[Note: In an earlier comment that is available at http://www.bharatvani.org/reviews/philology.html, Dr. Swaminathan had questioned Professor Witzel’s estimation of Panini’s comprehension of Vedic grammar. Professor Witzel responded in a very abusive and arrogant manner, just as he often addresses other Indian/Hindu scholars. This response is available at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/INDOLOGY/message/2939 .
The first few lines of the response by Professor Witzel read –
“Again, I don't object if people want to make fools of themselves. V. Swaminathan, Retired Principal, Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tiruchur, now finds himself on the "patriotic" bharatvani web site in the good company of Rajaram, Frawley et al. Thank god(s) I can save time to answer this purely grammatical question (which could have been handled calmly!)… Daniel Baum <dbaum@i...> has felt it necessary to correct the grammatical deficiencies of Swaminathan in his Indo-Iranian list (Mon, 13 Jan 2003)….”
Daniel Baum himself professes ignorance of Panini, in subsequent communication. Nevertheless, the reader can refer to his view at the URL of Professor Witzel’s post listed by me above. The reader can also refer to considerable discussion on this matter in the public archives of the Indo-Iranian Discussion list, available at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/indo_iranian ( - Bharatvani Team) ]
Panini’s Understanding of Vedic Grammar
A Rejoinder to Professor Michael Witzel and Daniel Baum
By Dr. V. Swaminathan, Retd. Principal, Guruvayur Sanskrit Vidyapeeth
In my article entitled “Panini’s Grammar, Sayanacharya’s Vedic Bhasyas and Michael Witzel’s Philology” I had exposed the hollowness of Witzel’s allegation that “Panini and Sayana do not know the injunctive e.g. han” and conclusively established that Panini and Sayana were thoroughly acquainted with the injunctive. My thesis rests upon the secure foundation of Panini’s sutras whose dependability as valid evidence can never be questioned. The sutras speak for themselves; they do not expect corroboration or support from any external source.
Witzel has not spoken anything against my thesis. Nor has he made any attempt to examine the evidences I have adduced. It is highly impossible for him to venture upon such an examination as his writings reveal he had not studied Panini’s work in the original Sanskrit. How can he understand the subtle meanings and the modus operandi of the sutras of Panini? Therefore he has chosen to launch a personal attack on me, employing offending and uncharitable expressions. He writes –
1. that I am a fool (indirectly of course),
2. that my article is the result of mere patriotism,
3. that he could calmly answer questions pertaining to grammar, implying that I am ignorant of solutions to difficult problems in grammar, and
4. that my knowledge of grammar is deficient.
The motive behind this scathing attack is to make the reader prejudiced against my article and tell him that the author can deliver no goods worth the name.
Let us now see whether these hostile remarks are substantiable. An intelligent reader with a balanced mind knows pretty well that leaving the subject aside and indulging in personal attacks, in a discussion or debate, is a positive sign of weakness – incompetence to proceed on or lack of wit. Will any wise person believe that an intelligent reader will tacitly subscribe to his biased views and switch over to his way of thinking? Certainly not.
It is absolutely absurd and ridiculous on the part of Witzel to say that he would answer this purely grammatical question calmly. If he is capable of answering this purely grammatical question he could have given his answer in a brief manner at least. Where is the necessity to depute Mr. Daniel Baum to deal with this grammatical question? What is it that prevented him from providing an answer? The intelligent reader certainly knows what it is.
Reeling under a tight grip of prejudice and intolerance of colossal magnitude could he ever think of calmness? With little or nil knowledge of Panini’s work he arrogates to answer difficult questions in grammar. A penniless man rushes forward to extend financial assistance to others.
By casting the sarcastic remark “now finds himself on the patriotic website”, Witzel intends to say that my article is not founded on facts; it is a product of mere patriotism. His intolerant attitude has deprived him of his mental faculties to distinguish a writing containing purely matter of fact statements from a writing emerging from pure patriotism. I give, hereinafter, extracts from the writings of some well-known scholars representing their estimate of Panini.
“Panini’s grammar is the centre of a vast and important branch of the ancient literature. No work has struck deeper roots than his in the soil of the scientific development of India. It is the standard of accuracy in speech – the grammatical basis of Vaidika commentaries. It is appealed to by every scientific writer whenever he meets with a linguistic difficulty - Panini is the only one among those authors of scientific works who may be looked upon as real personages, who is a Rishi in the proper sense of the word, an author supposed to have had the foundation of his work revealed to him by a divinity”.
