Friday, June 25, 2010

panini's ashTAdhyAyI - some thoughts from 1891

the following is an excerpt from 1891 book "The Ashtadhyayi of Panini" by Shrisha Chandra Vasu. The text follows with the scans of the page (to see actual characters used for transliteration).

following that you will find my comments.

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PREFACE

Since the advent of the British rule and the peace and prosperity that has followed in its train, India has witnessed a glorious revival of her ancient literature, in which is embodied some of the highest philosophies and religions of the world. Among the various blessings which our benign Government has conferred upon us, none can be greater in value or usefulness than this revival of Sanskrit. Our schools and colleges are annually turning out hundreds, nay thousands of scholars, who have entered upon the study of Sanskrit literature, and have thus learnt to appreciate the beauties of this language. Very few of them, however have the opportunity of studying the language, with that depth and fulness, as it was and is mastered by the Pandits of the old school. To properly understand Sanskrit language, and especially that portion of it in which is locked up the highest aspirations of the ancient Aryan hearts viz., the Vedas, the Brahmanas, the Upanishads &c. it is absolutely necessary to have a complete knowledge of the Grammar elaborated by Pāṇini. The Grammar is reckoned as one of the Vedangas, or the helps to the study of the Vedas ; and it is unquestionably one of the most important of the Vedangas. The four thousand sutras of Pāṇini contain within themselves almost all that a student need know to enable him to understand the language of the Vedas.

Not only is this excellent treatise of Pāṇini necessary for those who are desirous of learning the ancient Sanskrit literature, but a knowledge of this is even necessary for understanding the modern Sanskrit, which is modelled on the rules laid down by that great Grammarian, whose aphorisms are being constantly quoted in all Vedic commentaries, and classical authors and law books.

Further, as a masterpiece of close reasoning and artistic arrangement, it ought to be an object of study with every one who wants to cultivate his intellectual powers. In fact what the Geometry of Euclid has done towards the logical development of the western intellect, the Ashtadhyayi of Pāṇini has fulfilled the same purpose in India. No one who has studied this book can refrain from praising it. It has evoked admiration even from the Sanskrit savants of the west. Professor Max Muller thus gives his opinion about the merits of this excellent Sanskrit Grammar :— “The Grammatical system elaborated by native Grammarians, is in itself most perfect, and those who have tested Pāṇini’s work will readily admit, that there is no Grammar in any language, that could vie with the wonderful mechanism of his eight books of Grammatical rules.”

The style of these sutras is studiedly brief, but then this brevity is its greatest recommendation. That, which appears to many obscurity and ambiguity in the sutras, vanishes before the clear and exhaustive explanations of the commentators; and shows the extreme skill and wonderful ingenuity of the author of these aphorisms. These sutras, therefore, which though at first sight may appear difficult and repulsive, if once mastered, will enable a student to know and remember more of the Sanskrit Grammar, than he can ever learn through other methods, with twice that labour. Unfortunately, however, for our college and school students, and also for that vast majority of our English reading countrymen, whose number is daily on the increase, and who depend for their knowledge of what is contained in Sanskrit books, on English translation of Sanskrit authors, no translation of this important work exists in English. To supply this want, I have undertaken to translate Pāṇini’s aphorisms, as explained by the Commentators Jayāditya and Vāmana in their well-known book, called Kāshika vṛitti and issue one chapter every month. Though, it is not a close translation of the whole of Kāshika, it may be regarded as a free rendering of the most important portions of that book. I have closely followed on the footsteps of those authors, translating their commentary, explaining it where necessary; and in short, making my work a help to the student, desirous of studying the Kāshika in the original.

The translation of Sanskrit texts, especially those like Kāshika , is always beset with great difficulties, even for the masters of Sanskrit learning. For a beginner, like the present translator, those difficulties were many and great, and I am fully conscious that here and there, I may have failed to grasp the full drift of the arguments of the authors of Kāshika. But on the whole, I have spared no pains to render this work as free from errors as lay in my humble power. I shall feel much obliged to those gentlemen, who will be good enough to point out any errors, or suggest any improvements, so that I may be benefited by their advice.

I must here acknowledge the great assistance I have derived from the well-known translation of Laghu Kaumudi by Dr. Ballantyne; Mr. lengar’s Guide to Pāṇini; Professor Apte’s Sanskrit Composition as well as from Dr. Kicihorn’s Paribhāṣhendushékhara. I have freely quoted from these authors and absorbed their rendering into my own, without distinguishing them by marks of quotation.

When I first undertook the translation of Pāṇini, I had thought that the work when completed, will not occupy more than 1200 pages. But from the present sample it will be seen, that that estimate was far below the mark. The complete translation, together with the Introduction, Glossary and the Indices, which I intend to add, will take up nearly double as much space i.e., nearly 2000 pages or more. I have, however, kept the price of the book the same, namely, Rs. 14 (payable by two instalments), for subscribers, who have already got their names registered, or who will do so within the 31st January 1892, and Rs. 20 for non-subscribers.
14th November, 1891. ŚRIŚA CHANDRA VASU.

