Studying अष्टाध्यायी – Why and How ?

Why to Study अष्टाध्यायी ?

When thinking of answers to this question, following श्लोक from श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता comes to mind –

चतुर्विधा भजन्ते मां जनाः सुकृतिनोऽर्जुन ।

आर्तो जिज्ञासुरर्थार्थी ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ ।।७-१६।।

Likewise are there four types of people who would be interested in Studying अष्टाध्यायी ?

  1. Those who are आर्त struggling for gaining proficiency in Sanskrit.

  2. Those who are curious जिज्ञासु, maybe, wondering what this अष्टाध्यायी is, that so many speak so highly about.

  3. Those who would like to have recognition as a संस्कृतपण्डित. They are अर्थार्थी-s in that sense. Such recognition will not come, unless one has learnt अष्टाध्यायी.

  4. Those who have learnt and understood अष्टाध्यायी, hence ज्ञानी-s. Having done so, they are convinced that knowledge of अष्टाध्यायी is the ज्ञान !

Admittedly my own interest is of first two types आर्त and जिज्ञासु.

How to Study अष्टाध्यायी ?

When thinking of answers to this question also, another सुभाषितम् comes to mind –

आचार्यात् पादमादत्ते पादं शिष्यः स्वमेधया ।

पादं सब्रह्मचारिभ्यः पादं कालक्रमेण च ॥

This सुभाषितम् (its study detailed at suggests 4 options – आचार्यात्, स्वमेधया, सब्रह्मचारिभ्यः and कालक्रमेण.

  1. About the first option आचार्यात् I got my orientations into संस्कृत from my father. But he never gave me any orientation into अष्टाध्यायी At my present stage in life, it is not possible to go to some आचार्य. But some people with whom I interact on the internet are आचार्य-s for me. I am ever indebted to them.

  2. Second option is स्वमेधया, rather, स्वाध्यायेन by self-study.

  3. सब्रह्मचारिभ्यः I use internet extensively with the idea, that many, with whom I am able to interact on the internet are सब्रह्मचारी-s.

  4. कालक्रमेण. This is not really an option for How to Study अष्टाध्यायी. What it really means is that one needs to have patience. One should think that study will keep happening. One need not set a time-limit that study of अष्टाध्यायी will be completed by such date or in so much time. Patience in matters of study is best advocated in the सुभाषितम् – अजरामरवत्प्राज्ञः विद्यामर्थं च साधयेत् !! (Study of this सुभाषितम् is detailed at

What I learn from my आचार्य-s on the internet is not by any well-chalked out course or syllabus. Questions arise sporadically in my mind. I seek and get answers.

What I learn by self-study is also sporadic. But to keep the learning sorted out, I post them in different blogs. I am left wondering, whether it will or whether it should merge into a single stream.

What I learn from the सब्रम्हचारी-s on the internet is also sporadic. Everything would not be related to study of अष्टाध्यायी. In fact the topics and subjects vary quite far and wide. But study of अष्टाध्यायी gets often related in many contexts.

This note is an attempt to compile aspects of अष्टाध्यायी and its study.

(1) Needless to mention that there are अष्ट अध्याय-s in अष्टाध्यायी. There are four sections पाद-s in each अध्याय. None of the पाद-s or of the अध्याय-s has a title. So, it is difficult to know the logic of evolution of the अष्टाध्यायी and of placement sequence of a सूत्रम् by its अध्याय-क्रमाङ्क, पाद-क्रमाङ्क and सूत्र-क्रमाङ्क.

  • वृद्धिरादैच् (१-१-१) is the first सूत्रम् in अष्टाध्यायी. There can be a question, ‘why this is the first सूत्रम् ?” One answer I read, said, writers in olden times would start their composition with an auspicious invocation. In this सूत्रम् the word वृद्धि implies, growth, prosperity and in turn an auspicious invocation.

  • So, to get a grasp of the logic of placement of सूत्र-s in different अध्याय-s, पाद-s and to understand their sequence will be a matter of curiosity to me.

