Post No. 8410

Date uploaded in London – 27 July 2020   

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Theodor Goldstucker was a Jew and a great Sanskrit scholar . Well known Sanskrit scholar Max Muller and Goldstucker were both Germans. Max Muller proposed many absurd theories and contradicted himself even in writing. He was torn to pieces by Goldstucker. To support his argument Goldstucker gave some interesting information. One of them is about 10,000 mistakes of Panini (Paanini), the greatest grammarian the world has ever seen. Panini is the Father of Linguistics. Though 68 Sanskrit grammarians lived before him, he was considered the first and foremost grammarian. We have his book Ashtadhyayi in full (Ashta=Eight, Adhyaaya=Chapter).

Theodor  Goldstucker 1821 to 1872

Max Muller –  1823 to 1900

Max Muller said that both Panini and Katyayana were contemporaries and Panini lived in 4th century BCE. Further down his book, ‘The History of Sanskrit Literature’,  Max Muller contradicted himself.

Here is what Goldstucker wrote in his book- ‘PANINI: His Place in Sanskrit Literature’—

“Now if we take a summary view of the labours of Katyayana (Kaatyaayana), we find that of the 3993 or  3992 Sutras (Suutra) of Panini , more than 1500 offered him the opportunity of showing his superior skill; that his criticism called forth more than 4000 Vartikas (Vaartika) , which at the lowest estimate , contain 10,000 special cases comprised in his remarks.

(Vartikas  are the notes made by Katyaayana on Panini’s sutra/rules; though we did not get Katyayana’s book, Patanjali, the greatest commentator, gives his views on the Vartikas and that is how we learn about Vartikas)

Having arrived at this point let us ask – How could India resound with the fame of a work which was so imperfect as to contain at lest 10,000 inaccuracies, omissions, and mistakes? Suppose that there existed in our days a work of 4000 paragraphs , every second or third of which not merely  called for emendation, an addition and corrections , in formal respects , but which, on the whole, compelled us to draw the conclusions that there were twice and half times  as any blunders in it as it contained matter to be relied upon, — is it possible to assume that such a work could create a reputation for its author except one which no sensible man would be desirous of ? if we assumed such a possibility , it could only be on the supposition that such an author originated the subject he brought before the public , and, as an inventor, had a special claim to indulgence and fame; or, on the supposition of public ignorance and individual immorality.

But there is evidence to show that Panini was not the first Hindu grammarian who wrote nor even the inventor of the technical system which has caused so much uneasiness to would be philologers. It is certain, too, that grammar was not, in ancient India, an esoteric study of the few; and there is no proof of any kind that Panini had influenced or hired a number of scribes to puff his grammar and fame. We must needs, therefore, resort to another explanation., if we want to reconcile the fact of the Vartikas with the fact of Panini’s reputation, which was so great that supernatural agency was considered as having assisted him in his work.

This explanation, I hold, can only be derived from the circumstance that Panini and Katyayana belonged to different periods of Hindu antiquity —  periods separated by such a pace of time as was sufficient to allow—

1.Grammatical forms which were current in the time of Panini to become obsolete or even incorrect.

2.Words to assume meanings which they did not possess at the period when he lived;

3.Words and meanings of words used by him to become antiquated; and

4.A literature unknown to him to arise.

It is on this supposition alone that it seems possible to realise Panini’s influence and celebrity; of course, on the supposition too,  that in his time he gave so accurate, so complete, and so learned a record of the language he spoke , that his contemporaries, and the next ages which succeeded him , could look with admiration on the rules he uttered , as if they were founded on revelations from above. If he had bungled along , as he must appear to have done , had he been a contemporary of Katyayana ,– not he, but the author of the Vartikas, would have been the inspired Rshi and the reputed father of the Vyakarana (grammar)”.

Goldstucker gives lot of examples to support his above four conclusions. His beautiful illustration of the word ‘Nirvaana’ is an example; he shows how the Upanishadic word ‘Nirvaana’ changed its meaning completely during Buddha’s days.


My Comments:

In Sanskrit, we have thousands of grammar books because it is the oldest language in the world; because it has the largest body of literature. Even before Iliad and Odyssey of Homer appeared, even before the Old Testament of the Bible appeared, vast literature , the size of Pacific Ocean appeared in Sanskrit. So, changes are inevitable.

Secondly, Panini continuously quotes how the language of his day (Bhasa) changed from the Vedic Hymns (Chandas) which shows he was closer to Vedic age than Katyayana.

Thirdly , even the other ancient language of India– Tamil also has seen changes from  Tolkappiar’s days until now. And Tamil is at least 1500 years younger to Sanskrit. Sanskrit Vedic Gods are in Bogazkoy inscription (1400 BCE) and Egyptian Dasaratha letters, whereas we have Tamil inscription in Brahmi characters with Prakrit words from first century BCE only.

Those who study grammar and comment on it must know both Tamil and Sanskrit; the comparison would give them a clearer picture; and such scholars are rare. Dr P S Subrahmanya Sastri (1890-1978) and Kanchi Paramacharya Swamikal (1894- 1994) were great scholars who could speak about the grammar in both these languages. When one compares these two languages, one must remember the age of their literature as well. Tamil literature came after the Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Chinese, Hebrew and Persian literature. Sanskrit literature came before all these literatures. Sanskrit is the only language which is not named after any race or community; and Sanskrit is the oldest language which is used until today, in temples, in naming children, in naming satellites, in naming missiles and planes, in swearing oaths in Parliament and in courts and above all singing in the White House in Washington and  United Nations Organisation in New York. Kanchi Paraamachaya’s ‘Maitrim Bhajata’ song reverberated throughout the world in M S Subbulakshmi’s voice from the UNO in New York.


tags- 10,000 mistakes, Panini, Goldstucker

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