BRAJ IN BRIEF

An introduction to literary Braj Bhāṣā
RUPERT SNELL
For readers who know Modern Standard Hindi or ‘MSH’, the grammar of Braj Bhasha
presents no great problems, and the great poetic wealth of this language lies close at
hand. Sometimes Braj and MSH coincide completely: in one Braj poem, for example, the
16th-century poet Sūrdās has Krishna say endearingly " H¯ ¬ज लोग, while a century
later, Banārasīdās has a cunning sannyasi advertise his wares with the enticing words
एक म¯ z H¯ पास. Elsewhere, it is true, wide differences between Braj and MSH do emerge,
but these are less often in syntax (the relationship between words) than in morphology
(the form of the words themselves). The purpose of this introduction to Braj grammar –
which varies from poet to poet – is to help readers to build on their existing knowledge of
MSH to achieve a confident understanding of original Braj texts.
Look for a moment at this (rather contrived) sentence in MSH prose:
Hरा िम¯ गोपाल इस पड़ोस की गिलयì H होली Hलता था ।
And now compare it with this possible rendering in Braj prose in a style that reflects the
language to be encountered in this introduction:
Hरौ मीत गपाल या परोस की गिलयन माlह होली Hलत हतौ ।
There are ten differences in the eleven words, leaving only the possessive की identical in
both versions:
!रौ has the Braj masculine singular ending in -au, a word-ending which happens to be
very rare in MSH and hence stands out as a characteristic of the Braj masculine
singular paradigm. It is of course the equivalent of MSH का.
मीत is the vernacular derivative (or ‘tadbhava’, defined below) of Sanskritic िम¯; MSH
nearly always prefers the latter ‘tatsama’ form, while Braj is happy with either.
ग(पाल (for गोपाल) shows a vowel ‘lightening’ in an unstressed syllable; that is to say,
spelling conventions may follow pronunciation rather than etymology. Braj poets,
working in tightly defined metrical frameworks, are glad to have such choices.
या – this Braj oblique pronoun looks very different from its MSH equivalent इस.
परोस − a ‘simplification’ of the retroflex /ṛ/ (MSH पड़ोस) is commonplace in Braj.
गिलयन shows how the Braj oblique plural is written with a nasal consonant (-न,
sometimes -lन or -न ) rather than the nazalised vowel typical of MSH as in गिलयì.
मा1ह − this Braj postposition is one of many equivalents to the MSH H (itself also
commonly used in Braj), all deriving from the Sanskrit locative म·".
होरी – a common sound-change between ल and र in a final syllable is seen in होरी < होली.
3लत – this participle is equivalent to MSH Hलता.
हतौ – an auxiliary verb, parallel to MSH था. It again shows the -au ending characteristic
of the masculine singular in Braj.
Despite these differences, the overall syntax of the sentence remains unchanged. That
being said, it is also true that the conventions of verse construction and poetic diction can
seem puzzling at first: poetic word order often differs from that of prose or speech, and
many helpful ‘signpost’ words such as conjunctions and auxiliary verbs are creatively
omitted in the cause of word economy, or to yield the ambiguity on which poetry thrives.
It is therefore important that our first proper encounter with Braj should be with real
poetry rather than fabricated prose.
With this in mind we will take a stroll through the language as found in the poetry of
Vnd, a court poet who tutored Aurangzeb’s grandson Azim-us-Shan in the art of
composition three centuries ago, in 1704. In the company of our Mughal class-fellow we
will gain an overview of how the language works, and will also encounter some of the
tropes, techniques and ideas that distinguish this poetry from other kinds of language
use. The couplets quoted here are from a text entitled नीlत सतसई ‘Seven Hundred Verses
on Polity’; my source is Janārdan Rāv Celer (ed.), Vnd granthāvalī, Agra 1971.
A TOUR OF BRAJ GRAMMAR WITH THE POET VR̥ND
Let’s begin our tour by asking our guide how easy will it be to learn the essentials of Braj,
and to enjoy its poetry. Will we have to work hard? Vnd’s reply –
¬म ही त सब िमलत z, lबन ¬म िमल न काlह ।
सीधी अगरी घी ज¯यौ +यl ही lनकर नाlह ।।१ ।।
By effort alone, everything comes; without effort it comes to no one:
With straight fingers, congealed ghee will not be extracted at all.
Vnd is quite right of course: achieving anything worthwhile does take some effort!
But read his couplet a couple of times and you will quickly pull at least some of its poetic
ghee from the pot.
BRAJ IN BRIEF
(click icon to hear this couplet)
To feel the rhythm of the poem, bear two things in mind. Firstly, every syllable should
be fully pronounced (including the short vowels at the ends of words: srama hi taĩ saba
milata hai…). Secondly, a line in this dohā metre (defined below) has a brief rhythmic
pause soon after the halfway mark: in this poem it comes after z in the first line and
after ज¯यौ in the second; more about this anon. But now, here is the meaning of the poem
in MSH:
"म U ही सब कछ िमलता z, "म + lबना lकसी को [कछ] नहÏ िमलता;
सीधी उगली U जमा _आ घी lकसी भी तरह नहÏ lनकलता ।
The major differences between Braj and MSH encountered here are explained below:
4म This word for ‘labour, effort’ reflects Sanskrit "म. Although Sanskritic loanwords
are common in Braj, their form is often simplified – you could say ‘sweetened’ or
‘domesticated’ – by local vernacular pronunciation.
त5 The functions of MSH U are carried in Braj by two distinct words, त and सl; we will
see their different functions later. Don’t be surprised to see spelling variations such
as त / ¬ and सl / सì, as Braj orthography is not standardised; nasalization also comes
and goes according to scribal whim, and such variations usually have no
grammatical significance.
िमलत = MSH िमलता (an imperfective participle). The short final syllable -त covers both
singular and plural (MSH िमलता / िमल¬); the feminine equivalent would normally be
िमलlत, again with a short final vowel.
िमल6 This third-person verb, ending –ai or –e regardless of number, has two functions: it
is a present tense (often equivalent in sense to िमलत), and it can also be a
subjunctive (Hindi िम¯). So it is called ‘subjunctive-present’.
का8ह = MSH lकU, though the sense here may be closer to lकसी को.
अ:ग(री = MSH अगली, उगली. As we have seen, a sound-change between ल and र is quite
common in the last syllable of Braj words; another example follows in the
penultimate word of this couplet.
ज<यौ = MSH जमा, ‘congealed, set’. There are two things to notice here. Firstly, as we have
already seen, the masculine singular ending in Braj is –au rather than –ā. Then, by
contrasting ज¯यौ with MSH जमा we find that the Braj participle has picked up a य
before the masculine ending. This is because the Braj verb stem is not जम as in
MSH, but जिम, ending with a short –i; the stem jami- followed by the ending -au
yields ‘jamiau’, spelt ज¯यौ. Similarly, Braj क}ौ, स¯यौ, ¯¯यौ, lदयौ, आयौ, गयौ are
equivalent to MSH कहा, सना, ¯खा, lदया, आया, गया. And the joker in the pack: Braj भयौ
is equivalent to MSH _आ. (Both भयौ and z derive from Sanskrit भवlत, and are
ultimately cognate with the English verb ‘be’.)
BRAJ IN BRIEF
= = MSH भी. The phrase +यl j means ‘in any way at all’, MSH lकसी भी तरह.
8नकर6 Put together what we noticed just now about the ल / र sound-change and the –ai
verb ending, and you’ll see that this is equivalent to MSH lनक¯.
ना1ह Easily recognisable as MSH नहÏ; in Braj, either syllable in the negative particle can
be either long or short, and either syllable can be nasalized or unnasalized –
another gift to poets whose verses have to fit strict metrical formulae! In dohā 14
below we see yet another spelling – नाlहन.
THE DOHĀ FORM
The dohā metre used by Vnd in the Nīti satsaī is the most popular couplet metre in pre-
modern Hindi. Conveniently for us, these particular dohās are independent poems: each
couplet can be regarded as a self-contained unit of meaning. Notice how a dohā couplet is
punctuated: the first line ends in a single daṇḍa, and the second with double daṇḍas, or
a pair of double daṇḍas bracketing a stanza number. There is an AA rhyme.
The dohā has a simple but rather precise metrical pattern, measured by mātrās –
‘beats’, comparable to the beats used in music. A short vowel (अ इ उ or ऋ) has one
mātrā, while a long vowel (आ ई ऊ ए ऐ ओ औ) has two: theoretically, it takes twice as
long to pronounce as a short vowel. A short vowel before a conjunct consonant (e.g. the
first vowel in अ¯त or व¯द) counts as a long syllable: feel the difference in length, or
weight, between the opening syllables in the words बचा and ब*चा respectively, and you
will see why. Western annotation marks short syllables as
˘
, long as
¯
. Thus बचा would
be scanned
˘

¯
, while ब*चा would be scanned
¯

¯
. In Indian prosody, ‘short’ syllables
are called ‘light’ ( लघ ), while ‘long’ ones are called ‘heavy’ ( ग¯ ).
A dohā line consists of rhythmic ‘feet’ with the mātrā composition 6+4+3, 6+4+1. The
comma represents a more substantial rhythmic break or pause, often marked by a comma
in modern editions: this pause is called ‘caesura’ in English < Latin, and यlत in Hindi <
Sanskrit. Now let us look at the first quarter-verse of our first dohā:
6
/
4
/
3
˘ ˘ ¯ ¯
/
˘ ˘ ˘ ˘
/
˘ ¯
¬ म ही त स ब िम ल त z
Notice two things about the rhythmic feet. (a) With certain restrictions too technical
to bother us now, they can be made up of any combination of long and short syllables that
yields the requisite number of mātrās: thus a 6-mātrā foot could consist of three long
syllables, or six short, or any combination of the two in any sequence. (b) The feet do not
necessarily coincide with individual words or groups of words: thus the 4-mātrā foot
BRAJ IN BRIEF
above consists of सब िमल- (
˘ ˘ ˘ ˘
), with the -त that completes the word िमलत falling into
the next foot, -त z (
˘

