Shloka (Sanskrit: श्लोक śloka; meaning "song", from the
root śru, "hear") is a category of verse line developed from the
Anustubh poetic meter. It is the basis for Indian epic verse,
and may be considered the Indian verse form par excellence, occurring,
as it does, far more frequently than any other meter in classical
Sanskrit poetry. The
Mahabharata and Ramayana, for example, are
written almost exclusively in shlokas. The traditional view is that
this form of verse was involuntarily composed by
Valmiki in grief, the
author of the Ramayana, on seeing a hunter shoot down one of two birds
The shloka is treated as a couplet. Each hemistich (half-verse) of 16
syllables, composed of two Pādas of eight syllables, can take either
a pathyā ("normal") form or one of several vipulā ("extended")
forms. The form of the second foot of the first Pāda (II) limits the
possible patterns the first foot (I) may assume, as in the scheme
below. Alternatively, a shloka is four quarter-verses, each with eight
The Pathyā and Vipulā half-verses are arranged in the table above in
order of frequency of occurrence. Out of 2579 half-verses taken from
Kalidasa, Magha, Bharavi, and Bilhana, each of the four admissible
forms of shloka in the above order claims the following share: 2289,
116, 89, 85.
The metrical constraints on a hemistich in terms of its two
constituent padas are as follows:
The 1st and 8th syllables of both pādas are anceps.
The 2nd and 3rd syllables cannot both be light (laghu, "⏑") in
either pāda; i.e. one or both of the 2nd and 3rd syllables must be
heavy (guru, "–") in both pādas.
Syllables 2-4 of the second pāda cannot be a ra-gaṇa (the pattern
"– ⏑ –")
Syllables 5-7 of the second pāda must be a ja-gaṇa ("⏑ – ⏑")
This enforces an iambic cadence.
Normal form (pathyā)
Syllables 5-7 of the first pāda must be a ya-gaṇa ("⏑ – –")
Variant forms (vipulā): The 4th syllable of the first pāda is heavy.
In addition, one of the following is permitted:
na-vipulā: Syllables 5-7 are a na-gaṇa ("⏑ ⏑ ⏑")
bha-vipulā: Syllables 2-7 are ra-bha gaṇas ("– ⏑ – – ⏑
⏑") or ma-bha gaṇas with a caesura in between ("– – – , –
ma-vipulā: Syllables 2-7 are ra-ma gaṇas with a caesura after the
5th ("– ⏑ – – , – –")
ra-vipulā: Syllables 5-7 are a ra-gaṇa following a caesura (", –
Noteworthy is the avoidance of an iambic cadence in the first pāda.
By comparison, Syllables 5-7 of any pāda in the old Vedic
anuṣṭubh is typically a ja-gaṇa ("⏑ – ⏑"), or a dijambus.
An example of an anuṣṭubh stanza which fails the classical
requirements of a shloka is from the Shatapatha Brahmana[citation
āsandīvati dhānyādaṃ rukmiṇaṃ haritasrajam
abadhnādaśvaṃ sārańgaṃ devebhyo janamejayaḥ
"In Āsandîvat, Janamejaya bound for the gods a black-spotted,
horse, adorned with a golden ornament and with yellow garlands."
A shloka, states Monier-Williams, can be "any verse or stanza; a
The shloka and Anushtubh meter has been the most popular verse style
in classical and post-classical
Sanskrit works. It is octosyllabic,
next harmonic to Gayatri meter that is sacred to the Hindus. A shloka
has a rhythm, offers flexibility and creative space, but has embedded
rules of composition. The Anushtubh is present in Vedic texts, but
its presence is minor, and Trishtubh and Gayatri meters dominate in
the Rigveda for example. A dominating presence of shlokas in a text
is a marker that the text is likely post-Vedic.
The shloka structure is embedded in the Bhagavad Gita, the
Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Puranas, Smritis and scientific
treatises of Hinduism such as
Sushruta Samhita and Charaka
Samhita. The Mahabharata, for example, features many verse
meters in its chapters, but an overwhelming proportion of the stanzas,
95% are shlokas of the anustubh type, and most of the rest are
^ a b Macdonell, Arthur A., A
Sanskrit Grammar for Students, Appendix
II, p. 232 (Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 1927).
^ Hopkins 1901, pp. 191-192.
^ a b c Monier Monier-Williams (1923). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary.
Oxford University Press. pp. 1029–1030.
^ Macdonell, Arthur A., A
Sanskrit Grammar for Students, Appendix II,
p. 233 (Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 1927)
^ Steiner, Appendix 4; translated: Macdonald, Appendix
^ Eggeling's translation
^ a b Horace Hayman Wilson 1841, pp. 418-422.
^ Kireet Joshi (1991). The Veda and Indian Culture: An Introductory
Essay. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 101–102.
^ a b Friedrich Max Müller (1860). A History of Ancient Sanskrit
Literature. Williams and Norgate. pp. 67–70.
^ Arnold 1905, p. 11, 50 with note ii(a).
^ Vishwakarma, Richa; Goswami, PradipKumar (2013). "A review through
Charaka Uttara-Tantra". AYU. 34 (1): 17.
^ Hopkins 1901, p. 192.
Arnold, Edward Vernon (1905). Vedic Metre in its historical
development. Cambridge University Press (Reprint 2009).
Brown, Charles Philip (1869).
Sanskrit prosody and numerical symbols
explained. London: Trübner & Co.
Colebrooke, H.T. (1873). "On
Sanskrit and Prakrit Poetry".
Miscellaneous Essays. 2. London: Trübner and Co.
Coulson, Michael (1976). Teach Yourself Sanskrit. Teach Yourself
Books. Hodder and Stoughton.
Hahn, Michael (1982). Ratnākaraśānti's Chandoratnākara. Kathmandu:
Nepal Research Centre.
Friedrich Max Müller;
Arthur Anthony Macdonell
Arthur Anthony Macdonell (1886). A Sanskrit
grammar for beginners (2 ed.). Longmans, Green. p. 178. PDF
Hopkins, E.W. (1901). "Epic versification". The Great Epic of India.
New York: C. Scribner's Sons.
Patwardhan, M. (1937). Chandoracana. Bombay: Karnataka Publishing
Rocher, Ludo (1986), The Puranas, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag,
Annette Wilke; Oliver Moebus (2011). Sound and Communication: An
Aesthetic Cultural History of
Sanskrit Hinduism. Walter de Gruyter.
Horace Hayman Wilson (1841). An introduction to the grammar of the
Sanskrit language. Madden.
Shloka, Shuroka (Japanese) Dictionary of Buddhism
 To read Akshara slokams in Malayalam
 Link to Malay