Understanding Telugu Prosody: sulakshaNa saaramu – (1)

maatrayana nokka laghuvagu
maatralu reMDaina guruvu ma~ri yennabaDun;
dhaatrini na~ruvadi naalugu
maatralugaa gaMdamunaku maatralu velasen.

మాత్రయన నొక్క లఘువగు
మాత్రలు రెండైన గురువు మఱి యెన్నఁబడున్;
ధాత్రిని నఱువది నాలుగు
మాత్రలుగా గందమునకు మాత్రలు వెలసెన్.

One ‘maatra’ equals one light letter – ‘laghuvu’
Two ‘maatra’ s combined in one weighted letter considered – ‘guruvu’ ;
On this earth a ‘kanda’ poem has formed with
The combination of sixty-four of such ‘maatra’ s and established itself.

In Telugu language, the book titled ‘sulakshaNa saaramu’ written by liMgamaguMTa timmakavi is one of the best known and the most popular of all books that dealt with the intricacies of Telugu Prosody. Persons who are interested to know all things involved on the subject of Telugu Prosody and learn it would, more often than not, consider this book as the first option among the books to be consulted for easy understanding of the things involved on the topic.

The writer of this book, liMgamaguMTa timmakavi is believed to have lived around the years 1550 AD, i.e., middle of 16th century AD. From the information available it is believed that he was born in a family of niyogi Brahmin, followers of kaatyaayana suutras who belonged to kaaSyapa goetra. His father was lakshmayya and mother timmaaMba.

Though it is by now clear that this book ‘sulakshaNa saaramu’ was authored by liMgamaguMTa timmakavi, for reasons not clearly known to this day, it is popularly believed a book authored by vellaMki taataMbhaTTu.

Now to come to the content of the above poem:

Metrical compositions in Telugu poems are of two kinds – one based on ‘maatra’ s and the other based on ‘gaNamu’ s.

‘maatra’ has been defined as ‘the time taken to make a snap or a rap with the fingers’. Going by this definition and the time unit, a letter that can be said or pronounced within the duration of time of a ‘snap’ is called ‘laguvu’ –  a light letter. For eg., the letters or consonants – a, ka, ke, ku, cha, Ta – which are pronounced within the time duration of a ‘snap’ or ‘maatra’ are ‘laghuvu’ s. From the above examples it can be noticed that a laghuvu consists of only one vowel. Going by this measurement, a letter that can be said or pronounced within the time duration of two ‘maatra’ s is called ‘guruvu’ ­– a weighted letter. For eg. The letters or consonants – aa, kaa, kea, kuu, chaa, Taa, kka, kko, kke, chcha – for pronouncing of which two ‘maatra’ s time is required are ‘guruvu’ s. From the above examples it can be noticed that a guruvu is formed with the combination of two vowels or double consonant + one vowel.

One of the most primitive of metered poems in Telugu language based on letter-units formed of ‘maatra’ s is ‘kandamu’. It is formed with letters or consonants that are read with the time frame of 64 ‘maatra’ s. The above poem, which is in kanda metered composition, explains these basics in a way that once the poem is by-hearted these basics can be easily memorized.

Detailed information about the beginnings and history of ‘kanda’ poem in Telugu language can be read here , here and here in this blog.

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