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Vaswati Baksiddha 23rd Aug 2017

Who was Panini?


Panini was a Sanskrit grammarian from Pushkalavati, Gandhara, a region which is now part of modern-day Charsadda District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan).


 One guess is that Panini lived around the 6th century BCE. Ancient Gandhara was part of Hapta Hindu (meaning Seven-Indus, the upper Indus basin of the Indus River and its tributaries), the 15th Avestan-Vendidad nation.


 Panini's work, the Ashtadhyayi, is the earliest surviving text on Classical Sanskrit grammar. Panini himself refers to previous works such as the Unadisutra, Dhatupatha and Ganapatha.


 Together with the work of his immediate predecessors Nirukta, Nighantu, and Pratishakyas, Panini's Ashtadhyayi is acknowledged to stand at the beginning of the history of linguistics.


 His theory of morphological analysis was more advanced than any equivalent Western theory before the mid 20th century. Vaibhav Niku informs us that 'संस्कृत' (commonly transliterated as Sanskrit) means "highly elaborated/well constructed speech".


Classical Sanskrit

While the emergence of Panini's grammar is now taken to mark the end of the period of the Vedic language period (otherwise known as Vedic-Sanskrit) and the beginning of the Classical Sanskrit period defined by Panini's grammar, we should be careful not to state that his grammar caused or marked the transition since according to some references in Panini's text, the language of the Vedic scriptures had already fallen out of common use as a spoken language in his time. In other words, the Vedic language had already become archaic by Panini's time and Classical Sanskrit was an established language to whose grammar Panini gave definition and structure.


Panini gave a comprehensive and scientific theory of phonetics, phonology and morphology. Sanskrit was the classical literary language of the Indian Hindus and Panini is considered the founder of the language and literature. It is interesting to note that the word “Sanskrit” means “complete” or “perfect” and it was thought of as the divine language, or language of the gods.  Panini’s grammar is considered to be the world’s first formal system in language. It was invented way before Gottob Frege’s innovation in language in the 19th century.


Panini was one of the most inventive and original people who helped in the development of knowledge of Sanskrit grammar. He is considered to be the founder of literature and language. To put it more clearly, this famous Sanskrit Grammarian gave a scientific analysis of Sanskrit phonetics and morphology. Being the language of Gods, Sanskrit was considered to be complete and the perfect language. Panini analyzed the classical Sanskrit language which was the language of all literary works, and more light was thrown on the phonology of this language.