By M. A. Alwar
Sometimes transliterated as: U, U, UU
Formation from the Vowel U
The letter Ū is a long form (dīrgha) of the letter “u”. Shabdakalpadrumah asserts that ū is sixth of the vowels, after considering the long forms too.
Significance of Ū
In Māhēśvara Sūtras
In the māhēśvara sūtras, it is third in order and appears in the very first sūtra: “a-i-u-ṇ”. The place of articulation of ū is the “Lips” (oṣṭha). The sūtra “upūpadhmānīyānām oṣṭhau” states that the letter ‘ū’, along with the class of Pa (Pavarga, i.e, Pa, Pha, Ba, Bha, Ma) and upadhmānīya (Half visarga), is articulated by the lips. The letter ū in two mātrās period of pronunciation is Long (dīrgha) and in case of three mātrās period of pronunciation, it is treated as Very Long (Pluta). It can again be treated as three-fold on the basis of udātta (Acute), anudātta (Grave) and svarita (balanced). Considering the nasality and non-nasal quality, it is six-fold. Totally, it can be of 18 forms.
As it is stated in the śikṣā that “Svaras (Vowels) and ūṣman consonants are pronounced openly, the ū is pronounced openly and with inward effort. It is pronounced openly since there is no touch of the tip of the tongue and others. This too has been stated in the śikṣā as “the vowels are untouched and the śal consonants are partly touched”.
In Kāmadhenu Tantra
The kāmadhenu tantra states: “The ū has the form of the bent conch and is curved in shape. It is of the form of five prāṇas and represents the five gods. It represents the five prāṇas also the lightening, yellow. It represents the four ends of life, namely piety, wealth, desire and liberation. It awards happiness.
In Vaṅga Language
The ū is written in vaṅga language as: “The line drawn from u below to the left…” The u is already stated.
In varṇoddhāra tantra
The varṇoddhāra tantra states: “The lines have the presence of Yama, Agni and Varuṇa gods in an order. The line above has the presence of lakṣmī and sarasvatī.” The names of ū are:
- In the mātṛkānyāsa ritual of chanting the letters by touching upon the parts of one’s body, the ū is stated and the left ear is touched. This has been stated in the mātṛkānyāsa mantra: “salutations to u and the right ear is touched, salutations to the ū and the left ear is touched.” ū is one of the Anubandhas (tags). Hence, the form of words like Asadīt, asaitsīt.
- ū: This is formed by “veñ root + Kvip suffix). It is used in the beginning of the sentence. It implies protection and compassion. This is stated in the medinī lexicon. It is an addressing note.
- ū: Masculine form. One who protects. It is derived as Av + Kip by the Sūtra jvaratvaretyūṭh (VI.iv.20). A name of māheśvara (Puruṣottama). śabdaratnāvalī states that it is a name of Candra. In the sense of protector, it can be used in all the three genders.
- māhēśvara sūtras 1
- Shabdakalpadrumah by Raja Radhakantdev, Varadaprasada Vasu, Haricarana Vasu