doha: This common Hindi form is a self-contained rhyming couplet. Each twenty-four-syllable line divides into unequal parts of thirteen (6, 4, 3) and eleven syllables (6, 4, 1). A sortha, an inverted doha, transposes the two parts of the line. The simple form of the doha, which conveys an image or idea in two verses, has made it especially useful to describe devotional, sensual, and spiritual states, as in the mystical poetry of Kabir (1440-1518) and Nanak (1469-1539). It often has a proverbial feeling. Goswami Tulsidas employed dohas to adapt the Sanskrit epic Ramayana (fifth to fourth century B. C. E.). His Ramcharitmanas (sixteenth century) are as well known among Hindus in northern India as the Bible is rural in America.
Excerpted from A Poet’s Glossary by Edward Hirsch. Copyright © 2014 by Edward Hirsch. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.