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here are a few things of interest -
  • "Since the advent of the British rule and the peace and prosperity that has followed in its train, India has witnessed a glorious revival of her ancient literature." 
    • the indian scholars already had the manuscripts, but they were not available publicly, since printing with modern press was not yet done. after the modern press printing, many more copies of the books were available, unlike manuscripts of earlier times.
    • before the british crown took over india after the 1857 revolution, there were the east india company meddlings and islamic terrors, which surely didn't allow for much peace as far as sanskrit, culture or academics is concerned. when indians kings warred in pre greek times, the scholars had nothing to fear.
  • Our schools and colleges are annually turning out hundreds, nay thousands of scholars, who have entered upon the study of Sanskrit literature, and have thus learnt to appreciate the beauties of this language. 
    • sadly, now the numbers are reducing in regular schools and colleges. no one is taking sanskrit as a second language, like french, german or spanish. 
  • Very few of them, however have the opportunity of studying the language, with that depth and fulness, as it was and is mastered by the Pandits of the old school. 
    • this still seems to be true. even in many sanskrit schools/colleges students take sanskrit to get better marks for competitive exams, rather than to pursue sanskrit studies further.
    • many times teachers set up exam papers in regional language and answers are also written in regional language, rather than sanskrit.
    • some are studying sanskrit to simply become priests.
    • it would be great if a language so perfected with literature so vast and varied was studied for its own sake and for the sake of the scientific knowledge contained within, and that knowledge was used for modern science courses as well. e.g. there seems to be not much interaction between ayurveda and other modern sciences, as it happens in medicine and technology.
  • Further, as a masterpiece of close reasoning and artistic arrangement, it ought to be an object of study with everyone who wants to cultivate his intellectual powers. In fact what the Geometry of Euclid has done towards the logical development of the western intellect, the Ashtadhyayi of Pāṇini has fulfilled the same purpose in India. No one who has studied this book can refrain from praising it
    • now THIS is important point to note. you must have read it all over the place, how sanskrit is best suited language for computers. those statements are a bit misunderstood. sanskrit grammar is described in a generative manner like the grammar of modern computer languages. ambiguity of grammar is not there. it does not mean that computer programming should be done in sanskrit, but that its grammar is as tightly defined as a modern computer language.
    • the way people spend time, energy and money to learn a new computer language, its new constructs, object oriented, AJAX, XML and what not, inventing new languages, if same rigor was used to learn sanskrit grammar, it would be pretty easy.
    • imagine, everyone who is learned in sanskrit is a walking encyclopedia of 4000 or so grammar rules, thinks very much like a computer (from grammar, reasoning and analysis; point of view), the sandhi rules of sounds, thesaurus with many synonyms, the various group of verbs and their forms! if such a person were to focus his attention on the modern sciences, it would be of immense use. put in other words, the systematic study of sanskrit would sharpen the memory, analytical skills and communication skills. that would be of use to a student of any field.
  • The style of these sutras is studiedly brief, but then this brevity is its greatest recommendation. That, which appears to many obscurity and ambiguity in the sutras, vanishes before the clear and exhaustive explanations of the commentators; and shows the extreme skill and wonderful ingenuity of the author of these aphorisms. These sutras, therefore, which though at first sight may appear difficult and repulsive, if once mastered, will enable a student to know and remember more of the Sanskrit Grammar, than he can ever learn through other methods, with twice that labour.
    • no wonder panini is considered one of the greatest minds of all times, the world over. "Panini's grammar has been evaluated from various points of view. After all these different evaluations, I think that the grammar merits asserting ... that it is one of the greatest monuments of human intelligence." - Cardona
  • Unfortunately, however, for our college and school students, and also for that vast majority of our English reading countrymen, whose number is daily on the increase, and who depend for their knowledge of what is contained in Sanskrit books, on English translation of Sanskrit authors, no translation of this important work exists in English. 
    • this seems to be the biggest problem even now. learning sanskrit only through english and that too without the special characters of transliteration is fatal for sanskrit studies, when the soft and hard 't' and 'd' are mixed up. i have seen websites for sanskrit tattoo transliterations that have messed up big time, because the person is not native speaker and has learned only through non-native speakers. when you always say yogaa, you end up writing it wrong as well! the word 'yogaa' instead of yoga has entered in hindi  media as well, now that is a shame.
  • When I first undertook the translation of Pāṇini, I had thought that the work when completed, will not occupy more than 1200 pages. But from the present sample it will be seen, that that estimate was far below the mark. The complete translation, together with the Introduction, Glossary and the Indices, which I intend to add, will take up nearly double as much space i.e., nearly 2000 pages or more. I have, however, kept the price of the book the same, namely, Rs. 14 (payable by two instalments), for subscribers, who have already got their names registered, or who will do so within the 31st January 1892, and Rs. 20 for non-subscribers. 
    • i loved this part, people were booking pre-publishing as well for discounts! and rupees 14 in two installments! well, rs 14 then was like 14000 now or something like that!


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3 comments:

  1. I could immediately sense, that the price will be 14000/20000.
    It is really very reasonable, I think, considering the different factors involved.
    I would, however like to read it only after its publication. Whatever be the price.
    My best wishes.
    Regards.

    ReplyDelete
  2. this book was published in 1892, and people had subscribed to it before it actually came out. pre-publishing sales happen when the author has a strong reputation in a circle. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. i read this site and gain more information.

    ReplyDelete

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