Vedas – Dr. VR, Lecture Series #2 – Vedic Grammar

Vaidika Vyaakarana Granta

The grammar for the Sanskrit language used in the worldly affairs is different from grammar of Vedic literature.  वेद भाषा / वैदिक भाषा and वेद साहित्य / वैदिक साहित्य – the Vedic language and the Vedic literature were obtained by the Rishis.  They are Aarsha  आर्ष – archaic or ancient or old – अत्यन्त प्राचीन. The grammar created based on this literature is called Vaidika Vyaakarana. The grammar follows the language. There is some difference in the grammar of the worldly language used for communicating which is referred to as Samskrita Grammar. During 500 BC, Panini analyzed these worldly or लौकिक and Vedic Samskruta languages and created a work called अष्टाध्यायी Ashtaadhyaayi. In this chapter, even though he had the given importance to the laukika samskrit, he also covered the grammar for Vaidika Bhaashaa. This is the specialty of Panini’s work.

Vedic Grammar

The Vedic verses were perceived or received by the sages when they were in a transcendental state or in the Samadhi stithi during their yogic meditation. Vedas are interpreted in an Alaukika manner by means of Yogic interpretation. They do not have worldly or laukika interpretation. They are always studied along with the Vedangas that are present to help in understanding the Vedas.


The six Vedangas are Shiksha, Chandas, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Kalpa, Jyotisha. The six vedangas वेदाङ्गाः are taken to be in 3 groups with 2 in each group where they complement each other as Shiksha and Chandas, Nirukta and Vyakarana, Kalpa and Jyotisha.

Shiksha and Chandas

Shiksha deals with information about pronunciation. Chandas deals with the meters, for example, it involves the identification of Guru and Laghu, counting the number of aksharas, etc. Chandas is like the body and Shiksha makes it useful. There are two kinds of meter. The first is the Arya meter which is based on the Maatras based on how much time is to be taken like 12 maatras, and the other meter is based on the gana-s which are groups of three akshara-s with Guru and Laghu.  To adjust for the chandas, sometimes the changes could be made between dreega and hrasva. There the knowledge of pada is important to get the right word which has been slightly altered to suit the chandas. Chandas is different from Svara. First one is the vrutta chandas or maatra chandas and the other one is the varna chandas.


Nirukta deals with Artha or the meaning. It would conclude the meaning of certain terms, taking into account the format of the word, the context in which the word is used, some other related terms which have certain meaning. Yaaska in Nirukta derives the meaning of the words by linking it to other information that is available. He is an etymologist who traces the meaning of each word to some root. This is called अर्थनिर्वचन | Nirukta has artha nirvachana which clarifies how the word has to be understood. Nirukta comprises only the Vedic terms.  The meanings are determined based on the accents in the Vedic Suktas.


Vyakarana has pada nirvachana – clarifying which is the right term or साधुपदम्. The Vedic karmas of yagna are dependent on the words. A wrong word could result in bad results. The different declinations are covered in Grammar. For Vyaakarana, the main text that is available now is only Panini’s Ashtaadhyaayi in which in the chapter called स्वरवैदिकप्रकरण, he explains the grammar applicable to Vedas. Before Panini’s अष्टाध्यायी, nine works – kaashaa, krutsnaa, etc. seem to have existed which are not available now. There is another opinion that these are not names of works. They are the names of Rishis who had provided the descriptions about certain Vedic words. So these Rishis are considered as शाब्दिकाः and are not treated as Grammarians or वैयाकरणाः as grammar is much more than just the शब्द as Grammar has 5 parts – पञ्चाङ्गव्याकरण | So Panini’s Ashtaadhyaayi is the first grammatical work वैदिकव्याकरण.  It elaborates about various aspects like Sandhi, Samaasa, Swara, Lopa, Aagamaa, etc.

Kalpa and Jyotisha

Kalpa is about the Vedic Yajnas.  कल्पते अनेन इति – कल्पा | It organizes the Vedic Yajnas. Kalpate means organizes. Jyotisha clarifies the appropriate time to perform the rites.

