A biography of Panini,the ancient Sanskrit grammarian


Sanskrit’s] potential for scientific use was greatly enhanced as a result of the thorough systemisation of its grammar by Panini. … On the basis of just under 4000 sutras [rules expressed as aphorisms], he built virtually the whole structure of the Sanskrit language, whose general ‘shape’ hardly changed for the next two thousand years. … An indirect consequence of Panini’s efforts to increase the linguistic facility of Sanskrit soon became apparent in the character of scientific and mathematical literature. This may be brought out by comparing the grammar of Sanskrit with the geometry of Euclid – a particularly apposite comparison since, whereas mathematics grew out of philosophy in ancient Greece, it was … partly an outcome of linguistic developments in India.

A very interesting analysis. Mathematics flowing out of language !  A  fascinating biography of Panini , the greatest of the ancient  Sanscrit grammarians whose 4000 sutras(aphorisms) provide the basic structure of the Sanskrit grammar.

13 comments on “A biography of Panini,the ancient Sanskrit grammarian

  1. Amrevis says:

    Interesting piece on Panini. But the thing is that in today’s wrold Sanskrit means nothing. It is an obsolete langauge that could never keep up with the times. For that matter even Hindi is obsolete and it must too fade into the oblivion just as Sanskrit has.

    As far as language is concerned, English represents the present and the future for India. English is the only national language in the country. Sanskrit means nothing to us Indians, and Hindi means very less.

    • John Sutton of cambridge says:

      I totally disagree. Sanskrit formed from ancient Punjabi and ancient Pushto. Both Punjabi and Pushto are live vibrant languages. Sanskrit was the language of the elite, and as such all the knowledge of the old world was recorded in Sanskrit. From this emerged Hindi, which kept changing till we have the current version. This is vibrant and living, and being the language of the masses will keep evolving.

      English is, without doubt, currently, the window to the world. But as India (the sub-continent) and China and the MIddle East progress, we will have computers increasingly using the languages of these areas too.

      What is important in linguistics, is the base, that is one’s ‘Mother Tongue’. If you have skill in that, then other languages come easily. But Sanskrit was never a Mother Tongue, so as the status quo dwindled in relative terms, so did the language. But it is not dead, and never will be.

  2. nisheedhi says:

    Whether or not Sanskrit means anything to us is an emotive issue. English is our window to the world presently .One does not know if Hindi or any other Indian language will gain acceptability as a national language( In Tamilnadu they pay pensions to the agitators of the anti-Hindi agitation of some years ago).The importance of English cannot therefore be forgotten. Thanks for the comment

  3. nilagriva says:

    Just came across this blog when googling for Panini and I couldn’t resist.

    Amrevis, I disagree with your comment that Sanskrit means nothing in today’s world and especially to Indians. Sanskrit still amounts to a lot, both for Indians and the world. If History and Culture are important to India and the world, Samskrit is too. Well, if you are one of those who says that History and Culture are not important at all, I have no further argument with you.

    I am an Indian and samskrit is important to me. And I can show you thousands of people for whom Samskrit is important. So your blanket statement that Samskrit is not important for Indians is probably not correct.

    A language’s use is not just to “keep up with the times”. Life is more than a bunch of business transactions.

    Anyway, you are entitled to have your opinion and I mine.


  4. Meenal says:

    hey sanskrit does mean something if your a true indian you would know!!!!!!

    • John Sutton of cambridge says:

      Sanskrit, it might amaze you, evolved in the land that is today Pakistan. It has nothing to do with being an Indian, for it was the language of the Brahmin ruling class priests in Taxila, Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, all cities of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The Ganges Civilisation came much later. It is amazing how little Indians know of this fact.

  5. Meenal says:

    hey sanskrit does mean something if your a true indian you would know!!!!!!Anyway great article

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’m just wondering if the sanskrit numbers 0-10 were also created from panini? If anyone has any answers please leave a comment saying yes or no and if possible some information on it.

  7. sanskrit is our motherlanguage. so we should not leave it.

    • John Sutton of cambridge says:

      Sanskrit was never a Mother Tongue, it was an elitist language of the Brahmin ruling class priests. Our mother tongue is that where we live.

  8. Heh I’m literally the first reply to this incredible read!

  9. Silas Ryan says:

    If I had a penny for every time I came here… Amazing post.

  10. vaidy bala says:

    In my opinion, English is a commercial global language. Sanskrit is a divine language used a, even now to communicate with the Divine. German is the language of Science where precision matters. So, each one has significance. Sanskrit is the mother of Mothers language that cannot be disputed. To ignore is to ignore the thirst of the human sprit this is what the language pours out for humanity to hear!

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