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Sanskrit Prosody:  Its Evolution
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Sanskrit Prosody: Its Evolution
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About the Book

In tracing the evolution of Sanskrit prosody from the post – Vedic age to the close of the 12th Century A.D. The author of the book makes an altogether new approach to the study of Sanskrit meters. Unlike the metricians of the traditional school who noted only superficial features of the metres, he studies here the rhythmic features of the Principal Sanskrit metres, their interrelation, and the principles of their structure. He points out the close parallelism, at times even identicalness, between some Sanskrit metres, and certain old Greek and Latin metres and comes to the conclusion that they all belong to the same family and were moulded in the same matrix. He indicates the processes operative in the emergence of newer meters in Sanskrit and shows that many of these processes were involved in the development of old Greek and lat in metres as well. The work is probably the first attempt towards a scientific and systematic study of Sanskrit metres. Competent scholar both in India and abroad have already received with appreciation and praise the author's discoveries and suggestions.

 

About the Author

Born in 1902 Professor Amulyadhan Mukherji graduated with a first class in English from Presidency College. Calcutta, and took a first class in his M. A. from Calcutta University. In 1930 he was awarded Premchand Roychand studentship and later the Mouat Medal for his pioneering scientific study of Bengali prosody. Professor Mukherji was awarded the Sarojini Basu Gold Medal for 1968 by the Calcutta University for his outstanding contributions to the study of Bengali language and literature. A Professor of English language and literature for more than thirty years, he was on the faculties of the Universities of Calcutta and Jadavpur and is a member of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta. He was selected a senior Research Fellow by the University Grants Commission for 1965-68. Author of more than a dozen research papers of high merit in English on Bengali and Sanskrit prosody and on various topics of English and Bengali literature, Professor Mukherji's important works in Bengali include Bangla Chhander Mulsutra, Kaviguru, Adhunik Sahitya Jijnasa and Rabindranather Manasi.

His major English works- 'Sanskrit prosody: Its Evolution', (1976, 2nd Edn 2000)' 'Studies in Rabindranath's Prosody and Bengali-Prose- Verse' (1999).

Introduction

In tracing the evolution of Sanskrit prosody from the post Vedic age to the close of the 12th century A.D. the author, professor Amulyadhan Mukherji (1902-1984) of this book, makes an altogether new approach to the study of Sanskrit metes. Unlike the metricians of the traditional school who noted only superficial features of the metres, he studies here the rhythmic features of the principal Sanskrit meters, their interrelation and the principles of their structure. He points out the close parallelism, at times even identicalness, between some Sanskrit metres and certain old Greek and Latin Metres, and comes to the conclusion that they all belong to the same family and were moulded in the same matrix. He indicates the processes operative in the emergence of newer metres in Sanskrit and shows that many of these processes were involved in the development of old Greek and lat in metres as well. The work is probably the first attempt towards a scientific and systematic stud of Sanskrit metrics. Competent scholars both in India and abroad have already received with appreciation and praise the author's discoveries and suggestions.

There has been a constant demand for this book in the academic circles. With the encouragement and enthusiasm of my former student, Dr. Subhankar Chakravarti, Vice Chancellor of the Rabindra bharati Bharati University it has now been possible to bring out the second edition University it has now been possible to bring out the second edition of this monumental work.

 

Preface

An attempt has been made in the following pages to trace the evolution of Sanskrit prosody from the post Vedic age to the close of the 12th Century A.D. The aim has been not merely to determine the order in which ht various prosodic devices, particularly metres, came into vogue, but also to examine the rhythmic features of the principal metres, their interrelation and the principles of their structure. The social and political conditions connected with the inception of various kinds of metres, the factors that account for their popularity in particular ages and areas and the obsolescence of some of them at a later period, have also been discussed in brief as occasion arose. Effort have also been made to explain the preferences of the greater poets for particular metres, to trace the interconnection between the rhythmic characteristics of a metre and the emotional realisation of the poet who designed it or used it extensively. Attempts have also been made to indicate the trends noticeable in the development of Sanskrit prosody and their connection with the distinctive qualities of the Indian mind and character.

In explicating the structure of Sanskrit metres I have found it helpful even necessary to employ terms used by prosodists of the Western school in metrical analysis. Neither the terms used by Indian metricians of the traditional school nor their approach to the study of metres appeared to me to be adequate or correct.

Sanskrit metres cannot be properly studied in isolation. Most of them are derived from Vedic metres which developed from Old Indo Iranian Metres. These Indo-Iranian metres must have been derived ultimately from an Indo-Iranian metres must have been derived ultimately from an Indo-European metrical tradition though we have no extant specimens illustrative of the tradition and have only to guess it from specimens of Vedic, ancient Greek, and other ancient languages that grew out of Indo-European. Some metres in Old Greek and Latin are so closely parallel to certain Vedic and Sanskrit metres that the conclusion is inevitablie that they all belong to the same family and were originally moulded in the same matrix.

