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

Ancient Madurai and Old Delhi! Beautiful Description!!( Post No. 2409)


Compiled by London swaminathan

Date: 20 December 2015


Post No. 2409


Time uploaded in London:- 13-24

( Thanks for the Pictures  ) 



old mdu

Here is a beautiful description of Madurai as seen by Mankudi Marudan, a poet who was in the court of a Pandya king who ruled South Tamil Nadu 2000 years ago:–

“The poet enters the city by its great gate, the posts of which are carved with images of the Goddess Lakshmi, and which is grimy with ghee, poured in oblation upon it to bring safety and prosperity to city it guards. It is a day of festival, and the city is gay with flags, some, presented by the king to celebrate to commemorate brave deeds, flying over the homes of captains, and others waving over the shops which sell the gladdening toddy.


The streets are broad rivers of people, folk of every race, buying and selling in the market place or singing to the music of wandering minstrels.


A drum beats and a royal procession passes down the street, with elephants leading to the sounds of conches. A refractory beast breaks his chain, and tosses like a ship in an angry sea until again he is brought to order. Chariots follow with prancing horses and fierce footmen.


Meanwhile stall keepers ply their trade, selling sweet-cakes, garlands of flowers, scented powder and betel quids. Old women go from house to house, selling nosegays and trinkets to the womenfolk.  Noblemen drive through the streets in their chariots, their gold-sheathed swords flashing, and wearing brightly-dyed garments and wreathes of flowers. From balconies and turrets the many jewels of the perfumed women who watch the festival flash in the sun light.


The people flock to the temples to worship to the sound of music, laying their flowers before the images and honouring the holy sages. Craftsmen work in their shops – men making bangles of conch shell, goldsmiths, cloth- dealers, coppersmiths, and flower sellers, vendors of sandal wood, painters and weavers. Food shops busily sell their wares – greens, jack fruits, mangoes, sugar candy, cooked rice and chunks of cooked meat.


In the evenings the city prostitutes entertain their patrons with dancing and singing to the sound of the lute (Yaz), so that the streets are filled with music. Drunken villagers, up for the festival, reel in the roadways, while respectable women make evening visits to the temples with their children and friends, carrying lighted lamps as offerings. They dance in the temple courts, which are clamorous with their singing and chatter.


At last the city seeps—all but the goblins and ghosts who haunt the dark, and the bold housebreakers, armed with rope ladders, swords and chisels, to break through the walls of mud houses. But the watchmen are also vigilant, and the city passes the night in peace.

madurai 028

Mornings come with the sound of the Brahmins intoning their sacred verses. The wandering bards renew their singing, and the shopkeepers busy themselves opening their booths. The toddy-sellers again ply their trade for thirsty morning travellers. The drunkards reel to their feet and once more shout on the streets. All over the city is heard the sound of opening doors. Women sweep the faded flowers of the festival from their court yards. Thus the busy everyday life of the city is resumed.

–Maduraikanchi, Pattuppaattu.




Ibn Batuta, Moroccan traveller who travelled from 1326 for 27 years, wrote about Asian countries and its peoples. Here is what he wrote about Delhi:–

“We then proceeded on from Masud Abad till we came to Delhi, the capital of the empire. It is a most magnificent city, combining atone beauty and strength. Its walls are such as to have no equal in the whole world. This is the greatest city of Hindustan; and indeed of all Islam in the East. It now consist of four cities, which becoming contiguous have formed one. The city was conqured in the year of the Hejra 584 (1188 CE). The thickness of its walls is 11 cubits. They keep grain in this city for a very long time without undergoing any change whatever. I myself saw rice brought out of the treasury, which was quite black, nevertheless, had lost noe of the goodness of its taste.  The same was the case with the kodru, which had been in the treasury for ninety years, flowers, too, are in continual blossom in this place. Its mosque is very large; and in the beauty and extent of its building, it has no equal. Before the taking of Delhi, it had been a Hindoo temple, which the Hindoos call El Bur Khana (But Khana); but, after that event, it was used as a mosque. In its court-yard is a cell, to which there is no equal in the cities of the Muhammadeans; its height is such that men appear from the top of it like little children. In its court, too, there is an immense pillar, which they say, is composed of stones from seven quarries. In length it is 30 cubits; its circumference eight; which is truly miraculous. Without the city is a reservoir for the rain water; and out of this inhabitants have their water for drinking.  It is two miles in length, and one in width. About it are pleasure gardens to which the people resort.

Ibn Batuta in Arabic