Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
We so often hear people [Tamils] speak of "Chanda-t-Tamizh". Men of
devotion say that the praises of the lord must be sung in "Chanda-t-
Thamizh". "Chanda (m)" is derived from "Chandas".
"Chandas", as I have already said, means the Vedas. Bhagavan says in the
Gita that the Vedas are leaves of the pipal tree called Creation--
Chandamsi yasya parnani. Instead of "Veda", the Lord uses the word
"Chandas". However, the "Chandas" I am going to speak about does not
mean the Vedas but prosody and represents the foot of the Vedapurusa.
The Rgveda and the Samaveda are entirely poetical in form. The
Yajurveda consists of both prose and poetry. It is because poetry forms
their major part that the Vedas are called Chandas.
The tailor takes your measurement to make your suit. He will not
otherwise be able to cut the cloth properly. Similarly, poetry gives
our thoughts and feelings. Your shirt has to be so many inches wide, so
many inches long, isn't so? Similarly, poetry also has its measurement
expressed in "feet" and number of syllables. The Sastra that deals with
such measurement is "Chandas" and the text on which it is chiefly based
is Chanda sutra by Pingala. People who have received initiation into a
mantra touch their head with their hand, mentioning the name of the
sage associated with the mantra, touch their nose mentioning the
chandas and touch their heart mentioning the deity invoked.
All Vedic mantras in verse are Chandas. Non-Vedic poetry is in the form
"slokas". Prose is called "gadya" and poetry "padya". In Tamil, poetry
called "seyyul", in Telugu "padyam". The term chandas also refer to
poetic metre (prosody). There is a metre called "Anustubh" in which are
composed the Ramayana and the Puranas.
There are rules governing the number of feet in each stanza, and the
number of syllables in each foot. The metre "Arya" is based on matras,
syllables short and long. Take the word "Rama": the long syllable "Ra"
two matras while the short one "ma" is one matra. There are stanzas in
which each foot is determined by the number of syllables, no matter
whether they are short or long. Other metres are based on matras.
Men of devotion:
The word the Paramaguru actually uses for "men of devotion" is the
Tamil adiyars, meaning those who support the feet of the Lord with their
head or those who are at the feet of the Lord.