Friday, 8 March 2019

Alakshmirme or Lakshmirme ? Shri Suktam Clarification


Shri Suktam is a portion of the Vedas attributed to the aspect of wealth and the expression of Lakshmi.

A popular to-date confusion that persists in the recitation of this hymn is in regards to the pronunciation of the verse : 

''Taam Padminiim-iim Sharannam-Aham Prapadye-[A]lakshmiir-Me Nashyataam Tvaam Vrnne''

Meaning: I take Refuge at Her Feet, Who Abides in the Lotus; By Her Grace, let the Alakshmi (in the form of Evil, Distress and Poverty) within and without be destroyed


Authentic scripts display this verse as ' prapadye'lakshamirme'.This verse talks about driving away 'alakshmi' ( opposite of lakshmi ).If we recite it as lakshamirme,we are actually requesting 'lakshmi' to be driven away! 

Then, why does the Vedas guide us to pronounce it as 'lakshamirme' at all ? In fact, many have chosen to deviate from this pronunciation and rather chant it as 'alakshmirme'.

Shri Suktam by my Whatsapp Veda Learner Smt Kavita


Understanding Vedas

To reiterate, the utmost importance in Veda recitation is the svaras ( the articulation ) and not pronunciation.The reason simply being that Vedas constitute cosmic sound ( shabda-brahman ) and sound energy is the basis to Vedas.

Since Suktams have their origin from Rig Veda,they are bounded to Chandas ( metre - a verse is chanted in a particular length ) .

The Chandah ( metre ) is the backbone on which the sounds of the Vedas with their svaras are laid upon. A metre is so important because it gives shape to all the intonations which are merely represented by the sounds - which gives rise to pronunciation.

If you notice the script, you find a symbol ( ) before 'lakshmirme'


This is denoted as an apostrophe in the English transliteration. Take note of the apostrophe between prapadye and lakshamirme in the script above.

This is called the 'Avagraha'.This comes under the sandhi rules of Veda recitation. In this rule of Avagraha, a particular word loses its first vowel.

Example :

 शिवोऽहम्  = Śivo’ham 

We generally pronounce this sound as 'Shivoham'.However, it is actually Śivaḥ aham - Shivah Aham ( I am Shiva ), turned Shivoham due to the presence of Avagraha. Take note of the apostrophe between S'ivo and ham in the English transliteration given above.

Why the cut? 


This is usually done to preserve the length of a particular verse ( Chandas ).

The particular verse of Shri Suktam where lakshmirme comes is part of Tristubh Chandah.

It comprises 11 syllables and 4 padas.If the word is pronounced as 'alakshmir',then it is not in accordance with the Triṣṭubh Chandah.The metre of this verse is preserved only if it is pronounced as 'lakshmirme'.It is better explained if we see the 'A' vowel being replaced by an Avagraha rather than a blatant omission. The meaning implied is unchanged - it still means that we request alakshmi to be driven away.

The Avagraha comes in many parts of the Vedas. Those who recite Chamakam will find its presence in many parts throughout the chapters.

However, I believe that this particular avagraha in Shri Suktam is being popularised simply because wealth is a concern to many and linking the pronunciation to its meaning doesn't seem pleasant in this particular example.

As said earlier, Vedas work according to sound energy ( governed by intonations ).The meanings are just a reflection which carry many dimensions of understanding to it.

Chamakam - where arkashca is pronounced as rkascha due to Avagraha
So the correct way to chant it is actually 'lakshmirme'.You may hear recitations where it is chanted as 'alakshmirme'.In this case,they are not following the sandhi rules.

Allow Vedas to express themselves as how they are rather than manipulating them to suit our psychological comfort.

Also Read :

(1) Shri Suktam - The Sound Form of Lakshmi

3 comments:

  1. Good write up. Just trying to understand the avagraha rule, how would have it been if it were “lakshmirme” in real. If this is only applicable for vowels (for eg ‘A’lakshmirme) how do we distinguish between lakshmirme vs alakshmirme.

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    Replies
    1. The script would have a avagraha symbol.
      If oral teaching is done, the individual words will be recited.. so in teaching it will be alakshmirme.

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  2. Thank you! Well explained. I was looking for this clarification 🙏🙏🙏

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