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Of Śüdras, Sütas, and Ślokas: Why is the Mahāabhārata Preeminently in the Anustubh Metre?

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One striking difference between Vedic and post-Vedic Hindu literature lies in the fact that while the anustubh metre is sparsely represented in the Veda as a whole, it is the standard metre of post-Vedic religious literature of Hinduism available in Sanskrit. Thus the Mahābhārata, a major document of post-Vedic Hinduism, is preeminently in the anustubh metre. How is this striking metrical fact to be explained? This paper discusses the various explanations that may be offered to account for it. In part I it discusses the explanations that could be offered on the basis of modern critical scholarship. In parts II–IX it develops the suggestion that the answer may lie in the association of the Mahābhārata with the śūdras and of the śūdras with the anustubh metre.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, 3520 University Street, Montreal H3A 2A7, Canada


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