Hindu Music in Panini’s Grammar Book(Post No.7959)


Post No.7959

Date uploaded in London – 11 May 2020   

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Ashtadhyayi written by Panini is at least two thousand seven hundred years old according to Goldstucker and two great Sanskrit scholars Bhandarkars. Though Panini did not write a book on the arts of India, we get lot of information from his work on subjects ranging from A to Z, I.e. astronomy to zoology. And music is one of the subjects dealt with by him.

Approximately five hundred years after him, we see a lot of musicians and musical instruments in the famous Bharhut sculptures in Madhya Pradesh, 300 BCE). The Jataka tales of the same period or slightly earlier also confirm the music talents of ancient India. Surprisingly Panini’s Sanskrit words are found even in 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature.

Vina (VEENA)  was the most popular instrument in ancient India. No wonder we see it in the hands of Goddess Sarasvati and Veena Dakshinamurthy. Tamil Sangam poets never used the word Veena. But we see Naradar Veena in the Tamil epic Silapaadikaram. Before that we see Yaaz (Yaal) in Tamil literature.

The word ‘thurya’ used by Panini is found in Tamil Sangam work Madurai Kanchi.

Panini called music Silpa, ie.that is an art . Jataka stories called it Sippa in Pali, colloquial form of Sanskrit.

In ancient India dance and music went hand in hand.

Music comprised Nritya – dance, Gita-song, Vaadita- instrumental music and sometimes Natya- Stage acting. Khantivadi Jataka tale also put the four together as art.

Kautilya who came after Panini, says Gita, Vaadya, Nrtita and Natya


Following musical words are found in Ashtadhyayi of Panini:–

Giti 3-3-95

Geya 3-4-68

Gathaka , vocalist-3-1-146

Gayana 3-1-147

Nartaka, dancer -3-1-145

Nritya, dancer-1-3-89;7-2-57

Natya, stage acting-4-3-129

Natasutra, treatise on dramatical art -4-3-110

Turya,orchestra- music band-2-4-2; Though it is a group of people it is used in singular.

Set of players on Mridangam and Panava was referred to as Maardangkika-Paanavikam

Patanjali s Mahabhasya and later Kasika give us more information

Parivaadaka-player on a stringed instrument.

Panini refers to Veena in several sutras 3-3-65

Jataka tales mentioned an orchestral band as Vinaavaadini turiyaani



PANINI explained Sammada and Pramada as festivity. We see it in Bharhut sculptures inscribed as

Saadakam sammadam turam devaanam


Instrumental and vocal music performed in the place of gods.

The scene shows several groups namely singers, four female dancers and an orchestral band- turya – comprising of female lyre players, a hand clapper, a cymbalist and a taborer.

It looks like one flute player is also joined them in some places because we see it reference to five players on musical instruments in Nidana Katha, Jataka tales 1-32

Panchangika tuuriya.

Sammada,therefore is a festive celebration in which dance and music played an essential part

SAMANA in Rig Veda has lot of interpretations. From Olympics to Indra Viza to Great Fun Fair (see page 429 of Vedic Index  Second Part by Keith)



Upavinayati meant one who sings with the lyre;

Apavinam meant singing without lyre-6-2-187.

Musical notes produced from a lyre – nikvana 3-3-65

Madduka, a small tabor 4-4-56

Jharihara – cymbalists

The tala with the help of palm is also referered to Paanigha and Taalagha 3-2-55; .

Players on drums or earthen jar4-3-4

Jataka tales mentioned it as Khumba thunika and the commentary explained it as

Ghatadaddara Vaadaka.

Later Kasika also explains Daardurika as Potter


3000 Year Continuity!

Even today in Tamil, we use Veena, Mridangham, Ghatam, Mattalam etc.

Thuriya is in Madurai Kanchi which describes the condition of Pandya country of great king Nedun chelian .


Thuuriyam – Madurai Kanchi line 460

Change of Spelling

The spelling changes will help us to find out the chronology of the works

Vaadita changes to Vaadhya

Vaadhya changes to Vaacchiam in Tamil ; in later works such as devotional poems

I have already given the list of musical instruments found in Malaadukadam of Sangam period and Karaikkal Ammaiyar, the earliest Bhakti poetry of Madame of Karaikkal, appr. Fifth century CE

14th century commentator Nacchinarkiniyar used the spelling VACHCHINYANGAL throughout his commentaries.

‘Pan’ means song or Raga/melody in Tamil. Paanan is a singer. So Panavam cane be linked. Greek god PAN is also linked to this word.

Vedic Index of Keith and Macdonell gives a long list of Musical instruments in the Vedic literature: –

Aaghaati /cymbal

Aadambara /drum

Karkari / lute

Kaandaviinaa / lute




Tuunava / flute

Dundubhi / drum

Naadi / reed flute


Bakura, Baakura, Bekura

Bhumidundhubi / earth drum

Lambara / drum

Vanaspati / drum

Vaana / harp

Vaani/ lyre


Vaadana / plectrum

Vaadita / music

Viinaa / lute

Over 20 instruments are listed in a book of hymns!!

I have written about  music al instruments including Bhumi Dundhubi in the Vedas elsewhere.

Ravana had Veena in his flag. He was a great Veena player and well versed in Sama Veda.


Earlier Articles :–

Veena in Vedas | Tamil and Vedas

tamilandvedas.com › tag › veena-in-vedas


12 Sep 2018 – Veena or Vina is seen in the hands of Sarasvati and Veena Dakshinamurthy (Shiva). Ravana and Agastya were very good Veena players. I have already given the story of a competition beween the two. Narada, the inter …

Bhumi Dundhubi: Drums in Rig Veda and Sangam Tamil Poems

tamilandvedas.com › 2014/11/02 › bhumi-dundhubi-dr…


2 Nov 2014 – Tamil and Vedas. A blog exploring themes in Tamil and vedic literature. Bhumi Dundhubi: Drums in Rig Veda and …

Ravana – Pandya Peace Treaty! Kalidasa solves a Tamil …

tamilandvedas.com › 2014/06/24 › ravana-pandya-pea…


24 Jun 2014 – Tamil and Vedas. A blog exploring themes in Tamil and vedic literature. Ravana – Pandya Peace Treaty! Kalidasa solves …

tags — Panini, Music, Turiya, Vina, Veena, Vadita Madurai kanchi

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