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Introduction to the Techniques of Paninian Grammar- Chetan Pandey

Bhagawan (Lord) Panini as he is reverentially called by Sanskrit Pundits like most

names found in Ancient Indian History is of uncertain date. We have some evidence that
he was born in what us today the North West Frontier Province of Modern Pakistan in a
village called Shalatur. Scholars have surmised the 5
Century B.C.E as a possible
period of his existence. But he could have been earlier.

Lord Panini is one of the greatest geniuses to have emerged from the subcontinent of
India who had a formative and sustaining influence on Indian Culture and Civilization.
He ranks amongst Patanjali, Nagarjuna and Tulsidas, men who made an original and
revolutionary contribution to World Civilization.

It is no exaggeration to say that Indian Civilization rests on the shoulders of Panini. In a
short grammatical treatise called the Ashtadhyayi or the Book in Eight Chapters -, he
codified all the rules that govern the concurrent spoken Sanskrit of his times. Thus he
made the Sanskrit Language systematic and free from ambiguity. This gave the Sanskrit
Language a precise structure and no place for variant spellings or forms making it a
meticulous tool for higher philosophical speculations and other kinds of scientific and
scholarly work. With such a standardized language, much like Modern English, inter-
regional communication and textual interpretation became unequivocal and free from
vagueness. It is no wonder that Hindu India continued using Sanskrit well into the end of
Nineteenth Century as the Official Language of its Courts and Religious Institutions
because of its well-organized structure.

His grammatical treatise has been rightfully called one of the greatest monuments of
human intelligence by the American Linguist Leonard Bloomfield (quoted in Panini: A
Survey of Research, George Cardona, pg 243).

Need for a Sanskrit Grammar

There is much truth in the saying that Necessity is the Mother of Invention and in the
case of Sanskrit Grammar and Linguistics nothing is truer. But what was the necessity?
Being of little pragmatic value, not one of the great ancient civilizations of ancient China,
Middle East, Ancient Egypt, Europe( with the partial exception of Greece ) have
pondered upon the linguistics principles which govern human speech; but Paninis
Ashtadhyayi is a mine of information on grammar, phonology, semantics, morphology

The question arises why Panini and other scholars before him were trying to understand
human speech, sound patterns, compounding, tenses, sandhi (euphonic combination),
word roots etc. The answer lies in the Vedas a set of three, later four tomes which
were revered as the word of GOD.

The ritual called Yagna was the most important religious practice of the ancient Aryans
and was central to the communities spiritual and intellectual life. Just as technology and
science are the chief focus of modern world, Yagna was the chief focus of the ancient
Aryans. This ritual, which is as much part of modern Hindu religion as millennia before,
consists of a fire Altar over which Vedic hymns are chanted to honor the sectarian deities
like Agni (the Fire God), Indra ( God of Material Prosperity and Rain ), Saraswati(
Goddess of Learning ) etc.

It was believed that even a single syllable along with the tones - which disappeared later
and are not seen in any modern Indian language including the Prakrits - ill-pronounced
would gain the wrath of the deities and lead to rebirth in Hell. Making matters worse,
writing down the Vedas was prohibited as was transmitting it to non-Brahmins. The
Vedic meters called Mantras are said to loose their efficacy if they are written down and
must be received orally only from a wise Brahmin Guru.

Mantras pronounced in the prescribed manner unerringly can alter the shape of the
Universe, upset the laws of Karma and bestow spiritual and material blessings like
longevity of life and wisdom to the officiating priest and his client. Besides destroying
enemies and curing illnesses.

A well-known parable in the Mahabhashya commentary relates how the demon Vritra
mispronounced a single tone in the compound word Indra-shatru (enemy of Indra)
while offering oblations with the chant indrashatrurvardhasva (may (I) - the destroyer
of Indra - prosper) thereby altering the meaning to (may Indra, the destroyer prosper)
leading to the mantra empowering Indra, the god of the Noble Deities and Vritras
slaying by the former.

Nagarjuna, called the greatest Buddhist philosopher, has described his philosophy
Madhyamika as something which misunderstood can be fatal like a snake held from the
wrong end or a mantra mispronounced.

Contemporary practitioners and scholars like Swami Agehananda Bharati (Austria-born
Indologist and Anthropologist who ordained as a Hindu Sanyasin and wrote prolifically)
and Frits Staal (Netherlands-born Professor Emeritus, Department of South and South
Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Vedic Scholar par excellence) affirm
that this indeed is the case with mantric praxis.

To ensure that posterity does not get a corrupted version of their mantric corpus, the
learned Brahmins tried to ponder on the phonological and grammatical principles which
govern human speech. A pre-paninian grammatical work by Yaska called Nirukta,
survives which gives us a glimpse of their proto-grammatical musings. Over time
knowledge accumulated, theories refined, more discoveries made, culminating in the
Grammatical system of Panini who derives many of his methods and terminologies from
his predecessor which were doubtless many as he himself quoted around ten ancient
authorities( Sphotayana, Yaska, Galava etc ).

This unprecedented work of Sanskrit Grammar and Linguistics a fruit of a tradition of
several centuries of grammatical thinking wiped out without a trace all other parallel
systems of learning grammar of which several comprehensive systems were extant during
Paninis time and became the sole standard followed ever after. Pundits began saying
apaniniyam na prayunjeet Do not use non-Paninian forms.
There is a popular anecdote of the Weight-carrying Brahmin which shows the intolerance
for non-standard usage. An old Brahmin was carrying a very heavy load on his shoulders
and walking when a man sees him and asks Does not that heavy weight hurt you
(badhati, wrong usage though intelligible, like saying have you drunken - instead of
drunk- your milk). The Brahmin replied, it does not hurt me( badhate, proper usage ) as
much as your badhati( wrong form) hurts me(badhate).