Importance of Swaras

Shiksha deals with pronunciation of the aksharas. Pronunciation is extremely important because the meaning changes when the swara changes, that is, when the stress is placed on a different letter the meaning itself changes in the Vedic verses. “स्वरभेदात् अर्थभेदः”

A beautiful analogy from the Vedic texts is stated to highlight the danger of wrong pronunciation यथेन्द्रशत्रु: स्वरतोऽपराधात्. The intention of the sacrifice was to produce a son, who would be the enemy of Indra. But due to wrong accent, Indra himself becomes the enemy of the son. इन्द्रशत्रुर्वर्धस्व is the example given to show how a flaw in the Vedic accent could bring disaster to the performer of the yagna. A sage named Tvashta, who failed to gain the position of Indra, wanted his son वृत्र to win over Indra and take his post. In इन्द्रशत्रुर्वर्धस्व, if the Udaatta is in the beginning, i.e., aadyudaatta, it becomes Tatpurusha samaasa – इन्द्रस्य शत्रुः वर्धस्व – Let the person who is Indra’s enemy or slayer grow (for killing Indra) | In इन्द्रशत्रुर्वर्धस्व, if the Udaatta is at the end, i.e., antoodaatta, it becomes Bahuvrihi samaasa – इन्द्रः शत्रुः यस्य सः – Let the person to whom Indra will be the enemy or slayer grow (for getting killed by Indra) | Due to the way the word was pronounced, the rishi got a son who became an enemy to Indra. This son got killed by Indra as the Rishi had made a mistake in pronouncing the word, while conducting the Yagna.

[ Side note: When we offer oblations in a sense of selfless sacrifice, the prakruti or nature gets certain energy. As the nature has been enriched by these offerings, it in turn gives benefits to the humanity. In course of time, Yagnas were performed with specific intentions and those wishes also got fulfilled. ]

[ Side note: कुपुत्रो जायते न क्वचिदपि कुमाता | ]

Mistakes could happen while reciting the mantras. Hence there is a rule that Vedas have to be recited after listening to the recitation of the guru. गुरुच्चारनामनु वेदोच्चारणं करणीयम् इति नियम: |


The information about swaras that Panini has mentioned in the svara-vaidika-prakaranam chapter is very important for our understanding of the Swaras in Vedic mantras. Apart from this, Praadishakyas प्रातिशाख्य also have some information. Praadishakyas प्रातिशाख्य are the earliest of the Shikshas. Shikshas are the works dealing with phonetic aspects.  Shiksha is one of the six Vedaangaas.


In this work – Ashtaadhyaayi, Panini has a prakaranam or chapter on Vedic Accent called svara-vaidika-prakaranam स्वर-वैदिक-प्रकरणम्. Here he has explained about these swaras in the Vedas. उच्चैः उदात्तः॥ नीचैः अनुदात्तः॥ समाहारः स्वरितः॥  Since Panini has covered the grammar for Vedas too along with the grammar for व्यावहारिक भाषा or the spoken language, Panini’s अष्टाध्यायी is considered as वेदाङ्गव्याकरण Vedaanga vyaakarana.


During the recitation of the Vedas, we use 3 accents namely Udatta उदात्त, Anudatta अनुदात्त and Svarita स्वरित. If there is any change in these, then the result will be bad.  These Swaras occur in the Samhita Patha of Vedas which is the core of the Vedic literature.  (For more details, see the next lecture in this series).


Note that there are eleven ways of reciting the Vedas were designed – संहिता पाठ Samhita, Pada, Krama, Jata, Maalaa, Sikha, Rekha, Dhwaja, Danda, Rathaa, Ghana. Samhita is where there is no split. The samhita was travelling by oral transmission only. Different methods of recitation with various permutation and combination were practiced. This is for the preservation and memorization. This was important to be memorized as it was transmitted only orally without any written medium.  In the pada paatha, the words are split. So if the student had heard it differently, they would get clarity on the word when they study the pada patha. Gaana patha is the most complex one. There will be a set pattern along with repetitions.  1 2 3 4;  2 3 4 5;  …. or with repetitions like 11 22 3, etc.


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