In response to my article on Morphological Thoughts and अष्टाध्यायी, one दक्षा-महोदया enquired with me whether I have any write-up on माहेश्वरसूत्राणि. I thank दक्षा-महोदया for motivating this write-up.

The title above has the word शिवसूत्राणि. Obviously these are different names.

Some people contend that they should be called only as माहेश्वरसूत्राणि, because they are said to have been composed by a grammarian by the name महेश्वर.

There is another anecdote which contends that the सूत्र-s were realized by सनकादि ऋषि-s, when they were blessed by शिव by sounding his ढक्का/डमरू in (9+5) 14 patterns. This is so said in a श्लोक

नृत्तावसाने नटराजराजः ननाद ढक्कां नवपञ्चवारम् |

उद्धर्तुकामः सनकादिसिद्धानेतद्विमर्शे शिवसूत्रजालम् ||

Anyway, these are 14 सूत्र-s –

(1) अ इ उ ण् (2) ऋ ऌ क् (3) ए ओ ङ् (4) ऐ औ च् (5) ह य व र ट् (6) ल ण् (7) ञ म ङ ण न म् (8) झ भ ञ् (9) घ ढ ध ष् (10) ज ब ग ड द श् (11) ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त व् (12) क प य् (13) श ष स र् (14) ह ल् ॥

It be noted that every सूत्रम् ends with a consonant. That consonant is to be understood to be only the end-marker of the सूत्रम्. Leaving out the end markers, we can see that there are 43 elements –

अ इ उ ऋ ऌ (5) ए ओ ऐ औ ह (10) य व र ल ञ (15) म ङ ण न झ (20) भ घ ढ ध ज (25) ब ग ड द ख (30) फ छ ठ थ च (35) ट त क प श (40) ष स ह (43).

This in a way is देवनागरी alphabet वर्णमाला. But the order is different from the way, one learns it in schools or is followed in dictionaries. Also the letter ह is repeated. Omitting the repetition, we have 42 letters. Of these अ इ उ ऋ ऌ ए ओ ऐ औ these 9 are vowels. Rest 33 are consonants.

It becomes good to reorganize the सूत्र-s as

  • अ इ उ ण् । ऋ ऌ क् । ए ओ ङ् । ऐ औ च् । – Note, these are all vowels.
  • ह य व र ट् । ल ण् । – These are called as अन्तस्थ-s or half-vowels.
  • ञ म ङ ण न म् । – These are all nasals.
  • झ भ ञ् । घ ढ ध ष् । – These are महाप्राणमृदुव्यञ्जनानि stressed soft consonants
  • ज ब ग ड द श् । – These are अल्पप्राणमृदुव्यञ्जनानि unstressed soft consonants
  • ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त व् । क प य् । – These are कठोरव्यञ्जनानि harsh consonants
  • श ष स र् । – These are ऊष्मव्यञ्जनानि
  • ह ल् ॥ – Not to be counted, since it is a repeat ह.

The consonants in सूत्र-s 5 to 13 are written, as they would be, when they have the vowel अ in them. This is only for the convenience of pronunciation. All consonants are basic sounds वर्ण-s. They can be combined with all vowels and we get अक्षर-s such as क् the वर्ण and from it अक्षर-s क का कि की कु कू कृ क्लृ के कै को कौ. Vowels also are basic sounds वर्ण-s. But because they can as well be pronounced independently, they are अक्षर-s also. That may help to understand the difference between वर्ण-s and अक्षर-s. Consonant sound can also be heard distinctly as in उत्, only when it is preceded by some sound capable of being pronounced independently. People in North India seem to prefer pronouncing the word स्त्री as इस्त्री. That is understandable, because to pronounce the beginning स् of स्त्री has no sound before it, which can be pronounced independently. Though this is understandable, if people in Maharashtra can pronounce स्त्री as स्त्री, there is no reason why people in north India also cannot.

Now, if we start with the first element अ, and put the first end-marker ण् with it, we get अण्. In Sanskrit grammar the end-markers are called as अनुबन्ध-s. We can now consider that this अण् is the name संज्ञा of a set containing elements starting from अ and up to the अनुबन्ध ण्. The elements of this set are अ इ उ. In this manner we can take the first element अ and put along its side all the other अनुबन्ध-s and we shall have अक् अङ् अच् अट् अण् अम् अञ् अष् अश् अव् अय् अर् अल्. These are all संज्ञा-s, names of different sets. These are different sets, because the elements contained in each set are different. The largest among these is अल्. All the other sets are sort of subsets of अल्. Actually in the sequence अण् अक् अङ् अच् अट् अण् अम् … the name अण् gets repeated. In that case the rule to be followed is that the first occurrence of a संज्ञा is the only valid name. We can say that the name gets booked or reserved by its first occurrence. So its recurrence is to be neglected.

We can make such संज्ञा-s from every other वर्ण. For example from इ we shall have इण् इक् इङ् इच् इट् इम् इञ् इष् इश् इव् इय् इर् इल्.