Structure of the Ashtadhyayi (Book in Eight Chapters)

The Book Ashtadhyayi is divided into eight chapters -hence the name. Each chapters is
divided into Four Quarters (or Foot like that of mammals) containing unequal numbers of
Sutras or aphorisms, packed with linguistic and grammatical observation, theories and

The Entire book is in pithy aphorisms which - besides having a mnemonic value - are
described as a metalanguage and have the structure of algebraic formulas. Brevity is the
principal feature of this work and Panini has gone to such an incredulous level in
attaining it that this book is one of the marvels of aphoristic writings in the history of

It is said of him that the shortening of his text by one syllable in his work gave him the
pleasure of the Birth of a Son. This is in keeping with the Sutra-style of writing which is
traditionally described in the shloka as:

alpakSharamasandigdham saarvatdvishvatomukham |
Astobhamanavadyam cha sutram sutravido viduh ||

A Sutra is one which is:
(1) Expressed in few syllables
(2) Free from Ambiguity
(3) Comprehensive
(4) Universal
(5) Without inserted meaningless terms
(6) Irreproachable

More than two-and-a-half-millennia of scholarship has attested that Paninis have rarely
strayed from any of these aforementioned characteristics.

This treatise is unintelligible without the help of a proper Commentary. Patanjali, some
centuries later, incorporating the scholia (Vartikas) of Katyayana, did this commendable
task in his Mahabhashya. Hence, Proper Understanding of Grammar is believed to be
attained by the diligent study of Mahabhashya and Grammar is also referred to as
Trimuni-Vyakarana or the Grammar of the Three Sages.

Contents of Ashtadhyayi
The following is a topical arrangement of the chapters of Ashtadhyayi:

Book I
(a) the samjna sutras(lexical items) and paribhasha sutras(meta-rules)
(b) rules dealing with extension, atmane-parasmaipada and karakas(Syntax)
Book II
(a) rules dealing with compounding, nominal inflections, number and gender of
compounds, replacements relative to roots, deletion by luk.

Book III
(a) rules dealing with the derivation of roots ending in affixes saN etc, items ending
in a Krit or tiN

Book IV-V
(a) rules dealing with the derivation of a pada ending in a sup, feminine affixes;
derivation of nominal stems ending in an affix termed taddhita

Book VI- VII
(a) rules dealing with doubling, samprasarana, samhita, augment(agama),accents,
phonological operations relative to a pre-suffixial base(anga) sUT
(b) rules dealing with operations relative to affixes and augments

(a) rules dealing with dvitva(Doubling) relative to a pada, accent relative to a pada
(b) rules dealing with miscellaneous operations relative to a pada and a non-pada.
(adapted from Prof. Ram Nath Sharmas The Ashtadhyayi of Panini)

Panini has divided the Ashtadhyayi into two basic organizational units: the
sapadasaptadhyayi (the first seven chapters and first quarter of the Eighth) and the
tripadi (the remaining three quarters of the eighth). These two are blind to the effects of
each other.

Abbreviatory Devices Used in Ashtadhyayi

Panini has used several ingenious devices to achieve economy of words and syllables,
even phonemes. The foremost amongst these techniques are the Siva-Sutra-pratyahara

The Siva Sutras

Of unknown authorship the fourteen Siva Sutra or Siva aphorisms are a catalog of
phonemes divided into 14 sets. They are in essence a reordering of the traditional
enumeration of the Devanagari alphabets (akshar-samamnaaya). Each of the fourteen
groups contains an extraneous phoneme appended at the end technically called an it
(meaning going away or disappearing) or marker and has a merely indicatory role and is
not part of the set. These fourteen Siva aphorisms are:

Class of Phonemes Member Phonemes it or markers
1 Simple vowels a i u N
2 Simple vowels R lR k
3 Dipthongs e o G
4 Dipthongs ai au c
5 Semi-vowels h y v r T
6 Semi-vowel l N
7 Nasals J m G N n m
8 Voices aspirated stops jh bh J
9 Voices aspirated stops gh Dh dh S
10 Voices non-aspirated stops j b g D d z
11 Voiceless aspirated stops kh ph ch Th th c T t v
12 Voiceless non-asp. stops k p y
13 spirants z S s r
14 spirant h l
Harvard Kyoto Transliteration Scheme has been used.

If Panini wants to bring up a discussion of say, dipthongs, he has two options, coin a term
for dipthongs or list them (e, o, ai, au). This can be cumbersome and is done
away with the shorthand notation ec which is technically called a pratyahaara and
generated using the afore-listed Siva-Sutras.

To find out what ec signifies the first phoneme e should be searched amongst the
Column entitled member phonemes and it is located at the beginning of Sutra number 3.
The second phoneme c should be searched amongst the Column marker phonemes or
its and can be found in the fourth row.

Thus ec is a short-from notation for all phonemes between e and c (e, o, ai,
au)not including the markers which are merely indicatory.

Similarly, hl means all consonants, jh-y all stops etc. In this way tens of pratyahaaras
can be generated though Panini only used forty-two. Thus, Panini was saved from
coining forty-two new terms and also from the awkward way of listing them.