¯
).
If all this metrical detail wearies you, ignore it and move on. I will at some point add
recordings of the couplets included here.
In gnomic genres of the kind found in Vnd’s Nīti Satsai, the first line postulates an
abstract thought, and the second confirms it with a concrete illustration: thus in dohā 1,
the first line talks in abstract terms about the necessity of ‘effort’, while the second gets
its fingers sticky with a specific image. Reciters of such poems often repeat the first line
before proceeding to the second. Knowing that much of the relish in such couplets comes
from the matching of concrete image to abstract concept, they voice the repeated first
line in a rising tone, implying ‘Are you with me? Got that?’ before delivering the second
line, capping the rhyme of the first and rounding out the idea.
With Vnd’s continuing help, we will now work methodically through a sequence of
grammar points. My commentary will concentrate on the grammatical point under
review and won’t explain the whole poem; don’t worry if you don’t understand every
detail of each couplet. The translations given here are as close as possible, forfeiting
poetic subtlety for the sake of clarity in the literal meaning.
___________________
GENERAL PRESENT
We start with present-tense verbs. Whereas the MSH present tense uses participles like
¯खता, Braj has ¯खत, with a very different rhythmic balance, the /a/ vowel after kh being
fully sounded: dekhata. This participle may be followed by the auxiliary z, as in MSH; but
often it isn’t, because space is at a premium in poetry, and short is beautiful! Remember
that the past-tense auxiliary हतौ is equivalent to MSH था (Braj आयौ हथौ = MSH आया था).
Vnd shows us a present-tense auxiliary z below, in the second line:
धन अ¯ जोबन कौ गरब कबj कlर" नाlह ।
¯खत ही िमट जात z, ¯यì बादर की छाlह ।। २ ।।
Never be proud of wealth and youthfulness –
it disappears in a trice, like a cloud’s shadow.
The second line begins ¯खत ही िमट जात z (MSH ¯ख¬ ही िमट जाता z) ‘dissolves as you
watch’, i.e. ‘disappears before your very eyes’. The word अ¯ is MSH और; कबj is MSH कभी;
and remember that कौ is MSH का, reconfirming the masculine singular ending in -au. In
बादर we see the ल / र sound-change again (MSH having बादल). The Braj and MSH word ¯यì
‘like’ appears very frequently in the second line of a dohā, where it introduces the terms
of the illustrative simile.
BRAJ IN BRIEF
Now Vnd gives us a new couplet guiding us towards feminine participles.
घटlत बढ़lत सपlत समlत गlत अरहट की जोय ।
रीती घlटका भरlत z भरी स रीती होय ।। ३ ।।
Wealth and wit [both] fall and rise – note the motion of the Persian wheel:
the empty vessel fills; filled, it becomes empty [again].
Feminine participles may end in a short –i vowel (बोलlत, ¯खlत, आवlत etc.), but the
scribes are not always consistent: the -i ending is so short in pronunciation as to be
virtually inaudible, and is often dropped from the orthography (allowing बोलlत to be
reduced to बोलत); the result, of course, is indistinguishable from the masculine.
In this couplet, the feminine participles घटlत बढ़lत (‘fall, rise’) are playfully set
alongside three feminine nouns – not verbs! – that also have this same –ti ending: सपlत
‘wealth’, समlत ‘intelligence, good attitude, wit’, गlत ‘state, condition’. Such playful usages
are typical of Braj poetic construction; while not necessarily ‘meaning’ anything in a
literal or translatable sense, they bring an organic cohesion to a phrase, suggesting
parallels and connectivities between ideas.
In the couplet above, Vnd illustrates the concept of fluctuating fortunes with the
graphic image of the camel-powered Persian wheel (अरहट), an irrigation device with a
continuous chain of connected buckets (घlटका, here resonating nicely with घटlत) which are
filled and emptied as they turn in perpetual sequence. The hypnotically repeated chant of
all those –ti endings imitates the endlessly clunking motion of the Persian wheel: life
goes round and round, buckets are filled and emptied, fortune comes and goes.
Braj has a wide range of words for ‘to see’ or ‘to look’. One of them has the stem जोइ-
which is here used as an imperative (a ‘command’) in the spelling जोय.
SUBJUNCTIVE-PRESENT
We saw an example of the ‘subjunctive present’ in िमल earlier. Think of it as a subjunctive
verb (like MSH िम¯, बो¯ and िमल , बोल etc.), but with the extra capacity of being used as a
present tense. The third-person uses -ai and -e spellings rather indiscriminately.
Remember that nazalization is also a little erratic, and is not quite the consistent marker
of plurality that it is in MSH, which as you know distinguishes singular subjunctive बो¯
from plural बो¯.
In the subjunctive-present, verb stems such as आइ- ‘come’, जाइ- ‘go’, पाइ- ‘find, attain’
etc. often have the shortened third-person form आय, जाय, पाय (instead of आ", जा", पा").
Three examples of the subjunctive-present appear in the second line of the next
couplet: मार ‘kills’, ¯याब ‘gives life’ and उपज ‘is produced’:
BRAJ IN BRIEF
जदlप सहोदर होय तोउ Þकlत और की और ।
lबस मार ¯याव सधा उपज एकlह ठौर ।। ४ ।।
Though they be kindred, [people’s] natures are various:
poison kills, nectar revives, [though] they’re born in the same place.
जदlप is MSH य¬lप ‘although’; सहोदर is a Sanskrit word (सह + उदर in sandhi) meaning ‘born
of the same womb: sibling, kindred’; तउ is MSH तो भी. The couplet refers to poison and
nectar deriving from the selfsame ocean, whose churning produced poison and nectar
(among other things) in a narrative from the Purāṇas. In writing this couplet about
personality traits, Vnd may have been indicating some individuals at the Mughal court
that gave him patronage: many of his couplets suggest that they may have been inspired
by some particular event or personality, and it’s easy to imagine the verses being recited
to great acclaim in a courtly setting, reflecting its rivalries, jealousies and intrigues.
In this couplet, Vnd uses three kinds of vocabulary that feature widely in all varieties
of Hindi, and we’ll pause here to look at these categories.
1. ‘tatsama’ words: Sanskrit loanwords which are literally ‘that-same’, i.e. ‘the same
(sama) as that (tat)’ – i.e ones that appear in their original unchanged Sanskrit
forms. The examples here are (a) सहोदर ‘sibling’; (b) Þकlत ‘nature’; and (c) सधा
‘nectar’.
2. ‘semi-tatsama’ or ardha-tatsama words: Sanskrit loanwords that have been
slightly modified in their vernacular dress – in effect they are still Sanskrit words,
but their pronunciation reflects a vernacular touch. Thus lवष ‘poison’ has become
lबस, य¬lप ‘although’ has become जदlप.
3. ‘tadbhava’ words: words which are ‘that-become’, i.e. ‘derived (bhava) from that
(tad)’, i.e. from Sanskrit origins, but which have been shaped and eroded by the
passage of time, undergoing various stages of transition and transformation.
Certain predictable patterns of sound change determine these developments, which
can be traced through Prakrit into the medieval and modern languages. Thus ठौर
‘place’ comes from Sanskrit ¯थावर — even if isn’t immediately obvious from the
vernacular spelling! The word ठौर is common in Braj, less so in MSH (which has lost
many fine and expressive words from its earlier periods, while gaining new ones
through loans from various languages, including Sanskrit, Persian & Arabic,
Portuguese, and English). Another example is अरहट in our earlier couplet: it comes
from Sanskrit अरघ_, itself related to घlटका, a tatsama word used in that same
couplet. Vnd may not have been aware of the connection, but the science of
philology confirms it. Notice how the aspiration in घ has survived as ह in अरहट,
whereas the consonantal ग quality has been eroded away. Another example of the
BRAJ IN BRIEF
same process is in the verb कह- ‘to say’, which derives from the Sanskrit root कथ
(also seen in tatsama कथा ‘recitation, story’).
Coming back to the verbs, you may wonder what the difference is between the two
present tenses we’ve seen: the करत type and the कर type. The answer is that they’re often
interchangeable, with little functional difference between them, though as we’ve seen, the
latter often suggest a subjunctive sense (like its MSH cousin, क¯). Keep an eye out for both
forms and try to get a sense of their modern MSH equivalents in each example.
SOUND-CHANGE OF ल TO र
We have already seen several examples of a sound-change ल to र, and later we will come
to further examples such as the nicely alliterative कारी रात for ‘dark night’. Note that this
sound-change is mostly restricted to the end of a word. Can you spot another example in
our next couplet below?
जो समझ जा बात कl सो lतlह कz lवचार ।
रोग न जान जोlतसी ब¬ Vहन कौ चार ।। ५ ।।
[Only] he who understands a certain matter should voice opinions about it;
an astrologer understands not disease, [nor] a doctor the planets’ movement.
The sound-change lurks confusingly in चार, meaning not ‘four’ but चाल ‘motion,
movement’; its use is encouraged here by the rhyme requirement. The word for ‘planet’ is
Vह, and Vहन कौ चार means Vहì का चाल ‘the motion of the planets’. In this couplet, Vnd
says that if you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep quiet. The beautiful
construction of this couplet deserves close reading. Vnd stresses the opposition between
two radically kinds of knowledge – medical and astrological – by setting the relevant
phrases back-to-back: रोग न जान जोlतसी has object before subject, ब¬ Vहन कौ चार has subject
before object. The two different specialists, जोlतसी and ब¬, are thus made to be
neighbours in the word-order of the line. This back-to-back effect is called ‘chiasmus’, and
to get a similar effect in English translation we would have to recast the line like this:
disease is not understood by ASTROLOGER : DOCTOR [understands not] the planets’ movement
Notice finally how the single verb phrase न जान does duty for both the astrologer and
the doctor – a sharing effect called ‘zeugma’. Through literary devices of this kind the
poet is able to pack a great deal of meaning and inference into a very small space, and
this art lies at the very heart of poetic composition.
BRAJ IN BRIEF
MASCULINE SINGULAR ENDINGS IN -AU
We’ve seen several examples of the masculine –au ending that equates to MSH –ā (e.g.
Braj कौ = MSH का, Braj गयौ = MSH गया), and no further explanation is needed. In the next
couplet Vnd shows us -au endings in आपनौ (MSH अपना), and in the nouns उ"रौ
‘brightness’ and अधरौ (or अधरौ) ‘darkness’ (MSH उ"ला and अधरा respectively) :
सब ¯ख प आपनौ दोष न ¯ख कोइ ।
कर उ"रौ दीप प त¯ अधरौ होइ ।। ६ ।।
A person sees all, but sees not his own fault;
The lamp gives light, but below there’s darkness.
In the very opposite of a zeugma, the poet here deliberately repeats the word ¯ख (¯ख ...न
¯ख ) to stress the contrast between seeing and not-seeing.
भाषा VERSUS भाखा
There is also a phonetics-and-script issue in the couplet above. Although most MSH-
speakers pronounce ष as very similar or identical to श (making भाषा rhyme with आशा), in
Braj ष tends to be pronounced ख, and in fact spellings such as भाखा were the norm in ‘old’
Hindi. Many Braj scribes used ष for both ष and ख, yielding spellings such as रा¯यौ (= रा¯यौ,
MSH रखा) and द¯यौ (= ¯¯यौ, MSH ¯खा), and not using ख at all. Thus in the couplet above, the
phrase दोष न ¯ख may have been read as दोख न ¯ख and may have been written as दोष न
¯ष , the repeated consonant stressing the irony of the failure to ‘find a fault’ in oneself.
OBLIQUE PLURALS
In an earlier couplet we saw an oblique plural ending in the example Vहन (MSH Vहì).
Other examples from elsewhere are: लोगन (MSH लोगì), lदनन (MSH lदनì) and भ+तन (MSH
भ+तì). Can you spot another in this next couplet?
यì Uवा राजान की दीनी कlठन बताय ।
¯यì चबन ¯याली बदन lसह िमलन + भाय ।। ७ ।।
The service of kings is said to be as dangerous
as kissing a serpent’s mouth, or encountering a lion.
It’s in राजान (MSH राजाआ ), one of no less than five words ending -न in this couplet. The
verse begins with यì ‘thus’, and ends + भाय, in which भाय is MSH भाव, here giving the sense
‘in the manner of, as’. Interestingly, the serpent here is specifically female (¯याली rather
than the more common ¯याल, ¯याल) – deadlier than the male, perhaps, or is the longer
BRAJ IN BRIEF
word preferred metri causa, ‘for metrical purposes’? As is usual in Braj texts, the word
बदन reflects Sanskrit वदन ‘mouth’ rather than Persian बदन ‘body’ as in MSH and Urdu.
One particular oblique plural form needs special mention: बड़न, oblique plural of बड़ौ.
रz समीप बड़न + होत बड़ो lहत Hल ।
सबही जानत बढ़त z व¬ बराबर «ल ।। ८ ।।
One should stay close to the great: there’s much benefit in bonds.
Everyone knows that vines grow equally with the tree.
COMPOUND VERBS
Compound verbs are of course very common in MSH – think of expressions such as िलख
¯ना, सोच ¯ना and खा जाना. The following couplet includes कlर सक• (MSH कर सकता/स+) and धोय
न स+यो (MSH धो न सका ). See couplet 4 above for the reference to the ocean as ‘father of the
moon’.
कोऊ ¡र न कlर सक lबlध + उल¹ अक ।
उदlध lपता तउ चद को धोय न स+यो कलक ।। ९ ।।
Nobody can remove the adverse marks of fate;
The ocean is its father, yet the moon could not cleanse its stain.
In our next couplet, the verb lरसाय means ‘fumes in anger’, and the compound verb बिच
जाय means ‘escapes, survives’ (with an -i stem in बिच of course):
बड़ बड़ सl lरस कर छोट सì न lरसाय ।
त¯ कठोर तोर पवन कोमल तन बिच जाय ।। १० ।।
The great feel anger with the great: they don’t rage against the small.
The wind breaks a hard tree: soft grass survives.
My translation might well have included conjunctions (rather than colons) in both
lines, giving the verse a slightly more explicit sense: ‘great people fume at their peers but
not against their inferiors, just as hurricanes snap great trees but do not damage grass’.
Braj poets often leave conjunctions such as ‘but’ or ‘and’ unstated, leaving the functions of
such words to be inferred by verse structure alone: either the first line of the couplet
contrasts with the second, or the first half-line within an individual line contrasts with
its second half-line. The creative omission of conjunctions, in literary terms an
‘asyndeton’, is a powerful weapon in the poet’s rhetorical armoury: though small in
themselves, such effects contribute to the ambiguity or multivalency of meaning that lie
at the heart of poetry. The lexical choices made by the translator nearly always damage
BRAJ IN BRIEF
these effects, making the translated text a narrower and less subtly ‘layered’ thing than
the original.
Part of a poet’s work is to achieve a sense of integration in the poem: to integrate sense
