Grammatical Proof that Sanskrit was also written

Grammatical Proof that Sanskrit was also written

It occurs to me that सूत्रम् – मोऽनुस्वारः (८/३/२३) in अष्टाध्यायी of पाणिनि is concrete evidence that Sanskrit was written, very definitely in पाणिनि’s time, rather, earlier than that also.

I say, earlier than that also, because what पाणिनि composed in अष्टाध्यायी is grammar of Sanskrit, as was already being practised and as had also been detailed by many grammarians before him.

Why I make specific reference to the above सूत्रम् as evidence is because the mention of अनुस्वार in this सूत्रम् is significant only for writing.

A simple example is of the श्लोक in गीता – यं यं वापि स्मरन्भावं त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम् । तं तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावितः ।।८-६।। Here there are as many as four अनुस्वार-s.

For pronunciation, it makes no difference if the श्लोक is written as यम् यम् वापि स्मरन्भावम् त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम् । तम् तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावितः ।।८-६।।

Why would then पाणिनि have thought it good or necessary to compose this सूत्रम् – मोऽनुस्वारः (८/३/२३) ?

For a finer observation, it should also be noted that in this श्लोक the word कलेवरम् is written without the अनुस्वार. This is so, because complete interpretation of the सूत्रम् – मोऽनुस्वारः (८/३/२३) has a precursor or a precondition (अनुवृत्ति) ‘हलि’. This अनुवृत्ति requires that there should be हल् i.e. a व्यञ्जनम् after the म्. The word कलेवरम् is at the end of the line. So there is no हल् or व्यञ्जनम् after the म्.

Another evidence, that Sanskrit becomes more charming, when written, comes from writing or not writing the अवग्रह ‘ऽ’.

I got to see a good example in a book of गीता. There the second line in श्लोक १-४४ is shown in two different versions – नरके नियतं वासो भवतीत्यनुशुश्रुम । The optional version is shown as नरकेऽनियतं वासो भवतीत्यनुशुश्रुम । How charming !

  1. नरके नियतं वासो भवतीत्यनुशुश्रुम means, “We heard that there will certainly be relegation to the hell.”

  2. The optional version नरकेऽनियतं वासो भवतीत्यनुशुश्रुम means, “We heard that there will be indefinite relegation to the hell.”

Since the अवग्रह ‘ऽ’ does not get pronounced, the charm of the two versions comes forth, only when written.

There is another instance of this अवग्रह ‘ऽ’ making different interpretations. I learnt about it, when I was studying the biography श्रीसाईसच्चरितम् of Shirdi Sai Baba. Two wholesome chapters 39 and 50 dwell on this.

I would like to take that up as a different discussion.

What I am wanting to put forth is that, mention of अनुस्वार and अवग्रह ‘ऽ’ in अष्टाध्यायी of पाणिनि become concrete evidence, that Sanskrit was written, certainly so during and before पाणिनि i.e. about 400 to 500 BC.

शुभं भवतु !

-o-O-o-

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8 thoughts on “Grammatical Proof that Sanskrit was also written

  1. I am not sure that I understand this argument correctly. Isn’t anuswaara also a sound different from vyanjan-m, vyanjan-n or such other sounds? An example is in Ganapati-atharvasheerha: “anuswaarashcha antyaroopam”.
    Besides, isn’t the sound of “chandrabindu with a hal”, as of (m) in “sarvavedasa(m)dadau” in the first stanza of Kathopanisad also called an aanuswaara (maybe in pre-Panini Sanskrit).

    Maybe Panini was just trying to say as to when the sound of (m) could be used in place of the anuswaara.

    About avagraha…I understood it to be a placeholder for a vowel gone missing because of samdhi etc., and the speaker was expected to elongate the remaining vowel slightly to let the listener know that a samdhi was in place. There is also an accompanying movement of hand that is supposed to indicate the presence of an avagraha. Both these are pointers to a face-to-face spoken dialogue, not to a written form. I would be surprised if avagraha turns out to be part of a proof that sanskrit was a written language in pre Panini days.

