Ū

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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 this sūtra, Ū is third in order and appears in the very first sūtra: “a-i-u-ṇ”.[1]
  • 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[2] and upadhmānīya,[3] is articulated by the lips.
  • The time of pronunciation of letter ū in two mātrās is Long (dīrgha) and in case of three mātrās it is 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.
  • In total, it can be of 18 forms.

In Śikṣās

  • It is stated in the śikṣā that Svaras (Vowels) and ūṣman consonants are pronounced openly, the ū is pronounced openly but with inward effort.
  • It is pronounced openly since there is no touch of the tip of the tongue and teeth.
  • It is also declared that the vowels are untouched and the śal consonants are partly touched.

In Kāmadhenu Tantra

  • 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 along with yellow lightening.
  • It awards happiness.
  • It represents the four ends of life namely:
  1. Piety
  2. Wealth
  3. Desire
  4. Liberation

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 lines have the presence of Yama, Agni and Varuṇa gods in an order. The line above has the presence of lakṣmī and sarasvatī.

Usage of Ū in Literature

  1. In the mātṛkānyāsa ritual, chanting of the letters is done by touching upon the parts of one’s body. The ū is uttered while touching both the ears while reciting, “salutations to u and the right ear is touched, salutations to the ū and the left ear is touched.”
  2. It is also a name of māheśvara.[4]
  3. Śabdaratnāvalī states that it is a name of Candra. In the sense of protector, it can be used in all the three genders.

Grammatical Usage of Ū

  1. Ū is formed by “veñ root + Kvip suffix.
  2. It is one of the Anubandhas (tags). Hence, it is the form of words like Asadīt, asaitsīt.
  3. It is used in the beginning of the sentence. It is an addressing note. It implies protection and compassion.[5]
  4. Ū as a Masculine form is the one who protects.
  5. It is derived as Av + Kip by the Sūtra jvaratvaretyūṭh.[6]

References

  1. Māhēśvara Sūtras 1
  2. Pavarga, i.e, Pa, Pha, Ba, Bha, Ma
  3. Half visarga
  4. Māheśvara is also referred as Puruṣottama.
  5. This is stated in the medinī lexicon.
  6. Sūtra jvaratvaretyūṭh VI.iv.20
  • Shabdakalpadrumah by Raja Radhakantdev, Varadaprasada Vasu, Haricarana Vasu