Thursday, May 15, 2008


Dr. Chilakamarthi Durga Prasada Rao
Bhasha Praveena,
Vedanta Vidya Praveena, P.O.L
M.A. (Sanskrit), M.A. (Telugu),
M.A. (Philosophy), Ph.D. (Sanskrit)
Department of Sanskrit
Akkineni Nageswara Rao College
Gudivada – 521301(A.P)
Cell: +919440667942

Sanskrit being one of the most ancient languages of the world is considered to be the treasure house of Indian Culture and Scientific knowledge.

But in recent centuries it has become a popular notion that Sanskrit is a religious language and the grammatical system of which is very difficult to master and its learning is confined to a particular sect and so it is totally considered as a dead language.

But the fact is entirely different. The contribution of Sanskrit in protecting the Indian ness is remarkable. The contribution of Sanskrit in the field of Philosophy, Psychology, Literature and almost all of the disciplines is irrefutable. Though a classical language it is some thing more. It is a perennial river of knowledge catering to a variety of needs not only in an ideal society but also a practical one.

Coming to the language aspect, one notices that it presents a multi-dimensional linguistic pattern, with a perfectly and fully developed grammatical system. The Science of Etymology is one of the rarest aspects of this language.

Etymology is the study of Origin and sense development of words. Sanskrit has more than Two Thousand verbal roots possibly a rare distinction among the world's languages and each of the verbs gives rise to hundreds of verbal derivations.

Unlike the other Indo-European Languages Sanskrit has its own specialty in respect of Etymology. According to the view of Hoger Pederson, “The Romans did not know how to derive the stem of the word for a comparison of various inflectional forms and the Greeks in this respect were no wiser. But the Indian grammarians were never capable of floundering in such confusion. They derived the stem correctly from inflectional forms, and the roots from the several groups of the related words. They ascertained the laws of derivations and compositions and so forth”.

Our seers of Vedic age revealed many scientific facts allegorically through their hymns. For example:- the praise of the Sun God i.e.

“Saptaswarathamarudham Prachandam kasyapatmajam
Swethapadmadharam devamTam Suryam pranamamyaham”
Correlates with the idea of VIBGYOR and whiteness as a result of their combination.

In this article a humble attempt is made to introduce some selected words which throw light on some Socio-Scientific cultural and Economic aspects of the then existing Society,

“YASKACHARYA” The foremost Lexicographer of the world who lived in 8th Century B.C. gave Etymological derivations for all the Vedic words while “Kshiraswamin” who commentated on “AMARAKOSA” Lexicography of classical words, gave derivations for classical words too. Let us analyse some words.

The word “Jagat” which denotes the world, is derived as “Gacchati iti Jagat”. Here the world is called Jagat as it keeps on moving. This derivation reveals the “Movability” or Locomotion and Transitariness of the world. And according to modern science the whole Universe is expanding relentlessly. It is possible that our ancient seers of Vedic age might have been aware of this cosmic truth while coining the word Jagat.

Similarly the word ‘Graha’ which means planet is derived as “Grihnati iti Grahah”. The planet is Called: Graha” as it attracts and keeps in itself any thing that comes in to its gravitational field. This idea is implicit in the phenomenon of gravitation
In the same manner the Sun is called “Savita” which is derived from the root “Shung”[praniprasave]. The etymological meaning of the word is “Suyate iti Savita”. The sun is called “Savitha” because he sustains and supports all life on the planet.

Like wise the word “Amavasya” i.e. New Moon-day is derived as “Ama sahavasati chandrarkau” which means the Sun and the Moon are close together i.e., they are in a line.

Similarly the coining of the names of the months “Chaitra” “Vaisakha” etc., reveals the knowledge of our ancestors about astronomical matters. For example a particular month is called Chaitra as the full moon day of the same month is associated with Chitta nakshatra. The process is the same with other months also. And even today Aryabhatta’s law is considered to be the basis for calculating the occurrence and timing of Solar and Lunar eclipses. All the above aspects throw light on the astronomical knowledge of our ancients.

Let us now observe the Sociological aspect. The word “Pita” i.e., Father, is derived from the root “Pa”[ rakshane] to protect. Pati kulam iti pita. He is the father who pretects the whole family. Similrly the word “Duhita” (daughter} is derived from the root “Duh” to milk. In Vedic times it is the practice for girls in the family to milk cows. Hence they were called “Duhitas”.

Similarly the wife is called “Patni” as she assists her husband while performing sacrificial duties.

The word “Nananda” which means sister-in-law {husband’s sister} is derived as Na nandayati bhratrijayam iti nananda i.e., who does not let her brother’s wife in peace. The above terms indicate the functions performed by different members in the family relating to the familial relationship.

Coming to the educational aspect, “Yaska” while interpreting the word “Acharya” i.e, the teacher, has given three meanings.
Acharam grahayati iti Acharyah {He who cultivates mannerism; Acharati iti Acharyah{One who practices good manners]. Achinoti Arthan iti Acharyah [One who keeps on collecting material pertaining to knowledge].All these three are expected to be cultivated by an ideal teacher. The word “Antevasi” [Ante vasati iti antevasi] one who sits near a guru shows that the gurukula system of education was prevalent in those days.
Similarly the word Grama [villege] is derived as Grasyente Bhogibhih iti Gramah: which implies exploitation of the villages by the City dwellers for their enjoyment.

Similarly while interpreting the word “ Divakirthi” which means barbar, Ksheeraswami commented on the word as “ Divakirtyae iti divakirhih ratrau kshura karma nishedhat”. From this our Indian custom that the cutting of hair should be done in day time and never at night is revealed.

According to Yaska the “Hrdaya” {the heart}is also coined on a scientific basis. The word can be derived as “Harati dadati Yapayati Iti Hridayam”. The function of the heart is to draw blood from the other parts of the body, give blood to Lungs and make blood supplied to all the parts of the body. This derivation also reveals that our ancients were aware of the circulatory function of the heart.

A few words only are cited in this small article. Others can be obtained by a perusal of Etymological Dictionaries. In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that Sanskrit should be kept alive because of the rich cultural, literary, religious and linguistic heritage that it offers to us. Otherwise there is the possibility of the regional languages languishing. Let me conclude this article with the quotation of Mahatma Gandhi.
“Sanskrit is like the river Ganga for our languages. If it dries up, the regional languages also would lose their vitality and power”.
*Let Sanskrit language be glorious and victorious*


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