Why all धातु-s and प्रत्यय-s have “given” names ?

In Sanskrit grammar, in अष्टाध्यायी in particular, all धातु-s and प्रत्यय-s have “given” names, just as all new-born children are “given” names. The names given to धातु-s and प्रत्यय-s are coined, by using elements, which in अष्टाध्यायी are called as इत्-s. The इत्-s are coded / enlisted in 7 सूत्र-s from (1’3’2) to (1’3’8). One can think that इत्-s are somewhat like dress-codes. Dress-codes help to distinguish one from the other. For example धातु  कृ has forms in 5th class and also in 8th class. For धातु कृ in 5th class, its given name is कृञ्, whereas धातु कृ of 8th class has its given name डुकृञ्.

There is another grammatical concept in अष्टाध्यायी called as प्रक्रिया, the process(es). प्रक्रिया-s are like “make-up” of an actor for his role on the stage. In fact composing a sentence in Sanskrit is as good as conducting a play on the stage. Every word is an actor on the stage. Once the actor is given a proper “make-up”, he can move anywhere on the stage. That being the exact logic of “make-up” of every word, once the make-up is proper, the word can be anywhere in the sentence.
Elements of the make-up are many. To make up an actor for the role of रावण, he would have to have ten heads !
Make-up starts with undressing the usual dress of the actor. So forming a verb starts with undressing the इत्-s from the धातु. So from the name डुकृञ् both the इत्-s, डु and ञ् are taken away. So we have कृ ready for the make-up.
Now प्रत्यय-s can be considered to be elements of the make-up. Let us say, प्रत्यय-s are like caps. But the caps are also different to suit the role. For a Sikh it would be a turban, for a king it would be a crown, So the caps also have “names”. If the make-up artist has an assistant, he would ask the assistant by the particular name of the make-up element, so that the assistant would get the right cap. But the cap has to fit the particular actor. Also, the crown of the king will be different from that of the prince. So the crown would need preparation. The first step always would be to take away the “naming” elements, the इत्-s. For example there is a प्रत्यय – शतृ. In this name, there is श, which is its इत्. That has to be taken away, dropped. This प्रक्रिया of dropping the इत्-s is summarized in the diktat सूत्रम् – तस्य लोपः (1’3’9).
Isn’t this concept charming, that framing a Sanskrit sentence is like composing a one-act play, with proper make-up of every word, so that the word has a distinct identity, by which it can be distinguished, regardless of where it is in the sentence ?
This flexibility of syntax has made composing poetry in Sanskrit so much easier, that most of Sanskrit literature is in poetic style. Again, essence of poetic style is the rhythm. That makes it easy to commit them to memory. That is how so much of Sanskrit literature has survived over thousands of years, even after the huge library of Nalanda (or was it Takshashila ? or both ?) burnt down.
There has been an impression spread around that learning Sanskrit needs lot of mugging up. But if once the rhythm of it catches your fancy, you would not mind it. Rather, every सूत्रम्, every Mantra well understood and committed to memory will be your personal treasure. Let us all build up that treasure !

3 thoughts on “Why all धातु-s and प्रत्यय-s have “given” names ?

  1. That is how I teach Sanskrit. It is a play. It starts with vowels which not only support the consonants but dress them as mother dress a baby and nourishes. That is why vowels might be also named as Matruka. It samjnas, affixes, prefixes, pratyayas are there to dressup. In the dresssing room lot of process are applied from Vikaranas to Adhikaranas. This is how manyfacturing process applied in a cell in a factory called mitochondria. Interesting!!

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