and sound. Though one hardly notices it without looking closely, the couplet we’ve just
read neatly sets two ‘t’ nouns (त¯ and तन) in opposition to each other, matching them with
paired but opposite ‘k’ adjectives (कठोर, कोमल); but the switch in order from ‘noun +
adjective’ to ‘adjective + noun’ also cleverly suggests the very different fate of tree and
grass respectively. Further, the word order is contrived in such a way as to sit कठोर and
तोर alongside each other, with internal rhyme. Such carefully contrived manipulations of
phrasing are part and parcel of poetry of this kind – perhaps of all poetry worthy of the
name.
A final point about compound verbs. In Braj, the two verbs in a compound often
become inverted: िलिख lदयौ (MSH िलख lदया) might appear as lदयौ िलिख without any change
to the meaning. This is especially common in rhymes, as it supplies extra rhyme
possibilities for the grateful poet. Another such inversion appears in उठत...जाlग (MSH जाग
उठती z) in the following couplet, which describes the ‘burning pain’ (तपन) of a woman
suffering from the anguish of love in separation – an affliction which reaches epidemic
proportions in Braj poetry generally:
lबरह तपन lपय बात त उठत चौगनी जाlग ।
जल + सÏ€ बढ़त z ¯यì स•ह की आlग ।। ११ ।।
The anguish of lovesickness flares fourfold with the lover’s airy words
as the fire of love/oil increases when sprinkled with water.
The couplet plays on two different meanings of बात as ‘talk’ (from Sanskrit वा€•) and as
‘wind, breeze’ (from Sanskrit वात), a play feebly reflected by ‘airy words’ in my
translation. The lover’s words are a breeze that whips up the flame of the beloved’s
feelings. Meanwhile स‚ह (Sanskrit ƒह) is both ‘love’ and highly combustible ‘oil’ – as used
in a lamp, for example. Throwing water onto an oil fire makes it flare up violently. A
third pun involves the word चौगनी ‘fourfold’, built on गन (Sanskrit गण) whose numerous
meanings include ‘thread, lamp-wick’. So the poem is thick with puns and allusions. The
second line begins with an adverbial phrase, जल + सÏ… ‘through sprinkling with water’,
using the -e form of a participle from सÏिच- ‘to sprinkle, irrigate’; but जल + may also be
read as जल+ ‘burning’, adding another flame to the fire of the poem.
Staying with fire but returning to the matter of inverted compound verbs, look for
such a verb in this next verse:
BRAJ IN BRIEF
सब सहायक सबल +, कोऊ न lनबल सहाय ।
पवन जगावत आग कl दीपlह ¯त बझाय ।। १२ ।।
All are helpers of the strong, nobody is a help to the weak:
wind rouses the fire but douses the lamp.
The inversion comes in दीपlह ¯त बझाय, which is equivalent to MSH दीप को बझा ¯ता ( z ). The
word सब (saba + emphatic suffix -i) is equivalent to MSH सभी; and कोऊ is MSH कोई भी (a
suffixed उ or ऊ gives this emphasis).
As inverted compound verbs are so common, here’s a further example:
नना ¯त बताय सब lहय कौ zत अzत ।
ज‚ lनरमल आरसी भली बरी कlह ¯त ।। १३ ।।
The eyes reveal everything of the heart’s love or lack of it,
Just as a spotless mirror reveals good and bad.
The compound verb ¯त बताय (MSH बता ¯¬) is inverted, whereas कlह ¯त (MSH कह ¯ती z) is
in its natural or neutral order.
VERB STEMS
In MSH, the ‘stem’ of the verb has the form जा, बता, सन, कर etc.; but the Braj verb stem
usually ends in –i, yielding जाइ, बताइ, सlन, कlर. In Vnd’s next couplet, बोिल उठ ‘cries out’
and निच निच उठ ‘breaks into a dance’ both exemplify this:
मन भावन + िमलन + सख को नाlहन छोर ।
बोिल उठ निच निच उठ मोर सनत घन घोर ।। १४ ।।
The joy of meeting one’s heart’s beloved has no limit;
Hearing the clouds’ rumble, the peacock cries out and breaks into a dance.
For peacocks, the monsoon is the mating season, and is announced by the welcome
sound of thunder (घन घोर); the peacocks celebrate at the prospect of uniting with their मन-
भावन, ‘heart’s delight’. The word को in the first line is an alternative spelling for
possessive कौ (MSH का).
Verb stems ending -āi (like बसाइ, जगाइ) can also be written -āya (बसाय, जगाय) with
identical meaning.
BRAJ IN BRIEF
जाlन बƒिझ क अजगत कर तासl कहा बसाय ।
जागत ही सोवत रz lतlह को सक जगाय ।। १५ ।।
What can be done with someone who deliberately does foolish things?
Who can awaken someone who stays asleep even when awake?
The phrase को सक• जगाय is MSH कौन जगा सक¬ / स+, with the two parts of the compound
verb (जगाय and सक• ) inverted as explained earlier. जगाय is the stem form of the verb (=MSH
जगा from जगाना) and is an alternative for the spelling जगाइ.
The -i ending of the verb stem may easily be reduced to an -a ending (identical to the
MSH form). In the following couplet, the rhyme-words lबचार and पसार may look like nouns
but are in fact the absolutives of verbs meaning ‘to consider’ and ‘to spread, extend’.
पी„ कारज कीिजए पlह… प_च lबचार ।
कU पावत उ†च फल बाबन बाह पसार ।। १६ ।।
Act later, having first considered your reach;
How would a dwarf get a high fruit by stretching his arms?
The repeated
¯ ˇ ˇ
rhythm in the final quarter of the couplet, बाबन बाह पसार, subtly
suggests the repeated reaching-up of the unfortunate dwarf as he tries to reach the fruit
beyond his grasp.
ABSOLUTIVES
‘Absolutives’ give a ‘having done, after doing’ sense. In MSH they feature one of two
options: a stem form as in जा, कर, बच, ¯ख, सन, extended form, as in जाकर /जा+, कर+, बचकर /
बच+, ¯खकर / ¯ख+, सनकर / सन+. Braj has equivalent patterns, with the option that the stem
may have an -i ending, making जाइ, कlर, बिच, ¯िख, सlन. The following couplet neatly
exemplifies both: the stem दौर (MSH दौड़, दौड़कर) and the extended lबचाlरक• (MSH lवचारकर):
अपनी प_च lबचाlरक करतब lकरय दौर ।
ˆˆ प‰व पसाlर" "ती लाबी सौर ।। १७ ।।
Hurry to do what is to be done after considering your capacity;
stretch out your legs according to the length of your quilt.
The correlative-relative construction ¬¬..."ती is equivalent to MSH उत‚...िजतनी (such
constructions are introduced more fully below).
BRAJ IN BRIEF
INFINITIVES & VERBAL NOUNS
In MSH, the infinitive verb has a -nā ending (¯खना, कहना), which changes to -ne in the
oblique (as in ¯ख‚ H, or कह‚ की बात). The equivalent infinitive in Braj ends simply -na,
which is invariable: ¯खन, कहन.
बात कहन की रीlत Š z अ‹तर अlधकाय ।
एक बचन त lरस बढ़ एक बचन त जाय ।। १८ ।।
There’s great distinction in the way of saying things:
through one word anger increases, through one word it goes.
Vnd is in playful mood again when he seems to imply a (false) parallel between two
different forms: कहन is an infinitive verb of the kind just described, but बचन is a noun,
similar in form to the infinitive but of course otherwise quite unrelated. बचन means
‘word’ – in MSH it appears in its tatsama form वचन, often meaning ‘promise’.
In addition to this -na form, Braj often uses a gerund or ‘verbal noun’ with the ending
-ibau (or -ibo): जाइबौ ‘going’, सlनबौ ‘hearing’. Like the -au ending of masculine nouns and
adjectives, this -au changes to -e in the oblique: जाइ‡ ˆ ‘in going’ and so on. Leaving Vnd
to one side for a moment, let’s hear from no less a person than Akbar, the Mughal
emperor himself. In a deeply touching poem, he laments the passing of three of his
favourite courtiers – ‘Pithal’ (Prithviraj), the famous singer Tansen, and especially his
beloved minister, the famous wit Birbal:
पीथल सƒ मजिलस गई तानUन सƒ राग ।
हसबो रमबो बोलबो गया वीरवर साथ ।। १९ ।।
1
With Pithal went the soirée; with Tansen, music;
Laughing, strolling, talking all went with Birbal’s company.
We heard earlier that serving kings is dangerous, which is perhaps why nobody dared
to ‘kiss the serpent’ and remind Akbar that dohās are supposed to rhyme! (Should the
rhyme-words be रग / सग ? ) Nevertheless it’s a fine verse, with many subtleties. Akbar
favours Birbal above the others by associating him with three favourite (but now lost)
pastimes in comparison to the single ones given for Pithal and Tansen respectively, and
furthermore he groups these three activities in a discrete list that occupies a full quarter-
verse, thereby underlining their scope and comprehensiveness. Pithal and Tansen are
associated with specific artistic activities, whereas the ‘laughing, strolling and talking’
associated with Birbal are organic parts of everyday life, and hence even more prone to
being missed. The verb रम- is particularly hard to translate: it covers ‘pleasurable
BRAJ IN BRIEF
1
Saryūprasād Agravāl, Akbarī darbār ke hindī-kavi. Lucknow, V.S. 2007 [AD 1950]), p. 89.
strolling’ and ‘taking enjoyment’, with a very laid-back sense of just ‘hanging out’ or other
more actively sensual pleasures. The subtle switch from स ‘with’ in the first line to साथ
‘with, in company of’ in the second adds further to the sense of loss, suggesting an
animate connection between Birbal and the qualities associated with him: when he
departed this life, they went off in company with him, hand in hand. Birbal must have
been excellent company, as the famous ‘Akbar-Birbal’ stories imply. A mere thirteen
words encapsulate all this meaning.
Given the Mughal context, the couplet has probably been transmitted through the
Persian script (perhaps even in Akbar’s own hand, as he was not entirely illiterate),
which would not distinguish हसबो रमबो बोलबो from the more conventional Nagari spellings
of हlसबो रिमबो बोिलबो, (or for that matter हlसबौ रिमबौ बोिलबौ) or the postposition स from the
more usual Braj spellings सो / सौ / सì / सl (MSH U !). In the late medieval period, use of the
Persian script was not restricted to Persian and Urdu; but the significant part it has
played in the transmission of Braj texts tends to be overlooked today, with ‘Hindi’ and
‘Urdu’ separated into discrete camps.
PERFECTIVE VERBS
In the perfective (the simple past, as in ‘went’, ‘did’ etc.) Braj uses the so-called ‘ergative’
‚ construction that is so taxing to novice learners of Hindi. In Braj poetry, the ‚
postposition itself is often absent, but its structure lives on, with agreement between verb
and logical object following the usual rule, as in MSH राम ‚ कहानी सनाई. You will hardly
need reminding that this usage applies with transitive verbs only – not with intransitives
like जा- ‘to go’. The second line of our next couplet features intransitive ग" (agreeing with
m.pl. राम ) and गवाई (agreeing with f.sg. सीत).
मlत lफर जाय lबपि• Š राव रक इक रीत ।
zम lहरन पाछ ग" राम गवाई सीत ।। २० ।।
The intellect warps in misfortune, in king and pauper alike;
Gone after a golden deer, Rama lost Sita.
The poet’s use of the verb गवा- here is a little subversive: it seems to blames Rāma for
carelessly or even recklessly ‘losing’ his wife. Notice also how the central positioning of
the subject (‘Rāma’) allows this word to work with both clauses in the line; if you find this
interesting, compare the centrally-positioned verb गई in Akbar’s dohā above. The last
quarter of the couplet is wonderfully concise: राम गवाई सीत is a truly laconic summary of
the Rāmāyaṇa narrative!
The masculine perfective usually has forms like ¯¯यौ, स¯यौ (MSH ¯खा, सना): this is
formed from the stem as in ¯िख and the ending -au, with the -i of the stem represented by
BRAJ IN BRIEF
the semi-vowel /y/ — say ‘dekhi-au’ and you will hear the /y/ appearing automatically in
your pronunciation.
नlह इलाज ¯Žयौ स‹यौ जासì िमटत सभाव ।
मध पट कोlटक ¯त तउ lबष न तजत lबषभाव ।। २१ ।।
[I’ve] never seen or heard of a means whereby inherent character is removed:
[one] adds countless drops of honey, yet venom doesn’t forsake its venomousness.
The verb कर- ‘to do’ is irregular in Braj (and in MSH too, what with its lकया and की
participles and its कीिजए imperative etc.!). In Braj the usual perfective participle from
कlर- is कर‰ौ (i.e. karyau, which could theoretically be written कयŠ, though Braj scribes
don’t often use the flying reph in participles). Alternative participles are की¯ह, की¯हौ, कीन,
कीनौ and कीनो, and it’s this last form that we find in the final couplet of Vnd’s Satasaī,
tactfully fulsome in its praise of the poet’s imperial patron Azim-us-Shan:
अlत उदार lरझबार जग साह अजीम•सान ।
सतसया सlन व‹द कl कीनो अlत सनमान ।। २२ ।।
Most liberal, and delighting in the world, is Shah Azim-ush-Shan;
hearing the Satsaī he showed Vrind great honour.
Notice that the postposition कl (MSH को) is nasalized. Although this is not a consistent
feature, it does help distinguish this sense from the unnasalized possessive कौ (MSH का).
FUTURE TENSE
Looking to the future, we find much more variety in Braj than in MSH’s single set of
बोलगा, बो¯गा forms. Braj has predictable equivalents of these (बोलगौ, बो¯गौ) but also
boasts a set of –h– forms yielding first-person बोिलहौ, third-person बोिलz, etc. Our next
couplet has the third-person future form कlरz, equivalent to MSH क¯गा −
अlत हठ मत कर हठ बढ़ बात न कlरz कोय ।
¯यl ¯यl भीज कामरी •यl •यl भारी होय ।। २३ ।।
Don’t practise extreme obstinacy! If obstinacy grows, nobody will speak [with you];
The more a blanket is soaked, the heavier it becomes.
The soaked blanket stands as a metaphor for human patience: it can absorb or
accommodate a certain amount of a failing such as obstinacy — but only so much, and no
more. Notice how the interplay of retroflex and dental consonants in अlत हठ मत...हठ...बात
brings musicality to the verse. The second line uses an effective if commonplace
parallelism, using the structure of the line to position relative (¯यl ¯यl) and correlative
BRAJ IN BRIEF
(•यl •यl) clauses in the two half-lines, separated by a comma-like caesura. We will return
to the matter of relative-correlatives later. Meanwhile, Vnd’s next couplet gives us a
third-person future in आइz ‘will come’:
कlठन कला j आइz करत करत अ‘यास ।
नट ¯यì चालत बरत पर साध बरस छमास ।। २४ ।।
Even a difficult skill will come with repeated practice –
as an acrobat performing on a rope learns it in a year or a six-month.
A word to note here is j, ‘even’ or ‘also’, equivalent to MSH भी. And a word of warning
about the orthography of future-tense words such as आइz − typesetters are so accustomed
to setting the MSH present-tense verb z as a separate word that they often mistakenly set
a Braj future verb like आइz as two words and print ‘आइ z’ ! Hmmm: Vnd should write a
dohā about it.
The dohā above gives further examples of Vnd’s skill in achieving phonetic cohesion.
The first line is sewn together with ‘क’ alliteration, and the keyword बरत in the second
line not only echoes करत करत in the first, but also anticipates पर and बरस in the phrasing
that follows.
Here is one more example of the future:
फ’र न “z कपट सì जो कीज ¯यौपार ।
जस हाडी काठ की चढ़ न ¡जी बार ।। २५ ।।
If an enterprise is done with deceipt, it won’t work again,
as a pot made of wood cannot be lifted [to the fire] a second time.
The verb “z is the future of हो-, equivalent to MSH होगा; कीज is an abbreviated form of