Any student of the history of Sanskrit prosody is hampered by the paucity of data on which he has to base his theories. A considerable portion of Sanskrit verse has been either lost or destroyed, some works remain yet unpublished an opinions differ as to the reliability of dates and even of facts stated in works of history. He has therefore to rely at times on his own judgement and to choose the probable out of the possible.

I have immensely benefited by the study of the standard works of Thomas Arnold, Professor Suniti Kumar Chatterji, National Professor of India in Humanities, has been the principal source of incentive to my metrical studies and I can hardly overstate my obligations to him. he has been kind enough to write a foreword to this book, I am grateful to my friends Professor Subodh Chandra Sengupta, and to Professor Bhabatosh Chatterji for their counsel and help. Thanks are due to Principal Himansu Bhusan Sarkar and Sri Amalananda Ghosh (of Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla) for certain materials supplied by them. I am thankful also to Professor Birendranath Rakshit and Professor Asok Bhattacharya for the active interest they have taken in the publication of the book.

Some of the chapters of the book are based on certain papers of mine published in the Journal of Asiatic Society, Calcutta, between 1965 and 1969.

I apologise to the readers for the printing errors that have crept in.

 

Foreword

I have great pleasure in commending this very fine piece of research to all lovers of Sanskrit and Indo – Aryan poetry and Metrics interested in the question of the origin and development of Sanskrit prosody. Sanskrit is one of the greatest languages of civilisation in which is enshrined the expression of one of the most outstanding manifestations of the human mind and spirit. Sanskrit is a 'classical' language par excellence, and it has only a few peers in the entire history of civilisation, which can stand beside it and which also have obtained the reverent and affectionate attention and study from some of the finest intellects in the domain of the great cultures e.g. Greek, Latin Classical Arabic, Persian, Old Chinese, and Japanese.

The subject as an ancillary branch of linguistic and literary enquiry into the development of the Aryan speech in India has been treated in its descriptive side with great detail and full practical knowledge by the old grammarians and metrists of ancient and mediaeval India. The Ding an Sich or the subject as it is, has been fully described, analysed and classified by Indian scholars for over two millennia. Some foreign scholars for over two millennia. Some foreign scholars, British, German, American and French have also made their invaluable contributions to the study of Indo-Aryan metrics, particularly with reference to the earliest Vedic and Epic periods. But a complete and satisfactory account of the development of Indo-Aryan metrics during the last two thousand and five hundred years, still remains a desideratum, e.g. a full historical of the epic or the pre-classical as well as of classical Sanskrit and of the late or post classical Sanskrit versification in all its remifications.

Here the author of the present treatise, Prof. Amulyadhan Mukherji, has stepped to fill up the lacuna. Prof. Mukherji is well known among literary and cultured circles in Bengal for his pioneer work on the history and development of the not too simple prosodiac system of the Bengali language. His contribution in this line as from a native speaker of the standard spoken Bengali current in the Bhagirathi Valley – the veritable well of Bengali undefiled – has been most understanding and profound. It was a matter of great satisfaction of for interested scholars to find that Prof. Mukherji in spite of the serious handicap of ill health was not content to rest on his oars. But in intervals of respite from the pains of an alarming type of heart attack he took up the ante natal history of Bengali and other New Indo Aryan metric practice. All this can only be gleaned from specimens of verse as in Prakrta or Middle Indo-Aryan stages of the speech. Discriminating scholars both in India and abroad have already received with proper meed appreciation and praise Prof. Amulyadhan Mukherji's discoveries and suggestion as to the historical unfoldment of Classical Sanskrit versification. He has taken particular care to trace the lines along which the development of rhythm took place in Sanskrit verse together with the inner principles which had been operative. It is interesting to note that according to Prof. Mukherji's findings the same principles of rhythmic development operated in later classical Greek Metre as well as in Latin.

I wish sincerely that Prf. Mukherji were free from his physical and other handicaps to take up the study of Vedic and other Indo – Aryan metristics, specially in its relationship to the stanzaic metres of ancient Germanic (as in the Elder Edda), of ancient Celtic (as in old Irish and old Welsh), of ancient Italic, of ancient Baltic (as in the Dainas of Lithuanian and Latvian) as well as of ancient Slav (as in the fragments of Old Russian, Old Czech and other earlier remains of Slav poetry). This of course, has been touched by Europeanresearchers in Indo European linguistics and metrics. But a full comparative and historical study with Vedic verse as its base or background still remains to be done.

In the meanwhile we have to thank Prof. Amulyadhan Mukherji for this valuable offering of his at the shrine of Vak or Saraswti, the goddess of speech, as a tribute of through science. "Sudharma".

