A New Review of the “Linguistic Traditions of Kashmir” by Shishir Bhattacharja

 This book is a collection of twenty one articles on the work and life of a number of scholars of Kashmir starting from the medieval period up to the beginning of the 20 th century. The main objective of this volume is to present a compendium of the contribution of Kashmir to the study of Sanskrit language and linguistics as well as other subjects such as philosophy, aesthetics and theology to the extent that they concern language and grammar. As most of the articles in this volume do not, unfortunately, deal with grammar or lexicon directly (had it been the other way round, its title ‘Linguistic traditions in Kashmir’ would have been more justified!), I shall comment only on those they do.

 In the first article Mukulabhaṭṭa and Vyañjanā (28-40) M. M. Agrawal describes the view of Mukulabhaṭṭa, a Kashmiri grammarian, regarding lakṣanā (metaphoric use) of words and the counter criticism of his views by Mammaṭa, another grammarian from Kashmir. The second, the third and the fourth are three long articles by Ashok Aklujkar. In Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya as a key to Happy Kashmir (41-87) Aklujkar tries to show with citations from different grammarians including Kalhaṇa that (i) Mahābhāṣya was studied in Kashmir and (ii) Patañjali was a Kashmirian by birth. In Gonardīya, Gonikā-putra, Patañjali and Gonandīya (88-172) he claims that Gonandīya and Patañjali are two different names of the same person whereas Gonardīya and Gonikā-putra may not be the names of Patañjali. In Patañjali: A Kashmirian (173-205) Aklujkar gives arguments in support of his claim that Kashmir was the homeland of Patañjali.

Bettina Baümer, the author of the fifth article, The Three Grammatical Persons and Trika (206-222) shows, following Abhinavagupta, how the three persons –I, you and he/it – instantiate the god Śiva, the goddess Śakti and Nara, the human beings respectively. In the sixth article, The Treatment of the Present tense in the Kāśmīraśabdāmṛta of Isvara Kaul: A Pāṇinian grammar of Kashmiri (223–270) Estella Del Bon and Vincenzo Vergiani describe the contents of Isvara Kaul’s grammar Kāśmīraśabdāmṛta. The seventh and the eighth articles are written by Johannes Bronkhorst. In A note on Kashmir and Orthodox Pāṇinian Grammar (271-280), Bronkhorst tries to show how Kashmir had played a key role in the preservation of the grammatical tradition associated with Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya. In Udbhaṭa, a Grammarian and a Cārvāka (281-299), he points to the existence of different non-orthodox Pāṇinian grammatical traditions, which, since at least the time of Bhartṛhari, (i) used Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī as their main reference but (ii) gave new interpretations to a number of its rules, and (iii) did not recognize Patañjali, one of the timuni (three sages or three great grammarians of Ancient India) (Pāṇini and Kātyāyana being the two others), as an authority.

In Theoretical Precedents of the Kātantra (300-367), the 9th article, George Cardona explains why Kātantra is not just a brief textbook but a different way of looking at Sanskrit grammar. Kātantra is believed to be written by Śarvavarman to teach Sanskrit grammar to the king Satavāhana within a very short period of six months. According to Kathāsaritsāgara, a collection of stories, Satavāhna wanted to excel in grammar as soon as possible because one of his queens, during a common bath, laughed at him for his poor knowledge of Sandhi he confused modakai (ma-udak-ai) paritaraya (don’t-water-with-throw) ‘don’t throw water at me’ for modak-ai paritaraya (sweet-balls-with-throw) ‘throw sweet-balls at me’, had some sweet-balls brought by some servant and thrown them towards the queen.

 There was a debate among Indian grammarians regarding i) whether one needs rules to derive words with taddhita affixes, or ii) the words that are supposed to be outputs of those rules are in fact listed in the lexicon. For example, one can derive a fruit name like amalaka from its tree name amalaki, or consider both of the words as distinct lexical entries. According to Cardona many grammarians including the composer of Kātantra believed that both amalaka and amalaki (and many other similar words) are listed in the lexicon, and hence, there is no need to include rules to derive fruit names from tree names or vice-versa in grammar (morphology).

