Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Panini Certificate

Ever since Panini has written his monumental ashtadhyAyI, there have been plenty of commentaries on it and still continues to follow. Katyayana's Vartika, Patanjali's Mahabhashya, Kasika Vritti, Siddhanta kaumudi, Laghu kaumudi, Laghu siddhanta kaumudi are a few Sanskrit commentaries. When the West discovered Sanskrit, more commentaries sprang up.

For some reason, whosoever has tasted a little bit of Panini (not the Italian sandwich) feels so compelled to write a commentary on it. In modern days blogs have replaced commentaries. Whosoever even just heard about Panini, is compelled to write a blog about him. Just like me.

Kalidasa describes this feeling in a beautiful poem:

मन्द: अपि अमन्दताम् एति संसर्गेन विपश्चित: । (मालविकाग्निमित्रम् 2.7)

The company of the intelligent brings respect even to the dumbwitted. (Malavikagnimitram - Ch 2, verse 7)

The human mind tends to super-impose the characteristics of an associative object with the associating subject. So whoever reads Homer is a literat. Whoever likes Homer Simpson is dumb. Whoever loves Bambi is cute, whoever appreciates legumes are nuts. During a Panini study, a student undergoes one or more, usually all, emotions of bewilderment, amazement, overwhelmingness, stunning and finally dumbfounded, in any order. By this time he/she figured out that he/she got smarter just knowing Panini.

Ignorance shadows smartness.
Ankle deep into ashtadhyAyI, the student now questions Panini's sutras and methodology. 'This sutra does not make sense', 'This sutra could have been avoided and put elsewhere', 'This is an unfortunate sequence of sutras' etc - so the student passes judgement like my wife's hand distributes neighbor's ghee to everybody.

When does this feeling stop? When does the student hear the inner-voice 'Oh, shut up'? The post-Panini period was a cauldron of grammatical activities. It has been told that several grammarians attempted modifications, additions of sutras to ashtadhyAyI. In midst of all this, one great intellectual, one that the human mind has since not surpassed, stood up and proclaims "ashtadhyAyI is perfect beyond your pea-brained comprehension faculties".

And that brings this quote from that Great Rishi Patanjali himself, who drank ashtadhyAyI as easily as soda from a can and gives an 'Outstanding' certificate to Panini.

tatra aSakyam varNena api anarthakena bhavitum, kim punariyatA sUtreNa |

तत्र अशक्यम् वर्णेन अपि अनर्थकेन भवितुम्, किम् पुनरियता सूत्रेण ।

Even by a single letter (varNena api) is not possible (tatra aSakyam) to exist (bhavitum) meaningless (anarthakena), what to say about a whole sutra!


shashi said...

sAdhu sAdhu!
wonderful post vasu. good sense of humor as well, a good combination. true, half empty vessel makes the noise. pANinI is perhaps the greatest of human brains for even have thought of having such pure pursuits of science, which has no obvious use - linguistics. the most useless science from economics point of view. and what observation! kernigham ritchie, or backus are simply stepping in those giant footsteps now!

Vasu Srinivasan said...

@shashi mahodaya

dhanyavAdAh: |