Shiva Sutras
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Shiva Sutras

The ?iva·s?tras, technically ak?ara·sam?mn?ya, variously called m?he?vari s?tri, praty?h?ra·s?tri, var?a·sam?mn?ya, etc., refer to a set of fourteen aphorisms devised as an arrangement of the sounds of Sanskrit for the purposes of grammatical exposition as carried out by the grammarian Pini in the Adhy?y?.[1][2]

Pini himself uses the term ak?ara·sam?mn?ya whereas the colloquial term "Shiva sutra" is a later development, as per claims by Nandike?vara in his Kik?, that the god ?iva sounded his drum fourteen times to reveal these sounds to Pini. They were either[a] composed by Pini to accompany his Adhy?y? or predate him.[1][2][3]

Text and notation

  1. a i u ?
  2. ? ? K
  3. e o ?
  4. ai au C
  5. ha ya va ra ?
  6. la ?
  7. ña ma ?a ?a na M
  8. jha bha Ñ
  9. gha ?ha dha ?
  10. ja ba ga ?a da ?
  11. kha pha cha ?ha tha ca ?a ta V
  12. ka pa Y
  13. ?a ?a sa R
  14. ha L

Each verse consists of a group of basic Sanskrit phonemes (i.e. open syllables consisting either of initial vowels or consonants followed by the basic vowel "a") followed by a single 'dummy letter', or anubandha, conventionally rendered in upper case and named 'IT' by Pini.


This allows Pini to refer to groups of phonemes with praty?h?ras, which consist of a phoneme-letter and an anubandha (and often the vowel a to aid pronunciation) and signify all of the intervening phonemes. Praty?h?ras are thus single syllables, but they can be declined (see Adhy?y? 6.1.77 below). Hence the praty?h?ra aL refers to all phonemes (because it consists of the first phoneme of the first verse (a) and the last anubandha of the last verse (L)); aC refers to vowels (i.e., all of the phonemes before the anubandha C: i.e. a i u ? ? e o ai au); haL to consonants, and so on.


Note that some praty?h?ras are ambiguous. The anubandha ? occurs twice in the list, which means that you can assign two different meanings to praty?h?ra a? (including or excluding ?, etc.); in fact, both of these meanings are used in the Adhy?y?. On the other hand, the praty?h?ra haL is always used in the meaning "all consonants"--Pini never uses praty?h?ras to refer to sets consisting of a single phoneme.


From these 14 verses, a total of 280 praty?h?ras can be formed: 14*3 + 13*2 + 12*2 + 11*2 + 10*4 + 9*1 + 8*5 + 7*2 + 6*3 * 5*5 + 4*8 + 3*2 + 2*3 +1*1, minus 14 (as Pini does not use single element praty?h?ras) minus 11 (as there are 11 duplicate sets due to h appearing twice); the second multiplier in each term represents the number of phonemes in each. But Pini uses only 41 (with a 42nd introduced by later grammarians, ra?=r l) praty?h?ras in the Adhy?y?.


The Ak?arasam?mn?ya puts phonemes with a similar manner of articulation together (so sibilants in 13 ?a ?a sa R, nasals in 7 ñ m ? ? n M). Economy [?] is a major principle of their organization, and it is debated whether Pini deliberately encoded phonological patterns in them (as they were treated in traditional phonetic texts called Pr?ti?akyas) or simply grouped together phonemes which he needed to refer to in the Adhy?y? and which only secondarily reflect phonological patterns.[b] Pini does not use the Ak?arasam?mn?ya to refer to homorganic stops,[c] but rather the anubandha U: to refer to the palatals c ch j jh he uses cU.


As an example, consider Adhy?y? 6.1.77: iKa? ya? aCi:[4]

  • iK means i u ? ?,
  • iKa? is iK in the genitive case, so it means ' in place of i u ? ?;
  • ya? means the semivowels y v r l and is in the nominative, so iKa? ya? means: y v r l replace i u ? ?.
  • aC means all vowels, as noted above
  • aCi is in the locative case, so it means before any vowel.