 


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Sanskrit Prosody: Its Evolution

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About the Book

In tracing the evolution of Sanskrit prosody from the post – Vedic age to the close of the 12th Century A.D. The author of the book makes an altogether new approach to the study of Sanskrit meters. Unlike the metricians of the traditional school who noted only superficial features of the metres, he studies here the rhythmic features of the Principal Sanskrit metres, their interrelation, and the principles of their structure. He points out the close parallelism, at times even identicalness, between some Sanskrit metres, and certain old Greek and Latin metres and comes to the conclusion that they all belong to the same family and were moulded in the same matrix. He indicates the processes operative in the emergence of newer meters in Sanskrit and shows that many of these processes were involved in the development of old Greek and lat in metres as well. The work is probably the first attempt towards a scientific and systematic study of Sanskrit metres. Competent scholar both in India and abroad have already received with appreciation and praise the author's discoveries and suggestions.

 

About the Author

Born in 1902 Professor Amulyadhan Mukherji graduated with a first class in English from Presidency College. Calcutta, and took a first class in his M. A. from Calcutta University. In 1930 he was awarded Premchand Roychand studentship and later the Mouat Medal for his pioneering scientific study of Bengali prosody. Professor Mukherji was awarded the Sarojini Basu Gold Medal for 1968 by the Calcutta University for his outstanding contributions to the study of Bengali language and literature. A Professor of English language and literature for more than thirty years, he was on the faculties of the Universities of Calcutta and Jadavpur and is a member of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta. He was selected a senior Research Fellow by the University Grants Commission for 1965-68. Author of more than a dozen research papers of high merit in English on Bengali and Sanskrit prosody and on various topics of English and Bengali literature, Professor Mukherji's important works in Bengali include Bangla Chhander Mulsutra, Kaviguru, Adhunik Sahitya Jijnasa and Rabindranather Manasi.

His major English works- 'Sanskrit prosody: Its Evolution', (1976, 2nd Edn 2000)' 'Studies in Rabindranath's Prosody and Bengali-Prose- Verse' (1999).

Introduction

In tracing the evolution of Sanskrit prosody from the post Vedic age to the close of the 12th century A.D. the author, professor Amulyadhan Mukherji (1902-1984) of this book, makes an altogether new approach to the study of Sanskrit metes. Unlike the metricians of the traditional school who noted only superficial features of the metres, he studies here the rhythmic features of the principal Sanskrit meters, their interrelation and the principles of their structure. He points out the close parallelism, at times even identicalness, between some Sanskrit metres and certain old Greek and Latin Metres, and comes to the conclusion that they all belong to the same family and were moulded in the same matrix. He indicates the processes operative in the emergence of newer metres in Sanskrit and shows that many of these processes were involved in the development of old Greek and lat in metres as well. The work is probably the first attempt towards a scientific and systematic stud of Sanskrit metrics. Competent scholars both in India and abroad have already received with appreciation and praise the author's discoveries and suggestions.

There has been a constant demand for this book in the academic circles. With the encouragement and enthusiasm of my former student, Dr. Subhankar Chakravarti, Vice Chancellor of the Rabindra bharati Bharati University it has now been possible to bring out the second edition University it has now been possible to bring out the second edition of this monumental work.

 

Preface

An attempt has been made in the following pages to trace the evolution of Sanskrit prosody from the post Vedic age to the close of the 12th Century A.D. The aim has been not merely to determine the order in which ht various prosodic devices, particularly metres, came into vogue, but also to examine the rhythmic features of the principal metres, their interrelation and the principles of their structure. The social and political conditions connected with the inception of various kinds of metres, the factors that account for their popularity in particular ages and areas and the obsolescence of some of them at a later period, have also been discussed in brief as occasion arose. Effort have also been made to explain the preferences of the greater poets for particular metres, to trace the interconnection between the rhythmic characteristics of a metre and the emotional realisation of the poet who designed it or used it extensively. Attempts have also been made to indicate the trends noticeable in the development of Sanskrit prosody and their connection with the distinctive qualities of the Indian mind and character.

In explicating the structure of Sanskrit metres I have found it helpful even necessary to employ terms used by prosodists of the Western school in metrical analysis. Neither the terms used by Indian metricians of the traditional school nor their approach to the study of metres appeared to me to be adequate or correct.

Sanskrit metres cannot be properly studied in isolation. Most of them are derived from Vedic metres which developed from Old Indo Iranian Metres. These Indo-Iranian metres must have been derived ultimately from an Indo-Iranian metres must have been derived ultimately from an Indo-European metrical tradition though we have no extant specimens illustrative of the tradition and have only to guess it from specimens of Vedic, ancient Greek, and other ancient languages that grew out of Indo-European. Some metres in Old Greek and Latin are so closely parallel to certain Vedic and Sanskrit metres that the conclusion is inevitablie that they all belong to the same family and were originally moulded in the same matrix.

