Grammar and Prosody Home Page
An Outline of the Metres
in the Pāḷi Canon
A concise but thorough explanation of the metres that are found in the Pāli canon, along with examples and glossary.
(version 3.6, September 2013)
An earlier version of this work was published by Indologica Taurinensia,
the Official Organ of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies,
Volume XXXVI, Torino (Italy), 2000.
Html Table of Contents (outline)
Html Table of Contents (detailed)
1.5 Conjuncts not making position
1.6 Sarabhatti (svarabhakti), "broken", or partial vowels
1.8 Metrical licence
1.9 Vowel changes
1.10 Consonant changes
1.12 Verses that do not scan correctly
1.13 The quotation marker and the recitor’s remarks
1.14 Syllabic equivalence
2.1 The types of metre
2.2 The flexible syllabic metres, vaṇṇacchandas
2.3 Siloka (Śloka)
2.5 Siloka periods
2.6 Tuṭṭhubha (Triṣṭubh), & Jagatī
2.8 Upajāti, Vaṁsaṭṭhā (Vaṁśasthā), and Rucirā
2.9 The measure metres, mattāchandas
2.10 Vetālīya and Opacchandasaka
2.11 Mattāchandas Periods
2.12 Rathoddhatā and Pupphitaggā (Puṣpitāgrā)
2.13 Āpātalikā (a.k.a. Vegavatī)
2.15 The bar metres (gaṇacchandas)
2.16 Old Gīti
2.17 Gīti, Ariyā (Āryā), and their derivatives
2.18 Jagaṇa (amphibrachys)
2.19 Hypermetres, Veḍha & Gubbinī
2.20 The fixed syllabic metres: vaṇṇacchandas
2.24 Lakkhaṇasuttanta DN 30
The idea for this book arose out of a talk I had with the English bhikkhu Ven. Paññānanda, in which we discussed the struggle we had both been through at the beginning of our studies owing to the lack of a simple, comprehensive guide to Pāḷi metrical composition.
Two monks who have very good knowledge of Pāḷi and especially the verse texts, Ven. Paññānanda and Ven. Medhaṅkara, have very much helped me in preparing this work by reading it through and making a number of corrections and suggestions for improvement which have helped to clarify the presentation - without their generosity this book would be so much the poorer.
An earlier version of this work was published by Indologica Taurinensia, Official Organ of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies, Volume XXXVI. Torino (Italy), 2000.
Preface to the 2nd Edition (December, 2003)
In the light of the research that has gone into the work on the Medieval prosody Vuttodaya, I have made a number of significant changes in the 2nd edition of this work, mainly concerning the terminology that has been employed, which I will enumerate here:
1) I now think that the metre I previously identified as Vatta (following Warder, PM), is perhaps better identified as Siloka, which is the term used by the Buddha himself in Mahāsamayasuttanta, D. 20.
2) Following Warder in the first edition I also referred to the variations to the Siloka as Vipulā 1, Vipulā 2, etc., but I now prefer to identify them as Navipulā, Bhavipulā, etc. This is the normal way they are referred to in Indian works on the subject, and anyone interested in prosody will have to learn this terminology anyway, so it seems redundant to use a secondary set of terms.
3) In the terminology used in the 1st edition I referred to both vowels and syllables as being short & long. This risks confusion, of course, and also goes against the useful distinction made in the prosodies, where vowels are identified as short (rassa) & long (dīgha); but syllables are distinguished as light (lahu) & heavy (garu). In this edition I have therefore introduced this distinction. This also entails speaking about the weight of the syllables, rather than their length.
4) A rule in regard to the weight of the syllables was accidently omitted in the 1st edition, this is that the syllables at the end of a line should always be marked as heavy, no matter what their natural weight is. I have added this rule in here and employed it in the descriptions of the metres, and the examples.
5) In the 1st edition (again following Warder, PM), I identified the syllabic metres as akkharacchandas; I now prefer to use the term vaṇṇacchandas, which is more commonly found in the prosodies.
6) The metre class, following Warder, I named as aḍḍhasamavutta, has here been renamed as addhasamavutta, which is the form it normally has in the medieval prosodies.
7) The metre I named as Vegavatī in the 1st edition, I now think should be called Āpātalikā, which is the name found in the prosodies; Vegavatī is a fixed metre derived from Āpātalikā.
8) A correction has been made to the description of the gaṇa system in the gaṇacchandas metres in the Index & Glossary.
Preface to the 3rd Edition (May, 2004)
In this edition I have introduced a further refinement to the description of the metres, which is to mark the final syllable as × (rather than as ⏓ as in previous editions); this sign indicates that although the syllable may be of light or heavy weight naturally, it is nevertheless taken as heavy, and is normally pronounced as such (a light syllable being slightly drawn out at the end of a line). I have also made one or two small corrections, additions, and clarifications to the work.
last updated: March 2007