A Fresh Review of the “Linguistic Traditions of Kashmir” (2011).

By Professor Saroja Bhate (Former Professor of Sanskrit, University of Pune; Former Secretary, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune) email: <saroja@bhates.net>

Linguistic Traditions of Kashmir : Essays in Memory of Pandit Dinanath Yaksha, Mrinal Kaul & Ashok Aklujkar (eds.), DK Printworld (P) Ltd., F-52, Bali Nagar, New Delhi 110015. Web-site: dkprintworld.com. First edition year : 2008. xxxiii + 609 pp. Bibliographic Details : Appendicies ; Indices. 

“Linguistic Traditions of Kashmir” edited by Mrinal Kaul and Ashok Aklujkar is a very appropriate tribute to the memory of Pandit Dinanath Yaksha, “the towering figure of traditional learning in Kashmir”, whose main field of study was linguistics. It is a testimony in letters to the multifaceted Kashmiri scholarship, to its profound depth as well as to its ingenuity. As Kapila Vatsyayan pointed out in her forward, Kashmir’s contribution to the study of language was not paid due attention and the present volume has fulfilled the desideratum.

The Volume contains 21 papers by renowned scholars on different aspects of language studied and discussed by Kashmiri Pandits through the ages. Even a cursory glance at the table of contents reveals the vast range of approaches with which the phenomenon of language was examined in Kashmir. Here we get a glimpse into the world of diversified insights into the world of words. The Volume opens with a life-sketch of Pandit Dinanath Yaksa and introduction by Mrinal Kaul, one of the editors. The introduction itself is a well-studied document on the history of the development of grammatical tradition in Kashmir. The introduction ends with valuable directions and suggestions for future research which provide useful guidelines for prospective researchers. Three profound essays by Ashok Aklujkar are focused on the issue of Kashmir as the provenance of Patañjali, the greatest among the three sages of Pāṇinian tradition, though each one of them elaborates a single, related point. Aklujkar has, following the style of a traditional Sanskrit Pandit, presented first a mighty pūrvapakṣa and then a mightier uttarapakṣa. His view of Kashmir as the domicile of Patañjali is based on the following arguments: 1. There are references in Sanskrit texts which show that Kashmir tradition of learning attached great importance to the study of Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya not only as an object of academic achievement but also for good governance. 2. Gonardīya, one of the epithets of Patañjali is a corrupt form of a Gonandīya derived from Gonanda which is the name of a founding figure in the area of governance for the Kashmirians. 3. Nàgas were venerated in Kashmir and Patañjali was worshipped as the incarnation of the divine serpent, śeṣa. 4. The existing manuscripts of the Mahābhāṣya probably go back to a manuscript written in Kashmir. Aklujkar has spared no pains in proving his point with his logical acumen accompanied by a rich score of citations establishing a special connection between Kashmir and Patañjali. Notwithstanding his application of perfect research methodology and higher textual criticism we have to wait until a conclusive evidence presents itself to put a stamp on his thesis. However, all the three essays by Aklujkar certainly convey the hidden message “that in the highly troubled state of contemporary Kashmir we should, regardless of how unrealistic it may seem at present, aim at creating a situation in which MB (Mahābhāṣya) expertise again begins to flourish” (p. 87).

Estella Del Bon and Vincenzo Vergiani have, in their essay on the treatment of present tense in the Kāśmīraśabdāmṛtam, a grammar of Kashmiri in Pāṇinian style, have tried to show, on the basis of their study, though confined to a limited section of the grammar, how the grammar of Kashmiri represents `an impressive intellectual breakthrough’ (p.224) by achieving `the unprecedented grammar of a “vernacular” language’ (p. 224). Use of the Pāṇinian model in writing grammars of regional languages is not uncommon in the history of Indian grammatical literature. However, here we have, for the first time, a complete grammar of a vernacular composed by using Pāṇinian terminology and technique to some extent. This study opens, in fact, a new chapter in the study of Pāṇini as a model. It further underscores the invincible character of the Pāṇinian model of grammar.