  • But some सूत्र-s are already in logical groups, which is like mathematical subsets or like subroutines in a computer program.

(2) This observation of some सूत्र-s being in logical groups, brings to mind a novel idea of paraphrasing अष्टाध्यायी in a style of indented lists, such as –

  • 1.4.23 कारके ।

    • 1.4.24 ध्रुवमपायेऽपादानम् ।

      • 1.4.25 भीत्रार्थानां भयहेतुः ।

      • 1.4.26 पराजेरसोढः ।

      • 1.4.27 वारणार्थानां ईप्सितः ।

      • 1.4.28 अन्तर्द्धौ येनादर्शनमिच्छति ।

      • 1.4.29 आख्यातोपयोगे ।

      • 1.4.30 जनिकर्तुः प्रकृतिः ।

      • 1.4.31 भुवः प्रभवः ।

    • 1.4.32 कर्मणा यमभिप्रैति स सम्प्रदानम् ।

      • 1.4.33 रुच्यर्थानां प्रीयमाणः ।

      • 1.4.34 श्लाघह्नुङ्स्थाशपां ज्ञीप्स्यमानः ।

      • 1.4.35 धारेरुत्तमर्णः ।

      • 1.4.36 स्पृहेरीप्सितः ।

      • 1.4.37 क्रुधद्रुहेर्ष्याऽसूयार्थानां यं प्रति कोपः ।

      • 1.4.38 क्रुधद्रुहोरुपसृष्टयोः कर्म ।

      • 1.4.39 राधीक्ष्योर्यस्य विप्रश्नः ।

      • 1.4.40 प्रत्याङ्भ्यां श्रुवः पूर्वस्य कर्ता ।

      • 1.4.41 अनुप्रतिगृणश्च ।

    • 1.4.42 साधकतमं करणम् ।

      • 1.4.43 दिवः कर्म च ।

      • 1.4.44 परिक्रयणे सम्प्रदानमन्यतरस्याम् ।

    • 1.4.45 आधारोऽधिकरणम् ।

      • 1.4.46 अधिशीङ्स्थाऽऽसां कर्म ।

      • 1.4.47 अभिनिविशश्च ।

      • 1.4.48 उपान्वध्याङ्वसः ।

    • 1.4.49 कर्तुरीप्सिततमं कर्म ।

      • 1.4.50 तथायुक्तं चानिप्सीतम् ।

      • 1.4.51 अकथितं च ।

      • 1.4.52 गतिबुद्धिप्रत्यवसानार्थशब्दकर्माकर्मकाणामणि कर्ता

      • 1.4.53 हृक्रोरन्यतरस्याम् ।

    • 1.4.54 स्वतन्त्रः कर्ता ।

      • 1.4.55 तत्प्रयोजको हेतुश्च ।

These indented lists bring out a good view, that, in सूत्र-s from 1.4.23 to 1.4.55 the discussion is about कारक-s, which are mentioned in books of grammar as विभक्ति-s i.e. cases.

Among these 1.4.24 to 1.4.31 discuss अपादानकारक mentioned in books of grammar as पञ्चमी विभक्ति fifth case, the ablative case. (अपादान = ablation, taking out or away from). So अपादानकारक is Sanskrit-substitute for the English preposition “from”

सूत्र-s from 1.4.32 to 1.4.41 discuss सम्प्रदानकारक mentioned in books of grammar as चतुर्थी विभक्ति fourth case, the dative case. (सम्प्रदान = offering) In English, if a transitive verb takes two objects, e.g. Laxman gave instructions to Sita, one object is non-personal or things, in this example, ‘instructions’. The other object is personal ‘to Sita’. For personal objects the case to be used is dative सम्प्रदान. The function of English preposition “for” is served by सम्प्रदानकारक. Actually all the 10 सूत्र-s from 1.4.32 to 1.4.41 specify the instances, which warrant use of सूत्र-s from 1.4.32 to 1.4.41.