In Kṣīrākhyātā Catuṣpadī, Notes on Kṣīrasvāmin’s Comments on the Four Basic Grammatical Categories (368-376), the 10th article by M.G. Dhadphale, the author talks about different works by Kṣīrasvāmin on Sanskrit nouns, verbs, upasargas (prefixes) and nipātas. In the 11th article Three Kashmirian texts on Sanskrit syntax: Kuḍaka’s Samanvayadis, Devaśarmana’s Samanvayapradīpa and Samanvayapradīpa saṅketa (377-398), Oliver Hahn talks about three different texts on Sanskrit syntax which deal with the whole range of possible syntactic relations between words and gives definition of a sentence and its parts. These manuscripts which now belong to the National Library of Austria in Vienna had been collected by the archeological explorer Marcus Aurel Stein in 1894.

In the 12th article Jayanta’s Interpretation of Pāṇini 1.4.42 (399-409), V.N. Jha talks about the grammarian Jayantabhaṭṭa’s theory of Pramāṇa, his opponents’ objections against this theory and Jayantabhaṭṭa’s reply to those objections. S.D. Joshi explains in the 13th article On Nāgeśabhaṭṭa’s Misunderstanding of Kaiyaṭa, the Kashmirian commentator of Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya (410-418) how Nāgeśabhaṭṭa (1670-1750) misunderstood some rules of Pradīpa a commentary on Pāṇini’s grammar by the 11th century grammarian Kaiyaṭa. In the 14th article The Śāradā manuscripts of the Kāśikāvṛtti – Part II (419-428) Malhar Kulkarni compares different manuscripts of Kāśikāvṛtti, one of the major works in the tradition of Pāṇini’s grammar, in order to identify different stages of development of this text.

In Uvaṭa, the Kashmirian Prātiśākhya Commentator (429-445), the 15th article, Nirmala Kulkarni discusses mainly the contribution of Uvaṭa, a grammarian-cum-phonetician, to Indian grammatical tradition. Kulkarni also revisits the ‘Uvaṭa controversy’ – different issues concerning his personal history, his time, birthplace and genealogy. In The Mythico-ritual Syntax of Omnipotence, on Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta’s Use of Kriyākāraka Theory to Explain Śiva’s Action (446-488), the 16th article, David Peter Lawrence examines the interpretation of Sanskrit syntax from the point of view of Śiva-Śakti mythology by two Kashmiri philosopher, Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta who lived in the 10th and 11th century respectively.

In his short note (the 17th article), Some Peculiar vocables in the Paippalāda- saṃhitā (489-494) Hukam Chand Patyal brings to light some rare words that appear in the Paippalāda-saṃhita of the Atharva-veda. In the 18th article The First Among the Learned: Kashmiri Poeticians on Grammarians (495-507) C. Rajendran describes how poeticians used to regard grammarians in Kashmir. According to Rajendran there were two different periods in the history of Kashmiri poetics: (i) The pre-dhvani period and (ii) the post-dhvani one. For the poeticians of the pre-dhvani period (Bhāmaha, Vāmana and Ānandavardhana among others) the grammarians are prathame hi vidvāṃso vaiyākaraṇāḥ ‘the first among the learned’. In this period the knowledge of grammar was considered a prerequisite for writing poetry because it was thought that poets should know how to use (correct) words that are allowed by the grammar and only those. Mahimabhaṭṭa, a poetician-cum-grammarian of the post-dhvani period, does not agree with the above mentioned criteria of absolute grammaticality of poetic works. Following Pāṇini’s famous dictum sarve sarvārthavācakāḥ (all-all sense-denote) Mahimabhaṭṭa states that all words can theoretically denote all senses (this reminds me Frege (1848-1925) who said that no word is used in the same sense twice in the same text). He averred that terms like śabda ‘word’, apaśabda ‘slang’ and asādhuśabda ‘improper word'(?) used by grammarians are only relative concepts and not absolute ones. Mahimabhaṭṭa draws our attention to the indispensability of pragmatics when he says in his book Vyaktiviveka that contextual and extralinguistic features must be taken into account for some act of communication to take place. Hence, a proper word may be unable to convey the intended meaning if it lacks contextual/pragmatic reinforcements while even a wrong word can denote the intended sense if it is accompanied with contextual and other accessories. Mahimabhaṭṭa counters the arguments of Patañjali regarding the use of correct word with the explanations given by Patañjali himself. The demerit produced by the use of a grammatically incorrect ‘bits and pieces’ here and there is counterbalanced by the ‘good final results’ of the whole poem, or as Rajendran states (P. 504), “by the profuse merit generated by the hearing, retaining, understanding and practicing of the ideas contained in the scientific discourse.” Notwithstanding that Mahimabhaṭṭa is reverential to trimuni and gives reference from their work in support of his own views, he makes an interesting distinction between Pāṇini and his blind followers whom he calls sarcastically khaṇdikopādhyāyas (piece-expert) ‘experts of bits and pieces’. Mahimabhaṭṭa also refers to Bhartṛhari abundantly but, unlike Abhinavagupta among others, he is skeptical about Bhartṛhari’s key concept of Sphoṭa.