“If Panini had done nothing more than expound the rather simple principles of his functional analysis and make them clear by a few well chosen examples, he would have earned already a claim to be held one of the greatest linguist of all times. Even then he could have furnished Bopp the key to his comparative grammar. Even then we should have to acknowledge that our modern representations of stem - and word - formation in the ‘Indo-European’ languages essentially are nothing else but the consistent application of his great discovery. We merely add the idea of historical development, which is a modern, which is totally European, idea. In fact, Panini has done more. He applied the principles of his functional analysis to the entire extensive field of the Sanskrit language, following it up to its last consequence by leaving unexplained nothing he could explain by it. Thus he presented us not only with a great idea, but with a grand scientific work. It lies before us spread out like a wonderful carpet woven out of hundreds of brilliant discoveries and inventions, all of which derive from one fundamental truth, are subservient to one fundamental truth: the truth that, the inflected word forms of the Sanskrit language can be analyzed into their functional elements in a rational way. The passionate wish to limit the unavoidable rest to a minimum – that is the spring setting in motion the capacities of his prodigious sagacity and of his ingenious intuition, the splendour of which millennia could not tarnish”. “Panini’s grammar has been called the first complete and accurate description of a language”.
“Panini’s teaching method approaches the accuracy of a mathematical deduction. It has, apparently, no practical, but only a theoretical, purpose. It seems to give knowledge for the sake of knowledge only. It does not belong to the category of ‘arts’ but of science”.
“The ‘built-up’ ‘regularly formed’ character of the Sanskrit words and utterances is complicated enough to the layman. It is a truth that could be looked upon as paroksha ‘beyond sensual conception’. It is realizable to the deep insight only”.
“Studying Panini’s vyakaranam we are in the presence of a momentous hour in the history of the development of human thinking. It is an hour of birth of science out of magic”.
“Though its fame is much restricted by its specialized nature, there is no doubt that Panini’s grammar is one of the greatest intellectual achievements of any ancient civilization, and the most detailed and scientific grammar composed before the 19th century in any part of the world”.
George Cardona, a living Panini expert:
“Panini’s is the earliest complete treatise of its kind to have been preserved. Moreover this work has exalted status”.
All these four scholars are non-Indians. Will Witzel boldly declare that they have been inspired by patriotic feelings when they penned the extracts quoted above? Even a cursory reader will not fail to notice that every item in my article is fully supported by unassailable evidence. It is purely objective in nature. Witzel’s presumption that my article is an outcome of patriotism is sheer nonsense.
In contrast, I present here a few samples of patriotic writings.
Shakespeare, in Richard II:
This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demiparadise
This fortress built by nature for herself
This precious stone set in the silver sea
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Feared by their breed, and famous by their birth;
Renowned for their deeds afar from home
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land
Dear for her reputation through the world
England bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege.
Sir Walter Scott, in Lay of the last Minstrel
Breathes there the man whose soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said
This is my own my native land.
Witzel writes, “Daniel Baum has felt it necessary to correct the grammatical deficiency of Swaminathan” (I quote) and reproduces Daniel Baum’s comments that appeared in his Indo-Iranian list. We shall now see whether this statement contains any truth and whether Mr. Baum can propose any correction worth the name.
It requires no special skill to know that it is Witzel who has commissioned Baum to go through my article and offer adverse comments. The comments offered by Baum might have surely disappointed Witzel owing to the absence of personal attack and use of foul and pungent language in them.
The purpose of my penning the article is to highlight the fact that Panini and Sayana were thoroughly acquainted with the injunctive in both of its aspects, via, morphological and functional and to prevent the misapprehension that Witzel’s Open Page write up may create in the mind of the readers. In evidence of what I had said I had solely relied upon Panini’s sutras, Patanjali’s comments thereon, RV verses and Sayana’s comments thereon. I had not quoted from the works of any European writer in support of my statements since Panini and Sayana stand on their own legs and do not stand in need of support from any European Orientalist who will be appearing on the arena several centuries after their times. Any citation I had made or will make in the course of this article from their works is only to show their concurrence in respect of the issue on hand and not to derive and add any weight to Panini’s and Sayana’s writings. This fact I had clearly indicated in the first paragraph of my article, by the words “a close study of Sayana and Panini”. Any attempt therefore to assess my article with an invocation to the writings of the European Orientalists is unwarranted. I have freely availed the grammatical terms used in the works, on Sanskrit grammar, in English since the article is mainly meant for the English knowing readers.
With this preamble I now proceed on a critical examination of Baum’s comments.
Mr. Daniel Baum accepts unequivocally that Panini and Sayana were acquainted with the injunctive forms when he says “it is pretty obvious they were acquainted with the forms themselves”. But he also says that “he cannot comment on whether or not Panini or Sayana were acquainted with the functions of the injunctive”. He has not disclosed the evidence he has relied upon to arrive at the conclusion that Panini and Sayana were acquainted with the injunctive form.