Other Abbreviatory Techniques:

If a list of related affixes are introduced, the initial phoneme of the first item and the
marker-phoneme of the last item in the list will mean an abbreviation for the entire list.
For example, {su, au, jas, am, auT, zas os, sup } are a set of twenty-one
affixes which denote case relations. su of item one and p the marker phoneme of last
item sup together generate the abbreviation sup . Similarly ting (tiJ in HK) is an
abbreviatory term for the eighteen root-affixes {tip, tas jhi ..vahi, mahing}
generated by using ti of tip and appended to ng of mahing.

Another abbreviatory rule is given by sutra aNudita savarNasya (1.1.69). Given the sets
of varga-consonants, one can refer to each set by its first-element and the phoneme u.
Hence pa-varga phonemes p,ph,b,bh,m are indicated in short form by pu;
similarly ku, chu,Tu and tu.

Another technique involves denoting a set of items by their shared common sounds: for
example Ap collectively for the affixes TAp, chAp, DAp. Similarly, nI for the
affixes nISh and nIp and nIn

Technique of Ellipsis: Anuvrittis(recurrence)

Yet another method for achieving brevity is ellipsis or stating rules only partially. The
rest of the terms are supplied by words which have already occurred before.

To understand ellipsis, consider the following example:

a. Give John a Cow.
b. A blanket to Peter
c. Also to Paul

Sentence (a) is complete in itself. To understand (b) we have to borrow the verb give
from the preceding context. Sentence (c) must borrow both give and blanket to be

Ellipsis is technically referred to by as anuvritti (recurrence). Consider sutra:
3.1.96 tavyat-tavya-anIyarah (the affixes tavyat, tavya, anIyar)

This sutra merely mentions three affixes: tavyat, tavya, anIyar. To complete the
meaning of this sutra we have to refer to preceding sutras:

3.1.1 Pratyayah (affixes)
3.1.2 Parascha (and are afterwards)
3.1.91 Dhatoh (regarding Verbal Root)

Once we utilize terms from these we get the expanded meaning:
The affixes (3.1.1) {tavyat, tavya, anIyar (3.1.96)} occur (introduced by convention)
after (3.1.2) a Verbal Root (3.1.91)

Thus Panini has saved at least three words in one sutra. He has made very extensive use
of anuvritti and there are very few sutras which do not borrow terms from prior sutra.
Hence, understanding ellipsis is crucial to understanding the Ashtadhyayi.

Unique System of Notation

Panini has used the inflections of the Sanskrit Language to indicate meaning. Consider

lasya (3.4.77)

3.4.77 translated into plain English will look like Ls.
3.4.78 is a listing of eighteen post-verbal affixes.
These two sutras dont make much sense.

To understand 3.4.77 we have to use the paribhasha(meta-rule)

shashthi sthaneyoga (1.1.49)
A meaningless genitive implies an item that will be replaced. This can be symbolically
represented as X-gen, where item X is a substituend because it has been stated in the
genitive case

Hence Ls implies that in an operation if we encounter the affix L it must be replaced
by any one of {tip,tas.vahi, mahing}.

Similarly meaningless ablative endings (tasmaditi uttarasya; 1.1.67) imply a left context:
such that in a grammatical operation something applies to what follows and meaningless
locative endings(tasminniti nirdishte pUrvasya; 1.1.66) imply a right context such that in
a grammatical operation something applies to what precedes.

Types of Rules

Traditionally, scholars have classified the Sutras into six types. Panini has not hinted to
any such classification and it is strictly Post-Paninian. However, there are obvious
advantages to it and aid in the understanding of the purport of the Sutra.
Modern Paniniyas have added few more types to the traditional six-fold classification.

(1) sanjna sutras or technical rules: rules which assign a term for a given entity. For
example in rule 1.1.1 the term vriddhi is coined meaning the set of phonemes aa,
ai, au. They have been compared to the Backus-Naur Notation of Modern
Computer Science.

(2) paribhasha sutras or interpretive rules: rules which provide a check on the
operational rules so that they do not suffer from over-application, under-
application and impossible application. For example, vipratishedhe param
kaaryam: when two rules are equally applicable, the rules that appear later shall

(3) vidhi sutra or operational rules: these form the core of the grammar. All other
rules assist the operational rules. Example Vartamaane lat: To indicate the
present tense, use the affix lat.

(4) niyama rules or restriction rules: rules which restrict the scope of other rules. For
example, Sutra laH parasmaipadam (1.4.98) declares the replacements of l
which are the eighteen affixes called ting - to be called parasmaidpadas.
However, subsequent sutra tangAnavAtmanepadam (1.4.99) declares the nine
tang affixes (part of ting affixes) as Atmanepada. Therefore scope of 1.4.98 has
been restricted by 14.99 and only non-tang ting affixes are to be understood as

(5) adhikara rules or heading rules: these rules are similar to a heading in modern
books. Adkikaras have domains which are not always well defined and only the
commentaries like Kasika and Mahabhashya have to be consulted to understand
their scope. Within the domain of an adhikara, all rules will pertain to it and also
use parts or whole of that rules words to complete their meaning (refer to
Anuvritti above). For example, rule 3.1.91 is dhatoh (Verbal Roots). The word
is meaningless unless understood to imply that rules till 3.4.117 are under its
domain and every rule described between 3.1.91 to 3.4.117 is formulated to
describe Dhatus. Also, since rules are only stated partially, the phrase Dhatoh
has to be supplied along with other phrases from other adhikaras which may
come within the domain and extend beyond to make these rules a complete

(6) nishedh sutras or negation rules: rules which negate the provisions made by a
previous Sutra. For example, rule 1.3.3 halantyam states that ending consonants
of affixes should be treated as markers, hence disappear. But subsequent rule
1.3.4 na vibhaktau tusmaah, immediately negates this rule for nominal affixes
whose consonants end with t, th, d,dh n ,s, m.

