) Lalitā, −−⏑¦−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑−.

(x) Pamitakkarā, ⏑⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦⏑⏑−¦⏑⏑−.

(xi) Ujjalā, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−.

(xii) Vessadevī, −−−¦−−−¦⏑−−¦⏑−−.

Remark. There are pauses after the fifth and twelfth (last) syllables.

(xiii) Tāmarasaṁ, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦⏑−−.

(xiv) Kamalā, ⏑⏑−¦⏑−−¦⏑⏑−¦⏑−−.

8. Atijagatī having pādas of thirteen syllables. There are two varieties.

(i) Pahāsinī, −−−¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑−¦−.

Remark. There are pauses after the third and thirteenth (last) syllables.

(ii) Rucirā, ⏑−⏑¦−⏑⏑¦⏑⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦−.

Remark. There are pauses after the fourth and thirteenth (last) syllables.

9. Sakkarī having pādas of fourteen syllables. There are three varieties.

(i) Aparājitā, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−¦⏑⏑−¦⏑−.

Remark. There are pauses after the seventh and fourteenth (last) syllables.

(ii) Paharaṇakalikā, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−.

Remark. There are pauses after the seventh and fourteenth (last) syllables.

(iii) Vasantatilakā, −−⏑¦−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−−.


10. Atisakkarī fifteen syllables. There are four varieties.

(i) Sasikalā, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑−.

(ii) Maṇigunānikaro, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑−.

Remark. There are pauses after the eighth and fifteenth (last) syllables.

(iii) Mālinī, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦−−−¦⏑−−¦⏑−−.

Remark. There is a pause after the eighth syllable.

(iv) Pabhaddakaṁ, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑−.

11. Aṭṭhi having pādas of sixteen syllables. There is one variety.

(i) Vāninī, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑−¦−.

12. Atyaṭṭhi having pādas of seventeen syllables. There are three varieties.

(i) Sikhariṇī, ⏑−−¦−−−¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦⏑−.

Remark. There are pauses after the sixth and seventeenth (last) syllables.

(ii) Hariṇī, ⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑−¦−−−¦−⏑−¦⏑⏑−¦⏑−.

(iii) Mandakkantā, −−−¦−⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦−−⏑¦−−⏑¦−−.

Remark. There are pauses after the fourth, tenth and seventeenth (last) syllables.

13. Dhuti having pādas of eighteen syllables. There is one variety.

(i) Kusumitalatāvellitā, −−−¦−−⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−−¦⏑−−¦⏑−−.

14. Atidhuti having pādas of nineteen syllables. There are two varieties.

(i) Meghavipphujjitā, Accidently described as having 22 syllables in the text, through repetition of tagāna towards the end of the line.14 ⏑−−¦−−−¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑⏑−¦−−⏑¦−−⏑¦−.

Remark. There are pauses after the sixth and thirteenth, and (last) nineteenth syllables

(ii) Saddūlavikkīlitī, −−−¦⏑⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦⏑⏑−¦−−⏑¦−−⏑¦−.

Remark. There are pauses after the twelfth and nineteenth (last) syllables.

15. Kati having pādas of twenty syllables. There is one variety.

(i) Vutta, −⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑−¦⏑−⏑¦−⏑.

16. Pakati having pādas of twenty-one syllables. There is one variety.

(i) Saddharā, −−−¦−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏑−−¦⏑−−¦⏑−−.

17. Akati having pādas of twenty-two syllables. There is one variety.

(i) Bhaddaka, −⏑⏑¦−⏑−¦⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−¦⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−¦⏑⏑⏑¦−.


2. The Addhasama Class

634. In the addhasama class of metres, the first and the third, and the second and fourth pādas are similar. The following table shows eleven kinds of metres that come under this head:

Name of Metre

Odd quarter-verses 1st-3rd

Even quarter-verses 2nd-4th



















Viparitākhyānikā Text: Viparitapubba.15






Aparavutta Text has: Remark. The Aparavutta corresponds to the Vetāliya explained, referred to lower down (sic); but this is incorrect, Aparavatta is only one specific kind of Vetāliya, many other are possible.16






Yavāmatī Text: Yavādikāmatī.17




3. The Visama Class

635. The pādas in this division of verses are all dissimilar. Under this head comes the metre known as Vatta, the heroic measure of Pali literature, eight syllables being employed in each pāda, the first and last syllables therein being free, and this, a short or long syllable may be optionally used in those syllables. The syllables between the first and last, form two seat, having three syllables in each seat or foot. In the first seat in all the quarters, any foot may be employed except a Tribrach and an Anapaest, that is to say, three short syllables (⏑⏑⏑) or two short and one long (⏑⏑−) must not be used. In the second seat of the first and third quarters, any foot may be used, but in the second seat of the second and fourth quarters only ya (Bacchic) or ja (Amphibrach) (i.e., ⏑−− or ⏑−⏑) must be employed. It should be noted, however, that the Vatta proper has ja in the second seat of both the second and the fourth pādas.

Remark. The sign means that the syllable may be optionally be short or long.


636. (i) Vatta Proper.



1st seat

2nd seat


1st pāda



2nd pāda



3rd pāda



4th pāda


⏑−− Text describes the 2nd seat in the second and fourth pādas as being ⏑−⏑; but Vuttodaya states: yo 'ṇṇavā, yagaṇa (⏑−−) after four (syllables).18

637. Sometimes the Gāthā contains six pādas - the fifth following the rule for the first and third; the sixth that for the second and fourth.

