Part-2 Pre-Buddhist era And Sanskrit

West Point Of View:- Pre-Buddhist era Sanskrit Could be used solely for sacred rituals And not For laukika/vyavaharika (worldly). It was Buddhist Intervention That Led to sanskrit entering world of men in the sense of laukika uses  [1]


Response:The first attempt to systematically describe language as a whole was made in India by Panini (c. sixth to fifth-centuries BC) in classical Sanskrit. Panini, the celebrated grammarian, did not create the rules of grammar; he studied the actual usage of language and codified it. When discussing words in current usage, he does so under distinct headings:

Those that occur in Vedic rituals and those that occur in ordinary spoken language. He refers to these categories as chhanda (Vedic language) and bhasha (spoken language), respectively. The latter was used for worldly (laukika or vyavaharika) purposes. The root of the word ‘bhasha means ‘to speak manifestly’ or ‘to speak aloud’, implying the language was used Orally.


The very term ‘vyakarana’ (grammar) means the analytical  presentation of words and sentences that are being used . Hence, Sanskrit grammar is descriptive of the way the language is actually in use at a given time. This is significant, because if the grammar mentions words that pertain to ordinary vyavaharika or laukika activities, it would falsify Pollock’s claim that Sanskrit was used only for Vedic rituals and not for ordinary speech. Furthermore, as we shall see shortly, if certain Sanskrit words in common use refer to the activities of farmers, labourers and other common folks, it would disprove the claim that only brahmin elites
had the right to use it.


In the first chapter of his Mahabhashya, Patanjali says that Sanskrit in his time is in active use across all regions of India with certain words enjoying higher currency in some respects in certain regions. He gives concrete examples of how different regions use distinct words to say the same thing. This implies widespread usage across a vast geography, with local variations as one would expect when a language has informal usage as well. He uses the phrase ‘is spoken’ (bhashito bhavati) and not the phrase ‘is written’ to describe the usages.


As a communication technique, Patanjali presents a dialogue between a grammarian and the driver of a chariot over the correct usage of words;

the implication is that Sanskrit was also used by common persons for ordinary purposes- Patanjali’s Mahabhashya gives examples of ordinary usage on almost every page.

Sanskrit’s richness in idioms is clearly an indicator that its vocabulary emerged from daily usage by ordinary people- For example, there is a specific vocabulary of Sanskrit words pertaining to agriculture and various kinds of physical labour, realms where brahmin scholars were not active- There is a substantial Sanskrit vocabulary meant specifically for use in agriculture, indicating usage by common folks to discuss farming. Panini also designates certain words as being used by ruffians, gamblers and tricksters- Krishna Shastry cites several words that elitists would not consider appropriate for their own usage.


A more complex form of evidence is offered by the way in which certain words with clear and specific referents in the world of everyday life lost their initial restricted applications and became more general- In fact, many words first gained currency among common folks for ordinary purposes before grammarians introduced novel suffixes to incorporate them and their derivatives- These were clearly spoken informally before becoming formal. Many concerns of the grammarians reflect the problem of trying to formulate laws and rules in the activities that comprise worldly transactions, not only farming, but joking, teasing and so forth. It is clear throughout his grammar that Patanjali is frequently drawing these rules inductively from everyday speech and not from literary or liturgical usage. [2]


  1. Rajiv Malhotra, ‘The Battle For Sanskrit’ p.159 Harper Collins ISBN:978-93-5177-538-6
  2. Rajiv Malhotra, ‘The Battle For Sanskrit’ p.156-158 Harper Collins ISBN:978-93-5177-538-6

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