(7) vibhasha or optional rules: Sometimes more than two rules can apply to a given
operation and hence two forms of a word are possible. This is hardly unusual,
because language being a living entity, native speakers take liberties which are as
common in English as Sanskrit. To account for more than two forms of a word,
Panini uses Vibhasha rules to state that alternate forms are also possible. For
example, rule 1.1.31 vibhasha jasi states that the set of pronouns catalogued in
the sarva group when compounding with other words to become dvandva class
of compounds and related to jas affixes will optionally not be considered

Three terms, vibhasha, anyatarasyam and va are used to indicate optionality.
Panini and all the commentators have given us no indication that they are
supposed to be anything but synonyms. But the modern scholar Paul Kiparsky has
wondered how could this be so, because Panini has vowed to eliminate every
needless extraneous syllable and their must be a deeper reason to suggest the use
of three different terms. Hence he has propounded the hypothesis in his well-
argued study Panini as a Variationist that the three terms va, vibhasha,
anyatarasyam refer respectively to three different kinds of options: those that are
preferable(va), those that are marginal(vibhasha)and those that are simple
options(anyatarasyam). If this is true than Kiparsky has shown us something
which twenty-five hundred years of scholarship has overlooked.

(8) atidesh sutras or extension rules: A rule is termed atidesha if it transfers certain
qualities or operation to something for which they did not previously qualify. This
is generally accomplished by the use of affixes vat/mat ( like).Example: in rule
3.4.85 loTo langvat( the loTs are like lang ) loT lakar affixes are being given all
the attributes unique to lang lakar affixes. Hence this is an atidesh sutra.

(9) nipAtan or ad hoc rules: Certain nominal and verbal forms are underivable by any
rules. Such forms, Panini accounts by just mentioning them. Such sutras are
termed nipAtan.

For example, in the domain of sutra avayayIbhAva (2.1.5), compounds (samas)
of the type avayayi-bhava are being discussed. He discusses many rules which
qualify a compound to be called avayayibhava. However, in Sutra:

tishThadguprabhRtIni cha
(2.1.17; all the elements of tishthadgu-group are to be considered avayayibhava)

he merely states that all the thirty-three elements of the tishThadgu group listed
in the Gana-Path (Catalog of nominals) are to be considered avayayibhava.

Elements of set tishThadgu are said to be avyayIbhAva by nipAtan.

Example of Paninian Derivation: Siddhis of verb-form pathati( reads, singular person,
Present Tense )

When natives of Sanskrit uses sentences like sah paThati( he reads) they are, as all the
native speakers of a language, speaking unconsciously. Paninis Grammatical Engine
generates these correct forms from his rules, similar to how a Computer code using
programmatic instructions generates desired output.

Siddhi (Derivation) of paThati

paThan, this is the verbal root as it is listed in Paninis Dhatu-path and all forms of
paThan in speech are inflections of it.



bhoovaadayo dhaatavah (1.3.1)
This sutra establishes that paTh is a verbal root. Only now, it is eligible for Verbal
2 paTh updeshe ach anunasika ita( 1.3.2 )
A nasalized vowel (the an of paThan) is a marker and hence should disappear.
3 paTh Dhatoh(3.1.91)
Since paTh is a dhatu(verbal root) its operations come under the domain of this
heading sutra.
Vartamaane Lat(3.2.123)
To indicate present tense, the Lat affix should be used.
Pratyayah, parascha( 3.1.1 and 3.1.2)
An affix is always appended at the end of the stem. So this rule further makes a
provision that affixes will be appended at the end and not the beginning.
Hence the new form is paTh + lat and not lat + paTh

paTh +

The ending consonant is a marker.
tasya lopah(1.3.9)
Markers are subject to elision. Hence thet of lat disappears.


paTh +

updeshe ach anunasika it(1.3.2)
The lat affix is actually lant with a nasal n. The tradition of showing the nasal
vowel( indicated by the sign of Chandra-bindu, a dot above the phonemes) had
fallen into disuse, even by the time Vaman and Jayaditya wrote their commentary
called Kasika(6
Century C.E.) and no manuscript has been discovered to date
with the nasals displayed.
One good reason for this is that the nasal makes pronunciation so difficult.
Besides its only role is as a marker which indicates elision. Hence, the an of lan
disappears by 1.3.2.

6 paTh +
lasya( 3.4.77)

lasya above is meaninglessly in the genitive case. Hence the paribhasha shashthi
sthAneyogA (1.1.49) has to be invoked. According to it, items in the genitive case
indicate substituends, hence l is a substituend.

The l is replaced by any one of 18 affixes enlisted in the subsequent sutra tip-tas-
jhi--vahi-mahing(3.4.78) depending on whether the root has to indicate
(a). atmanepada or parsmaipada endings
(b) single, dual or plural number
(c) first, middle or third person.
( Permutations: 3*3*2=18, hence the 18 affixes enlisted in Rule 3.4.78)

Now the next step becomes:

paTh + l ->

And our task is to choose exactly one affix that will append to paTh in place of l
such that the inflection will take a parasmaipada ending (which is the ending the
given root is assigned in the Dhatu-path Catalog and also found in Native Speech)
and denote third person and single number.

laH parasmaipadam (1.4.99)
The substituends of l are termed parasmaidpada.

