Why the last ‘Shanti’ of the mantra ‘Shanti Shanti Shanti’ ends at a higher note

I remember I was attending a Sanskrit mantra retreat in a beautiful ashram in Rishikesh, India, when someone asked this question: “Why the third ‘Shanti’ of the mantra ‘Shanti Shanti Shanti’ ends on a higher note than the others?”

Well, I didn’t know the answer!

Hear this audio and at the end of the mantra, you will notice the question:

Being from India and hearing this mantra recited time and again, I was already exposed and accustomed to the way this mantra is recited or chanted; however, I never stopped to think why there is a difference in chanting of the same words within the same mantra.

I didn’t make a conscious effort either to find out the reason till I stumbled upon a ‘sonic realization’. Well, I call is so because the reason came to me when I was reciting this mantra by reading it in a book.

Well, if you are aware of the Sanskrit mantras from Vedas chanted according to some tradition or method, you must notice that there is a lot of intonation given to every vowel and every line. Generally speaking, a vowel can be recited in four different notes.

  • The general note is of course which is your normal pitch.
  • The underlined note is one lower than your pitch. (अनुदात्त, grave)
  • If a letter has one vertical bar over it, it is recited one note higher than the pitch. (उदात्त, acute)
  • If a letter has two vertical bars, it is recited one note higher for an elongated time.  (स्वरित, circumflex)

In the above picture of the Shanti mantra, you will notice that the first Shanti words end with the grave sign of the letter, while the third time it ends with the acute sign.

This is the reason why you hear a higher note for the third Shanti in this mantra.

I am sure there could be a better explanation or deeper meanings behind this, but at the surface, this is what looks the reason behind this practice, which became popular among the masses. Now, if you come across this mantra or hear it being recited in the similar fashion, you will know the reason–there are Anudātta and Udātta characteristics of the vowels in play.

Please share any feedback or observation through the comment section. I would love to have more discussion about this.

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