कीिजए, a Braj passive, and it is to this form that we turn next.
PASSIVES
It is not only in the future tense that Braj has more variety than MSH: the passive also
has two distinctive forms. Firstly, it shares with MSH the formula of ‘perfective participle
plus जा’ (the so-called periphrastic passive), as in स¯यौ जात ‘is heard’ (MSH सना जाता z). The
second type of passive ends -ie, i-iye, -iyai or -iyata, as in सlनए / सlन", सlनय , सlनयत ‘is seen’,
िलिखए / िलिख", िलिखय , िलिखयत ‘is written’. Spellings vary! The MSH word चाlहए / चाlह",
which of course means ‘is wanted’, is a unique survival of this old passive form in MSH. In
this next couplet, look out for a passive of the verb उतार- ‘to take off’:
BRAJ IN BRIEF
गनी तऊ अवसर lबना आदर कर न कोइ ।
lहय त हार उताlरय सयन समय जब होइ ।। २६ ।।
Though it’s worthy, no one respects [a thing] out of context:
the necklace is removed from the breast when it’s sleeping-time.
The necklace (हार) is valuable (गनी), being a thing of quality (गन, गण); it is also गनी in
the sense that it has a ‘thread’ (गन, गण) running through it. Despite its high status or
value, it is taken off (passive उताlरय = MSH उतारा जाता z) when it is not the right time
(अवसर) for wearing jewellery, i.e. at bed-time (सयन समय).
The -ie /-iai ending of the passive is familiar to us as an āp imperative in MSH (सlनए,
सोिचए), and it can have this function in Braj too. In many contexts the passive and
imperative senses overlap, so that either could be used in translation. For example, in the
next couplet Uइय is translated ‘serve’ (imperative mood), but could equally well be
translated as either ‘is/are served’ or ‘should be served’ (both passive):
नप ग¯ lतय lबlहन Uइय म•य भाग जग माlह ।
z lबनास अlत lनकट त ¡र र– फल नाlह ।। २७ ।।
Serve a king, guru, wife and sister from middle-distance in the world:
there’s disaster from [being] very close; no result if you stay remote.
Notice how the little list of personnel in the first quarter-verse, नप ग¯ lतय lबlहन, is
given an internal cohesion by a shared quality of short vowels: this shared phonetic
quality suggests that all the members of the little group are united by a common feature.
THE SUFFIXES -वारौ AND -हार
Like many poets in Sanskritic languages, Vnd is addicted to the punning potential of गन
(Sanskrit गण), a word that is often hard to translate adequately, as we found just now. In
the following, गन appears within the word गनवारौ, in which the -वारौ suffix is equivalent to
MSH -वाला. The resulting sense is ‘having qualities’, i.e. being well-made, but also
something with a ‘string attached’ (गनजत, tatsama गणय+त):
गनवारौ सपlत लz लz न गन lबन कोइ ।
काढ़ नीर पताल त जो गनजत घट होइ ।। २८ ।।
He who has qualities gains wealth — no one gains without qualities;
one could draw water from hell [itself] if one had a well-made / roped bucket.
At a pinch, the English expression ‘well-made’ might just work for both meanings,
since a ‘well-made bucket’ could be interpreted as ‘a bucket made for a well’, i.e. equipped
BRAJ IN BRIEF
with a rope; but English readers would not be as accustomed to such punning as their
Braj cousins, and would miss the point!
Notice again how a chiasmus juxtaposes लz with लz, the repeat straddling the
caesura: this deliberate phrasing marks a stark contrast between the two parallel
statements, ‘gains / gains not’.
Similar in use to -वारौ is the suffix -हार; this is seen in the formulaic MSH word होनहार
‘about to be’, i.e. ‘promising, up-and-coming’ (as in होनहार लड़का), but in Braj it is also
found with a wider range of verbs:
जानहार सो जाय अ¯ होनहार “ जाय ।
रावन त लका गयी बU lवभीषन पाय ।। २९ ।।
That which is to go, goes; and that which is to be comes about:
Ravan lost Lanka; Vibhishan gained it and settled there.
Rāma gave the defeated Rāvaṇ’s kingdom of Lanka to Rāvaṇ’s brother Vibhīṣaṇ (a
devout Vaishnava); both Rāvaṇ’s loss of Lanka and Vibhīṣaṇ’s gaining of it were fated
events, which is the point of the poem. Note that the pious Vibhīṣaṇ qualifies for an
honorific plural (in the perfective verb बU). Remember that the odd-looking word ‹ hvai
is the stem form of the verb हो- ‘to be’ (equivalent to MSH हो).
The -हार suffix appears below attached to the stem मथlन- in मथlनहार, a ‘churner’:
गहत त•व —यानी प¯ष बात lबचाlर lबचाlर ।
मथlनहार तिज छाछ कl माखन …त lनकाlर ।। ३० ।।
A wise man considers a matter deeply and grasps its principle;
abandoning the buttermilk, the churner extracts the butter.
As if reviewing earlier lessons, Vnd shows us several old friends here: -i stems in
lबचाlर, तिज and lनकाlर; imperfective participles in गहत (compare MSH Vहण करना to grasp,
grab or grip) and ¯त; a clearly nasalized कl; and both an inverted compound verb and a
ल / र sound-change in ¯त lनकाlर (MSH lनकाल ¯ता z).
LEXICAL CHOICES AND WORD DERIVATIONS
These short notes cannot go into the complexities of word derivation and etymology, but
it’s worth pointing out one or two important processes. Braj has access to the full range of
Sanskritic and vernacular vocabulary, and poets can choose between a wide array of
forms and spellings including tatsama and tadbhava forms and many points in between.
In the couplet नना ¯त बताय सब (13) we saw the tadbhava word lहय for ‘heart’; but elsewhere
Vnd prefers Œदय, the tatsama version of this same word:
BRAJ IN BRIEF
जाको ˜दय कठोर lतlह ल™ न कोमल बन ।
Šन बान ¯यì प•थर Š +यl j lकए िभद न ।। ३१ ।।
S/he whose heart is hard is impervious to soft words,
Just as Kamdev’s arrows can in no way pierce stone.
(The relative-correlative जाको...lत•ह equates to MSH िजसका...उU; the adverbial phrase
+यl j lकए means ‘however it’s done, no matter how one tries’.) The middle syllable of the
Sanskrit word मदन ‘Kāmdev, Cupid’ has been through a process of phonetic ‘weakening’,
first becoming a semi-vowel (मयन) in Prakrit, then further reduced in the Braj spelling Žन
(ˆन in our example, the vowel nasality having been picked up from the nasal environment
of म and न). A similar process leads from वचन to बन (‘word, speech’), the rhyme-word of
line 1. Elsewhere, the word भवन ‘house, building’ (which already has a semi-vowel as its
middle syllable) is spelt भौन in Braj; and one can see this process at work in some Hindi-
speakers’ pronunciations of, for example, the English word ‘government’ as गौरHट, in
which the English ‘v’ and its adjacent vowels are simplified to ‘au’. Only ‘a person whose
heart is hard’ can be impervious to the fascination of these processes, which can be
scientifically tracked and documented in such a way as to be able to predict how a sound
will change over time; this is the academic science of philology. See the note on
dictionaries below (especially Turner).
The syntax of Vnd’s ‘heart-of-stone’ dohā does not quite coincide with its metrical
construction in the first line: the caesura supplies a rhythmic break after lत•ह (MSH उU),
but in terms of syntax lत•ह belongs with the second half of the line, as part of the phrase
lत•ह लग न कोमल बन. Notice also how the position of ल• at the beginning of the second
quarter-verse gives it emphasis — the ‘soft words’ striking at the ‘heart of stone’, but to
no avail. Such features are sometimes exploited very artfully by poets intent on
particular meanings.
The couplet below — about foolishness — contains a couple of ‘false friends’, i.e words
that have an apparent but deceptive similarity to others: कहा means ‘what?’ (MSH +या) and
has nothing to do with MSH कहना, while को means ‘who?’ (MSH कौन) and has nothing to do
with the को that marks an object as in MSH हमको. Vnd’s next offering again uses को in a
rhetorical question, in which ‘who?’ implies ‘nobody!’
को सख को šख ¯त z ¯त करम झकझोर ।
उरझ सरझ आप ही धजा पवन + जोर ।। ३२ ।।
Who gives joy, who sorrow? It is karma that shakes us:
The flag twists and untwists itself in the power of the wind.
BRAJ IN BRIEF
RELATIVE-CORRELATIVES
In dohā 17 we saw a relative-correlative construction using ¬¬..."ती, equivalent to MSH
उत‚...िजतनी; and in dohā 30, we saw जाको ... lत•ह, equivalent to MSH िजसका ... उसको. Such
constructions abound in Vnd’s couplets, and for that matter in the dohā genre generally.
In its habitual observations on human behaviour, the genre often finds itself dealing with
comparisons, oppositions, and equivalences, and these often give rise to balanced
expressions on the lines of ‘if A, then B’, or ‘just as A is, so is B’, or ‘what a difference
between A and B!’, or perhaps ‘where A is found, B is not far away’. Such binary equations
lend themselves well to relative-correlative constructions; structurally they may be split
either across the two halves of the line (hinged at the caesura) or across the two lines of
the couplet itself.
जासl जसो भाव सो तसो ठानत ताlह ।
सlसlह सधाकर कहत कोउ कहत कलकी आlह ।। ३३ ।।
As a person feels towards something, so he declares it to be:
some call [the moon] ‘hare-marked’ or ‘nectar-maker’,
some say it’s ‘the blemished one’.
The lunar patch that we call ‘the man on the moon’ is seen variously as a hare and a
blemish, but the moon is also the source of nectar or ambrosia: so the choice of epithets
for the moon depends on the sentiments of the observer – beauty (or its opposite) being in
the eye of the beholder. The construction uses two parallel sets of relative constructions:
जासl ... ताlह (MSH िजसU ... उसU) and जसो ... तसो (MSH जसा ... वसा). Another example of such
parallel sets comes in this next couplet:
जाको जह •वारथ सध सोई ताlह सहात ।
चोर न ›यारी चादनी जसी कारी रात ।। ३४ ।।
Where a person’s self-interest is served, that thing pleases him:
to a thief, the moonlight is not as dear as a dark night.
These constructions are very awkward to translate literally! Think of it like this:
िजसका ¯वाथ• जहा सधता z (परा होता z), वह [¯थान या त‘व] उसको अ*छा लगता z.
In the first line of this next couplet we find more relative and correlative words: जाकी
(MSH िजसकी), िजती (MSH िजतनी), and ¬तौ (MSH उतना):
होय प_च जाकी िजती ˆतौ करत Þकास ।
रlव ¯यl कU कlर सकœ दीपक तम को नास ।। ३५ ।।
According to one’s capacity, so he casts light:
how could a lamp destroy darkness like the sun?
BRAJ IN BRIEF
And here, in the second line, we find "तो ... ¬तौ (MSH िजतना ... उतना):
Uवक साlहब + बढ़ बढ़ बड़ाई ओज ।
"तो lगहरो जल चढ़ ˆतौ बढ़ सरोज ।। ३६ ।।
With the rising of the master, the servant rises in rank and splendour;
the deeper the water grows, [just] so much grows the lotus.
This last image has a sting in the tail: the lotus stem grows according to the depth of
the water, so that its flower floats on the surface; but when the water recedes, the lotus is
left high and dry. (The connection is made clear by the vocabulary choices: सरोज ‘lotus’
means ‘pond-born’, confirming its watery habitat.) As financial advisers dutifully remind
us, investments can go down as well as up; and the employee’s long-term security
depends on the enduring status of his master. To a poet such as Vnd, dependant on the
whimsical fortunes of a royal patron, such contexts must have seemed very real.
Notice the neat chiasmus across the caesura: बढ़ / बढ़ . The former is a non-finite
participle (‘on the rising of the master...’), whereas the latter is a finite verb (‘the servant
rises’).
Space is at a premium in the dohā, and brevity is everything: so relative-correlative
constructions are not always equipped with a full set of pronouns. In the next dohā the
relative pronoun जो is dropped ([जो] बरी कर ), while English manages well without a
correlative pronoun (“those who do evil, [they] are evil”):
बरी कर ˆई ब¯ नाlह बरो कोउ और ।
बlनज कर सो बाlनया चोरी कर सो चोर ।। ३७ ।।
They who do evil are evil, someone else is not evil;
he who trades is a trader, he who thieves is a thief.
BRAJ IN BRIEF
SOME IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES FROM MODERN STANDARD HINDI
It’s time now to bring together a few common words and usages where Braj forms are
quite different from their MSH equivalents.
BRAJ MSH
अ" और (conjunction only)
कत 'य)
कहा 'या
क,- कह.
का 'या; /कस
/कत /कधर, कहा-
/क/ह /कस
को कौन
कौ का
ज/न मत, न
जा िजस
जो जो; अगर
ता उस
तउ, तऊ तो भी
त= > (‘from; through’)
?, पA पर
भयौ, भयो Bआ
लE तक; जA>
सE, स) > (‘with; to’)
, भी
hU BI
हE F (nominative)
The Braj pronunciation of cerebral ष would approximate to the sound of ख, leading to two
tendencies in Braj orthography. The first was to substitute ख for ष, writing (and saying) भाखा
for भाषा; the second, by contrast, was to substitute ष for ख, writing (but not saying) षत for Hत,
¯¯यौ for ¯¯यौ.
BRAJ IN BRIEF
AND FINALLY ...
The Satsaī genre was named ‘seven hundred’ because this is the number of couplets that
it contains (सतसई derives from Sanskrit स“तशlत through the Prakrit स€सई). In fact the
number is only an approximate formula, and an individual Satsai often has more verses
than its literal ‘seven centuries’; the edition of Vnd’s text used here has 714 couplets. In
the tradition of composing verse tributes to an admired poet, and in gratitude to Vnd for
being such a helpful tutor, I conclude by adding a couplet of my own:
जा+ lहय मlह लालसा रस चाखन की होय ।
सो इlह भाखा कžप त घट काढ़ इक दोय ।। ३८ ।।
He in whose heart may lie a desire to taste nectar
should draw a bucket or two from this ‘vernacular’ well.
A NOTE ON DICTIONARIES
Although it is hard to find a single dictionary for reading Braj, the following are all extremely
useful. Some of them are available online under the Chicago University ‘Digital Dictionaries
of South Asia’ project — URLs noted accordingly.
Śyāmsundar Dās, ed., Hindī Śabdsāgar. 11 volumes. Varanasi, Nāgarī Pracāriṇī Sabhā,
1929. The most comprehensive Hindi-Hindi dictionary, with many pre-modern and dialect
forms. http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/dasa-hindi/
R.S. McGregor, Hindi-English Dictionary. Oxford, O.U.P., 1993. The standard Hindi-
English dictionary, and an excellent source for reliable etymologies.
J.T. Platts, A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi, and English. London, 1884. Still an
essential resource after all these years. http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/platts/
Premnārāyaṇ Ṭaṇḍan, Brajbhāṣā Sūrkoś. 2 vols. Lucknow, Lucknow University, 1974. This
dictionary in fact ranges more widely than the poetry of the eponymous Sūrdās; and it
includes a Hindi-medium Braj grammar in the appendix. Not easy to track down, but very
useful if you can find it.
R.L. Turner, A comparative dictionary of Indo-Aryan languages (London, 1962-1966; with
three supplements, 1969-1985). The best source for reliable information about etymologies of
Indo-Aryan words. http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/.
BRAJ IN BRIEF

