Pali Metre vs. Vedic Metre

In a metre analysis of the Vedas I read that mantras supposed to be recited by brahmins had 8 syllables, whereas ones supposed to be recited by kshatriyas had 11.

I haven’t studied Pali metres yet. I know there is Warder’s ‘Pali Metre’ and Ananjadoti’s ‘Pali Prosody’.
Does anyone know if they applied this possible categorization to Pali texts? Or good reasons why it shouldn’t be applicable?

E.g. Snp 4.1, Snp 4.7, Snp 4.10, Snp 4.14, Snp 4.15, Snp 4.16 have 8 syllables whereas the rest of Snp 4 has pretty much a 11 syllable pattern.


I’ve never heard of anything like this. I asked Anandajoti, and he said the same thing. Do you have the source? And how did it come to this conclusion?

Interesting, I really don’t know the status of this assumption, if it’s speculative or established in vedic studies. The source is

Laurie Patton (ed.), Authority, Anxiety, and Canon : Essays in Vedic Interpretation, 1994

And therein from the Article, where some examples are listed, e.g.

Brian K. Smith, The Veda and the Authority of Class. Reduplicating Structures of Veda and Varna in Ancient Indian Texts

In one rite that entails taking the sacrificial fire forward from one fireplace to another (see AitB 1.28), a gayatri verse (a triplet consisting of eight syllables in each verse) is recited if the sacrificer is a Brahmin, for “the Brahmin is connected with the gayatri. The gayatri is fiery luster (tejas) and the splendor of the brahman (brahmavarcasas), and with those he makes him prosper.”

If the sacrificer is a Ksatriya, a different verse in the tristubh meter (a quartet of verses each containing eleven syllables) is used, for “the Ksatriya is connected with the tristubh. The tristubh is force (ojas), power (indriya), and virility (virya); truly thus with force, power, and virility he makes him prosper.”

Alternatively, in the case of a Vaisya sacrificer the verse is composed in the jagati meter (a quartet with each verse comprised of twelve syllables), for “the Vaisya is connected with the jagati and animals are connected with the jagati. Truly thus with animals he makes him prosper.”


The same article references

Linkages between certain meters and the social classes are regularly forged in Vedic texts, most notably in those places where the ritual mantras are modified according to the class of the sacrificer.
Referencing: Samiran Chandra Chakrabarti, The paribhasas in the srautasutras, 1980.

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Thanks so much for these, it seems there must be something to it. Ven Anandajoti pointed out that this thread on Quora denies such caste distinctions, which of course suggests that someone must have been making them.

However, he notes also that the distinction probably doesn’t apply to Buddhist texts, as the Buddha called the Gayatri the best of metres, but that is according to this theory the Brahmin verse par excellence.

I more or less stepped ignorantly into this field, because I really don’t know much about metres and their application. But my reasoning was that the bhikkhu’s or bhanaka’s social background would not have been completely eradicated with the ordination. That, if they composed dhamma-poems, they would have maybe instinctively chosen ‘their’ metre.

Would a former kshatriya have ‘crossed the line’ and started to compose in gayatri? maybe, but somehow I feel they might have kept theirs - assuming of course it was part of the varna identity.

And since poetry is difficult to edit, I thought we could have a tool to see if the respective bhanaka/composer was a brahmin or kshatriya. Which again might have influenced nuances of the dhamma-content.

Because of the language conversion into pali I assume some syllables sometimes went lost. So in some lines we have 10 syllables for example. But the difference between 8 and 11 is so big that we could still distinguish the two (whereas 11 and 12 would be more difficult).

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