According to this Sutra all the 18 afixes being substituends of l are now
parasmaidpada. However, subsequent sutra which is a niyama sutra restricts
parasmaidpada term for the first nine only, by assigning the last nine the term

tangAnau-Atmanepadam (1.4.100)
tang a pratyAhARa formed by the ta of the tenth affix and the ng of the
eighteenth and last affix mahing indicating the last nine affixes and the affixes
shAnach, kAnach are termed atmanepadam.

Since, paTh is a parasmaipada root, it will take one of the first nine affixes only;
and we can now eliminate the last nine affixes which are atmanepaada.

Therefore, the next step now is reduced to,

paTh + l -> {tip|tas|jhi|sip|thas|tha|mib|vas|mas}

Now Sutra 1.4.101 is invoked
tingastrINItrINI pratham-madhyam-uttamAH (1.4.101)
The triplets of ting in both parasmaipada and atmanepada are termed prathama
(third person-madhyam (middle person) -uttama (first person) respectively.

Thus, the new distribution can be illustrated by the following Table:

Person Parasmai-pada Triplet Atmanepada Triplet
Prathma (third person) tip, tas, jhi ta, AtAm, jha
Madhyama (middle
sip, thas, tha thAs, athAm, dhvam
Uttama (first person) mib, vas, mas iD, vahi, mahing

Sutra 1.4.103 discusses usages which determine the choice of middle person
endings. If the word you is co-referential to a verb or is implicitly stated, the six
affixes categorized as madhyama can be used.

Similarly, Sutra 1.4.105 states that if the word, me is co-referential with a verb or
its meaning is implicitly stated, the six affixes categorized as uttama can be used.

This sutra is followed by
Sheshe prathamaH (1.4.108)
In the rest of the cases, use prathma

Since, paThati is not co-referential with you or me and neither of these two
meanings are implicitly assumed, paTh qualifies for prathama endings by 1.4.108.

Thus, we have further narrowed our search for the correct substituend to:

paTh + l-> -> {tip|tas|jhi}

tani-eka-vacahna-dvi-vachana-bahu-vachanAni-ekashaH (1.4.101)
Each one of the three members of the triplets mentioned before in 1.4.100 are
termed eka-vachana(single number ), dvi-vachana(dual number) and bahu-
vachana(plural) respectively.

Thus, a new distribution pattern now emerges:

Person Parasmai-pada Triplet Atmanepada Triplet
Single Dual Plural Single Double Plural
Prathma (third
tip tas jhi ta AtAm jha
Madhyama (middle


tha thAs athAm dhvam
Uttama (first person) mib


mas iD vahi mahing

Since, in saH paThati, (He reads) there is only one person, paTh must take an
affix denoting Single number. Amongst the three remaining affixes tip/tas/jhi ,
only the first affix tip is in the Column for Single Number. Hence, path will accept
tip to indicate third person, Single Number, and parasmaipada ending.

7 paTh+
ting shit sarvadhatukam(3.4.123)
tip affix is a member of the set ting. This rule a samjna sutra classifies ting as
a sarvadhatuka. Hence, all operations on the sarvadhatuka class of roots will now
operate on:
paTh + tip

kartari shap
This rule, a direct result of the preceding rule, now mandates that the infix (vikaran)
shap must be introduced before the sarvadhatuka affix tip.
8 paTh +
Repeating sutras in operation # 5, the marker p in both shap and tip disappear
9 paTh +
sha +
lashaku ataddhite (1.3.8)
This rule identifies the sh of shap as a marker. Hence the phoneme sh
10 paTh +
a + ti
Finally, we are ready to merge the three to form paThati(reads) .
It has been correctly derived using the Grammar Engine of Panini and corresponds
exactly to the manner it is spoken by the natives

11 paThati Reads.

And each and every one of all the millions of verbal and nominal inflections in the speech
of a Sanskrit speaker must undergo a similar set of operations to yield the correct form.
Thus, every spoken word can be generated precisely by rules making it comparable to the
Modern Discipline of programming.

It should be borne in mind that the finite numbers of rules of Paninis Grammar-Engine
are capable of generating infinite forms. But each and every form generated by his
Engine must correspond to the spoken language (loka) exactly which Paniniyas consider
the only valid proof (pramana) of correct speech. Sometimes, however this is not possible
and one word in an infinite set does not yield to the patterns. Panini takes this into
account and creates one unique rule for that one anomalous word.

For example, rule anudattatangit Atmanepadam (1.3.12) states that verbal roots in the
Dhatu-path (the catalog of all known verbal roots which are around 2000 and is ancillary
to A.) that are marked by the sign indicating low-pitch(anudatta) or have the marker (ng)
appended to them take atmanepada endings.
The verbal root ji is not marked with either anudatta or ng in the Dhatu-path and in
regular usage does not have atmanepada endings (it takes parasmaidpada endings).
However, native speakers in speech conjugate atmanepada endings if ji is preceded by
preverbs vi and par. Panini took this irregular behaviour into account and coded rule
viparAbhyAm jeH (1.3.19). Thus, Panini didnt allow one exception to be missed out
from his comprehensive system.

Appreciating Paninis Task in Codifying a Complicated Language like Sanskrit

In English, if I were to make a sentence like Johns book, it will not make any
difference in the structure of the sentence if I were to say instead Marys book, Lizzys
book, and Antonios book.

However, in Sanskrit the case-ending will differ according to the terminal phoneme of the
nominal stem, as also by its gender and number (singular/plural).

