Sankara's Bhaja Govindam

Christophe Vielle christophe.vielle at UCLOUVAIN.BE
Wed Feb 27 14:43:53 UTC 2008

About the diversity of recensions, see 
Chinmayananda (?)' s introduction, pp. 4-5:

Taking  the opening stanza as a refrain or chorus 
to be chanted for emphasis at the end of the 
following verses, tradition has it that the 
immediately following twelve stanzas were given 
out by the Aacharya himself. They together go 
under the name Dvaada/samañjarikaa Stotram [it is 
the second part which bears the same title in the 
Kodungallur edition, versus thus the first 12 
stanzas here]. Very contagious must have been the 
Teacher's inspired mood and the exploding poem, 
that each of his followers, at that time in his 
company, contributed a stanza of his own, and 
they together stand under the title Caturda/sa 
mañjarikaa Stotram. After listening to all the 
verses, /Sa;nkara blesses all true seekers of all 
times in the last four stanzas. [which makes the 
31 stanzas of the edition] (...)
In some editions of this poem Moha Mudgara, we 
have less number of stanzas; in some, the 
sequence of stanzas is different; in some, the 
second half of one stanza is read with the first 
half of another stanza
(...) though it is classified as a devotional 
song (stotram), the chorus alone can be truly 
designated as a prayer verse.

>It's interesting to note that the meter of the 
>Bhaja Govindam, maatraasamaka, is identical to 
>the earliest Tamil meter, akaval, which is 
>attested at the beginning of the common era and 
>perhaps before.
The verb akavu means to sing or dance, and an 
akavanmakaL (akaval woman) was a female bard who 
told the future.  One can suppose that the meter 
was used by the PaaNan or bard caste (paN is the 
old Tamil word for raaga) when they were 
performing, at which time they were often 
possessed.  Like maatraasamaka, akaval is 
comprised of lines of 16 syllabic instants 
divided into groups of 4 each.  Akaval is an 
extremely flexible and eloquent meter.  Because 
in Tamil some of the long or shorts are made by 
position, it does not have the sing-song rhythmic 
quality of the Sanskrit equivalent. The Tamil 
meter is adorned by many rhythmic and other 
enhancements that do not exist in Sanskrit.

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