    I hasten to add that I am not writing this from a position of knowledge, but because the doubts came up spontaneously on account of the unexpectedness of your proposition. i have not personally studied in full the texts I have referred to above, nor have I studied Sanskrit with any dedication or rigour.

    • नमस्ते श्रीमन् “मिलिन्द खाडिलकर”-महोदय !

      In your comments ” .. Isn’t anuswaara also a sound ..” you are speaking of sound or pronunciation. My point is not about pronunciation, but about “writing”.

      Taking clue from your mention of अनुस्वारश्चान्त्यरूपम् in श्रीगणपत्यथर्वशीर्षम् the mention is of रूपम्, not of शब्दः Does not रूपम् (meaning visibility) come better (become better manifest) by writing than by sound ? My point is about रूपम्, not of शब्दः.

      I have seen text of ईशावास्योपनिषत् with the word तांस्ते written as ता ँ्स्ते, writing the अनुस्वार as half चन्द्रबिन्दु. That again is a point about how the अनुस्वार should be “written”. This is more or less the मन्त्रः – बिन्दुः उत्तररूपम्, again in श्रीगणपत्यथर्वशीर्षम्

      In श्रीगणपत्यथर्वशीर्षम् sound or शब्दः is mentioned separately from रूपम् in the next मन्त्रः – नादः संधानम् |

      In fact I am getting to think, whether, the further next मन्त्रः -संहिता सन्धिः |, together with नादः संधानम् |, suggests that संहितः नादः is what सन्धिः is. So सन्धिः is a नादविषयः or उच्चारणविषयः I am left wondering what can be the significance of संहिता सन्धिः | being a मन्त्रः in श्रीगणपत्यथर्वशीर्षम् ?!

      When composing my post, I got to understand that the सूत्रम् – मोऽनुस्वारः specifying that the अनुनासिकम् म् becomes अनुस्वारः is more about its form than about its sound. In fact not only अनुनासिकम् म्, but even अनुनासिकम् न् also becomes अनुस्वारः by the next सूत्रम् – नश्चापदान्तस्य झलि । (8-3-24)

      So these सूत्र-s – मोऽनुस्वारः (8-3-23) and नश्चापदान्तस्य झलि । (8-3-24) are not सन्धिविषय-सूत्र-s or नादविषय-सूत्र-s. They are rather रूपविषय-सूत्र-s, exactly as has been said as अनुस्वारश्चान्त्यरूपम् in श्रीगणपत्यथर्वशीर्षम्.

      Does श्रीगणपत्यथर्वशीर्षम् also evidence that Sanskrit was written ?!

      Cordially, S. L. Abhyankar
      सस्नेहम्,
      अभ्यंकरकुलोत्पन्नः श्रीपादः |
      “श्रीपतेः पदयुगं स्मरणीयम् ।”

  2. “For pronunciation, it makes no difference if the श्लोक is written as यम् यम् वापि स्मरन्भावम् त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम् । तम् तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावितः ।।८-६।।”

    Sir, i think the above observation is not acceptable by shikShA constraints. yaM yaM becomes a sound something like ya~nyaM. although the sandhi isn’t shown in written text, while pronouncing any shloka, pronouncing the varga anunAsikas (~N for M+ka varga, ~n for M+ ca varga etc. or as the case may be for antasthas / UShmas). it also sounds better that way. pronouncing the anusvAra as M every time seems a bit conscious and artificial.

  3. “For pronunciation, it makes no difference if the श्लोक is written as यम् यम् वापि स्मरन्भावम् त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम् । तम् तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावितः ।।८-६।।”

    Sir, the pronunciation of the anusvAra is not the same as the anunAsikA m – the details are in the monograph by Shriramana Sharma at https://sites.google.com/site/jamadagni/files/samskritam. Even assuming your argument that it is pronounced the same but written differently, it does not make sense for grammarians (who stress on brevity a lot) to use two different written symbols which are pronounced to be the same.

