The two main figures of sound in Sanskrit poetry are anuprāsa and yamaka. Anuprāsa is normally translated as ‘alliteration’ but while it includes alliteration it is not limited to it. Anuprāsa is any repeated sound, most normally that formed by a consonant, within a verse or section of a verse. This could be a plethora of ‘t’-starting words, which would indeed be alliteration, but it could also refer to a string of ‘v’s found at the start, middle and end of various words.
The example below – the famous opening verse of Appayya Dīkṣita’s Kuvalayānanda in praise of Gaurī or Pārvatī – repeats the letter ‘r’ throughout, but even more conspicuous are the multiple ‘rī’ sounds (amarī…kabarī etc). These words are also linked by other aspects such as their grammatical formation and syllable count.
In translating this, we have tried to recreate something of the rhythm and patterns of the original as well as the repeated sounds.
Singing with bees
thronging the locks
decking the girls
bowing before her,
razing and wrecking and routing all evil –
thus may Gaurī’s lotus feet ever be.
First verse of Appayya Dīkṣita’s Kuvalayānanda