सूत्र-s from 1.4.42 to 1.4.44 discuss करणकारक mentioned in books of grammar as तृतीया विभक्ति third case, the instrumental case (करण = instrument). Action is effected ‘with’ instruments. So करणकारक is Sanskrit-substitute for the English preposition “with”.

सूत्र-s from 1.4.45 to 1.4.48 discuss अधिकरणकारक mentioned in books of grammar as सप्तमी विभक्ति seventh case, the locative case. The 1.4.45 आधारोऽधिकरणम् explains the concept of location beautifully. आधारोऽधिकरणम् means lending support, accepting, receiving is “location”. अधिकरणकारक is Sanskrit-substitute for the English prepositions in, at, on, upon.

सूत्र-s from 1.4.49 to 1.4.53 discuss कर्मकारक mentioned in books of grammar as द्वितीया विभक्ति second case, the accusative case or the object case for non-personal objects.

सूत्र-s from 1.4.54 and 1.4.55 discuss कर्ताकारक mentioned in books of grammar as प्रथमा विभक्ति first case, the nominative case or the subject case.

Thus the 32 सूत्र-s from 1.4.24 and 1.4.55 discuss कारक-s or विभक्ति-s. In fact in these सूत्र-s the word विभक्ति is not used at all.

Also the विभक्ति-s are delineated in the order 5, 4, 3, 7, 2, 1. Could the सूत्र-s have been in the sequential order of विभक्ति-s ?

It comes to mind that paraphrasing अष्टाध्यायी in such style of indented lists may prove to be a good way to study अष्टाध्यायी ! Thanks to the design of Word-processing software, that it provides this facility of paraphrasing by indented lists.

(3) As an option to indented lists, there seems to have emerged a school of grammarians using a technique of अनुवृत्ति, which is basically bringing forth, word or words from previous सूत्र-s. This helps to derive interpretation of those सूत्र-s which have a connection or are extensions of previous सूत्र/सूत्र-s. Grammarians who compiled interpretation of सूत्र-s by employing the technique of अनुवृत्ति seem to be known as वार्त्तिक-s and their  compilations as वृत्ति-s. Prominent among them is कात्यायन. One famous वृत्ति is काशिकावृत्ति.

As can be seen, the सूत्रम् 1.4.23 कारके is the appropriate अनुवृत्ति for all सूत्र-s up to 1.4.55.

Among the सूत्र-s, the word अपादान from सूत्र 1.4.24 becomes appropriate अनुवृत्ति for सूत्र-s from 1.4.25 to 1.4.31, of course along with कारके from सूत्रम् 1.4.23

the word सम्प्रदान from सूत्र 1.4.32 becomes appropriate अनुवृत्ति for सूत्र-s from 1.4.33 to 1.4.44, of course along with कारके from सूत्रम् 1.4.23

the word अधिकरण from सूत्र 1.4.45 becomes appropriate अनुवृत्ति for सूत्र-s from 1.4.46 to 1.4.48, of course along with कारके from सूत्रम् 1.4.23

the word कर्म from सूत्र 1.4.49 becomes appropriate अनुवृत्ति for सूत्र-s from 1.4.49 to 1.4.53, of course along with कारके from सूत्रम् 1.4.23

the word कर्ता from सूत्र 1.4.54 becomes appropriate अनुवृत्ति for सूत्र 1.4.55, of course along with कारके from सूत्रम् 1.4.23

(4) There are some सूत्र-s in अष्टाध्यायी which imply a rather long number of elements. These सूत्र-s are in a way, names of ‘set’s of those elements. One can say that what is ‘set’ in set-theory is गण in Sanskrit. The elements of a particular set are compiled by पाणिनि in an annex, known as गणपाठ. For example,

सूत्रम् १.१.२७ – सर्वादीनि सर्वनामानि ।

means सर्व .. &c (आदीनि = &c) are सर्वनामानि pronouns.