Evidently he has to go to the works of Panini or Sayana in the original to ascertain whether they have known the injunctive. Secondhand information gathered from the studies carried on in the modern European languages, distanced by millennia, will never serve as a secure foundation to base any conclusion. If his assertion that Panini and Sayana were acquainted with the injunctive form is a result of a first hand knowledge of the Ashtadhyayi, then he must be able to express decisively about Panini’s acquaintance with the functions of the injunctive. There would have been no occasion for the non-committal statement ‘I cannot comment on whether or not Panini or Sayana were acquainted with the function of the injunctive’, to emerge. The study of the Ashtadhyayi would have unfailingly enabled him to come forward with a decisive statement. If Panini’s work in the original had not been consulted by him in this regard, then he is not competent to offer any comment on my article. I reiterate that my account of the injunctive in both of its aspects was entirely based on the grammatical rules of Panini. In fact, my account is only an English rendering of the rules. In my article I had referred to the rules concerned by the numbers of the chapters, sections and the rules.
Panini has elaborately dealt with the functions of all the verbs – tenses and moods, ten in total according to his scheme – by a large number of sutras nestling in the second, third and fourth sections of the third chapter of his work. In the light of the above-mentioned facts the comment “the description of the functions of the injunctive as found in the article are quite inaccurate” cannot sustain. I also quoted from A. A. Macdonell’s Vedic grammar, “The general meaning of the injunctive expresses a desire combining the senses of the subjunctive, the optative and the imperative”.
Never had I said that the augment is optional in general. Nor had I referred to any rule of Panini that enjoins the augment optionally. Nor had I written that the injunctive form takes the augment optionally. All the five examples I had given for the injunctive are augmentless forms; I had not included even one augmented form in the list. Therefore the statements “the augment is probably never optional”, “Thus the augmentless forms should always be termed injunctives” meant as a corrective to my description of the injunctive form cannot claim legitimate accommodation in the midst of the comments and as such unwarranted. It presupposes what I had never said and is therefore baseless. Perhaps Mr. Baum thinks that the word ‘bahulam’ in P VI.4.75 (I had cited) means option. In Panini’s sutras, ‘bahulam’ is employed to convey more than one sense and option is one among them. Bahulam meaning option holds good only in the case of the augmentless indicative.
Further the statement that “the augment is simply to be dropped when the poet felt like it” involves self-contradiction. It implies that the poet does not drop it when he does not feel like it. The clause ‘when the poet felt like it’ is meant to necessarily exclude the opposite (when he did not feel like it) as otherwise it becomes superfluous and has no place in the sentence. If the augmentless forms are always injunctive how could the poet use an augmented form? When he does not drop it the augment becomes optional, an instance of blatant contradiction.
An important note on augment (agama) dropping (lopa) and option (vibhasha)
Augment, dropping, option and the like are certain devices, adopted by the ancient Sanskrit grammarians, to enable the students to learn the formation of words easily (laghuna upayena) with minimum effort (alpena yatnena) and in less time. Patanjali observes, “Very extensive indeed is the domain of words”, “There is no easier method other than Vyakarana in learning words”, “Will learn vast expanse of words with minimum effort”. These devices have no function in the actual language. Finished words are already available in the language. The speaker chooses the words capable of conveying his ideas. Both the scholar and the layman do not fashion words either by dropping some element from (bhavati, bhavat), or by adding some element to (dattva, dattvaya), the existing word. Nor do they optionally effect an addition or dropping (ahni, ahani, janah, janasah).
An ordinary individual (with moderate learning or no learning) even without a knowledge of the grammatical devices is able to clothe his ideas in a correct and easily understandable language. Patanjali expresses this in a humorous language. “When one wants to do some work with a jar he goes to the potter and requests him to make a jar for his use. Whereas a person who wants to express by means of words does not go to the residence of a grammarian and request him to manufacture words for his use. Even without going to the grammarian he simply gathers the ideas in his mind and makes them known by the utterance of proper words”.
Reverting to the foregoing discussion, the poet does not fashion the injunctive from an augmented past tense form by dropping the augment. Both the augmented and augmentless forms are already there in the language he speaks. He picks up the augmented or augmentless forms according to his requirements. In a prose composition the author can freely exercise his option. But in a metrical composition like the RV Samhita, his freedom for option becomes restricted and he has to abide by the exigencies of the metre. Exercise of option could take place only in respect of the past indicative and not the injunctive.