    As far as I know, pANini does not mention avagraha-s at all – this is simply a convention while writing. In conclusion, I believe the above arguments that you have made do not support the conclusion that saMskRta was written in pANini’s time. However, I do believe that it was written, even earlier – even though the stress was on the oral transmission.

    • नमस्ते श्रीमन् “श्याम सुब्रह्मण्यम्” !

      (1) उच्चारणपद्धतयः भिन्नाः भवन्ति | तेन यं-इति यम्-एवं उच्चारणीयं वा यञ्-म् एवं तस्य विषये वादः अप्रस्तुतः | स्वरान् तु अष्टादशप्रकारैः उच्चारयितुं शक्यम् | सर्वान् प्रकारान् नैव लिखितुं शक्यम् |

      (2) अनुस्वारः न केवलं म्-कारस्य लेखने प्रयुज्यते | नश्चापदान्तस्य इति सूत्रेण अनुस्वारः न्-कारस्यापि भवति | अतः यं-इति लिखितस्य उच्चारस्य विषये चर्चा अप्रस्तुता |

      (3) तथापि “अनुस्वारः”-इति यत् संकल्पनं भवति, तत् केवलं लेखने एव अवगमनीयम् | अतः व्याकरणे यः कोऽपि अनुस्वारस्य उल्लेखः प्राप्यते, सः उल्लेखः लेखनस्य प्रमाणः भवति |

      (4) तथैव अवग्रहस्य संकल्पनमपि लेखने एव प्राप्यते ?

      (5) पाणिनेः सूत्रेष्वपि सन्ति सूत्राणि “मोऽनुस्वारः” “एचोऽयवायावः” एतद्विधानि कतिपयानि | एतद्विधानां सूत्राणां परिशीलनं अवग्रहस्य संकल्पनाद्विना नैव शक्यम् | तेन “पाणिनिना अष्टाध्याय्यां अवग्रहस्य उल्लेखः न कृतः”-एतद्विधस्य विचारस्य किं प्रयोजनम् ?

      (6) भवता “However, I do believe that it was written, even earlier” इति यत्प्रतिपादितम्, तस्य प्रमाणं किम् ?

      (7) “मोऽनुस्वारः”-इति सूत्रं पठतः मम मनस्यागच्छत् यत् अत्रस्थितः अनुस्वारस्य उल्लेखः कश्चित् प्रमाणदर्शकः इत्येव |

      अस्तु |

      • namaste SrI abhyankara mahodaya,

        First, apologies for the response in English and not saMskRta.

        (1) उच्चारणपद्धतयः भिन्नाः भवन्ति | तेन यं-इति यम्-एवं उच्चारणीयं वा यञ्-म् एवं तस्य विषये वादः अप्रस्तुतः | स्वरान् तु अष्टादशप्रकारैः उच्चारयितुं शक्यम् | सर्वान् प्रकारान् नैव लिखितुं शक्यम् |

        (2) अनुस्वारः न केवलं म्-कारस्य लेखने प्रयुज्यते | नश्चापदान्तस्य इति सूत्रेण अनुस्वारः न्-कारस्यापि भवति | अतः यं-इति लिखितस्य उच्चारस्य विषये चर्चा अप्रस्तुता |

        (3) तथापि “अनुस्वारः”-इति यत् संकल्पनं भवति, तत् केवलं लेखने एव अवगमनीयम् | अतः व्याकरणे यः कोऽपि अनुस्वारस्य उल्लेखः प्राप्यते, सः उल्लेखः लेखनस्य प्रमाणः भवति |

        Shyam : etasya kim pramANam ? Why is the anusvAra seen/heard only in writing and not speech ?
        Actually, the anusvAra is definitely pronounce differently from ~N,~n,N,n,m, at least
        according to the Laghu siddhAnta kaumudI (LSK). The LSK has a relatively recent 6-volume vyAkhyA by SrI bhImasena SAsrtinaH – the old edition of volumes 1 and 5 are available online at http://tinyurl.com/samskritam , thanks to SrI ajIt kRShNan. I have referred to this volume 1 below.

