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April 21, 2012 / A

A metrical Ashtadhyayi

Despite the ordeal of chapter 2.1, I have already jumped into chapter 2.2. Having only 38 rules, it is by far the shortest chapter in the entire work. And already I’m a third of the way through.

While learning the first few rules, I noticed that three of them formed a nice pattern:

नञीषदकृता षष्ठी

Separately, this describes three rules of the Ashtadhyayi:

2.2.6 नञ्
The prefix नञ् (अ/अन्) (used with a सुबन्त word is called तत्पुरुष).
2.2.7 ईषदकृता
Likewise, ईषत् when used with a word that does not end in a कृत् suffix;
2.2.8 षष्ठी
and a word in case 6.

S. D. Joshi occasionally mentions that the Ashtadhyayi might have originally been a metrical text, perhaps following the shloka meter. Joshi says that this would explain the odd order of terms in rule 1.1.1:

1.1.1 वृद्धिरादैच्
आ, ऐ, and औ are called वृद्धि
1.1.2 अदेङ्गुणः
अ, ए, and ओ are called गुण.

which makes more sense in shloka:

वृद्धिरादैचदेङ्गुणः

Whether or not this is true, I cannot say. But S. D. Joshi is far more informed about Panini than I am, so I trust that his observation has some merit. Perhaps Panini planned to make a metrical text but gave up when faced with Sanskrit’s complexity.

And in passing, I note the major advantage of a metrical text: ease of memorization. When words fall in defined patterns, it becomes much easier to recall where things should appear. The meter acts as a mnemonic.

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