The historical development of Hindi metrical rhythm

5:30–7:00 pm
UChicago Center in Delhi


Hindi, one of the major New Indo-Aryan Languages, has a tradition of verse literature for at least five centuries. The science of meter goes back to the late Vedic period, and Hindi metrics, which started in the 16th century, follows the framework and terminology of Sanskrit metrics. While the meter is defined mainly in terms of the syllable in Sanskrit metrics, new meter defined by the mora became prevalent during the Prakrit-Apabhramsa period. While any metrical form can be applied to Hindi whether it is derived from Sanskrit, Prakrit or Apabhramsa, mora-based metrical forms are much more common in Hindi. One of the possible reasons is that the rhythmic and phonotactic restriction of Hindi are more compatible with the moraic meter. Kings and Mughal emperors patronized poets to compile books of metre especially for Hindi poetry. The metrical rhythm of Hindi is not the same as that of Prakrit-Apabhramsa, but early authors of Hindi metrics ignore that fact. As a result, some of the metrical forms they define are taken over from Prakrit metrics even though those metrical forms actually do not align well with the word boundaries of Hindi. The science of Hindi metre has not been studied well, and we still need to edit manuscripts of early Hindi metre.

This paper addresses the following aspects of the metrical rhythm of Hindi. Prof. Nagasaki will first discuss how the linguistic rhythm of Hindi changed with time, just as the metrical rhythm of Hindi diverged from those of Prakrit and Apabhrams. Then she will take up the extensive change the loss of the weak a [ə] in pre-modern Hindi brought about in the metrical and linguistic rhythms. Finally, she will point out that the traditional metrical scansion became no longer applicable to modern Hindi poems.

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