‘Prasa’ (prAsa) (ಪ್ರಾಸ) is the Kannada equivalent of the English word rhyme. This is one of the important features of poetry and Kannada is no exception. Ancient and medieval Kannada poets have followed the stipulations regarding 'praasa' very scrupulously. ‘Praasa’ is the repetition of a particular letter (usually a consonant in a single line or in all the lines of a stanza in a poem. If this recurrence occurs at regular intervals then it is ‘niyata praasa’ (regular rhyme) If the recurrence is not governed by any rule, it is referred to as ‘aniyata praasa’. (Irregular rhyme) Ancient prosodists were very keen about adhering to a scheme of regular rhyming. Rhyming could take place at the beginning, end or in the middle of a line. They are referred to as ‘Adi prAsa’, ‘antya prAsa’ and ‘madhya prAsa’ respectively. The second consonant of every line (pAda) in a stanza is the same in ‘AdiprAsa’. If the last consonant (or a cluster of consonants) of every line in a given stanza is the same, then it is called ‘antya prAsa’. Madhya prAsa is the recurrence of a consonant at many places in a given stanza without any regularity. Prosodists have indulged in some hair splitting and have created a number of sub divisions in these main categories.
‘PrAsa’ regulates the flow of a poem, perhaps a little less than rhythm. Some time it enhances the melody of the poem. This is particularly true in the case of internal rhyming. An analysis of the rhyme patterns in ancient texts could render significant help in tracing the evolution of Kannada phonemes. Using two letters in rhyming positions obviously refers to a similarity in pronunciation and such an occurrence gives us a hint about its original phonetic form. A systematic rhyme scheme is of immense help in committing a poem to memory. An awareness of the rhymes patterns could help in textual criticism also.
‘Kavirajamarga’ and ‘Kavijihvabandhana’, two texts on Kannada prosody make extensive references to the phenomenon of rhyming. Both of them have delineated ‘Adi prAsa’, ‘antya prAsa’ and ‘madhya prAsa’ (anugata prAsa) with suitable illustrations. The sub divisions created by them are basically dependent on the rhyming letter/letters. For instance the recurrence of a consonant followed by a short vowel as the second letter of all the lines in a given stanza is called ‘Simha prAsa’. If the rhyming consonant is succeeded by a long vowel then it is ‘gaja prAsa’. Recurrence of a consonant cluster (CCV) gives rise to ‘turaga prAsa’.
There has been an ongoing debate among poets and prosodists about the appropriateness of rhyming. Modern Kannada poetry has stopped using regular rhyme patterns. The historical decision by the scholar-poet M.Govinda Pai to relinquish the practice of using ‘Adi prAsa’ is a well known point of departure. However the use of irregular rhymes to make the rhythm patterns more sonorous continues to this day.