In the 19th article From an adversary to the main ally, the place of Bhartṛhari in the Kashmirian Śaiva Advaita (508–524), the author Raffaele Torella describes how some adversaries of Bhartṛhari, namely Somānanda and Utpaladeva who belong to the Pratyabhijñā school of Kashmir later became his followers to a certain extent and used some of Bhartṛhari’s doctrines to construct their own views about the world and the language. In the 20th article Helārāja’s Defense of the Padāvadhika Method of Grammatical Explanation (525–549), Vincenzo Vergiani presents a particular view of Sanskrit grammar by Helārāja, a grammarian and a commentator of Bhartṛhari, who lived in Kashmir in the 10th century.

In the 21st article The Impact of Cāndra Vyākaraṇa on the Kāśikā (550–561), the author P. Visalakshy explains the extent to which the author of Kāśikā (vṛtti), an explanatory text on Pāṇini’s grammar as well its commentaries (vārttikas) by Kātyāyan and Patañjali, is influenced by Cāndra vyākaraṇa, one of the eight ancient schools of grammar (Indra, Kāśakṛtsna, Āpiśali, Śākaṭāyana, Pāṇini, Amara, and Jainendra being the seven others). Kāśikā is believed to have been composed in the 5th century by Jayāditya (identified as Jayāpīḍa by Belvelkar), a king of Kashmir and his minister Vāmana.

Some of the authors cited above describe the theoretical stand of particular scholars whereas some others try to identify those scholars both historically and geographically. Although there are scholars such as Patañjali whose direct relation with Kashmir is less than certain, most of the scholars cited in this volume do belong to Kashmir. This collection shows that the grammatical tradition in Kashmir has remained mainly Pāṇinian, notwithstanding that other grammatical schools namely Kātantra and Cāndra (which were not necessarily composed in Kashmir) were very popular in this area (as in other parts of South Asia, specially Bengal) until very recently. Although these grammars were used as pedagogical manuals and/or abridged versions of Aṣṭādyāyī, they were rich in insights that are different from those of Pāṇini’s. It is said that Kātantra and Cāndra were used by the general populace who tried to access Sanskrit language whereas Aṣṭādyāyī was reserved exclusively for higher studies in the Sanskrit language and grammar.

This volume has a foreword by Kapila Vatsyayan (vii-ix) and a preface by Ashok Aklujkar (xi-xiv), one of the two editors. Mrinal Kaul, the other editor, gives a life sketch of Pandit Dinanath Yaksh (1921-2004) who has been a doyen in the field of Sanskrit grammatical exegesis in Kashmir and to whose memory the present volume is dedicated (xxvi-xxxiii) and a detailed introduction (1-27). The twenty one articles mentioned above are followed by five appendices (565-584) in which Mrinal Kaul presents a list of the manuscripts found in the area of Kashmir, a note on each one of the contributors (585-592) and a general index (593-609).

To conclude, this well-edited book of a considerable size (about 650 pages) helps the reader guess the extent to which Kashmir was an important site for linguistic research in ancient and medieval India.


Author: Mrinal Kaul

I am a Kashmirian Orientalist

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