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Bhujanga means a snake, or one that has shoulders as locomotive limb.

There are many Bhujanga stotrams, on Shiva, Vishnu etc, on almost all deities. What is the definition of a Bhujanga stotram, or in other words what style of compositions qualifies a work as Bhujanga stotram?

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Bhujanga prayātam is a meter which has twelve syllables in each quarter (pāda). Only first, fourth, seventh and tenth are light. Rest of the syllables are heavy syllables.

In the Natya Shastra Chapter 16 which was written by Bharata muni, the definition is given (Quoting from wisdomlib.org).

Aprameyā

  1. [The metre with] the feet of twelve syllables of which the first, the fourth, the seventh and tenth are light [and the rest heavy], is called Aprameyā.

What is a light syllable and a heavy syllable?

  • A light syllable means a syllable which takes a moment to spell. It is called a Laghu meaning short or light (denoted by I).

  • A heavy syllable means a syllable which takes two moments (or longer than usual) to spell. It is called a Guru means heavy (denoted by U).

There are rules on how to identify a guru and a laghu. A syllable becomes guru if

  1. it has a long sound E.g : In the word रामायणम् , रा and मा are gurus.

  2. it ends with a closing sound (called pollu in Telugu) E.g : In the word रामायणम्, णम् is counted as a single word and is identified as a guru.

  3. the succeeding syllable is a samyuktakshara or a dvitvakshara. E.g : In the word निर्विकल्प, both नि and क are gurus as they are succeeded by samyuktaksharas. In the word विशुद्ध, शु becomes guru.

  4. There are other rules too.

Identifying guru and laghu is called as Gaṇa vibhajana. Gaṇa as we is group. In this context, it is a group of two or more letters. E.g III is called a na gaṇa. IUU is a ya gaṇa.

This Bhujanga prayāta which is also known as Aprameyā is a type of vritta. There are several types of vrittas. From Wikipedia :

The Vritta stanzas are further recognized in three forms, with Samavritta where the four quarters are similar in its embedded mathematical pattern, Ardhasamavritta where alternate verses keep similar syllabic structure, and Vishamavritta where all four quarters are different. A regular Vritta is defined as that where the total number of syllables in each verse is less than or equal to 26 syllables, while irregulars contain more. When the metre is based on morae (matra), a short syllable is counted as one mora, and a long syllable is counted as two morae.

In other words, after one laghu, there are two gurus in each quarter (feet or pāda in Sanskrit). So, it has four 'ya' ganas. For example if we look at the first pāda of Vishnu Bhujangam composed by Adi Shankara (Quoting from Sanskritdocuments.org):

चिदंशं विभुं निर्मलं निर्विकल्पं

After identifying guru and laghus,

IUU IU UIU UIUU

In the above line, all are gurus except the first, fourth, seventh, tenth syllables. There are two gurus after a laghu. One I followed by U. So, there is a rythm of up and down while we read a poem or stotra written in this meter.

Why is this named as Bhujaṅga prayāta?

This meter is named as Bhujanga by ancient Indian mathematician Pingala (Source) because its composition resembles the serpentine movement of a snake. Prayātam means advancement or movement.

https://youtu.be/zEto1-ZTbd4


Many stotras are written in this meter. One of them which doesn't have a suffix bhujanga is Shivashtakam which starts with the lines

Prabhuṃ prāṇanāthaṃ vibhuṃ viśvanāthaṃ jagannāthanāthaṃ sadānandabhājam

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Bhujanga Stotrams are based on BhujungaprayAta meters and which is defined and composed by Adishankaracharya. Let's take a look on how to do the composition:

The BhujangaprayAta meter has four "ya" gaNas in a pAda or quarter of each verse. A "ya" gaNas is a short syllable followed by two long syllables in that order. The bhujangaprayAta is a samavR^itta, which means all quarters are similar in structure.

sa-daa-baa-la-ruu-paa.-api-vi-ghnaa-dri-han-trii

You can see that the pattern is:

s-l-l-s-l-l-s-l-l-s-l-l

where s = short syllable and l= long syllable

Each s-l-l pattern is a "ya" gaNa.

Any syllable that is at the end of a quarter is counted as short or long in accordance with the requirment of the meter, regardless of whether the syllable itself is short or long.

So any Bhujanga Stotarm has to qualify above mentioned way.

Reference: https://www.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/2000-June/001121.html

The term BhujangaprayatA came from the Natyashastra chapter 16

[The metre which has] the feet of nine syllables of which the last three are heavy [and the rest light] is called Madhukarī. This meter is called BhujangaprayatA

  • The answer is almost complete, I would really appreciate you to edit the answer and add some information as to why its called bujhanga prayata. – Chakrapani N Rao Nov 6 '18 at 10:31
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    @ChakrapaniNRao, in your question you didn't ask "why" the name Bhujanga is used. You just asked the definition. – Tiger Shroff Nov 6 '18 at 15:37
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    @ChakrapaniNRao, You said "the heart of the question is not answered" but in the question you never ask why, you started asking why in the comments. – Tiger Shroff Nov 6 '18 at 16:51
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    @TigerShroff I'm very careful with words, my comment was not "the heart of the question is not answered" but it was "heart of the question is not answered yet completey". – Chakrapani N Rao Nov 6 '18 at 18:01
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    You didn't add the definition of Bhujanga Prayatam, you added for Madhukari or Bhujanga sushubhrita which is a different meter all along. – Sarvabhouma Nov 6 '18 at 20:16

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