BRAJ IN BRIEF

गिलयन shows how the Braj oblique plural is written with a nasal consonant (-न, sometimes -Bन or -न@ ) rather than the nazalised vowel typical of MSH as in गिलय8.
MSH

मा1ह − this Braj postposition is one of many equivalents to the होरी हतौ

commonly used in Braj), all deriving from the Sanskrit locative मC!.

9 (itself also

– a common sound-change between ल and र in a final syllable is seen in होरी < होली. – an auxiliary verb, parallel to
MSH

3लत – this participle is equivalent to MSH ;लता. था. It again shows the -au ending characteristic of the masculine singular in Braj.

Despite these differences, the overall syntax of the sentence remains unchanged. That being said, it is also true that the conventions of verse construction and poetic diction can seem puzzling at first: poetic word order often differs from that of prose or speech, and many helpful ‘signpost’ words such as conjunctions and auxiliary verbs are creatively omitted in the cause of word economy, or to yield the ambiguity on which poetry thrives. It is therefore important that our first proper encounter with Braj should be with real poetry rather than fabricated prose. With this in mind we will take a stroll through the language as found in the poetry of Vnd, a court poet who tutored Aurangzeb’s grandson Azim-us-Shan in the art of composition three centuries ago, in 1704. In the company of our Mughal class-fellow we will gain an overview of how the language works, and will also encounter some of the tropes, techniques and ideas that distinguish this poetry from other kinds of language use. The couplets quoted here are from a text entitled नीBत सतसई ‘Seven Hundred Verses on Polity’; my source is Janārdan Rāv Celer (ed.), Vnd granthāvalī, Agra 1971.

A TOUR OF BRAJ GRAMMAR WITH THE POET VR̥ND

Let’s begin our tour by asking our guide how easy will it be to learn the essentials of Braj, and to enjoy its poetry. Will we have to work hard? Vnd’s reply –

Eम ही तF सब िमलत ., Bबन Eम िमलH न काBह ।

सीधी अKग@री घी जMयौ NयO ही BनकरH नाKBह ।।१ ।।

(click icon to hear this couplet)

By effort alone, everything comes; without effort it comes to no one: With straight fingers, congealed ghee will not be extracted at all. Vnd is quite right of course: achieving anything worthwhile does take some effort! But read his couplet a couple of times and you will quickly pull at least some of its poetic ghee from the pot.

their form is often simplified – you could say ‘sweetened’ or ‘domesticated’ – by local vernacular pronunciation. we will see their different functions later. As we have seen. every syllable should be fully pronounced (including the short vowels at the ends of words: srama hi taĩ saba milata hai…). the feminine equivalent would normally be िमल7त. का8ह = MSH 7कF. 7दया. This is because the Braj verb stem is not जम as in yields ‘jamiau’. सीधी उDगली L जमा Rआ घी . त5 The functions of MSH F are carried in Braj by two distinct words. derive from Sanskrit भव7त. again with a short final vowel. another example follows in the penultimate word of this couplet. in the first line and after जCयौ in the second. तG and सH. Braj कOौ. and are ultimately cognate with the English verb ‘be’. has two functions: it िमलता (an imperfective participle). though the sense here may be closer to 7कसी को. उMगली. गयौ equivalent to MSH जमा we find that the Braj participle has picked up a य but जिम. spelt जCयौ. as we have MSH already seen. गया. the masculine singular ending in Braj is –au rather than –ā. आया. set’. before the masculine ending. And the joker in the pack: Braj भयौ is equivalent to MSH Wआ. Firstly. This third-person verb.बना . the stem jami. There are two things to notice here. The short final syllable -त covers both िमल6 is a present tense (often equivalent in sense to िमलत). QRयौ. अ:ग(री = MSH अMग8ली.followed by the ending -au are कहा. Then. Although Sanskritic loanwords are common in Braj. Firstly. a line in this dohā metre (defined below) has a brief rhythmic pause soon after the halfway mark: in this poem it comes after . िमलत = MSH singular and plural (MSH िमलता / िमलJ).कसी को [कMछ] नहP िमलता. ज<यौ = MSH जमा. here is the meaning of the poem in MSH: Kम L ही सब कMछ िमलता @. Qखा. (Both भयौ and . bear two things in mind. Similarly. 7दयौ. स8ना. Secondly.) . ending with a short –i. So it is called ‘subjunctive-present’. Don’t be surprised to see spelling variations such as तG / I and सH / स:. आयौ. and such variations usually have no grammatical significance. But now. more about this anon. by contrasting जCयौ with MSH. nasalization also comes and goes according to scribal whim. and it can also be a subjunctive (Hindi िमK). ‘congealed. Kम O .कसी भी तरह नहP . effort’ reflects Sanskrit Eम. as Braj orthography is not standardised.नकलता । The major differences between Braj and MSH encountered here are explained below: 4म This word for ‘labour. ending –ai or –e regardless of number.BRAJ IN BRIEF To feel the rhythm of the poem. स8Pयौ. a sound-change between ल and र is quite common in the last syllable of Braj words.

long as ¯. ‘short’ syllables /4 स ब िम ल / 3 ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ / ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ /˘ ¯ त . and the second with double daṇḍas. and you will see why. The comma represents a more substantial rhythmic break or pause. while ‘long’ ones are called ‘heavy’ ( ग8f ). MSH 7कसी भी तरह. Now let us look at the first quarter-verse of our first dohā: 6 वaPद) counts as a long syllable: feel the difference in length. Easily recognisable as MSH 8नकर6 Put together what we noticed just now about the ल / र sound-change and the –ai ना1ह नह[. or ˘ ¯ . while बdचा would be scanned ¯ ¯ . or any combination of the two in any sequence. Western annotation marks short syllables as ˘.g. they can be made up of any combination of long and short syllables that yields the requisite number of mātrās: thus a 6-mātrā foot could consist of three long syllables. it takes twice as first vowel in अPत or long to pronounce as a short vowel. these particular dohās are independent poems: each couplet can be regarded as a self-contained unit of meaning. the weight. between the opening syllables in the words बचा and बdचा respectively. A dohā line consists of rhythmic ‘feet’ with the mātrā composition 6+4+3. Thus बचा would be scanned are called ‘light’ ( लघ8 ). There is an AA rhyme. A short vowel (अ इ उ or ऋ) has one mātrā. 6+4+1. (a) With certain restrictions too technical to bother us now. and you’ll see that this is equivalent to MSH 7नकK. either syllable in the negative particle can be either long or short. and य7त in Hindi < Sanskrit. comparable to the beats used in music. or six short. A short vowel before a conjunct consonant (e. In Indian prosody. measured by mātrās – ‘beats’. while a long vowel (आ ई ऊ ए ऐ ओ औ) has two: theoretically. THE DOHĀ FORM The dohā metre used by Vnd in the Nīti satsaī is the most popular couplet metre in premodern Hindi. (b) The feet do not necessarily coincide with individual words or groups of words: thus the 4-mātrā foot . and either syllable can be nasalized or unnasalized – another gift to poets whose verses have to fit strict metrical formulae! In dohā 14 below we see yet another spelling – ना7हन. g म ही तG Notice two things about the rhythmic feet. verb ending.BRAJ IN BRIEF = = MSH भी. Conveniently for us. or a pair of double daṇḍas bracketing a stanza number. The dohā has a simple but rather precise metrical pattern. often marked by a comma in modern editions: this pause is called ‘caesura’ in English < Latin. in Braj. The phrase YयH Z means ‘in any way at all’. Notice how a dohā couplet is punctuated: the first line ends in a single daṇḍa.

In gnomic genres of the kind found in Vnd’s Nīti Satsai.e. and the second confirms it with a concrete illustration: thus in dohā 1. in the second line: था (Braj आयौ हथौ = MSH आया था). reconfirming the masculine singular ending in -au. धन अU जोबन कौ गरब कबVD क. like a cloud’s shadow. and short is beautiful! Remember Vnd shows us a present-tense auxiliary . the /a/ vowel after kh being fully sounded: dekhata.( the next foot.) ‘dissolves as you MSH MSH watch’. Whereas the MSH present tense uses participles like MSH. (MSH QखJ ही िमट जाता . the first line talks in abstract terms about the necessity of ‘effort’. we will now work methodically through a sequence of grammar points. -त . With Vnd’s continuing help. The second line begins Qखत ही िमट जात . ___________________ GENERAL PRESENT We start with present-tense verbs. because space is at a premium in poetry. ‘disappears before your very eyes’. as in that the past-tense auxiliary हतौ is equivalent to MSH but often it isn’t.. with a very different rhythmic balance. ( ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ). forfeiting poetic subtlety for the sake of clarity in the literal meaning. का. This participle may be followed by the auxiliary .BRAJ IN BRIEF above consists of सब िमल. The Braj and of the illustrative simile. If all this metrical detail wearies you. ignore it and move on. The translations given here are as close as possible. implying ‘Are you with me? Got that?’ before delivering the second line. कबZM is MSH कभी.ह । Xखत ही िमट जात @. The word अf is and remember that कौ is बादर we see the ल / र sound-change again (MSH having बादल). Reciters of such poems often repeat the first line before proceeding to the second.रW नाD. the first line postulates an abstract thought. don’t worry if you don’t understand every detail of each couplet. [य1 बादर की छाD. where it introduces the terms . Qखता. capping the rhyme of the first and rounding out the idea. below. Knowing that much of the relish in such couplets comes from the matching of concrete image to abstract concept. word iय: ‘like’ appears very frequently in the second line of a dohā. they voice the repeated first line in a rising tone. In MSH और. I will at some point add recordings of the couplets included here.ह ।। २ ।। Never be proud of wealth and youthfulness – it disappears in a trice. while the second gets its fingers sticky with a specific image. My commentary will concentrate on the grammatical point under review and won’t explain the whole poem. with the -त that completes the word िमलत falling into ¯ ). Braj has Qखत. i.

One of them has the stem जोइ- We saw an example of the ‘subjunctive present’ in िमलk earlier. MSH. स8म7त ‘intelligence. couplet: मारk ‘kills’.). condition’. which as you know distinguishes singular subjunctive बोK etc. In this couplet. The third-person uses -ai and -e spellings rather indiscriminately. बोK and िमलlM.टका भर. buckets are filled and emptied.‘come’. Think of it as a subjunctive verb (like MSH िमK.). filled. and is often dropped from the orthography (allowing बोल7त to be reduced to बोलत). the feminine participles घट7त बढ़7त (‘fall. is indistinguishable from the masculine. the result. but with the extra capacity of being used as a present tense.त स9म. often have the shortened third-person form आय. In the couplet above. and is not quite the consistent marker of plurality that it is in from plural बोm. जाइ. good attitude. पाय (instead of आ!. while not necessarily ‘meaning’ anything in a literal or translatable sense. Qख7त.त ग.‘go’. Remember that nazalization is also a little erratic. rise’) are playfully set alongside three feminine nouns – not verbs! – that also have this same –ti ending: स. attain’ Three examples of the subjunctive-present appear in the second line of the next . SUBJUNCTIVE-PRESENT Braj has a wide range of words for ‘to see’ or ‘to look’. घट. Feminine participles may end in a short –i vowel (बोल7त. Vnd illustrates the concept of fluctuating fortunes with the graphic image of the camel-powered Persian wheel (अरहट). wit’. जा!. पाइ.त @ भरी स9 रीती होय ।। ३ ।। Wealth and wit [both] fall and rise – note the motion of the Persian wheel: the empty vessel fills. ग7त ‘state.त स<प. but the scribes are not always consistent: the -i ending is so short in pronunciation as to be virtually inaudible. बोलlM etc. iयाबk ‘gives life’ and उपजk ‘is produced’: In the subjunctive-present.त अरहट की जोय । रीती घ. it becomes empty [again].प7त ‘wealth’. which is here used as an imperative (a ‘command’) in the spelling जोय.‘find. an irrigation device with a continuous chain of connected buckets (घ7टका. पा!). जाय. आव7त etc. they bring an organic cohesion to a phrase. of course. The hypnotically repeated chant of all those –ti endings imitates the endlessly clunking motion of the Persian wheel: life goes round and round. fortune comes and goes.BRAJ IN BRIEF Now Vnd gives us a new couplet guiding us towards feminine participles. suggesting parallels and connectivities between ideas.त बढ़. here resonating nicely with घट7त) which are filled and emptied as they turn in perpetual sequence. Such playful usages are typical of Braj poetic construction. verb stems such as आइ.