सर्वनामानि is the name of the set of pronouns. Its elements are detailed in गणपाठ –

सर्वादीनि सर्वनामानि १.१.२७

सर्वादि। सर्व। विश्व। उभ। उभय। डतर। डतम। अन्य। अन्यतर। इतर। त्वत्। त्व। नेम। सम। सिम।

पूर्वपरावरदक्षिणोत्तरापराधराणि व्यवस्थायामसंज्ञायाम् । स्वमज्ञातिधनाख्यायाम् । अन्तरं बहिर्योगोपसंव्यानयोः । त्यद्। यद्। एतद्। इदम्। अदस्। एक। द्वि। युष्मद्। अस्मद्। भवतु। किम्।


सर्व। विश्व। उभ। उभय। डतर। डतम। अन्य। अन्यतर। इतर। त्वत्। त्व। नेम। सम। सिम। and त्यद्। यद्। एतद्। इदम्। अदस्। एक। द्वि। युष्मद्। अस्मद्। भवतु। किम्। are unqualified pronouns or pronouns always. These are (14 + 11 =) 25.

पूर्वपरावरदक्षिणोत्तरापराधराणि व्यवस्थायामसंज्ञायाम् 1.1.34 are lists of pronouns with some qualification of when they are to be treated as pronouns.

स्वमज्ञातिधनाख्यायाम् 1.1.35 is also a qualified list

and also अन्तरं बहिर्योगोपसंव्यानयोः 1.1.36

Obviously सूत्र-s 1.1.34, 1.1.35 and 1.1.36 have the word सर्वनामानि from 1.1.27 as their अनुवृत्ति.

(5) Another important annex of अष्टाध्यायी is धातुपाठ. पाणिनि is very charming That is also a shade of his genius in composing अष्टाध्यायी, which is often a subject of research ever after 25-odd centuries or maybe 3 millenia. In धातुपाठ he has given not only गण-wise compilation of धातु-s, but has also given meanings of verbs.

I am particularly impressed by the way, meaning is given for a धातु like नृत्. By general English translation नृत् means ‘to dance’. But पाणिनि gives the meaning as गात्रविक्षेपे. गात्र = Part of body विक्षेप = articulation, gesturing (literally, throwing this way and that) गात्रविक्षेप = articulation, gesturing by parts of body.

Usually ‘to dance’ brings to mind gestures and articulations of legs and arms.

But गात्रविक्षेप would include gestures also by eyes and even eyebrows. Is not गात्रविक्षेप the best way of narrating meaning of नृत्, at once brief, accurate and yet comprehensive ?

That is what the basic definition of a सूत्रम् is.

अल्पाक्षरमसन्दिग्धं सारवद्विश्वतोमुखम्।

अस्तोभमनवद्यं च सूत्रं सूत्रविदो विदुः॥

अल्पाक्षरम् – concise, असन्दिग्धम् – clear, unambiguous, सारवद् – meaningful, विश्वतोमुखम् – universal, अस्तोभम् – not halting, smooth flow, अनवद्यम् – without any mistakes.

(6) सूत्रम् 1.4.2 विप्रतिषेधे परं कार्यम् । is again an important rule, not only for studying and understanding सूत्र-s in अष्टाध्यायी, but more for applying them in a given instance. So, one cannot work with an assessment whether a given सूत्र is applicable in a given instance. If there is a later सूत्र, which also is applicable, then the later सूत्र supersedes !

For example, general rule for संधि-s with ए, ऐ, ओ, औ in पूर्ववर्ण-position is  by the सूत्रम् एचोऽयवायावः। (६/१/७८)

However for vowels, ए, ओ of गुण-character there is one more rule, of two specific applications and in those instances supersedes the general rule. The rule of specific applications is एङः पदान्तादति। (६/१/१०९).

As can be seen एङः पदान्तादति। (६/१/१०९) comes later than एचोऽयवायावः। (६/१/७८).

