Definition – What does Chhandas mean?
Chhandas is a Sanskrit word that means “pleasing,” “delightful,” “alluring” and “charming”; it refers to the poetic meter in Hindu scriptures, specifically the Vedas. Chhandas is one of the six auxiliary disciplines known as the Vedangas, which support the study of the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures.
The Vedas laid the foundation for both yoga and Hinduism. In chhandas, the types of meter used in various Vedic hymns is studied, including analysis of the number of syllables per verse and any patterns within the verses.
On explains Chhandas
The study of chhandas played a role in the growth of classical Indian music as well as Sanskrit poetry. The metrical unit is known as a pada in Sanskrit. Each verse, hymn or mantra is divided by padas, which may be eight, 11 or 12 syllables. Each type is classified on this basis. For example, a gayatri has three padas of eight syllables with 24 syllables in each stanza.
The Vedangas, in general, provide insight into not only the meters and structure of the Vedas, but also the meaning and language of the ancient text. They also provide understanding of other post-Vedic texts and aspects of Hindu and yogic philosophy.
In addition to chhandas, the Vedangas are:
- Shiksha – the study of phonology, phonetics and pronunciation. This focuses on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and the way words are combined and expressed in a Vedic recitation.
- Vyarkarana – the analysis of grammar and linguistics in order to establish the precise way in which words and sentences were constructed to express ideas.
- Nirukta – the study of etymology. It is concerned with proper interpretation of the Sanskrit words, given their context in the ancient texts.
- Kalpa – the focus is on ritual instructions, including for rites of passage. It also explores the concepts of individual duty and proper conduct.
- Jyotisha – the study of timekeeping. It deals with the astrological and astronomical aspects of selecting the most dates and times to perform Vedic rituals and rites.