In Kashmir the influence of Pāṇini transcended linguistic area and exerted itself on the philosophical deliberations. Application of some of the Pāṇinian grammatical categories in the argument on certain philosophical issues by Kashmiri Pandits of the past has been a topic of the essays by Bettine Bäumer, David Peter Lawrence and Raffaele Torella. These essays represent well studied documents illustrating how Pāṇinian grammatical concepts are pressed into service by the philosophers of Kashmir. Kashmir emerges from the two essays by Johannes Bronkhorst as a thriving centre in the past, of both, orthodox as well as non-orthodox schools of interpretation of Pāṇini. His observation, namely, that “Kashmir may have saved the now orthodox tradition of Pāṇinian interpretation” is based, mainly, on the interpretation of the well-known set of verses at the end of the second kāṇḍa of Vākyapadīya of Bhartṛhari which describes the history of the downfall and revival of the tradition of the Mahābhāṣya studied. According to him the new interpretation of the words parvata and dākṣiṇātya in the verses offered by him leads to the conclusion that “the Mahābhāṣya had survived only in the form of the book south of Kashmir, whereas the oral tradition was still alive in Kashmir” (p. 277). Puṇyarāja, the traditional commentator explains, however, parvatāt as referring to a part of a mountain range in Shreelanka and refers to a grammar composed by Rāvaṇa, a mythical personality, which was handed over to Candra and Vasurata by a spirit. Apparently, this mythical interpretation hardly makes any sense. It cannot be, however, dispensed with.

In his second essay Bronkhorst presents Udbhaṭa as a non-orthodox grammarian interpreting Pāṇini independent of Mahābhāṣya. His observation, namely, that Udbhaṭa represented the group of “Pāṇinian freethinkers” (p. 298) is interesting. It is, however, hard to state with conviction about a tradition (if at all) which is lost. Geroge Cardona has elaborately dealt with the issue of omission of certain sections of grammar in the Kātantravyākaraṇa and argued that this omission is due not to the need for brevity alone, but it can be traced back to the theoretical discussions that took place among the grammarians of different schools including the Pāṇinian school. Oliver Hann’s essay on the three Kashmirian texts on Sanskrit syntax has illuminated a so far unknown corner of the tradition of linguistics in Kashmir, namely, the Samanvaya texts. Hann has, in fact, carried further the task, already commenced by Slaje, by giving a detailed account of the three Samanvaya texts with reference to the nature and contents of the manuscripts as well as their interdependence. The essay points out that the authors of these texts dealt with the whole range of possible syntactic relations within a sentence as well as between sentences. Hann has also recorded the terminological deviations from Pāṇinian tradition found in these texts, which show some influence of the Kātantra tradition.

Essays by V. N. Jha, S. D. Joshi, Nirmala Kulkarni, H. C. Patyal, Vincenzo Vergiani and P. Visalakshy deal with specific issues in the works of the linguistics of the past such as Jayantabhaṭṭa, Kaiyaṭa, Uvaṭa and Helarāja who are believed to have belonged to Kashmir. All these scholars have brought to light certain new aspects of the works of these authors. In his essay Malhar Kulkarni has presented a close scrutiny of a part of the Śāradā manuscripts of the Kāśikāvṛtti and has concluded that the Kashmir tradition of Kāśikā manuscripts represents a shorter version and that further study of the Kāśikā manuscripts might lead one to claim that Kashmir preserved the ur-text of Kāśikā. The essay is based on a careful study of the Śāradā manuscripts and has thrown a challenge before the students of Pāṇinian tradition, particularly of Kāśikā. The three appendices giving details about the select manuscripts lists followed by authors-and-works lists constitute very important data in the form of a corpus of texts from Kashmir dealing with linguistics. They have enhanced the value of the volume as a research aid. They are, in fact, an invitation to prospective students and scholars to revive the tradition of linguistic studies in Kashmir.

The volume is thus rich with scholarly discussions pertaining to various aspects including historical, textual, inter-textual, exegetical and also pertaining to manuscriptology. Mrinal Kaul, the budding and promising scholar deserves great compliments not only for stringing together valuable research contributions from specialists but also for giving a detailed outline for further research. Further generations of research scholars will, I am sure, remain grateful to the editors for providing guidelines for further research in linguistics. Lastly, the volume has succeeded in bringing Kashmir on the Indological map and in drawing attention to the fact that it still remains a fertile soil for studies in linguistics.


Author: Mrinal Kaul

I am a Kashmirian Orientalist

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