(7) There are also options available in certain cases. For example an option for एचोऽयवायावः। (६/१/७८) is by the सूत्रम् – लोपः शाकल्यस्य (८।३।१९). We do come across use of these in श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता –

समः सिद्धावसिद्धौ च कृत्वापि न निबध्यते (४-२२) – Here सिद्धावसिद्धौ (= सिद्धौ असिद्धौ) is by the सूत्रम् एचोऽयवायावः। (६/१/७८)

न योत्स्य इति गोविन्दं उक्त्वा तूष्णीं बभूव ह (२-९) – Here योत्स्य इति (= योत्स्ये इति) is by the सूत्रम् – लोपः शाकल्यस्य (८।३।१९)

Of course, chronologically श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता is much older than शाकल्य or पाणिनि. But even in श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता one finds use of both the options.

This gives credence to the basic fact, that books of grammar do not make the language. पाणिनि did not create the Sanskrit language. He only wrote his book on grammar explaining the rules of constructs inherent in the language.

(8) The rule विप्रतिषेधे परं कार्यम् and an option to एचोऽयवायावः। (६/१/७८) being there by the सूत्रम् – लोपः शाकल्यस्य (८।३।१९) also mean that one needs to study अष्टाध्यायी comprehensively, not just chapter-by-chapter. One would not know of सूत्रम् – लोपः शाकल्यस्य (८।३।१९) if one focuses only on Section 1 of Chapter 6.

(9) There are many words typical of अष्टाध्यायी. It seems one should compile a glossary of such typical words.

उपदेशे = in names of धातु-s as named by पाणिनि.

It needs to be noted that पाणिनि has assigned his own names for धातु-s. For example, the most commonplace धातु गम् is named as गम्लृ.

Also पाणिनि has assigned different names to the same धातु, especially when a धातु has forms in different गण-s. For example, for another commonplace  धातु कृ, in पञ्चमगण is named as कृञ् and कृ in अष्टमगण is named as डुकृञ्.

छन्दसि = In Vedic usage

विभाषा =  defined in 1-1-44 as न वेति विभाषा

= exception (not applicable, न) or option (or, वा).

(10) Having cited the instances in श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता where both एचोऽयवायावः। (६/१/७८) and लोपः शाकल्यस्य (८।३।१९) have been used, पाणिनि was not the first grammarian nor अष्टाध्यायी the first ever work on Sanskrit grammar. As in this सूत्रम् – लोपः शाकल्यस्य (८।३।१९), पाणिनि himself makes reference to many earlier or contemporary grammarians in अष्टाध्यायी itself. They are शाकल्य (1-1-16, ८।३।१९, etc.), काश्यप (1-2-25), शाकटायन (3.4.111) प्राचाम् (= as per eastern grammarians) (4.1.17) उदीचाम् (= as per northern grammarians) (4.1.153)

Interesting details of history of Sanskrit grammar are given at

(11) Even though I have this thought of an approach of paraphrasing अष्टाध्यायी by indented lists, I am also afraid that it may not work all over.

If एचोऽयवायावः is at ६/१/७८ and its option लोपः शाकल्यस्य is at ८।३।१९, it certainly would become challenging to put them in one indented list, although both are related to संधि-s with ए, ऐ, ओ, औ in पूर्ववर्ण-position.

So another approach to study of अष्टाध्यायी has been to study not अष्टाध्यायी but Sanskrit-grammar by topics in grammar, but putting together all सूत्र-s in अष्टाध्यायी related to the particular topic. This approach seems to have appealed to most studies of Sanskrit and its grammar, especially after भट्टोजी दीक्षित compiled it all by this approach in his सिद्धान्तकौमुदी sometime in 18th century.

(12) Yet another important aspect of अष्टाध्यायी is that it has inherent in it the process प्रक्रिया of formation of words. One dissuasion from learning Sanskrit is an impression that learning Sanskrit often involves quite some rote-learning. One wonders whether learning प्रक्रिया-s will equip one with skills needed for formation of words and whether that will avoid or eliminate rote-learning.

A recent discussion at makes an interesting case in this context. On 23 Sept 2013 Mr. P. K. Ramakrishnan posted a query –

maamakaah paandavaaschaiva is plural.

akurvata appears to be singular.

Is there any explanation for this?