        The first chapter – saMj~nA prakaraNam has a section on uccAraNa according to which
        “~nama~NaNanAnAm nAsikA ca”, (pg 43 in the online pdf), where the “ca” indicates that these are pronounce using the nAsikA as well as the normal pronunciation “sthAna” of their classes i.e., ~Na has “ka~NTha+nAsikA”, ~na has “tAlu+nAsikA” etc.
        For anusvAra, the sUtra is “nAsikAnusvArasya” (pg 44) i.e., anusvAra is pronounced using only the “nAsika” and not like m(oShThau+nAsikA) or n(dantAH+nAsikA).

        Once we agree that the anusvAra,m,n are different varNa-s, “monusvAraH” (or “mo~nusvAraH” if you prefer) and “naScApadAntasya Jhali”
        falls into place perfectly. “m” is replaced by an “anusvAra” at the end of a padam when followed by a hal. m/n are replaced by an anusvAra when followed by a jhal, even if not at a padAnta. These can be perfectly explained orally without the need for writing.

        (4) तथैव अवग्रहस्य संकल्पनमपि लेखने एव प्राप्यते ?

        (5) पाणिनेः सूत्रेष्वपि सन्ति सूत्राणि “मोऽनुस्वारः” “एचोऽयवायावः” एतद्विधानि कतिपयानि | एतद्विधानां सूत्राणां परिशीलनं अवग्रहस्य संकल्पनाद्विना नैव शक्यम् | तेन “पाणिनिना अष्टाध्याय्यां अवग्रहस्य उल्लेखः न कृतः”-एतद्विधस्य विचारस्य किं प्रयोजनम् ?

        Shyam: Just because current editions have “mo~nusvAraH” instead of “monusvAraH”, there is no proof that the avagraha was used in pANini’s time.
        ashTAdhyAyI 6/1/103 “e~NaH padAntAdati” says that when “e or o” at the end of a padam is followed by a, only the “e or o” remains instead of the “e or o”+a. If pANini had wanted an avagraha also to be used instead of the a, then he could have said – just replace the a with an avagraha.

        Actually, ShrI bhImasena SAstri has explained it beautifully in his commentary on the above sUtra (pg no 100 in the online edition). As he says, whether to use the “avagraha” or not just depends on the writer. He goes on show (in the footnote) why the avagraha usage must be a recent one, citing both pata~njali and bhaTTojI dIkshita for this. Please go through his arguments for this.

        (6) भवता “However, I do believe that it was written, even earlier” इति यत्प्रतिपादितम्, तस्य प्रमाणं किम् ?

        Just curious, isn’t “likha aksharavinyAse” in the dhAtupATha itself proof that there was writing in pANini’s time ? I said earlier because of the story of “ga~NeSa” writing the mahAbharata – which is there right at the beginning of the mahAbhArata itself (at least in the Kisari Mohan Ganguly translation at http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01002.htm ).

        Regards,
        Shyam

      • नमस्ते श्रीमन् “श्याम सुब्रह्मण्यम्” !
        धन्यवादाः खलु ! साधु सूचितम् भवता यत् धातुपाठे लिख्-धातोः “अक्षरविन्यासे” इति विवरणं भवति | तत्तु सरलं प्रमाणं संस्कृतस्य लेखनं पाणिनेः पूर्वमिति |
        महाभारतं व्यासमहर्षिणा श्रीगणेशहस्तेन लेखयितं इति मम मनस्यपि आसीत् | तत् व्याकरणीयं प्रमाणं न भवति इति मत्वा तस्य उल्लेखः मया न कृतः |
        दृश्यते अधुना एषा चर्चा समापनीया | पुनरपि धन्यवादाः |

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