Some examples of this diversity are:

Sanskrit Statement TP -> APICR* English Equivalent Gender; Number;
Ending Phoneme;
Ramasya pustakam a -> sya Ramas book Masc.; Sing; a
Seetaayaah pustakam aa -> yaah Seetaas book Fem; Sing.; aa
Hareh pustakam i -> eh Harms book Masc.; Sing; i
Patayuh pustakam i -> ayuh Husbands book Masc. ; Sing; i;
Guroh pustakam u -> oh Guru(Teacher)s
Masc.; Sing; u
Madhunah pustakam u -> unah Madhus book Fem.; Sing; u
Rajnah pustakam an -> nah Rajans ( Kings)
Masc. ; Sing, n
tasya pustakam t -> sya His ( tat ) book Masc. ; Sing.; t

*TP -> APICR = Terminal Phoneme - > Altered Phoneme Indicating Case Relationship

Please note: the paradigms shown above are far from being a complete listing of the
known inflections of the genitive case in Sanskrit. The actual number of distinct examples
may run into more than one hundred forms all of which indicate the idea of someone
possessing something, in our case, a book.

Panini provides only one affix for indicating a singular genitive case relationship: nas
(Jas in HK Scheme of Transliteration). Therefore, it is Paninis job to formulate a number
of rules that will account for all the x number of inflections, the native speakers uses

In order to achieve this, he must first have an exhaustive listing of each and every known
inflection in our case the singular genitive of the Nominal Stems. He has to study this
list and discover the underlying phonological and morphological patterns. Once he has
discovered the patterns, he creates rules. Every exceptional case (apavaada) has to be
accounted for.

But nas is only one of twenty-one affixes introduced in rule su-au-jas-am-aut-
shas.(4.1.2) which govern the Sanskrit case-endings. All twenty one of these combine
with nominal stems and each one of them generates hundreds of variant case-ending
phoneme-forms as in the illustrated example of the affix nas (Jas).

The case of the verbal roots and affixes is equally complicated. . Consider the following
in English,
(1) eat -> eats ,
(2) gain -> gains,
(3) offer -> offers,
(4) drink -> drinks,
(5) read -> reads

Conjugating a verb to imply present Tense is as simple as appending an s.

Now look at equivalent forms in Sanskrit.
(1) at -> Atti* (eats),
(2) labh -> labhate(gains),
(3) hu -> juhoti(offers [an oblation]),
(4) pA -> pibati (drinks).
(5) paTh -> paThati(reads)
*bold and italicized text indicates changes due to conjugation

Unlike English, not one of them terminates analogously. We have endings such as ti,
ate, ju..oti, bati, ati. One reason for divergent forms is that the verbs belong to a
different gana or group. The Dhatu-Path lists about 1967 verb roots (2014 including
kaNDvAdi roots) divided into 10 conjugation classes (gaNas) to undergo peculiar
operations. Each of these ganas are classified on the basis of distinct augments(shap,
shyan, shnuh, shah, shnam, zero(luk) etc ) that tend to append to the verbal bases
resulting in distinct grammatical operations. These verbal roots interact with the post-
verbal affixes (the set of tings) which are eighteen in number. These eighteen affixes
get modified in ten ways( 10 * 18 = 180 ) ways to yield various tenses and moods, such
as past tense ( lan-lakaar), historical past tense( liT lakaar), present tense( laT lakAr),
imperative mood ( loT lakaar).

For example:
paTh* + shap** + tip = paThati; (He) is reading; Present tense
paTh + shap + Nal (modification of tip) = papaTh; He read; Historical Past (for historical
characters like Lord Buddha read)
paTh + shap + yaasuT + suT = paThet; (You should) read; Injunctive Mood

*Verbal Root placed in the gana Bhu-adi.
** shap, the infix which appends exclusively to the Bhu-adi group

tan* + u** + tip = tanoti; spreads: Present Tense
tan + u + shya + tip= tanishyati; will spread; Future Tense

*Verbal Root placed in the gana Tanu-adi gana
**u is the unique infix for members of the Tanu-adi gana

hu* + shlu** + tip = juhoti; (He) is offering (oblations); Present Tense, Singular, Third
hu + shlu + jhi = juhvati; (They) are offering (oblations); Present Tense, Plural
hu + shlu + mip = juhomi; (I) am offering (oblations); Present Tense, Plural, First Person
hu + shlu + tip = juhotu; (They) should offering (oblations); Imperative Mood, Third

*Verbal Root placed in the gana juhoti-adi gana
**shlu is the unique infix for members of the juhoti-adi gana and tend to ellision

Summary of the Major Topics of Ashtadhayi

Sanjna or Terms:
Panini has coined several technical terms in his A. which are sometimes meaningful (like
samhita, samprasaran, anunasika) and sometimes meaningless (like ghu, Ti, bha).
The former are generally considered to be pre-Paninian and the latter the creation of the
Sage himself which reflect his avowed concern for economy and are usually no longer
than one syllable. He sometimes defines them; sometimes uses them without explicitly
stating their meaning - implying that the term was in current usage and widely known.
And if the term refers to sets of grammatical items he merely lists the members that
constitute that finite set indicated by the Sanjna. For example,
kta-ktavatu niShTha (1.1.25) enumerates the two constituents of finite set niShTha.
niShTha: = {kta, ktavatu}

vRddhirADaich (1.1.1) phonemes A ai and au are termed Vrddhi.
vRddhi: = {A, ai, au}

Panini has used more than one-hundred technical terms and the first two quarters of
Chapter 1 concentrate on Sanjnakaran or Terminology-coining.