638. Besides the Vatta Proper above shown, there are six Text: eight, owing to a mistake in interpretation regarding numbers (v) & (vi).19 kinds of Vatta metres:

(ii) Viparītapathyāvatta.

Pādas 1 & 3: ⏓¦⏓⏑⏓¦⏑−⏑¦⏓ Text describes the second seat as ⏑−⏓; but Vuttodaya: ojesu jena, jagaṇa (⏑−⏑) after four (syllables).20

Pādas 2 & 4: ⏓¦⏓⏑⏓¦⏑−−¦⏓.

(iii) Capalāvatta.

Pādas 1 & 3: ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏓.

Pādas 2 & 4: ⏓¦⏓⏑⏓¦⏑−−¦⏓.

(iv) Na-Vipulā.

Pādas 1 & 3: ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏓.

Pādas 2 & 4: ⏓¦⏓⏑⏓¦⏑−⏑¦⏓ Text describes the second seat as ⏑−−, which would make it the same as Capalāvatta above; Vuttodaya makes it clear that the na-, bha-, ra-, and ta-vipulās have two forms according to whether we follow Setava or Piṅgala, Setava has the same scheme for these variations in all four lines; Piṅgala has it in the first and third pādas only (the second and fourth being ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−⏑¦⏓).21


All pādas: ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦⏑⏑⏑¦⏓


(v) Vipulā of Setava.

(vi) Vipulā of Piṅgala. Both of these descriptions are omitted as they are mistaken in the original, where it states, quite erroneously that in the Vipulā of Setavā pādas 1 & 3 should be ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−⏑¦⏓; and pādas 2 & 4 ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−⏓¦⏓. The Vipulā of Piṅgala is described as having pādas 1 & 3 ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−−¦⏓; 2 & 4 as being ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦⏑−⏑¦⏓; with the remark that “this metre (vi) is also called Pathyāvatta”.22

(vii) Bha-Vipulā.

Pādas 1 & 3: ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦−⏑⏑¦⏓.

Pādas 2 & 4: ⏓¦⏓⏑⏓¦⏑−⏑¦⏓.


All pādas: ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦−⏑⏑¦⏓

(viii) Ra-Vipulā.

Pādas 1 & 3: ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦−⏑−¦⏓.

Pādas 2 & 4: ⏓¦⏓⏑⏓¦⏑−⏑¦⏓.


All pādas: ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦−⏑−¦⏓

(ix) Ta-Vipulā.

Pādas 1 & 3: ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦−−⏑¦⏓.

Pādas 2 & 4: ⏓¦⏓⏑⏓¦⏑−⏑¦⏓ Text describes this seat as ⏑−⏓; but Vuttodaya: To 'ṇṇavā, tagaṇa (−−⏑) after four (syllables).23


All pādas: ⏓¦⏓⏓⏓¦−−⏑¦⏓

639. Jāti Stanzas

640. Besides the metres noted above, there are some that are regulated by time (kāla). Such metres are termed Jāti. They are of three kinds:-

(a) Ariyā.

(b) Vetāliya.

and    (c) Mattāsamaka. The text omits to describe the Mattāsamaka metres, which consist of different varieties of metre with four gaṇas having four mattas to the gaṇa. It appears they do not exist in any extant Pāli texts.24

641. In the first of these, the Ariyā, the first two pādas of half a gāthā contain seven and a half feet; in the even, that is, in the second, fourth, and sixth feet, any of the following, namely, bha, ja, sa, , or four short syllables may be employed, but ja must not be used in the odd feet, that is, in the first, third, and fifth. The sixth foot may be la or four short syllables. The second-half stanza must fulfil the same conditions. It is necessary to observe that in the Jāti metre a foot consists of four syllabic instants, the time taken up in pronouncing a short syllable being taken as an instant of time; thus a long syllable being taken equal to two short ones, each foot used in the Ariyā is equal to four syllabic instants. The following is an illustration of an Ariyā stanza: It should be noted that this is simply an example, any other schemes are possible.25









8th foot

First half stanza








Second half stanza









642. The Vetāliya is so formed that it usually consists of fourteen syllabic instants in the odd quarters and sixteen in the even, while the Mattāsamaka consists of sixteen syllabic instants in each quarter. The metres of the Jāti class furnish many varieties, but it is not within the scope of this work to treat of them in detail. As, however, the Vetāliya is of rather frequent occurrence, we give below the scheme of it. Each pāda is divided into three seats; the first seat in the first and third pādas must have six syllabic instants; the first seat of the second and fourth pādas must contain eight syllabic instants; the second seat must be a cretic foot and the third a Iambic foot:

Number of syllabic instants

1st seat

2nd seat


3rd seat


1st pāda    

6 syllabic instants



2nd pāda    

8 syllabic instants



3rd pāda    

6 syllabic instants



4th pāda    

8 syllabic instants



Remarks. (a) The above is a perfect vetāliya. Text here reads: In the third seat, the following feet may be found instead of the iambus: ⏑⏑ pyrrhic −− spondee ⏑−− bacchic ⏑−⏑ amphibrac. However, the spondee and amphibrac are, in fact, never found in any Vetāliya metre, except by corruption; the 1st pyrrhic never occurs as the last syllable is always lengthened no matter what its natural weight is. The 3rd variety listed is a seperate metre known as Opacchandasaka.26 (b) the sign of the long syllable () must be counted as 2 since it is equal to two short syllables.