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Mantra Recitation - Part - 6
Date: Tue Sep 15 1998 - 06:15:32 PDT

Mantra Recitation - Part - 6
Anbil Ramaswamy
A slight inflection or deflection in pronunciation would alter the meaning  so
thoroughly with disastrous consequences (eg) as you know the story of
Kumbakarna who desired immortality NItyatva, but asked for sleep Nidratva and
he got what he asked for. 

Similarly, in the Atharva veda, there is a stotra called "SRILAKSHMI NARAYANA
HRIDAYAM" akin to Adityahridayam. One Sloka in that reads "yasya smarana
matrena THUSHTAA syath vishnu vallabha" meaning one who becomes "pleased" on
being remembered. If instead of THUSHTAA, it is pronounced as ` DUSHTAA' by
mistake, it would mean `one who becomes wicked on being remembered' and this
would run counter to what is intended.

Again, the word `Agni' (fire) used in Sacrificial rites has another word `
Vahni '   also meaning fire. But, it cannot be substituted for Agni and we are
told that the efficacy of the yagna will be very much affected detrimentally
when the wrong word is used instead of the correct word prescribed in the

This accounts for the preservation of the Vedic mantras in their pristine form
and glory to this day.

Apart from grammar, the accent, intonation, articulation and pronunciation
play a vital role in preserving the heritage. They are variously defined as -
Ucha stayi (high pitch) neecha stayi (low pitch) madhyama stayi (middle pitch)
deergha (elongated) hrasva (shortened), gana (repetition back and forth)
udatta (high key), anudatta (low key) swara (tone) etc. so that even the
letter, let alone the words of the mantras and other sacred literature could
not be altered or tampered with at will. It  would be sacreligious to do so.
This also accounts for how the recitation tradition has come down over
millions of generations unaltered, unsullied and unaffected by what they call
`emandations' and `interpolations' which we find even in later works like
those of Shakespeare and even Kalidasa - which have several versions or
readings in several contexts.