Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
Nirukta serves the purpose of a Vedic dictionary, or "kosa". A
also called a "nighantu", which term is used in Tamil also. Nirukta,
deals with the origin of words, their roots, that is with etymology, is
ear of the Vedapurusa. It explains the meaning of rare words in the
and how or why they are used in a particular context. Many have
contributed to Nirukta, the work of Yaksa being the most important.
Take the word "hrdaya" (heart). The Vedas themselves trace its origin.
"Hrdayam" is "hrdi ayam" : it means that the Lord dwells in the heart.
"Hrd" itself denotes the physical heart. But with the suffixing of "ayam"
with the Lord residing in it - its Atmic importance is suggested. The
purpose of any sastra is to take you to the Supreme Being. "Hrdaya" is
called because Paramesvara resides in "hrd". Thus each and every word
has a reason behind it. Nirukta makes an inquiry into words and reveals
"Dhatu" means "root" in English. In that language one speaks of the root
only of verbs, not of nouns. In Sanskrit all words have dhatus. Such
transformed or modified, must have been adopted in other languages.
That is why we do not know the root of many words in these tongues.
After all, such an exercise would be possible only if the words in
belonged naturally to them. Take the English work "hour". Phonetically
should be pronounced "h o u r" ("h" being not silent) or "h o a r". At
time the word indeed must have been pronounced "hoar". "Horasastra"
is the name of a science in Sanskrit, "hora" being from "ahoratram" (day
and night). "Hora" is two and half nadikas or one hour. The English
is clearly from this word. In the same way "heart" is from "hrd". There
so many words like this which could be traced to Sanskrit. It must have
taken a long time for words in other languages to evolve into their
present form. That is why those who speak them find it difficult to
discover their origin [or root].
How does it help to listen to someone speaking a language without
understanding what he says? It is as good as not listening to him. In
words it is like being deaf. Nirukta finds the meaning of words by going
the root of each. That is why it is called the ear of the Vedapurusa: it
the ear of Sruti which itself is heard by the ear.
Western scholars learned Vyakarna and Nirukta from pandits in Kasi and
acquainted themselves with the origin of words as described in the
sastra. From this they developed the new science of philology. It is
primarily from our Vyakarana and the Nirukta that the linguistic science
From their researches, Western scholars have arrived at the conclusion
that all languages have one source. People all over the world are the
descendants of the original inhabitants of the area where this primal
language was spoken. There are differences of opinion with regard to
area, the home of this tongue. We need have no worry about it. After
we believe that all places on earth are our home. "Yadum mure!" is a
famous Tamil declaration. "Svadeso bhuvanatrayam" - the three worlds
are our motherland.