Lesson 43 – Vedic Sanskrit – Accents -1

A short YouTube version is available here. [Expand to the full article to be able to click on the link].

In the last lesson, Lesson 42, we started looking at Vedic Sanskrit.

We said that the term Vedic Sanskrit refers to the metrical language of the Vedic hymns and the prose of the Brāhmaṇas and the Brāhmaṇa-like portions of the various recensions of the Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda.

One of the key aspects in which Vedic Sanskrit differs from Classical Sanskrit is the use of accents.

The ancient Sanskrit accent is described as being dependent on a variation of pitch or tone. It is never described the the grammarians as a difference of stress, as it is in English.

The tones or pitches are called svara स्वर in Sanskrit.

There are three tones or svaras on vowels. The udātta उदात्त (meaning “raised”), the anudātta अनुदात्त (meaning “not raised”) and the svarita स्वरित (meaning “sounded”). The udātta is a high tone or pitch, the anudātta is a low tone and the svarita is like a circumflex accent. It is a combination of a high tone and low tone (the tone rises and then falls).

Normally, in a word, only one syllable is accented (there are a few exceptions to this rule, where in a word two syllables are accented). [When I say, that a syllable is “accented”, I mean that, that syllable has the udātta उदात्त or “raised” tone.]. In a syllable it is the vowel that has the accent.

There are two types of svaritas, the enclitic svarita and the independent svarita.

An udātta is normally always (there are some exceptions) followed by a svarita, called the enclitic svarita. The enclitic svarita is merely a shadow following an udātta. Also, an enclitic svarita, loses its character and becomes an anudātta, if the accent (udātta or independent svarita)of the following word follows immediately after it.

For example,

  • in téna तेन॑ and té ca ते च॑, the enclitic svarita is marked on the na and ca after the accented té.
  • However, in téna té तेन॒ ते and té ca svàr ते च॒ स्व॑र् the na and ca are marked as anudātta, because of the following udātta and independent svarita.

The independent svarita is secondary, being a combination of an udātta vowel and a following anudātta vowel (in sandhis). The independent svarita is takes the place of the main accent of a word, and it retains it character always.

An example:

Let us take the word ratnadhā́tama र॒त्न॒धात॑म; This word has the main accent, the udātta उदात्त, on the vowel ā́ of the syllable dhā́ धा.

  • The syllables “ra” and “tna” are marked with the anudātta,
  • the “dhā́” has the udātta,
  • “ta” is marked with the svarita, and
  • “ma” has the anudātta.

Marking of accents in Devanāgarī :

The accent is marked only in manuscripts of the ancient literature – the primary vedas or Saṃhitās, the Taittirīya and the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇas, the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka, parts of the Aitareya Āraṇyaka and the Suparṇādhyāya.

There are various methods of marking the accent in the Devanāgarī script. We will follow the most popular method – the one found in the manuscripts of the Rigveda, the Atharvaveda, the Vājasneyi Saṃhitā and that of the Taittirīya Saṃhitā, Brāhmaṇa and Āraṇyaka.

In this method, the main accent, the udātta is left unmarked. The anudātta just before an udātta or an independent svarita has a horizontal stroke under it. The svarita, independent or enclitic, has a short perpendicular stroke above it.

Let us take the word ratnadhā́tama र॒त्न॒धात॑म.

  • The धा with the udātta is left unmarked.
  • The त्न॒, with the anudātta just before the udātta is marked with a horizontal stroke under it.
  • And, the enclitic svarita just after the udātta, is marked with a perpendicular stroke above the syllable.

Other examples:

  • agním अ॒ग्निम् (anudātta on अ॒ and udātta on ग्नि) ;
  • juhóti जु॒होति॑;  (anudātta on जु॒, udātta on हो and enclitic svarita on ति॑);
  • tanvā̀ त॒न्वा॑ (anudātta on त॒ and independent svarita on न्वा॑);
  • kvà क्व॑ (independent svarita on क्व॑);
  • tvā त्वा॒ (anudātta on त्वा॒. no udātta).

Note that the enclitic svarita is marked after an udātta only if there is a syllable following the udātta syllable.

Note that if the word begins with an udātta, there cannot (obviously) be an anudātta before it. So any syllable left unmarked at the beginning of a word is considered to have the udātta.

For example:

  • índraḥ इन्द्रः॑ (udātta on इ; anudātta onन्द्रः॑);
  • té ते (udātta on ते);

Following the same logic, if a word begins with several continuous anudāttas before an udātta, they all have to be marked with the stroke below.

For example:

  • ratnadhā́tama र॒त्न॒धात॑म (anudāttas on र॒ and त्न॒, udātta on धा and enclitic svarita on त॑)

Again, all continuous anudāttas after a svarita, are left unmarked until the occurrence of the next udātta or independent svarita. The anudātta just before this udātta or independent svarita is marked with the stroke below.