Another rule in composing संज्ञा-s is that we go only forward. For example, starting from ह in सूत्रम् 5, we can only have हट् हम् हञ् हष् हश् हव् हय् हर् हल्. We cannot have हण् हक् हङ् हच्.

In this manner we can have

  • 13 संज्ञा-s each from अ इ उ ऋ ऌ, i.e. 65 संज्ञा-s,
  • 12 संज्ञा-s each from ए ओ, i.e. 24 संज्ञा-s
  • 11 संज्ञा-s each from ऐ औ i.e. 22 संज्ञा-s,
  • 10 संज्ञा-s each from ह य व र i.e. 40 संज्ञा-s,
  • 9 संज्ञा-s from ल,
  • 8 संज्ञा-s each from ञ म ङ ण न i.e. 40 संज्ञा-s,
  • 7 संज्ञा-s each from झ भ i.e. 14 संज्ञा-s,
  • 6 संज्ञा-s each from घ ढ ध i.e. 18 संज्ञा-s,
  • 5 संज्ञा-s each from ज ब ग ड द i.e. 25 संज्ञा-s,
  • 4 संज्ञा-s each from ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त i.e. 32 संज्ञा-s,
  • 3 संज्ञा-s each from क प i.e. 6 संज्ञा-s,
  • 2 संज्ञा-s each from श ष स i.e. 6 संज्ञा-s,

so total (65 + 24 + 22 + 40 + 9 + 40 + 14 + 18 + 25 + 32 + 6 + 6 =) 301 संज्ञा-s.

These संज्ञा-s are also called as प्रत्याहार-s. Hence माहेश्वरसूत्राणि or शिवसूत्राणि are also called as प्रत्याहारसूत्राणि. Since they are 14, they are also called as चतुर्दशसूत्राणि.

In अष्टाध्यायी one finds use of 42 of the above 301 प्रत्याहार-s. One can appreciate that by use of प्रत्याहार-s, composition of सूत्र-s becomes compact. That is what a सूत्र required to be. For example 

  • When one wants to speak of all vowels together, as in the सूत्रम् – इको यणचि (इकः यण् अचि), here (1) इकः means “of/for all elements contained in the प्रत्याहार इक् (Note इकः is षष्ठी, एकवचनम् of इक्) i.e. of इ उ ऋ लृ” (2) यण् means “theirs become य् व् र् ल् respectively” (3) अचि means “in the presence of अच् (Note अचि is सप्तमी, एकवचनम् of अच्) i.e. “in the presence of any vowel” Note how the use of इकः, षष्ठी, एकवचनम् of प्रत्याहार इक् makes a compact statement to mean “of/for all elements contained in the प्रत्याहार इक् i.e. of इ उ ऋ लृ”, also how use of प्रत्याहार यण् makes a compact statement to mean “theirs become य् व् र् ल् respectively” and how use of अचि, सप्तमी, एकवचनम् of अच्  makes a compact statement to mean “in the presence of any vowel”. That is the smartness and intelligence of deriving प्रत्याहार-s from शिवसूत्राणि.

There is significance in calling प्रत्याहार-s as संज्ञा-s, because in अष्टाध्यायी one finds use of words derived from such संज्ञा-s, by their विभक्ति-वचन inflections. For example अकः is षष्ठी विभक्ति, एकवचनम् of अक्. It is thus used in सूत्रम् – अकः सवर्णे दीर्घः (६।१।१०१).

Actually there is some sound logic behind, why the वर्ण-s in माहेश्वरसूत्राणि are in the order they are. The logic is of commonality of properties. For example ए ओ are results of अ followed by इ and उ respectively.

Such respective order is also an important aspect in the order of the वर्ण-s in माहेश्वरसूत्राणि. For example when any vowel is to get added into इ उ ऋ ऌ these first change into their corresponding consonants य् व् र् ल्. (See the order in सूत्र-s (5) ह य व र ट् and (6) ल ण्). The वर्णमाला as taught in schools has the order य र ल व. Even in dictionaries the order is य र ल व. But does not one appreciate that the order य् व् र् ल् in माहेश्वरसूत्राणि has sound technical logic ?

The order of वर्ण-s in dictionaries has the logic of class वर्ग based on the place of genesis of the sound

  • क-वर्गीय consonants emanate from the throat कण्ठ्य,
  • च-वर्गीय consonants emanate by tongue near the teeth तालव्य,
  • ट-वर्गीय consonants emanate by tongue hitting the roof मूर्धन्य,
  • त-वर्गीय consonants emanate by tongue striking the gums दन्त्य,
  • प-वर्गीय consonants emanate from the lips ओष्ठ्य.

In अष्टाध्यायी the class-concept is taken note of, by naming the क-वर्ग as कु, च-वर्ग as चु, ट-वर्ग as टु, त-वर्ग as तु and प-वर्ग as पु.

माहेश्वरसूत्राणि truly serve as the building blocks of अष्टाध्यायी. One can say that अष्टाध्यायी is brilliant, may be, because माहेश्वरसूत्राणि are brilliant.

A YouTube video about माहेश्वरसूत्राणि is uploaded at <https://youtu.be/M16-v3u54ww>

शुभमस्तु !