i. while gaining new ones through loans from various languages. but the science of philology confirms it. Certain predictable patterns of sound change determine these developments. and English). सहोदर is a Sanskrit word (सह + उदर in sandhi) meaning ‘born MSH तो भी.प सहोदर होय तोउ `कa. i. from Sanskrit origins. and it’s easy to imagine the verses being recited to great acclaim in a courtly setting. nectar revives.BRAJ IN BRIEF जद. itself related to घ7टका. jealousies and intrigues. यn7प ‘although’ has become जद7प. whereas the consonantal ग quality has been eroded away. ‘tatsama’ words: Sanskrit loanwords which are literally ‘that-same’. जद7प is MSH of the same womb: sibling. Persian & Arabic. The couplet refers to poison and nectar deriving from the selfsame ocean.e ones that appear in their original unchanged Sanskrit forms. ‘tadbhava’ words: words which are ‘that-become’. and we’ll pause here to look at these categories. but their pronunciation reflects a vernacular touch.e. ‘derived (bhava) from that (tad)’. whose churning produced poison and nectar (among other things) in a narrative from the Purāṇas. In this couplet. Thus 7वष ‘poison’ has become 7बस. Vnd may not have been aware of the connection. (b) oकp7त ‘nature’. ‘the same (sama) as that (tat)’ – i. The examples here are (a) सहोदर ‘sibling’. Notice how the aspiration in घ has survived as ह in अरहट. less so in MSH (which has lost many fine and expressive words from its earlier periods. [though] they’re born in the same place. Portuguese.e. including Sanskrit. reflecting its rivalries. ‘semi-tatsama’ or ardha-tatsama words: Sanskrit loanwords that have been slightly modified in their vernacular dress – in effect they are still Sanskrit words.e. 3. [people’s] natures are various: poison kills. Another example of the . a tatsama word used in that same couplet.ह ठौर ।। ४ ।। Though they be kindred. In writing this couplet about personality traits. but which have been shaped and eroded by the passage of time. 1. kindred’. undergoing various stages of transition and transformation. 2. तउ is यn7प ‘although’. Another example is अरहट in our earlier couplet: it comes from Sanskrit अरघu. Thus ठौर ‘place’ comes from Sanskrit tथावर — even if isn’t immediately obvious from the vernacular spelling! The word ठौर is common in Braj. Vnd uses three kinds of vocabulary that feature widely in all varieties of Hindi.बस मारA [यावA स9धा उपजA एक. and (c) स8धा ‘nectar’. which can be traced through Prakrit into the medieval and modern languages.त और की और । . i. Vnd may have been indicating some individuals at the Mughal court that gave him patronage: many of his couplets suggest that they may have been inspired by some particular event or personality.

meaning not ‘four’ but चाल ‘motion. movement’. story’). an astrologer understands not disease. Note that this sound-change is mostly restricted to the end of a word. though as we’ve seen. The word for ‘planet’ is vह. keep quiet. In this couplet. are thus made to be to get a similar effect in English translation we would have to recast the line like this: disease is not understood by ASTROLOGER : DOCTOR [understands not] the planets’ movement neighbours in the word-order of the line. The two different specialists. बkn vहन कौ चार has subject before object. The sound-change lurks confusingly in चार. the latter often suggest a subjunctive sense (like its MSH cousin. Coming back to the verbs. and later we will come to further examples such as the nicely alliterative कारी रात for ‘dark night’. The beautiful construction of this couplet deserves close reading.BRAJ IN BRIEF same process is in the verb कह. Keep an eye out for both forms and try to get a sense of their modern MSH equivalents in each example. its use is encouraged here by the rhyme requirement. [nor] a doctor the planets’ movement. Through literary devices of this kind the poet is able to pack a great deal of meaning and inference into a very small space. and Notice finally how the single verb phrase न जानk does duty for both the astrologer and the doctor – a sharing effect called ‘zeugma’.तसी बAj kहन कौ चार ।। ५ ।। [Only] he who understands a certain matter should voice opinions about it. Can you spot another example in our next couplet below? जो समझA जा बात कI सो . क#). with little functional difference between them. .‘to say’. which derives from the Sanskrit root कथ (also seen in tatsama कथा ‘recitation. This back-to-back effect is called ‘chiasmus’.तhह क@ . Vnd stresses the opposition between two radically kinds of knowledge – medical and astrological – by setting the relevant phrases back-to-back: रोग न जानk जो7तसी has object before subject. and vहन कौ चार means vह: का चाल ‘the motion of the planets’. जो7तसी and बkn. The answer is that they’re often interchangeable.वचार । रोग न जानA जो. and this art lies at the very heart of poetic composition. SOUND-CHANGE OF ल TO र We have already seen several examples of a sound-change ल to र. Vnd says that if you don’t know what you’re talking about. you may wonder what the difference is between the two present tenses we’ve seen: the करत type and the करk type.

The verse begins with य: ‘thus’.g. Many Braj scribes used ष for both ष and ख. the poet here deliberately repeats the word Qखk (Qखk. ~याल) – deadlier than the male. and not using ख at all. and no further explanation is needed. and in the nouns उwरौ ‘brightness’ and अMधkरौ (or अMधxरौ) ‘darkness’ (MSH उwला and अMधxरा respectively) : सब XखA पA आपनौ दोष न XखA कोइ । करA उnरौ दीप पA तo अDधAरौ होइ ।। ६ ।। A person sees all. or is the longer ‘in the manner of. one of no less than five words ending -न in this couplet. the serpent here is specifically female (}याली rather . Although most MSH- speakers pronounce ष as very similar or identical to श (making भाषा rhyme with आशा). 7दनन (MSH 7दन:) and भYतन (MSH य1 Lवा राजान की दीनी क. as’. In the very opposite of a zeugma. OBLIQUE PLURALS In an earlier couplet we saw an oblique plural ending in the example vहन (MSH vह:). perhaps. in which भाय is MSH भाव.न Qखk) to stress the contrast between seeing and not-seeing. Braj कौ = MSH का. here giving the sense than the more common }याल. It’s in राजान (MSH राजाआ{).ठन बताय । [य1 च9<बन qयाली बदन hसह िमलन O भाय ।। ७ ।। The service of kings is said to be as dangerous as kissing a serpent’s mouth. but below there’s darkness. Other examples from elsewhere are: भYत:). In the next couplet Vnd shows us -au endings in आपनौ (MSH अपना). or encountering a lion. in Braj ष tends to be pronounced ख.. भाषा VERSUS भाखा There is also a phonetics-and-script issue in the couplet above. yielding spellings such as राzयौ (= राRयौ. and in fact spellings such as भाखा were the norm in ‘old’ MSH रखा) Hindi. and ends | भाय. the repeated consonant stressing the irony of the failure to ‘find a fault’ in oneself. Thus in the couplet above. but sees not his own fault.. Can you spot another in this next couplet? लोगन (MSH लोग:).BRAJ IN BRIEF MASCULINE SINGULAR ENDINGS IN -AU We’ve seen several examples of the masculine –au ending that equates to MSH –ā (e. The lamp gives light. Braj गयौ = MSH गया). Interestingly. phrase दोष न XखA may have been read as दोख न XखA and may have been written as दोष न and दkzयौ (= QRयौ. the XषA. MSH Qखा).

The ocean is its father. One particular oblique plural form needs special mention: बड़xन. or the first half-line within an individual line contrasts with its second half-line. The lexical choices made by the translator nearly always damage . the verb 7रसाय means ‘fumes in anger’.हत !ल । सबही जानत बढ़त u वvw बराबर xल ।। ८ ।। One should stay close to the great: there’s much benefit in bonds. The following couplet includes क7र सक• (MSH कर सकता/स|) and धोय moon’.रसाय । तU कठोर तोरA पवन कोमल तvन बिच जाय ।। १० ।। The great feel anger with the great: they don’t rage against the small. COMPOUND VERBS Compound verbs are of course very common in MSH Qना. Braj poets often leave conjunctions such as ‘but’ or ‘and’ unstated. and the compound verb बिच जाय means ‘escapes.रस कर> छोटA स1 न .पता तउ च<द को धोय न सHयो कल<क ।। ९ ।। Nobody can remove the adverse marks of fate. just as hurricanes snap great trees but do not damage grass’.ध . is a powerful weapon in the poet’s rhetorical armoury: though small in themselves. oblique plural of बड़ौ. giving the verse a slightly more explicit sense: ‘great people fume at their peers but not against their inferiors. In our next couplet. रs समीप बड़tन O होत बड़ो . such effects contribute to the ambiguity or multivalency of meaning that lie at the heart of poetry. leaving the functions of such words to be inferred by verse structure alone: either the first line of the couplet contrasts with the second.BRAJ IN BRIEF word preferred metri causa. in literary terms an ‘asyndeton’. The creative omission of conjunctions. yet the moon could not cleanse its stain. survives’ (with an -i stem in बिच of course): बड़t बड़t सI . the word बदन reflects Sanskrit वदन ‘mouth’ rather than Persian बदन ‘body’ as in MSH and Urdu.र सक| . ‘for metrical purposes’? As is usual in Braj texts.ध O उल} अ<क । उद. The wind breaks a hard tree: soft grass survives. See couplet 4 above for the reference to the ocean as ‘father of the कोऊ {र न क. – think of expressions such as िलख न सYयो (MSH धो न सका ).ब. सोच Kना and खा जाना. Everyone knows that vines grow equally with the tree. My translation might well have included conjunctions (rather than colons) in both lines.

for example. The lover’s words are a breeze that whips up the flame of the beloved’s feelings. Such carefully contrived manipulations of phrasing are part and parcel of poetry of this kind – perhaps of all poetry worthy of the name. Meanwhile स‚ह (Sanskrit ƒxह) is both ‘love’ and highly combustible ‘oil’ – as used in a lamp. Though one hardly notices it without looking closely.‘to sprinkle. Throwing water onto an oil fire makes it flare up violently. but the switch in order from ‘noun + adjective’ to ‘adjective + noun’ also cleverly suggests the very different fate of tree and grass respectively.पय बात त> उठत चौग9नी जा.ग । जल O सP€ बढ़त @ [य1 स•ह की आ. This is especially common in rhymes. Part of a poet’s work is to achieve a sense of integration in the poem: to integrate sense and sound. the couplet we’ve just read neatly sets two ‘t’ nouns (तf and तaन) in opposition to each other. matching them with paired but opposite ‘k’ adjectives (कठोर. The couplet plays on two different meanings of बात as ‘talk’ (from Sanskrit वा€•) and as ‘wind. a play feebly reflected by ‘airy words’ in my translation. A final point about compound verbs. A third pun involves the word चौग8नी ‘fourfold’. such a verb in this next verse: using the -e form of a participle from स[िच.ग ।। ११ ।। The anguish of lovesickness flares fourfold with the lover’s airy words as the fire of love/oil increases when sprinkled with water. which describes the ‘burning pain’ (तपन) of a woman suffering from the anguish of love in separation – an affliction which reaches epidemic proportions in Braj poetry generally: . with internal rhyme. making the translated text a narrower and less subtly ‘layered’ thing than the original.) in the following couplet. irrigate’.. the word order is contrived in such a way as to sit कठोर and तोरk alongside each other.बरह तपन . the two verbs in a compound often become inverted: िलिख 7दयौ (MSH िलख 7दया) might appear as 7दयौ िलिख without any change to the meaning. read as जल| ‘burning’. breeze’ (from Sanskrit वात). Another such inversion appears in उठत. as it supplies extra rhyme possibilities for the grateful poet. कोमल).. look for . जल | स[… ‘through sprinkling with water’. In Braj.जा7ग (MSH जाग उठती . The second line begins with an adverbial phrase. So the poem is thick with puns and allusions. but जल | may also be Staying with fire but returning to the matter of inverted compound verbs.BRAJ IN BRIEF these effects. adding another flame to the fire of the poem. lamp-wick’. built on ग8न (Sanskrit ग8ण) whose numerous meanings include ‘thread. Further.

yielding जाइ. the peacocks celebrate at the prospect of uniting with their मनभावन. Verb stems ending -āi (like बसाइ. ). कोऊ न .BRAJ IN BRIEF सबA सहायक सबल O. जगाय) with . स8न. बताइ. and कोऊ is MSH कोई भी (a suffixed उ or ऊ gives this emphasis). The word सबk (saba + emphatic suffix -i) is equivalent to MSH सभी. बोिल उठk ‘cries out’ and निच निच उठk ‘breaks into a dance’ both exemplify this: the ‘stem’ of the verb has the form जा.हय कौ sत अsत । जA‚ . The inversion comes in दीप7ह Qत ब8झाय.नबल सहाय । पवन जगावत आग कI दीप. nobody is a help to the weak: wind rouses the fire but douses the lamp.) is in its natural or neutral order. usually ends in –i. whereas क7ह Qत (MSH कह Qती .ह Xत ब9झाय ।। १२ ।। All are helpers of the strong. In Vnd’s next couplet. but the Braj verb stem मन भावन O िमलन O स9ख को ना. Hearing the clouds’ rumble. the monsoon is the mating season. and is announced by the welcome sound of thunder (घन घोर). Just as a spotless mirror reveals good and bad. For peacocks.नरमल आरसी भली ब9री क. which is equivalent to MSH दीप को ब8झा Qता ( .हन छोर । बोिल उठA निच निच उठA मोर स9नत घन घोर ।। १४ ।। The joy of meeting one’s heart’s beloved has no limit. जगाइ) can also be written -āya (बसाय. बता. क7र.. the peacock cries out and breaks into a dance. The compound verb Qत बताय (MSH बता QJ) is inverted. identical meaning. VERB STEMS In MSH. As inverted compound verbs are so common. The word को in the first line is an alternative spelling for possessive कौ (MSH का). स87न. कर etc.ह Xत ।। १३ ।। The eyes reveal everything of the heart’s love or lack of it. here’s a further example: न>ना Xत बताय सब . ‘heart’s delight’.