For example:

  • ratnadhā́tama र॒त्न॒धात॑म (anudāttas on र॒ and त्न॒, udātta on धा and enclitic svarita on त॑; the following anudātta म is left unmarked);
  • sudŕ̥śīkasaṃdr̥k सु॒दृशी॑कसंदृक् (anudātta on सु॒, udātta on दृ, svarita on शी॑, all others are unmarked anudātta);
  • sudŕ̥śīkasaṃdr̥ggávām सु॒दृशी॑कसंदृ॒ग्गवा॑म् (anudātta on सु॒, udātta on दृ, svarita on शी॑, all others are unmarked anudātta until दृ॒ which is marked with anudātta so that the next syllable ग्ग is unmarked as the udātta, the वा॑ after that is marked with the enclitic svarita)

Note also that if an independent svarita is followed immediately by an udātta or another independent svarita, a very peculiar strategy is adopted. If the vowel of the independent svarita is short, a figure १ is put immediately after the independent svarita, and the mark for the svarita is given above it and a horizontal mark is given below it. If the vowel is long the figure ३ is used,

Examples:

  • apsvàntáḥ अ॒प्स्व१॒॑न्तः (from apsú + antáḥ अ॒प्सु + अ॒न्तः)
  • rāyòvániḥ  रा॒यो३॒॑वनिः॑  (from rāyó + avániḥ रा॒यो + अ॒वनिः॑)

Latin script

In the Latin script that we use, the udātta is shown by an acute accent over the accented vowel, and the independent svarita by a grave accent over the vowel.

Anudāttas and enclitic svaritas are not marked.

Pronunciation of the tones

We are not quite clear how exactly the ancients rendered the tones or accents. We can only guess. It is clear that the syllable with the udātta is rendered in a tone or pitch that is higher than the rest of the syllables in the word.

Here I have rendered ratnadhā́tama र॒त्न॒धात॑म in my (non-musical) way.

An example: Let us take the Taittirīya Saṃhitā 1.1.1

  • iṣé tvorjé tvā
  • vāyáva sthopāyáva stha
  • devó vaḥ savitā́ prā́rpayatu śréṣṭhatamāya kármaṇe |
  • ā́ pyāyadhvam aghniyā devabhāgám ū́rjasvatīḥ páyasvatīḥ prajā́vatīr anamīvā́ ayakṣamā́ḥ |
  • mā́ va stená īśata mā́gháśaṁsaḥ |
  • rudrásya hetíḥ pári vo vr̥ṇaktu
  • dhruvā́ asmín gópatau syāta bahvī́ḥ |
  • yájamānasya paśū́n pāhi ॥

 

  • इ॒षे त्वो॒र्जे त्वा॑
  • वा॒यव॑ स्थोपा॒यव॑ स्थ
  • दे॒वो वः॑ सवि॒ता प्रार्प॑यतु॒ श्रेष्ठ॑तमाय॒ कर्म॑णे |
  • आ प्या॑यध्वम् अघ्निया देवभा॒गम् ऊर्ज॑स्वतीः॒ पय॑स्वतीः प्र॒जाव॑तीर् अनमी॒वा अ॑यक्ष॒माः |
  • मा व॑ स्ते॒न ई॑शत॒ माघशं॑सः |
  • रु॒द्रस्य॑ हे॒तिः परि॑ वो वृणक्तु
  • ध्रु॒वा अ॒स्मिन् गोप॑तौ स्यात ब॒ह्वीः |
  • यज॑मानस्य प॒शून् पा॑हि ||

(Keith’s translation)

  • For food thee, for strength thee!
  • Ye are winds, ye are approachers.
  • Let the god Savitr impel you to the most excellent offering.
  • O invincible ones, swell with the share for the gods, Full of strength, of milk, rich in offspring, free from sickness, from disease.
  • Let no thief, no evil worker, have control over you.
  • Let Rudra’s dart avoid you.
  • Abide ye, numerous, with this lord of cattle.
  • Do thou protect the cattle of the sacrificer.

Individual words

  • iṣé
  • tvā
  • ūrjé
  • tvā
  • vāyávaḥ (note that in the text, in the sandhi, the “s” or the corresponding visarga is omitted. This is an optional approach seen in the vedas)
  • stha
  • upāyávaḥ (see note on vāyávaḥ)
  • stha
  • deváḥ
  • vaḥ
  • savitā́
  • prá
  • arpayatu
  • śréṣṭhatamāya
  • kármaṇe
  • ā́
  • pyāyadhvam
  • aghniyā
  • devabhāgám
  • ū́rjasvatīḥ
  • páyasvatīḥ
  • prajā́vatīḥ
  • anamīvā́
  • ayakṣamā́ḥ
  • mā́
  • va
  • stenáḥ
  • īśata
  • mā́
  • agháśaṁsaḥ
  • rudrásya
  • hetíḥ
  • pári
  • vaḥ
  • vr̥ṇaktu
  • dhruvā́
  • asmín
  • gópatau
  • syāta
  • bahvī́ḥ
  • yájamānasya
  • paśū́n
  • pāhi

I have attached here a tradition of chanting the above: both the Saṃhitā and the Pada-Pāṭha in two different traditions.

Tradition 1 (thanks to Dr. K.V. Arun of Chennai)

Samhita

Pada-Pāṭha

Tradition 2 (thanks to A. Narasimhan of Bangalore)

Samhita

Pada-Pāṭha

There are many other traditions of rendering the accented texts.

This is the end of lesson 43. In this lesson we started looking at Vedic Accents

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2 thoughts on “Lesson 43 – Vedic Sanskrit – Accents -1

  1. namaste,

    I would assume sama veda uses this method too? Or is there a bit more that should be considered?

    thank you,

    श्रीशिवाःपनमस्तु
    śrī śivāḥpanamastu

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