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March 24, 2012 / A

The anubandha: or, what is “it” all about?

Via Flickr.

I now prepare to delve into chapter 1.3 of the Ashtadhyayi, the one that discouraged me last year. This chapter is difficult for many reasons:

  • It’s long. At 93 rules, this is the longest chapter I’ve seen so far. (Edit: I have since learned that this is among the shortest chapters in the whole text. But I’m trying not to think about that right now.)
  • It’s boring. 67 rules all about the use of आत्मनेपद as distinct from परस्मैपद.
  • It’s not as useful. Several contemporary scholars (20th century onward) have commented on how little this distinction really matters in Sanskrit.
  • It’s specific. So far, most rules have focused on general principles. Parts of 1.2 are an exception to this, as they list the properties of certain verb groups. But that’s almost the entirety of this chapter here.
  • It repeats itself. The rule अकर्मकाच्च is used three times in three different places. Prefixes like आङ् (आ) are mentioned several times.

S. D. Joshi provided a general outline for the chapter. It doesn’t mean much to me, but I hope it will later.

  1. 1.3.1 – 11 : definitions and two conventions
  2. 1.3.12 – 16: general rules of आत्मनेपद, including two exceptions
  3. 1.3.17 – 77 : adding आत्मनेपद endings in the sense of कर्तृ
  4. 1.3.78 – 93 : adding परस्मैपद in the sense of कर्तृ with the शेष (“remainder”) device.

At least the chapter does one useful thing: it finally defines the अनुबन्ध. Even this term is too long for Panini, who uses the word इत् (an abbreviation of इति derived from the verb इ “go”) instead. Now is as good a time as any to talk about what these things really are.

So what is an anubandha?

Sanskrit is composed of letters. That’s obvious. But these letters are all parts of words. Take न् and र्, combine them with a few vowels, and you have नर, “man.”

Panini turns this notion on its head. He uses letters in a way separate from ordinary language. Thus he sometimes refers to the root गम् as गम्लृ. At first this looks ridiculous: लृ and ल् never appear in any of the forms derived from गम्. But लृ is not functioning as part of the root. Instead, it has meaning only in Panini’s system.

The key insight here — one that took me far too long to reach — is that these letters are tags that specify extra properties or behaviors. Thus गम्लृ shouldn’t be understood as “the root गम्लृ.” It should be understood as “the root गम् with the properties implied by the tag लृ.” And instead of “tag,” Panini uses the word इत्, and others use the longer term अनुबन्ध.

An example: क्त

Those of you who know Sanskrit should know that most verb roots can become “past passive participles” (भूते कृदन्त). Thus नी (“lead”) becomes नीत (“led”, as in “the cow that was led to the grass”). The suffix used here is त ; thus नष्ट, भूत, गत, यत, हुत, and so on.

In Panini’s grammar, this suffix is called क्त. Here, क् is a “tag” or indicatory sound, per this rule:

1.3.8 लशक्वतद्धिते
ल्, श्, क्, ख्, ग्, घ्, and ङ् are indicatory when at the front of a non-तद्धित suffix.

त is a कृत् or “primary” suffix, so the क् in क्त is indicatory. Now, in Panini’s grammar, the process of adding a suffix to something causes that thing to strengthen its vowel. Thus नी + त yields *नेत, which is totally wrong. Vowel strengthening must be suppressed.

And indeed it is, in the first few rules of the Ashtadhyayi:

1.1.3 इको गुणवृद्धी
इ, ई, उ, ऊ, ऋ, ॠ, and लृ (and लॄ too) can be strengthened,
1.1.4 न धातुलोप आर्धधातुके
but not in an आर्धधातुक suffix that causes part of the root to be deleted,
1.1.5 क्ङिति च
nor when followed by क् or ङ्

(Note that इत् is added to the end of the group to show that the two letters are anubandhas.) Thus we have it stated that क् does not cause the root vowel to strengthen. Certainly, there are exceptions to this. But this is the general rule. Add in 1.1.46 (आद्यन्तौ टकितौ, “ट् marks a term that goes before and क् marks a term that goes after”) and we have a full description of the process for नी -> नीत. क् prevents vowel strengthening, and 1.1.46 ensures the order of the two, to prevent some bizarre form like *तनी.

The various anubandhas

The anubandha terms are all defined in 1.3.2 – 1.3.9. A simple translation of these rules can be found at  Note the last line in this group: तस्य लोपः. All anubandha terms are deleted. This powerful rule defines what I mentioned earlier: these terms have meaning only in Panini’s grammar, and once they’ve acted as they’re supposed to, they are deleted, never to appear in real Sanskrit.


Leave a Comment
  1. kartheeque / Apr 23 2012 5:52 am

    I am trying to memorize the Ashtadhyayi and 1.3 is one of the tougher ones. Probably because of the Atmanepada, parasmaipada sutras that seem so disconnected from each other. 1.1 and 1.2 were relatively simpler.

    • A / Apr 23 2012 9:50 am

      Yes, it’s a difficult chapter. My biggest challenge was in remembering the order of the chapter’s various roots. But I had great success in using mnemonics of various sorts. Maybe the same sorts of tricks will help you too.

      I thought it would be such a relief to reach the end of the chapter; but in the end, I started liking some of these rules. I think a good commentary is important here, especially because it can cite some interesting examples.

      • kartheeque / Apr 23 2012 10:42 am

        I am as of now concentrating on rote memorization, memorizing in batches of twenty (give or take a few, based on where an anuvRtti ends). As of now, I am trying to avoid commentaries (which I want to start after the memorization), but even then, some sutras do not get in without taking a peek at their commentary. 🙂 I usually refer to Kashika. Its examples are great usually. I will look up your mnemonics page too. Thanks. 🙂

  2. Hemant / May 19 2012 9:46 am

    “Note the last line in this group: तस्य लोपः. All anubandha terms are deleted. This powerful rule defines what I mentioned earlier: these terms have meaning only in Panini’s grammar, and once they’ve acted as they’re supposed to, they are deleted, never to appear in real Sanskrit.”
    – I liked this elaborate treatment. 🙂


  1. The Ashtadhyayi as an oral composition « अवग्रह

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