Ancient Obscure Words show Panini’s Age (Post No.11,809)


Post No. 11,809

Date uploaded in London – –  15 MARCH 2023                  

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 Panini’s Vocabulary- it’s bearing on his date

By S.P. Caturvedi, Nagpur

Woolner commemoration volume, 1940

Ghatena kaaryai karishyan kumbakaarakulam gathvah

Kuru ghatam kaaryam manena karishyamiti

Na tadchabdaan prayuyugnjamaano vaiyaakaranakulam gathvaah

Kuru sabdaan prayohya iti

In the above interesting passage from Mahabhasya 1-1-1-1,

Patanjali has referred to a fundamental principle of Philology..

In short it implies that language is not a creation of grammarians

The function of grammarians is to regularise, and not to create language.

Sabdaanusaasan is the term for grammar and not Sabdasaasan

Applying the same principle to the grammar of Panini, we may say, without any fear of contradiction, that the language, which is treated in Panini s Ashtadhyayi , must have been once a current language and not the creation of Panini s imagination.

Panini is regarded as the foremost grammarian of classical Sanskrit.

His treatment of Vedic Sanskrit is cursory. Thisis obvious from the twelve times repetition of the long reaching all comprehensive sutra Bahulam Chandasi. Hence classical Sanskrit is the basis of Panini’s grammar.

In the Dhatupada of Paninian system, which is generally ascribed to Panini himself, there are about 2000 roots. The words formed from these roots should be found used in the current classical Sanskrit literature. But we come across the forms of only 850 roots in the extant literature.

Whitney says that “the roots which are authenticated by the literary monuments of the language, earlier and later, number between 800 and 900. About half of these belong fully to the language throughout its whole history; some about 150are limited to the earlier or pre classical period; some again, over 120, make their first appearance  n the later language. In the same way, a good number of primary and secondary derivatives are not seen used in the extant literature.

But we are not justified in drawing a conclusion, from the non -appearance of such forms, that they were not current in the time of Panini also. Discussing this very problem of non-use of some verbal forms in the current language, Patanjali forbids us to draw the above conclusion. Thus it in clear that in the days of Katyayana and Patanjali, many forms arrived at in Panini’s grammar were non -current. Yet Patanjali simply confessed the incompleteness of the extant literature and was not inclined to doubt the very existence of such forms.

Dr R G Bhandarkar, is therefore of opinion, that the baisi of Panini’s grammar is the language of Pre Mahabharat period and, to a great extent, the Brahmanas of the Vedic literature were written in that language. In such works as Aitareya and Satapata Brahmana, we find abundance of Paninian conjugational forms. If such conjugational forms had been used only in Vedic language, they must have been noted as such by Panini, eg. The form of Devaasah, in nominative plural from Deva, is accounted for in Vedic usage only; for the classical Sanskrit, only Devaah form is justified. In short, we can safely assume that in contemporary literature of Panini, which unfortunately is not completely available these days — these apparently rare forms were in use, and therefore, Panini made rules to account for them.

Panini does not use the word Samskrita, but the word Bhasaa is used , and it is distinguished from Chandasi or Mantra. In sutra 8-2-83, we see even Sudras spoke in Sanskrit and were answered in Sanskrit. All this should conclusively show that Sanskrit as handled by Panini, was then a spoken language. Consequently, it would be quite unreasonable to suppose that Panini wrote this grammar to account for the forms, which were imaginary and created by him.

Thus having accepted the view that Panini handled a spoken language, we are led to presume the existence of a vast classical Sanskrit literature, contemporaneous with Panini, but now non-existent. This presumption brings us face to face with the long drawn controversy about the date of Panini.


Date of Panini

Panini’s date according to

Max Muller and Bohtlingk – 350 BCE

Keith- 350 BCE

McDonell – 300 BCE, later change to 459 BCE

C V Vaidya – Earlier than 950 BCE

Dr R G Bhandarkar – Pre- Mahabharata period

In support of this view (950 BCE), we give below the obscure words in Ashtadhyayi. We can classify the words as Technical and Common words. We have not included the words in Ganapatha. The vocabulary of Ashtadhyayai, is very rich and vast. Almost all conceivable topics of the world are represented there.