Sandhi (Euphonic Combination):

In English, a statement like Who is going? in the speech of some native speakers often
becomes Whos going. In Sanskrit, this tendency for phonemes to fuse when in close
proximity is extravagantly copious. Their can hardly be a sentence where at least one
instance of Sandhi is not observable, if not more.

Sandhis given by Paninis Sutra paraH sannikarshaH samhita (1.4.108) are
morphophonological alterations that occur between terminal and initial phonemes of
juxtaposed words (external Sandhi) or between morphemes within words (internal
Sandhi). For example, in the sentence aham Agachhami (I am coming), the terminal
phoneme m of aham (I) fuses with the initial phoneme A of Agachchhami (am
coming) to become ahamAgachchhami.

Sandhis have been popularly classified into three types:
1. Vowel Sandhi: between two vowels.
For example:
tadA Agachhet (Come then) becomes
tadA + Agachhet = tadAgachhet
( by the rules akaH savarNe dIrghaH(6.1.101) )
the two phonemes A and A fuse to become one phoneme A

2. Consonant Sandhi: between consonants or between a vowel and
a consonant.
For example:
Tat + Shivah = tachchhivah
phoneme t transforms into ch and phoneme sh transforms
into chh

3. Visarga Sandhi: between Visargas (roughly like the h sound in
English) and other phonemes.
For Example in Harih avadat (Hari spoke)
Harih + avadat = Hariravadat
The Visarga sound h is transformed into the phoneme r.

Sandhi can be used to make long strings of compound words and many poets have
exploited this innate potential of their language. Banabhatta, the celebrated court-poet of
King Harshavardhana of Kannauj in his 7
Century Sanskrit Novel Kadambari wrote
several pages which consist of what is technically one single word using the principles of
Sandhi and Compounding.

Compound Words (Samaas)

English has numerous compound words like class-room, foot-ball, frying-pan etc. These
have chiefly evolved out of human-usage and are not the conscious coining of linguists.
However, Compounding is peculiar to the idiom of Sanskrit usage. Writers freely use
compound words of their own coining using Paninis Compounding rules without any
fear of unintelligibility. Excesses of usage for rhetorical purposes are as frequent as with
Sandhi. Compounds are classified into the following four types:
(6) avyayibhava(first term dominates in the final meaning of the compound)
(7) tatpuruSha(the last term dominates in the overall meaning of the
(8) bahuvrIhi(neither dominate)
(9) dvandva(meaning of both terms dominates)

TATPURUSA (Inflectional)
NAN (Negative)
PRAADI (Prepositional, 1st kind)
GATI (Prepositional, 2nd kind)
UPAPADA (Compounds containing a upapada)
(The members --generally two-- are in apposition
to one another)
(The members --generally two-- are not in
apposition to one another)

Discoveries of Sanskrit affixes and their meanings have been instrumental in enhancing
the deeper knowledge of Sanskrit words and have made possible neologisms using the
principles established by P. Panini has described three hundred and seventy-five affixes
of which ninety percent are those classed in krT and taddhita categories

* sh-marked sArvadhAtuka and ArdhadhAtuka krt Affixes, includes the Unadi group.
** ArdhadhAtuka affixes which include the Dhatu-affixes
*** sArvadhAtuka which includes tings and the sh-marked vikaranas(augments)

The major group of affixes are discussed below:
(1) kRt or primary Affixes: They serve to form derived nominal bases and generally
denote objects of acts or abstract acts themselves. These are mostly appended to
verbal roots. There are nearly one hundred and twenty-two Krit affixes
described by Panini. In the chart above I have divided them into four groups:
(a) kRtya: The seven affixes tavyat, tavya, anIyar, yat. kyap, Nyat and
kelimar are kRtyas and are used in the sense of should be done. Example: kR +
tavya = kartavya; must do.
(b) nishTha: kta and ktavatu are the only two elements of this group
(c) sat: shatR and shAnach are the two elements of this group
(d) shit sArvadhAtuk and ArdhadhAtuk affixes: several in number and includes the
Unadis which are extremely irregular in behaviour.

(2) taddhita or Secondary affixes: They also serve to form derived nominal bases but
are appended to substantives to change the meaning of the nominal in different
ways. 1100 rules in the A., covering most of the fourth and fifth chapter deal with
taddhita affixes. The total number of taddhita affixes is two-hundred and
seventeen. Examples are aN, chha, atsuch, kha. etc.

(3) Feminine. Converts a given word from the masculine to the feminine gender.
Examples: TAp, DAp, chap etc.
Sanskrit Affixes
kRt taddhita Others
* sh-marked
(4) Ting: These eighteen affixes append to verbal roots and are responsible for verbal
inflections. Example, paTh + si = paThasi (you read).

(5) Sup: These twenty-one affixes append to substantives and are responsible for
Nominal Inflections. Example RAma + TA = RAmeNa (done by Rama).

(6) DhAtu: These affixes form derivative verbs from primitive roots. For example:
"kR" (to do -- a primitive root) can conjugate into karoti(does). If you want to
express "a desire to do", Dhatu affix san is appended and yields chikIrSati. (
He wants to do, he desires to do). Other examples are Nich, yang, san etc

Karakas are the equivalent of case relationships and are syntacto-semantic in Paninis
system. There are six karakas in Sanskrit. These are:
1. kartA Karaka (corresponds to the nominative case)
2. karma Karaka (accusative case)
3. karan Karaka (instrumental case)
4. sampradAna Karaka (dative case)
5. apAdAna Karaka (ablative case)
6. adhikaraN Karaka (locative case)

The genitive(sambaandh) case is not recognized as a Karaka because it does not
directly participate in the action denoted by the sentence.