बचा.न बƒिझ क| अज9गत करA तासI कहा बसाय । जागत ही सोवत र@ . subtly suggests the repeated reaching-up of the unfortunate dwarf as he tries to reach the fruit ABSOLUTIVES ‘Absolutives’ give a ‘having done. stretch out your legs according to the length of your quilt. बाबन बाDह पसार. The correlative-relative construction JJ.रक| करतब . with the option that the stem अपनी पRDच . extend’. कर|. The following couplet neatly exemplifies both: the stem दौर (MSH दौड़. with the two parts of the compound The -i ending of the verb stem may easily be reduced to an -a ending (identical to the In the following couplet..करयA दौर । ˆˆ प‰व पसा.. the rhyme-words 7बचार and पसार may look like nouns but are in fact the absolutives of verbs meaning ‘to consider’ and ‘to spread. MSH form). making जाइ. क7र. as in जाकर /जा|. extended form. ¯ˇˇ rhythm in the final quarter of the couplet. स8न. स8नकर / स8न|.िजतनी (such . Braj has equivalent patterns.ह… पRDच . स87न.BRAJ IN BRIEF जा. How would a dwarf get a high fruit by stretching his arms? The repeated beyond his grasp. Qिख. Qख. having first considered your reach.. Qखकर / Qख|.. after doing’ sense.तhह को सक| जगाय ।। १५ ।। What can be done with someone who deliberately does foolish things? Who can awaken someone who stays asleep even when awake? The phrase को सक• जगाय is MSH verb (जगाय and सक•) inverted as explained earlier. MSH उत‚. बच. बचकर / may have an -i ending.बचार । क|L पावत उ†च फल बाबन बाDह पसार ।। १६ ।। Act later. जगाय is the stem form of the verb (=MSH जगा from जगाना) and is an alternative for the spelling जगाइ. बिच. पी„ कारज कीिजए प. कौन जगा सकJ / स|.रW nती लाDबी सौर ।। १७ ।। Hurry to do what is to be done after considering your capacity. In MSH they feature one of two options: a stem form as in जा.wती is equivalent to constructions are introduced more fully below). दौड़कर) and the extended 7बचा7रक• (MSH 7वचारकर): बच|. कर.

The equivalent infinitive in Braj ends simply -na. often meaning ‘promise’. V.त Š @ अ‹तर अ. Vnd is in playful mood again when he seems to imply a (false) parallel between two different forms: कहन is an infinitive verb of the kind just described. with Tansen. oblique (as in Qख‚ .ग ? ) Nevertheless it’s a fine verse. Braj often uses a gerund or ‘verbal noun’ with the ending -ibau (or -ibo): जाइबौ ‘going’.is particularly hard to translate: it covers ‘pleasurable 1 Saryūprasād Agravāl.रस बढ़A एक बचन त> जाय ।। १८ ।। There’s great distinction in the way of saying things: through one word anger increases. strolling and talking’ associated with Birbal are organic parts of everyday life. let’s hear from no less a person than Akbar. 2007 [AD 1950]).BRAJ IN BRIEF INFINITIVES & VERBAL NOUNS In MSH. which is invariable: Qखन. Leaving Vnd to one side for a moment. 89.S. Like the -au ending of masculine nouns and adjectives. the Mughal emperor himself. strolling. through one word it goes. Akbar favours Birbal above the others by associating him with three favourite (but now lost) pastimes in comparison to the single ones given for Pithal and Tansen respectively. We heard earlier that serving kings is dangerous. Akbarī darbār ke hindī-kavi. or कह‚ की बात). The verb रम. with many subtleties. Laughing.ग / स.. Pithal and Tansen are associated with specific artistic activities. the famous wit Birbal: पीथल सƒ मजिलस गई तानLन सƒ राग । ह<सबो रमबो बोलबो गया वीरवर साथ ।। १९ ।। 1 With Pithal went the soirée. music. and furthermore he groups these three activities in a discrete list that occupies a full quarterverse. Lucknow. In a deeply touching poem. this -au changes to -e in the oblique: जाइ‡ ˆ ‘in going’ and so on. कहना). he laments the passing of three of his favourite courtiers – ‘Pithal’ (Prithviraj). thereby underlining their scope and comprehensiveness. and hence even more prone to being missed. p. ‘word’ – in MSH it appears in its tatsama form वचन. the famous singer Tansen. the infinitive verb has a -nā ending (Qखना. which is perhaps why nobody dared to ‘kiss the serpent’ and remind Akbar that dohās are supposed to rhyme! (Should the rhyme-words be र. but बचन is a noun. which changes to -ne in the बात कहन की री. स87नबौ ‘hearing’. similar in form to the infinitive but of course otherwise quite unrelated. whereas the ‘laughing. बचन means In addition to this -na form. कहन. talking all went with Birbal’s company. and especially his beloved minister.धकाय । एक बचन त> . .

फर जाय .BRAJ IN BRIEF strolling’ and ‘taking enjoyment’. as in MSH राम ‚ कहानी स8नाई. compare the centrally-positioned verb the Rāmāyaṇa narrative! formed from the stem as in Qिख and the ending -au.हरन पाछ> गW राम गDवाई सीत ।। २० ।। The intellect warps in misfortune. as in ‘went’. but the significant part it has played in the transmission of Braj texts tends to be overlooked today.sg. The subtle switch from सl ‘with’ in the first line to साथ ‘with. but its structure lives on. Gone after a golden deer. which would not distinguish हMसबो रमबो बोलबो from the more conventional Nagari spellings more usual Braj spellings सो / सौ / स: / सH (MSH F !). Given the Mughal context. म.त . with agreement between verb and logical object following the usual rule.) Braj uses the so-called ‘ergative’ ‚ construction that is so taxing to novice learners of Hindi.pl. The last . You will hardly need reminding that this usage applies with transitive verbs only – not with intransitives like जा. The second line of our next couplet features intransitive ग! (agreeing with m. with the -i of the stem represented by The masculine perfective usually has forms like QRयौ. Birbal must have been excellent company. The poet’s use of the verb गMवा.बपि• Š राव र<क इक रीत । sम .here is a little subversive: it seems to blames Rāma for carelessly or even recklessly ‘losing’ his wife. स8ना): this is quarter of the couplet is wonderfully concise: राम गDवाई सीत is a truly laconic summary of गई in Akbar’s dohā above. with ‘Hindi’ and ‘Urdu’ separated into discrete camps. स8Pयौ (MSH Qखा. the ‚ postposition itself is often absent. A mere thirteen words encapsulate all this meaning. hand in hand. use of the of हM7सबो रिमबो बोिलबो. in company of’ in the second adds further to the sense of loss. Rama lost Sita. (or for that matter हM7सबौ रिमबौ बोिलबौ) or the postposition सl from the Persian script was not restricted to Persian and Urdu. in king and pauper alike. suggesting an animate connection between Birbal and the qualities associated with him: when he departed this life. as he was not entirely illiterate). as the famous ‘Akbar-Birbal’ stories imply. राम ) and गDवाई (agreeing with f. Notice also how the central positioning of the subject (‘Rāma’) allows this word to work with both clauses in the line. In Braj poetry.‘to go’. ‘did’ etc. with a very laid-back sense of just ‘hanging out’ or other more actively sensual pleasures. In the late medieval period. सीत). if you find this interesting. the couplet has probably been transmitted through the Persian script (perhaps even in Akbar’s own hand. they went off in company with him. PERFECTIVE VERBS In the perfective (the simple past.

बात brings musicality to the verse. Notice that the postposition कH (MSH को) is nasalized. Our next couplet has the third-person future form क7र. which could theoretically be written कयŠ. The more a blanket is soaked. नhह इलाज XŽयौ स9‹यौ जास1 िमटत स9भाव । मध9 प9ट को... using the structure of the line to position relative ([यI [यI) and correlative .बषभाव ।। २१ ।। [I’ve] never seen or heard of a means whereby inherent character is removed: [one] adds countless drops of honey.त हठ मत कर हठ बढ़A बात न क.र@ कोय । [यI [यI भीजA कामरी •यI •यI भारी होय ।। २३ ।। Don’t practise extreme obstinacy! If obstinacy grows.BRAJ IN BRIEF the semi-vowel /y/ — say ‘dekhi-au’ and you will hear the /y/ appearing automatically in your pronunciation. Braj has predictable equivalents of these (बोलlMगौ. is Shah Azim-ush-Shan.is कर‰ौ (i. what with its 7कया and की क7र.टक Xत तउ .!). we find much more variety in Braj than in MSH’s single set of बोलlMगा. The verb कर. Notice how the interplay of retroflex and dental consonants in अ7त हठ मत.. and it’s this last form that we find in the final couplet of Vnd’s Satasaī. बोKगा forms. कीPहौ. equivalent to MSH क#गा − अ. अ. yet venom doesn’t forsake its venomousness. बोKगौ) but also boasts a set of –h– forms yielding first-person बोिलहौ. third-person बोिल.‘to do’ is irregular in Braj (and in MSH participles and its कीिजए imperative etc.त उदार .न वv‹द कI कीनो अ.रझबार जग साह अजीम9•सान । सतसAया स9. and delighting in the world. karyau. The second line uses an effective if commonplace parallelism.. and no more.हठ. Alternative participles are कीPह.त सनमान ।। २२ ।। Most liberal.e.. nobody will speak [with you]. Although this is not a consistent feature. the heavier it becomes. etc.. though Braj scribes कीनौ and कीनो. कीन. hearing the Satsaī he showed Vrind great honour.बष न तजत . The soaked blanket stands as a metaphor for human patience: it can absorb or accommodate a certain amount of a failing such as obstinacy — but only so much. tactfully fulsome in its praise of the poet’s imperial patron Azim-us-Shan: too. FUTURE TENSE Looking to the future. it does help distinguish this sense from the unnasalized possessive कौ (MSH का). In Braj the usual perfective participle from don’t often use the flying reph in participles).

िलिखयk. A word to note here is Z. look out for a passive of the verb उतार. Spellings vary! The MSH word चा7हए / चा7ह!. as a pot made of wood cannot be lifted [to the fire] a second time. -iyai or -iyata.). ‘will come’: क. In this next couplet. which of course means ‘is wanted’. separated by a comma-like caesura. स87नयत ‘is seen’.‘to take off’: . as in स7नए / स87न!. कीजk is an abbreviated form of It is not only in the future tense that Braj has more variety than has two distinctive forms. And a word of warning फ’र न “A@ कपट स1 जो कीजA qयौपार । जAस> हाDडी काठ की चढ़A न {जी बार ।। २५ ।। If an enterprise is done with deceipt. We will return to the matter of relative-correlatives later. Firstly.BRAJ IN BRIEF (•यI •यI) clauses in the two half-lines.’ ! Hmmm: Vnd should write a dohā about it. it won’t work again. The second type of passive ends -ie. as in स8Pयौ जात ‘is heard’ (MSH स8ना जाता . as two words and print ‘आइ . equivalent to MSH about the orthography of future-tense words such as आइ. Meanwhile. The verb “A@ is the future of हो-. is a unique survival of this old passive form in MSH. and the keyword बरत in the second line not only echoes करत करत in the first. PASSIVES होगा. a Braj passive. Here is one more example of the future: भी. स87नयk. ‘even’ or ‘also’. − typesetters are so accustomed to setting the MSH present-tense verb . The first line is sewn together with ‘क’ alliteration.ठन कला V आइ@ करत करत अ‘यास । नट [य1 चालत बरत पर साधt बरस छमास ।। २४ ।। Even a difficult skill will come with repeated practice – as an acrobat performing on a rope learns it in a year or a six-month. it shares with MSH MSH: the passive also the formula of ‘perfective participle plus जा’ (the so-called periphrastic passive). िलिखयत ‘is written’. Vnd’s next couplet gives us a third-person future in आइ. The dohā above gives further examples of Vnd’s skill in achieving phonetic cohesion. िलिखए / िलिख!. and it is to this form that we turn next. as a separate word that they often mistakenly set a Braj future verb like आइ. i-iye. but also anticipates पर and बरस in the phrasing that follows. equivalent to MSH कीिजए.

is given an internal cohesion by a shared quality of short vowels: this shared phonetic quality suggests that all the members of the little group are united by a common feature. one could draw water from hell [itself] if one had a well-made / roped bucket. i. Notice how the little list of personnel in the first quarter-verse.हन.त . it is also ग8नी in MSH the sense that it has a ‘thread’ (ग8न. For example. but also something with a ‘string attached’ (ग8नज8त. At a pinch.e. but could equally well be translated as either ‘is/are served’ or ‘should be served’ (both passive): (स87नए. उतारा जाता . The necklace (हार) is valuable (ग8नी). ग8न appears within the word गनवारौ.नकट त> {र र– फल नाhह ।। २७ ।। Serve a king.तय .बन कोइ । काढ़t नीर पताल त> जो ग9नज9त घट होइ ।। २८ ।। He who has qualities gains wealth — no one gains without qualities. the English expression ‘well-made’ might just work for both meanings.e. ग8ण) running through it. a word that is often hard to translate adequately. no one respects [a thing] out of context: the necklace is removed from the breast when it’s sleeping-time. i. guru. i. Despite its high status or value.त ल@ ल@ न ग9न . tatsama ग8णय8Yत): ग9नवारौ स<प. नvप ग9U .तय . it is taken off (passive उता7रयk = (अवसर) for wearing jewellery.e. no result if you stay remote. In MSH the following. नvप ग9U . and it can have this function in Braj too. ग8ण). THE SUFFIXES -वारौ AND -हार Like many poets in Sanskritic languages. being well-made. so that either could be used in translation. since a ‘well-made bucket’ could be interpreted as ‘a bucket made for a well’.हन LइयA म•य भाग जग माhह । @ .रयA सयन समय जब होइ ।। २६ ।। Though it’s worthy. wife and sister from middle-distance in the world: there’s disaster from [being] very close.ब.बनास अ.बना आदर करA न कोइ । . being a thing of quality (ग8न.ब. in the next couplet Fइयk is translated ‘serve’ (imperative mood). The resulting sense is ‘having qualities’. Vnd is addicted to the punning potential of ग8न (Sanskrit ग8ण). as we found just now. equipped .हय त> हार उता.) when it is not the right time MSH The -ie /-iai ending of the passive is familiar to us as an āp imperative in सोिचए).BRAJ IN BRIEF ग9नी तऊ अवसर . at bed-time (सयन समय). in which the -वारौ suffix is equivalent to -वाला. In many contexts the passive and imperative senses overlap.