C V Vaidya’s History of Indian Literature gives a list of Geographical and historical importance and proper names from Panini. Those words are not included in the following list.

List of some obscure words in Ashtadhyayi

A thief – 5-10-113- ekaa gaarik

Ullaagha 8-2-55 – able, recently recovered from sickness.

Upasamvaada 3-4-8 to stake

Aasandii 8-2-12 seat

Indriya 5-2-93 pertaining to Indra

Upajnaa 2-4-81

Avara 5-4-57 not less than

Anaka 2-1-54 insignificant or small

Athisarga 3-3-163 to allow one to do what one likes

Athyaadhaana 3-3-80 a wooden support on which other wooden pieces are cut

Aagaveena 5-2-14 a labourer who works in return for a cow given temporarily

Adheeshta 3-1-166 to emply with honour

Aniravasitha 2-4-10  not an outcaste; a Sudra allowed to use utensils of higher castes

Antarvatrii 4-1-32 pregnant

Anvaajekarana 1-4-73 to strengthen

Apamithya 4-4-21  being in debt

Aparakara 6-1-149 part of a chariot

Upasamaadhaana 3-3-41 to collect

Abresha 3-3-3 non-deviation, propriety

Amatra  4-2-14 a vessel

Amnas 8-2-70 unawares

Ayaanaya 5-2-9 particular movement of pawns on a

Chess board

Arma 6-2-90 a ruined village

Asleeladrtaroopaa 6-2-42 ugly

Aagrapada 5-2-8 reaching upto foot

Udagha 3-3-86 praiseworthy

Upayamana 1-2-15 to marry

Udasrita 4-2-19 butter milk

Kulmaasha 5-2-83 eatables

Kuaththa 4-4-4

Jnethriya 5-2-92 incurable disease or adulterer

Udaya 8-4-67 following letter

Uyottama 6-1-176  last but one letter

Salaalu  4-4-54 a fragrant substance

Sthaalivilayi 5-1-70 rice fit for boiling

Pralambana 1-3-69 to make false statements

Kulija a 5-1-55 kind of measure

Maskara  6-1-150 a pipe

Pratyavasaana 1-4-52 to eat

Paatresamita 2-1-48 one who eats, but not work

Nishpravaanih 5-4-160 a blanket recently made

Potaa 2-1-65 with male and female signs

Samaamsameenaa 5-2-12 one having delivery every year

Kaamapravedana  3-3- 153 to express one’s desire

Adhyasviinaa  5-2-13 delivering today or tomorrow

Saami 5-4-5 half

Kanehatya 1-1-66 to the full satisfaction

Visishta 2-4-7 different

Vichaala 5-3-43 to unify or to divide one in many

Pratiyatna 1-3-32 to adopt quality of others

Bagaala 6-2-137 skull

Paruth 5-3-22 last year


My comments

 I don’t know why this writer completely ignored the great scholar Goldstucker who gave more valid points to show that Panini belonged to eighth or ninth century BCE. It may be due to author’s ignorance or arrogance.


Similar things are seen in Tamil’s oldest book Tolkappiam too.  Nobody used such data  to date him. Since he himself said ‘They say’, ‘Scholars say’, ‘It is sad that’ etc. many thought he compiled from many rules from old book/s what is relevant for his day. We may view Panini from that angle as well.

Many Tamil words used by Tolkappiar or many rules given in his book are ignored by classical Tamil poets. He might have compiled many old rules. He used Nimpiri for jealousy. That word or cognate word is not found in any language or anywhere in Tamil. We have similar English words such as Dog without any link to any language.

The barking of the dog is not similar in any European language!!

So we must be careful in using certain things to come to some conclusions.

At least Tamil and Sanskrit scholars can sit together and compare the changes in their languages.

In the above Panini word list, I see Saami/half is cognate to Semi in English. But one similarity won’t help us to arrive at any conclusion.


Tags- Panini’s Age, Obscure words, lost words, Ashtadhyayi,

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