Post-Paninian Scholarship

The study of Paninis Grammar had spawned a vast commentarial literature in the past.
The sages Katyayana and Patanjali have been mentioned previously. Katyayana intended
to improve upon some of Paninis rules where he felt they were inadequate. Inadequacies
could either be due to changes that had crept into Sanskrit over the period of time
between Katyayana and Panini or due to the oversights of Panini himself. Another
purpose was to provide with fresh linguistic insights.

He has merely commented upon 1500 Paninian sutras in about 4000 vartikas(scholia)
which are mostly one-liners and occasionally in the shloka meter(shloka-vartika). These
vartikas are not an independent treatise and are only found in the commentary of
Patanjali, the Mahabhashya, regarded as the second most important grammatical text
after the Ashtadhyayi.

Patanjali has commented upon 1701 sutras in 85 chapters called day-sessions (ahnikas).
The commentary is in the form of a discourse between a student, a teachers aide and a
teacher. The Mahabhashya is an extremely elegantly written treatise, composed in a very
simple yet subtle style; and full of charming anecdotes and maxims. It is unique in being
unpedantic which unfortunately is a rarity in Shastric texts.

Prominent names besides the three sages are Bhartrihari(Vakyapadiya), Vamana-
Jayaditya(Authors of Kashika), Kaiyata(Pradeep Commentary on Mahabhashya),
Bhattoji Dikshit( author of Siddhanta Kaumudi ), Kaunda Bhatt(Vyakarana Bhushan
Sara) Nagesh( Voluminous author on Sanskrit Grammar, chief amongst them
LaghushabdenduShekhar, Paribahshendu-Shekhar, Udyot Commentary ).

Special mention must be made of the Siddhanta Kaumudi of Bhattoji Dikshit written in
the seventeenth century by a learned Brahmin of Maharashtra revolutionized the way
Grammar was taught in the length and breadth of the entire subcontinent. Following the
Prakriya School which emphasizes derivation of correct forms above others and teaches
the A. without regard to its spatial order; it became the most important pedagogical text
and replaced traditional teaching of Grammar through A.

Many modern scholars like Ram Nath Sharma and the Arya Samajis likes Brahma Dutt
Jijnasu and Yuddhishthir Mimansaka consider the SKs prakriya system unscientific even
unfortunate. The latter have leashed a diatribe of vehemence on its methods and equated
the downfall of Indian Culture with the emergence of the Prakriya Schools in the 11

Century. The use of mythological paradigms by Bhattoji to illustrate rules has done much
to increase its popularity amongst teachers who consider it a text with a dual aim:
teaching of grammar and inculcating religiosity.

In modern times, some of the worlds most brilliant linguists - both Indian and Western -
have studied Panini and produced a plethora of novel research. Paniniyas such as George
Cardona, Madhav Deshpande, Ram Nath Sharma, S.D. Joshi, Roodenberg, Devashthale
etc have written very precise treatises and laid bare all the intricacies of the technique in
English so that a modern student has no longer to depend on his teacher or a cryptic
Sanskrit commentary and can comprehend the intricacies of Sanskrit Grammar from his
reading desk. The research P. has inspired is extremely meticulous, scientific and detail-
oriented. Scholars have written lengthy books to discuss the use and significance of
single words like cha (and), the markers (The Anubabdhas of Panini), the optionality-
signifying words( va, vibahsa, anyatarasyam)( Panini as a Variationist) etc. There is
nothing new in this as from the times of Patanjali itself, exhaustive discussion on single
sutras (example Samarthanhnika: single chapter on Sutra 2.1.1 samarthah padavidhi)
was the norm rather than the exception. Modern Civilization with its rapid means of
communications and transmittal of knowledge has catalyzed this process.

Summing up my paper I would like to mention the A. is not only the most important
means for a proper understanding of the Sanskrit Language and Grammar, its technique is
so interesting in itself that one can study it for the mere pleasure of learning a very
engaging and intellectual system which American Linguist Leonard Bloomfield felt was
one of the greatest monuments of human intelligence (quoted in Panini: A Survey of
Research, George Cardona, pg 243).


Sharma, Ram Nath
The Ashtadhyayi of Panini, Volume I,II and III: Introduction to the Ashtadhyayi as a
Grammatical Device. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.

Brahmadatta Jijnasu
Sanskrit paThan-pAThan ki anubhut saraltama vidhi, part I (in Hindi). Sonepat: Ramlal
Kapur Trust

Cardona, George
Panini: His Work and Its Traditions, Vol. I. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas
Panini, A Survey of Research. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas.
Recent Research in Paninian Studies. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.

Joshi, S.D.
Patanjalis Vyakarana Mahabhashya: Paspashahnika. Poona: University of Poona

Kiprasky, Paul
Panini as a Variationist. Poona: University of Poona/Cambridge MIT Press

Abhayankar, Kashinath Vasudeva and Shukla, J.M
A Dictionary of Sanskrit Grammar: Baroda: Oriental Institute.

Devasthali, G.V.
SaraSiddhantaKaumidi of Varadaraja: Poona: University of Poona
The Anubandhas of Panini: Poona: University of Poona

Staal, Frits
Mantras and Rituals: Rules Without Meaning: Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas

Mahulkar, DD (Editor)
Essays on Panini: Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Studies

Allen, W. Sidney
Sandhi: The Theoretical, Phonetic and Historical Bases of Word Junction in Sanskrit:
Hague: Montana and Co.