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PANINI – The Sanskrit grammarian

Sanskrit is a wonderful language. Also it is a scientific language. Its words and sentences can be analyzed and broken piece by piece like the bricks of a wall. Sanskrit is the mother of not only of all Indian languages but of all Indo-European languages. Germans have much love for Sanskrit. Max Muller was an arm chair Indologist from Germany.

The Sanskrit language was first systematized by Panini – a grammarian of the fifth century B.C. Before him also there were some grammarians Apisali, Kashyapa, Gargya, Galava, Chakravarman, Bharadwaja, Sakatayana, Sakalya, Senaka, Sphotayama, Yaska; but it was Panini who systematized the language of Sanskrit. What do we mean by Vyakarana – the Indian word for grammar?

Vyakarana means – Vyakru + Ana (Pratyaya). ‘Vyakru’ means to differentiate between right and wrong. So the act of differentiation between right and wrong in the use of language is called ‘Vyakarana’. This discerning is essential for correct usage of Language. There is a saying – Vyakaranambina Vani, Ramani ramanambina.

Panini made the Sanskrit Language a refined language. His linguistic treatise is named ‘Astadhyayi’ – a book of grammatical rules consisting of eight chapters. So it is called ‘Astadhyayi’. There are 3959 rules of grammar. Panini was well known for his brevity. After all brevity is soul of wisdom. Panini’s short rules depict deep and correct meanings. The first rule of ‘Astadhyayi’ is –

“Atha Sabdanushasanam”

(Here starts the analysis of words)

The last rule of ‘Astadhyayi” is –

“a – a – iti

[Here ends with a – a (अ – अ)]

Randomly Panini has traversed the whole length of the Sanskrit language. His brief rules are easy to remember.

Some of his rules are given here.

  • Ruchyarthanam Priyamanah

The person who relishes the food is given fourth case ending (Chaturthi bivakti)

Example – Mahyam dadhirochate.   (curd is a relish to me)

  • Danarthe Chaturthi

To whom gift is given, gets fourth case ending (Chaturthi bibhakti)


(Give wealth to poor men)

  • Sasthyahaakrose.

(When there is disrespect, the case ending is not deleted in SasthiTatpurusaSamasa)

Example – Piyanam Piyadasi Asokah

(Asoka, the beloved of the Gods)

  • Sati Saptami –

(When there is cause and effect, seventh case ending (Saptami bibhakti) is done in the case of cause.

Example – Suryeuditepadmambikasati.

(When Sun rises, then the lotus gets flowered).

Here Sunrise is the cause. Hence Saptami bibhakti.

  • Nivaranartham

(When there is need of elimination, fourth case ending is done on the elements to be eliminated)

Example – Masakaydhuma

(Smoke is needed to eliminate the mosquitoes)

There are many chapters in Sanskrit Grammar – Sandhi, Samasa, Bibhakti, Karaka, Krudanta, Tadhhita, ntwabidhi, Shatvabidhi, Vachyaparibartama, Dhaturupa, Sabdarupa and many others. Panini has dealt with these chapters randomly – but perfectly.

In the Samasa chapter – there are many Samasas – Tatpurusha, Karmadharaya, Dwigu, Dwanda, Bahubrihi etc. Question comes which is the greatest Samasa?

‘Dwanda’ Samasa is the best and greatest Samasa because here both Padas (words) are equally significant. Example – Puspam Cha Phalam Cha = Puspa -Phalam.

(Here puspam and phalam are equally emphasized). In Bhagbad Gita also – Lord Krishna said – among the Samasas, I am Dwanda.

In other Samasas either former or latter terms are emphasized. In case of BahubrihiSamasa – an outside term is emphasized. Example –

“Dharmaparayana” ( A truthful man)

Here an outside term is emphasized – a person (who is truthful).

Bhagavad Gita says Karma is highest thing. In grammar also in a sentence, Kriyapada (verb) is most important part.

Indeed Sanskrit is a Scientific language. And Panini has done a yeoman service for it.

Apart from its grammatical value, we get many other information from Panini’s Astadhyayi. For example – Devakiputra Vasudeva. Lord Vasudeva Krishna was the son of Devaki. Krishna has been deified by Panini. Some Scholars have pointed out that there is mention of software in Panini’s ‘Astadhyayi’.

MridangaVadya is most attractive to adolescent girls. The coming of the Greeks(Yavanas) to India has been mentioned by Panini. So many other information we get from Panini. So Astadhyayi is not only a grammar book – it is also an ancient encyclopedia.

Panini was born in Pushkulavati, in Ancient Gandhara in northwest Gandhara, in the Mahajanapada times. His full name is ‘Dakshiputra Panini – means Panini, the Son of Dakshi – his mother – a metronymic name like Gautamiputra Satakarni of Chalukyas.

We are fortunate that we, the Indians got a grammarian like Panini. The whole world is awed by the breath of Panini’s linguistic capability. His last Sutra was written while he was dying. It is said – in his forest Ashrama he was meditating along with his disciples. At that time, a tiger came roaring towards the Ashram. The disciples fled away. But Panini did not. The tiger attacked him and killed him. While dying Panini wrote his last Sutra – a-a-iti.(Here ends with the vowel –(अ – अ)

Man is mortal. He has to die someday. But Panini died for cause – for the Sanskrit language of India – for the refinement of the language. To this day his legacy remains and will remain for all time to come. Panini can not die. Sanskrit language can not die. Very few will deny it.

It is my fortune that I have read the full text of Panini’s Astadhyayi (S. M. Katre’s edition) total pages – 1066. In every sutra I found knowledge and pleasure. Every Indian should read it. It can be said that Panini’s Astadhyayi is a proud possession of India. This is no exaggeration.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own.)

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Radhakanta Seth is an Income tax officer in Sambalpur.  He is a freelance writer and his articles have been published in some Oriya dailies like Sambad, Samaj, Dharitri, and English dailies like The Telegraph and in a sociological journal ‘Folklore’ published from Kolkata.

He can be reached at [email protected]

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