Any student of the history of Sanskrit prosody is hampered by the paucity of data on which he has to base his theories. A considerable portion of Sanskrit verse has been either lost or destroyed, some works remain yet unpublished an opinions differ as to the reliability of dates and even of facts stated in works of history. He has therefore to rely at times on his own judgement and to choose the probable out of the possible.

I have immensely benefited by the study of the standard works of Thomas Arnold, Professor Suniti Kumar Chatterji, National Professor of India in Humanities, has been the principal source of incentive to my metrical studies and I can hardly overstate my obligations to him. he has been kind enough to write a foreword to this book, I am grateful to my friends Professor Subodh Chandra Sengupta, and to Professor Bhabatosh Chatterji for their counsel and help. Thanks are due to Principal Himansu Bhusan Sarkar and Sri Amalananda Ghosh (of Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla) for certain materials supplied by them. I am thankful also to Professor Birendranath Rakshit and Professor Asok Bhattacharya for the active interest they have taken in the publication of the book.

Some of the chapters of the book are based on certain papers of mine published in the Journal of Asiatic Society, Calcutta, between 1965 and 1969.

I apologise to the readers for the printing errors that have crept in.

 

Foreword

I have great pleasure in commending this very fine piece of research to all lovers of Sanskrit and Indo – Aryan poetry and Metrics interested in the question of the origin and development of Sanskrit prosody. Sanskrit is one of the greatest languages of civilisation in which is enshrined the expression of one of the most outstanding manifestations of the human mind and spirit. Sanskrit is a 'classical' language par excellence, and it has only a few peers in the entire history of civilisation, which can stand beside it and which also have obtained the reverent and affectionate attention and study from some of the finest intellects in the domain of the great cultures e.g. Greek, Latin Classical Arabic, Persian, Old Chinese, and Japanese.

The subject as an ancillary branch of linguistic and literary enquiry into the development of the Aryan speech in India has been treated in its descriptive side with great detail and full practical knowledge by the old grammarians and metrists of ancient and mediaeval India. The Ding an Sich or the subject as it is, has been fully described, analysed and classified by Indian scholars for over two millennia. Some foreign scholars for over two millennia. Some foreign scholars, British, German, American and French have also made their invaluable contributions to the study of Indo-Aryan metrics, particularly with reference to the earliest Vedic and Epic periods. But a complete and satisfactory account of the development of Indo-Aryan metrics during the last two thousand and five hundred years, still remains a desideratum, e.g. a full historical of the epic or the pre-classical as well as of classical Sanskrit and of the late or post classical Sanskrit versification in all its remifications.

Here the author of the present treatise, Prof. Amulyadhan Mukherji, has stepped to fill up the lacuna. Prof. Mukherji is well known among literary and cultured circles in Bengal for his pioneer work on the history and development of the not too simple prosodiac system of the Bengali language. His contribution in this line as from a native speaker of the standard spoken Bengali current in the Bhagirathi Valley – the veritable well of Bengali undefiled – has been most understanding and profound. It was a matter of great satisfaction of for interested scholars to find that Prof. Mukherji in spite of the serious handicap of ill health was not content to rest on his oars. But in intervals of respite from the pains of an alarming type of heart attack he took up the ante natal history of Bengali and other New Indo Aryan metric practice. All this can only be gleaned from specimens of verse as in Prakrta or Middle Indo-Aryan stages of the speech. Discriminating scholars both in India and abroad have already received with proper meed appreciation and praise Prof. Amulyadhan Mukherji's discoveries and suggestion as to the historical unfoldment of Classical Sanskrit versification. He has taken particular care to trace the lines along which the development of rhythm took place in Sanskrit verse together with the inner principles which had been operative. It is interesting to note that according to Prof. Mukherji's findings the same principles of rhythmic development operated in later classical Greek Metre as well as in Latin.

I wish sincerely that Prf. Mukherji were free from his physical and other handicaps to take up the study of Vedic and other Indo – Aryan metristics, specially in its relationship to the stanzaic metres of ancient Germanic (as in the Elder Edda), of ancient Celtic (as in old Irish and old Welsh), of ancient Italic, of ancient Baltic (as in the Dainas of Lithuanian and Latvian) as well as of ancient Slav (as in the fragments of Old Russian, Old Czech and other earlier remains of Slav poetry). This of course, has been touched by Europeanresearchers in Indo European linguistics and metrics. But a full comparative and historical study with Vedic verse as its base or background still remains to be done.

In the meanwhile we have to thank Prof. Amulyadhan Mukherji for this valuable offering of his at the shrine of Vak or Saraswti, the goddess of speech, as a tribute of through science. "Sudharma".

 


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