Home / Shastras



Asthadhyaya (Original Sanskrit Text)

Alankara Kaustubha
Chandah Sastram
Dhaturupa Manjari
Laghu Siddhanta Kaumudi
Mahabhashya Prakasik
Saaraswata Vyakaranam
Sabda Manjari
Samskrita Vyakarana Pravesika
Samskrita Vyakaranam
Sandhi Chandrika
Vrutta Ratnakaram
Vyakarana Koumudi
Vyakarana Maha Bhashyam


The Sanskrit grammatical tradition of vyākaraṇa (Devanagari व्याकरण) is one of the six Vedanga disciplines. It has its roots in late Vedic India, and includes the famous work, Adhyādhyāyī, of Pānini (ca. 4th century BCE).

The impetus for linguistic analysis and grammar in India originates in the need to be able to obtain a strict interpretation for the Vedic texts.

The work of the very early Indian grammarians has been lost; for example, the work of Sakatayana (roughly 8th c. BCE) is known only from cryptic references by Yaska (ca. 6th-5th c. BCE) and Pāṇini. One of the views of Sakatayana that was to prove controversial in coming centuries was that most nouns are etymologically derivable from verbs.

In his monumental work on etymology, Nirukta, Yaska supported this claim based on the large number of nouns that were derived from verbs through a derivation process that became known as krit-pratyaya; this relates to the nature of the root morphemes.

Yaska also provided the seeds for another debate, whether textual meaning inheres in the word (Yaska's view) or in the sentence (see Pāṇini, and later grammarians such as Prabhakara or Bhartrihari). This debate continued into the 14th and 15th c. CE, and has echoes in the present day in current debates about semantic compositionality.

Pre-Pāṇinian schools
Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi, which is said to have eclipsed all other contemporary schools of grammar, mentions the names of eleven schools of Sanskrit grammar that preceded it. The scholars representative of these schools are:

* Aindra
* Śākaāyana
* Āpiśali (Pan. 6.1.92)
* Śākalya
* Kāaktsna
* Gārgya
* Gālava (Nir. 4.3)
* Kāśyapa (Pan. 8.4.67)
* Senaka (Pan. 5.4.112)
* Sphoāyana (Pan. 6.1.123)
* Candravarmaa
* Kuaravāava (Pan. 3.2.14; 7.3.1)

There is no surviving evidence of any of these schools that predates Pāṇini except for Yāska's Nirukta. Yāska was a grammarian in the tradition of Śākanāyana who may have predated Pānini by about a century. In Yāska's time, nirukta "etymology" was in fact a school which gave information of formation of words. The etymological derivation of words. According to the nairuktas or "etymologists", all nouns are derived from s verbal root. Yāska defends this view and attributes it to Śākanāyana. While others believed that there are some words which are "Rudhi Words". 'Rudhi" means custom. Meaning they are a part of language due to custom, and a correspondence between the word and the thing if it be a noun or correspondence between an act and the word if it be a verbroot. Such word can not be derived from verbal roots. Yāska also reports the view of Gārgya, who opposed Śākaṭāyana who held that certain nominal stems were 'atomic' and not to be derived from verbal roots.

Of the remaining schools, we know only what Yaska, Pānini and later authors attribute to them, their original works being lost. Śākalya is held to be the author of the padapatha of the Rigveda (a word-by-word analysis of the mantra text).


Pāṇini's school
Pāṇini's extensive analysis of the processes of phonology, morphology and syntax, the Anadhyāyī, laid down the basis for centuries of commentaries and expositions by following Sanskrit grammarians. Pānini's approach was amazingly formal; his production rules for deriving complex structures and sentences represent modern finite state machines. Indeed many of the developments in Indian Mathematics, especially the place value notational system may have originated from Pāninian analysis.

Pānini's grammar consists of four parts:
* Śivasūtra: phonology (notations for phonemes specified in 14 lines)
* Aṣṭadhyāyī: morphology (construction rules for complexes)
* Dhātupāṭha: list of roots (classes of verbal roots)
* Gaṇapāṭha: lists classes of primitive nominal stems

Commentators on Pāṇini and some of their views:
* Kātyāyana (linguist and mathematician, 3rd c. BCE): that the word-meaning relation is siddha, i.e. given and non-decomposable, an idea that the Sanskriticist Ferdinand de Saussure called arbitrary. Word meanings refer to universals that are inherent in the word itself (close to a nominalist position).
* Patanjali (linguist and yoga sutras, 2nd c. BCE) - author of Mahabhashya. The notion of shabdapramânah - that the evidentiary value of words is inherent in them, and not derived externally. Not to be confused with the founder of the Yoga system.
* The Nyaya school, close to the realist position (as in Plato). Considers the word-meaning relation as created through human convention. Sentence meaning is principally determined by the main noun. uddyotkara, Vachaspati (sound-universals or phonemes)
* The Mimamsa school. E.g. sentence meaning relies mostly on the verb (corresponds to the modern notion of linguistic head). Kumarila Bhatta (7th c.), prabhakara (7th c. CE).
* Bhartṛhari (c. 6th c. CE) that meaning is determined by larger contextual units than the word alone (holism).
* Kāśikāvṛttī (7th century)
* Bhaṭṭi (c. 7th c. CE) exemplified Pāṇini's rules in his courtly epic the Bhaṭṭikāvya[2].
* The Buddhist school, including Nagarjuna (logic/philosophy, c. 150 CE) Dignaga (semantics and logic, c. 5th c. CE), Dharmakirti.


Medieval Accounts
The earliest external historical accounts of Indian grammatical tradition is from Chinese Buddhist pilgrims to India from the 7th century.

* Xuanzang (602-664)
* I Ching (634-713)
* Fazang (643-712)

The Indica of Al-Biruni (973-1048), dating to ca. 1030 contains detailed descriptions of all branches of Hindu science.


Mughal period
Early Modern (Mughal period, 17th century) Indian linguists who revived Pāṇini's school include Bhattoji Dikshita and Varadaraja.

Similar to the Chinese Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhism aroused interest in India among its followers. Taranatha (born 1573) in his treatise of the history of Buddhism in India (completed around 1608) speaks about Pāṇini and provides some information about grammars, but not in the manner of a person familiar with their content.

Gaudiya Vaishnava Sanskrit grammar is outlined by Jiva Goswami in his Hari-nāmāmṛta-vyākaraṇam.


Modern Sanskrit grammarians
Beginning of Western scholarship

* Jean François Pons
* Henry Thomas Colebrooke
* August Wilhelm von Schlegel
* Wilhelm von Humboldt
* Dimitrios Galanos


19th century
* Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar
* Franz Kielhorn
* William Dwight Whitney
* Bruno Liebich
* Otto Boehtlingk
* Georg Bühler
* Franz Bopp
* Jacob Wackernagel, Altindische Grammatik


20th century to present
* Leonard Bloomfield
* Paul Thieme
* Karl Hoffmann
* Louis Renou
* Bimal Krishna Matilal
* Johannes Bronkhorst
* George Cardona
* Paul Kiparsky
* Frits Staal
* Michael Witzel
* Kshetresa Chandra Chattopadhyaya
* Vagish Shastri














© 2010 HinduOnline.co. All Rights Reserved.