[INDOLOGY] Fwd: question regarding Sanskrit Gana

Olivelle, J P jpo at austin.utexas.edu
Fri Jul 7 13:04:02 UTC 2017


I received this query and do not have an answer. I always thought these were mnemonic devices to remember Sanskrit meters. Has anyone come across this kind of meanings attached to them? Thanks.


I have a Sanskrit-related question; any insights you could offer me about this would be much appreciated!

As you may remember, I'm researching Kandyan drumming in Sri Lanka, and how it has changed during the 20th century.
Many traditional drummers that I've spoken to have been convinced that the important bera pada (drumming patterns) have special astrological significance, but none have had any idea about how this worked.

I've since discovered that auspicious drumming pieces such Magul Bera start with gana (tri-syllabic groups) such as na and ya, and that Vina pada (drumming patterns intended to cause harm) start with gana such as ta and sa.
This makes sense, since Sinhala astrologers consider the gana ma, na, bha, and ya to good, and the gana ja, ra, sa, and ta to be bad.

Of course, these are the same gana that are defined for Sanskrit prosody by writers such as Pingala, but while Sinhala astrologers place a lot of significance on good/bad (suba/asuba) gana - for example when naming babies or writing seth kavi and vas kavi - I have so far found no evidence that people in India have done the same. To be fair, I haven't talked to any Indians about this, but so far I've been unable to find any written sources about the topic.

My question is: in Sanskrit prosody and/or any form of astrology in India, were/are gana (tri-syllabic groupings) categorized as good and bad? Or is this something unique to Sinhala astrology?

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