Vnd shows us several old friends here: -i stems in 7बचा7र. Rāma gave the defeated Rāvaṇ’s kingdom of Lanka to Rāvaṇ’s brother Vibhīṣaṇ (a devout Vaishnava).वभीषन पाय ।। २९ ।। That which is to go. Braj has access to the full range of Sanskritic and vernacular vocabulary. the churner extracts the butter.बचा. but elsewhere Vnd prefers Œदय.र ।। ३० ।। A wise man considers a matter deeply and grasps its principle. LEXICAL CHOICES AND WORD DERIVATIONS MSH grab or grip) and Kत. and poets can choose between a wide array of forms and spellings including tatsama and tadbhava forms and many points in between. Remember that the odd-looking word ‹k hvai is the stem form of the verb हो.नहार तिज छाछ कI माखन …त .र .नका. and both an inverted compound verb and a vहण करना to grasp. but English readers would not be as accustomed to such punning as their Braj cousins. but it’s worth pointing out one or two important processes. the tatsama version of this same word: . with ल.बचा. Similar in use to -वारौ is the suffix -हार. which is the point of the poem. These short notes cannot go into the complexities of word derivation and etymology. and that which is to be comes about: Ravan lost Lanka. The -हार suffix appears below attached to the stem मथ7न.in मथ7नहार. imperfective participles in गहत (compare ल / र sound-change in Kत 7नका7र (MSH 7नकाल Kता . ‘gains / gains not’. goes. up-and-coming’ (as in होनहार लड़का). abandoning the buttermilk. In the couplet नGना Qत बताय सब (13) we saw the tadbhava word 7हय for ‘heart’. तिज and 7नका7र. As if reviewing earlier lessons. Note that the pious Vibhīṣaṇ qualifies for an honorific plural (in the perfective verb बF). Vibhishan gained it and settled there. both Rāvaṇ’s loss of Lanka and Vibhīṣaṇ’s gaining of it were fated events. this is seen in the formulaic found with a wider range of verbs: MSH ‘about to be’. the repeat straddling the caesura: this deliberate phrasing marks a stark contrast between the two parallel statements. a clearly nasalized कH.BRAJ IN BRIEF with a rope.र । मथ. but in Braj it is also word होनहार जानहार सो जाय अU होनहार “A जाय । रावन त> ल<का गयी बL .). ‘promising.. i. and would miss the point! Notice again how a chiasmus juxtaposes ल. a ‘churner’: गहत त•व —यानी प9Uष बात .e.‘to be’ (equivalent to MSH हो).

BRAJ IN BRIEF जाको ˜दय कठोर ..7त•ह equates to MSH YयH Z 7कए means ‘however it’s done. the vowel nasality having been picked up from the nasal environment of म and न).कए िभदA न ।। ३१ ।। S/he whose heart is hard is impervious to soft words. The syntax of Vnd’s ‘heart-of-stone’ dohā does not quite coincide with its metrical construction in the first line: the caesura supplies a rhythmic break after 7त•ह (MSH उF). (The relative-correlative जाको.तhह ल™ न कोमल बAन । Šन बान [य1 प•थर Š HयI V . the adverbial phrase Sanskrit word मदन ‘Kāmdev. first becoming a semi-vowel (मयन) in Prakrit. Only ‘a person whose heart is hard’ can be impervious to the fascination of these processes. in which the English ‘v’ and its adjacent vowels are simplified to ‘au’.ट. . for example. See the note on dictionaries below (especially Turner). as part of the phrase 7त•ह लगk न कोमल बkन. the rhyme-word of line 1. speech’). but to no avail. Vnd’s next offering again uses को in a rhetorical question. Such features are sometimes exploited very artfully by poets intent on particular meanings.e words that have an apparent but deceptive similarity to others: कहा means ‘what?’ (MSH Yया) and has nothing to do with MSH with the को that marks an object as in कहना. which can be scientifically tracked and documented in such a way as to be able to predict how a sound will change over time. Elsewhere.. then further reduced in the Braj spelling Žन (ˆन in our example. this is the academic science of philology. Cupid’ has been through a process of phonetic ‘weakening’. A similar process leads from वचन to बkन (‘word. but in terms of syntax 7त•ह belongs with the second half of the line..) The middle syllable of the िजसका. in which ‘who?’ implies ‘nobody!’ को स9ख को šख Xत @ Xत करम झकझोर । उरझA स9रझA आप ही ध9जा पवन O जोर ।। ३२ ।। Who gives joy. no matter how one tries’.उF.. i. the word भवन ‘house. who sorrow? It is karma that shakes us: The flag twists and untwists itself in the power of the wind. building’ (which already has a semi-vowel as its middle syllable) is spelt भौन in Braj. while को means ‘who?’ (MSH कौन) and has nothing to do MSH हमको. Just as Kamdev’s arrows can in no way pierce stone. the English word ‘government’ as गौर. Notice also how the position of ल• at the beginning of the second quarter-verse gives it emphasis — the ‘soft words’ striking at the ‘heart of stone’. and one can see this process at work in some Hindispeakers’ pronunciations of. The couplet below — about foolishness — contains a couple of ‘false friends’.

(पlरा होता . and for that matter in the dohā genre generally. ता7ह (MSH िजसF . and equivalences. the genre often finds itself dealing with comparisons. Such binary equations lend themselves well to relative-correlative constructions.. िजती (MSH िजतनी).. or ‘just as A is. वह [tथान या त‘व] उसको अdछा लगता . (MSH िजसकी).ह । स.). 7त•ह. उसको. Such constructions abound in Vnd’s couplets. so he declares it to be: some call [the moon] ‘hare-marked’ or ‘nectar-maker’. and Jतौ (MSH उतना): In the first line of this next couplet we find more relative and correlative words: जाकी होय पRDच जाकी िजती ˆतौ करत `कास । र. The lunar patch that we call ‘the man on the moon’ is seen variously as a hare and a blemish. B is not far away’. then B’.िजतनी.. equivalent to MSH MSH िजसका . वkसा). In its habitual observations on human behaviour...व [यI क|L क. These constructions are very awkward to translate literally! Think of it like this: िजसका tवाथ• जहाM सधता .ह ।। ३३ ।। As a person feels towards something.. The construction uses two parallel sets of relative constructions: जासH . and these often give rise to balanced expressions on the lines of ‘if A.. structurally they may be split either across the two halves of the line (hinged at the caesura) or across the two lines of the couplet itself.. so is B’.wती.. the moonlight is not as dear as a dark night.स.ह स9धाकर कहत कोउ कहत कल<की आ.ह स9हात । चोर न ›यारी चाDदनी जAसी कारी रात ।। ३४ ।। Where a person’s self-interest is served. but the moon is also the source of nectar or ambrosia: so the choice of epithets for the moon depends on the sentiments of the observer – beauty (or its opposite) being in the eye of the beholder. oppositions. जासI जAसो भाव सो तAसो ठानत ता. that thing pleases him: to a thief. or perhaps ‘where A is found. some say it’s ‘the blemished one’. Another example of such parallel sets comes in this next couplet: जाको जहD •वारथ सधA सोई ता. उसF) and जkसो ... तkसो (MSH जkसा . so he casts light: how could a lamp destroy darkness like the sun? .....र सकœ दीपक तम को नास ।। ३५ ।। According to one’s capacity. we saw जाको ..BRAJ IN BRIEF RELATIVE-CORRELATIVES In dohā 17 we saw a relative-correlative construction using JJ. or ‘what a difference between A and B!’.. equivalent to उत‚. and in dohā 30.

This last image has a sting in the tail: the lotus stem grows according to the depth of the water.गहरो जल चढ़A ˆतौ बढ़A सरोज ।। ३६ ।। With the rising of the master. The former is a non-finite participle (‘on the rising of the master. In the next dohā the relative pronoun जो is dropped ([जो] ब8री करG). the servant rises in rank and splendour.BRAJ IN BRIEF And here.. while English manages well without a correlative pronoun (“those who do evil. [they] are evil”): बढ़x / बढ़k. the deeper the water grows.’). but when the water recedes.नज करA सो बा. investments can go down as well as up. the lotus is left high and dry.... Notice the neat chiasmus across the caesura: rises’). To a poet such as Vnd.) As financial advisers dutifully remind us. he who trades is a trader. we find wतो .ह< ब9रो कोउ और । ब. such contexts must have seemed very real.. and the employee’s long-term security depends on the enduring status of his master.हब O बढ़t बढ़A बड़ाई ओज । nतो .नया चोरी करA सो चोर ।। ३७ ।। They who do evil are evil. he who thieves is a thief. Jतौ (MSH िजतना . [just] so much grows the lotus. in the second line. someone else is not evil. उतना): Lवक सा. dependant on the whimsical fortunes of a royal patron.. whereas the latter is a finite verb (‘the servant ब9री कर> ˆई ब9o ना. and brevity is everything: so relative-correlative constructions are not always equipped with a full set of pronouns. . (The connection is made clear by the vocabulary choices: सरोज ‘lotus’ means ‘pond-born’. Space is at a premium in the dohā. so that its flower floats on the surface. confirming its watery habitat.

. by contrast. पA लE . तऊ ?.BRAJ IN BRIEF SOME IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES FROM MODERN STANDARD HINDI It’s time now to bring together a few common words and usages where Braj forms are quite different from their MSH equivalents. स) hU BI हE तक. was to substitute ष for ख. The Braj pronunciation of cerebral ष would approximate to the sound of ख. The first was to substitute ख for ष. न जो. writing (but not saying) षxत for ?त. भयो सE. the second.का और (conjunction only) 'य) 'या कहा कह. /कस ज/न जा जो ता त= तउ. /कत को कौ /क/ह /कधर. BRAJ MSH अ" कत क. अगर उस तो भी पर िजस > (‘from. to’) F (nominative) tendencies in Braj orthography. जA> भी > (‘with. leading to two for भाषा. मत. writing (and saying) भाखा Qzयौ for QRयौ. कहाकौन का /कस 'या. through’) Bआ भयौ.

Lucknow.. Hindi-English Dictionary. 1884. the following are all extremely useful. R.BRAJ IN BRIEF AND FINALLY . http://dsal. 2 vols.. Śyāmsundar Dās. In fact the number is only an approximate formula. A comparative dictionary of Indo-Aryan languages (London. 1969-1985). Hindī Śabdsāgar. The Satsaī genre was named ‘seven hundred’ because this is the number of couplets that it contains (सतसई derives from Sanskrit स“तश7त through the Prakrit स€सई). with many pre-modern and dialect forms. and English. O. .edu/dictionaries/dasa-hindi/ R. A Dictionary of Urdu. 1993. I conclude by adding a couplet of my own: जाO .L. http://dsal. Not easy to track down. McGregor. Classical Hindi.S. 11 volumes. London. with three supplements. Still an essential resource after all these years..uchicago.U. J. In the tradition of composing verse tributes to an admired poet. Nāgarī Pracāriṇī Sabhā. A NOTE ON DICTIONARIES Although it is hard to find a single dictionary for reading Braj.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/platts/ Premnārāyaṇ Ṭaṇḍan. and it includes a Hindi-medium Braj grammar in the appendix. and an excellent source for reliable etymologies. the edition of Vnd’s text used here has 714 couplets. and an individual Satsai often has more verses than its literal ‘seven centuries’. Platts.ह भाखा कžप त> घट काढ़t इक दोय ।। ३८ ।। He in whose heart may lie a desire to taste nectar should draw a bucket or two from this ‘vernacular’ well..हय मhह लालसा रस चाखन की होय । सो इ. The best source for reliable information about etymologies of Indo-Aryan words. but very useful if you can find it.edu/dictionaries/. Varanasi. 1929. 1962-1966. This dictionary in fact ranges more widely than the poetry of the eponymous Sūrdās. Brajbhāṣā Sūrkoś. The standard HindiEnglish dictionary. Oxford. and in gratitude to Vnd for being such a helpful tutor. Some of them are available online under the Chicago University ‘Digital Dictionaries of South Asia’ project — URLs noted accordingly.uchicago. http://dsal.T.P. Lucknow University. ed. 1974. The most comprehensive Hindi-Hindi dictionary. Turner.