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Durable Link to this BlogMonday, December 28, 2009

Sage Yaska

Sage Yaska (C 1000 B.C)

Scholars are struggling to fix dates of life and times of great Indian mathematicians, grammarians and astronomers, who lit the lamp of knowledge while rest of the world was yet to wakeup. Only their names and works associated with them are remembered. Hence in the ancient land of "Timeless Theater" that is India, the living period of such scholars could be stretched for a century or two, till one or two names of his successors come to light. The age of world"s first etymologist is laid down at 800 to 1000 before Common Era, since grammarian Panini who perhaps lived in 600 B.C. mentions him, the great sage Yaska.

We have seen that Nirukta or etymology is one of the limb of Vedangas. Yaska is credited with this monumental work, which helps understand correct interpretation of Nighantu or glossary of Vedic terms.

As Vedas became larger with inclusion of new compositions of ancient Seers, the need for correct understanding of the words and phrases of Vedic rituals became greater. This need first lead to compilation of Nighantu or Vedic lexicon. But again the expanding Vedic terminology needed correct interpretation and Yaska came to help.

Yaska's basic theory is that all words, especially nouns are derived from dhatus or verbal roots. This fact he has proved in a scientific and systematic way. All mantras have specific meaning and usage. He also deals with the method of deriving the meaning of words in Nighantu which help definition of Vedic deities, their characteristics and meditating forms. Though Yaska made it clear that the main purpose of Nirukta was to understand correct usage of Vedic terms, it became the primary text for classical Sanskrit as well, because the nature of nouns, verbs, prepositions and indeclinable particles etc are explained clearly, in his work.

The Nirukta throws light on contemporary society as well. Daughters had equal share with sons in father's property including the immovable property; Sanskrit was the spoken language.

See Also:
• The History of History of India

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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