नित्यानन्द-मिश्र-महोदय had provided elaborate procedure about derivation of अकुर्वत –

विवक्षा = कर्त्रभिप्राये क्रियाफलेऽनद्यतनभूते प्रथमपुरुषे बहुवचनम्

कृ -> 3-4-69 लः कर्मणि च भावे चाकर्मकेभ्यः -> 3-2-111 अनद्यतने लङ् -> कृ + लङ् -> 3-4-78 तिप्तस्झिसिप्थस्थमिब्वस्मस्ताताञ्झथासाथान्ध्वमिड्वहिमहिङ्, 1-4-101 तिङस्त्रीणि त्रीणि प्रथममध्यमोत्तमाः, 1-4-102 तान्येकवचनद्विवचनबहुवचनान्येकशः -> 1-3-72 स्वरितञितः कर्त्रभिप्राये क्रियाफले -> आत्मनेपदप्राप्तिः -> 1-4-100 तङानावात्मनेपदम् -> कृ + झ -> 3-1-79 तनादिकृञ्भ्य उः -> कृ उ झ -> 3-4-114 आर्धधातुकं शेषः -> “उ” इत्यस्यार्धधातुकत्वम् -> 7-3-84 सार्वधातुकार्धधातुकयोः -> गुणः -> 1-1-2 अदेङगुणः -> 1-1-50 स्थानेऽन्तरतमः -> अगुणः -> क् अ उ झ -> 1-1-51 उरण् रपरः -> रपरत्वम् -> क् अर् उ झ -> करु झ -> 3-4-113 तिङ्शित्सार्वधातुकम् -> “झ” इत्यस्य सार्वधातुकत्वम् -> 6-4-110 अत उत्सार्वधातुके -> क् उ रु झ -> कुरु झ -> 7-1-5 आत्मनेपदेष्वनतः -> कुरु अत् अ -> कुरु अत -> 6-1-77 इको यणचि -> 1-1-50 स्थानेऽन्तरतमः -> कुर्व् अत -> कुर्वत -> 6-4-71 लुङ्लङ्लृङ्क्ष्वडुदात्तः -> अडागमः -> 1-1-46 आद्यन्तौ टकितौ -> आद्यागमः -> अट् कुर्वत -> 1-3-3 हलन्त्यम् -> टकारस्येत्संज्ञा -> 1-3-9 तस्य लोपः -> अ कुर्वत -> अकुर्वत

Does not this detail of derivation of अकुर्वत and proving that it is plural only, not singular, appear like deriving or proving a proposition in Geometry and in the end, writing “Q.E.D.” ?

If learning प्रक्रिया-s is this kind, that too for deriving a single word as अकुर्वत, would a student prefer the rote-learning ?

But प्रक्रिया has itself been a subject of scholastic excellence. There have been books focusing only on प्रक्रिया, somewhat well-known among them being प्रक्रियाकौमुदी or प्रक्रियासर्वस्व. A Sanskrit scholar शास्त्री or पण्डित ought to be a good at it, right ?

(13) But can the प्रक्रिया-s be built into algorithmic procedures, such that you set the objective, here कृ-धातोः आत्मनेपदिनः लङि प्रथमपुरुषे बहुवचनम्. The algorithm should process it all through the appropriate सूत्र-s and should come out with the answer अकुर्वत ! Not necessarily a dream. I guess Dr. Amba Kulkarni has done and guided impressive work on such projects and has quite some interesting tools already developed and made available at and also at

(14) The word प्रक्रिया brings to mind, What is chemistry if not प्रक्रिया ?

(15) End-note – In this note on Studying अष्टाध्यायी I have made mention of

  1. paraphrasing by indented lists

  2. what is ‘set’ in set-theory is गण in Sanskrit.

  3. derivation of अकुर्वत appears like deriving or proving a proposition in Geometry

  4. algorithmic procedures

  5. What is chemistry if not प्रक्रिया ?

Or is अष्टाध्यायी all these and maybe much more ? If so, Studying अष्टाध्यायी just for the heck of it  seems a good idea !