Hence this rule replaces a vowel with its corresponding semivowel when followed by any vowel, and that is why dadhi together with atra makes dadhyatra. To apply this rule correctly we must be aware of some of the other rules of the grammar, such as:

  • 1.1.49 ?ah? sth?neyog? which says that the genitive case in a sutra signifies "in the place of"[5]
  • 1.1.50 sth?ne 'ntaratama? which says that in a substitution, the element in the substitute series that most closely resembles the letter to be substituted should be used (e.g. y for i, r for ? etc.)[6]
  • 1.1.71 ?dir antyena sahet? which says that a sequence with an element at the beginning (e.g. i) and an IT letter (e.g. K) at the end stands for the intervening letters (i.e. i u ? ?, because the Ak?arasam?mn?ya sutras read i u ? ? K).[7]

Also, rules can be debarred by other rules:

  • 6.1.101 aKa? savar?e d?rgha? [8] teaches that vowels (from the aK praty?h?ra) of the same quality come together to make a long vowel, so for instance dadhi and indra? make dadh?ndra?, not *dadhyindra?. This aKa? savar?e d?rgha? rule takes precedence over the general iKa? ya? aCi rule mentioned above, because this rule is more specific.


Despite the possible combinations seen above, here are the 41 praty?h?ras in actual use by Pini:[9]

  1. aL => all sounds [?]
  2. ac => vowels [?]
  3. haL => consonants [?]

Vowel groups

  1. 1aK => a i u ? ? [?]
  2. a? => a i u
  3. iC => i u ? ? e o ai au [?]
  4. iK => i u ? ?
  5. uK => u ? ?
  6. eC => e o ai au [?]
  7. e? => e o
  8. aiC => ai au

Vowel and consonant groups

    1. a? => vowels and voiced consonants
    2. aM => vowels, h, semivowels, and nasal stops
    3. a? => vowels, h, and semivowels
    4. a? => vowels, h, and semivowels other than l
    5. i? => vowels other than a; h and semivowels

    Consonant group

    1. ha? => voiced consonants [?]
    2. yaR => semivowels, stops, and voiceless spirants
    3. yaY => semivowels and stops
    4. yaÑ => semivowels, nasal stops, jh bh
    5. yaM => semivowels and nasal stops
    6. ya? => semivowels [?]
    7. vaL => consonants other than y
    8. va? => voiced consonants other than y
    9. raL => consonants other than y and v
    10. ñam => nasal stops
    11. maY => stops other than ñ
    12. ?aM => ? ? n
    13. jhaL => consonants other than nasal stops and semivowels
    14. jhaR => nonnasal stops, voiceless aspirants
    15. jhaY => nonnasal stops
    16. jha? => voiced nonnasal stops
    17. jha? => voiced aspirated stops
    18. bha? => voiced aspirated stops other than jh
    19. ja? => voiced unaspirated nonnasal stops
    20. ba? => voiced unaspirated nonnasal stops other than j
    21. khaR => voiceless stops, voiceless aspirants
    22. khaY => voiceless stops
    23. chaV => ch ?h th c ? t
    24. cay => voiceless unaspirated stops
    25. caR => voiceless unaspirated stops, voiceless spirants
    26. ?aL => spirants
    27. ?aR => voiceless spirants

    See also

    Organization of sounds in other languages


    1. ^ Since hardly any grammatical literature from before Pini has survived, it might be impossible to determine this either way
    2. ^ as argued by Paul Kiparsky and Wiebke Petersen, for example
    3. ^ stop consonants produced at the same place of articulation


    1. ^ l?ghava
    2. ^ var?as
    3. ^ svaras
    4. ^ vyañjanas
    5. ^ sam?n?k?aras - simple vowels
    6. ^ n?mins - retroflexing vowels
    7. ^ sandhyak?aras - 'complex' vowels
    8. ^ gho?avats
    9. ^ anta?sthas


    1. ^ a b Böhtlingk, p. 1.
    2. ^ a b Vasu, pp. 1-2.
    3. ^ Cardona, §131.
    4. ^ Vasu, Book VI, pp. 1074-1075.
    5. ^ Vasu, Book I, pp. 36-37.
    6. ^ Vasu, Book I, pp. 37-39.
    7. ^ Vasu, Book I, pp. 64-65.
    8. ^ Vasu, Book VI, p. 1087.
    9. ^ Cardona, §129.


    • Böhtlingk, Otto (1887). Pâ?ini's Grammatik. Motilal Banarsidass.
    • Vasu, Chandra (1891). The Adhy?y? of Pini. Motilal Banarsidass. (Books I to VIII reflecting the original)
    • Cardona, George (1997). Pini - His work and its traditions. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-0419-8.

    External links

    • [1] Paper by Paul Kiparsky on 'Economy and the Construction of the ?iva s?tras'
    • [2] Paper by Andras Kornai relating the ?iva s?tras to contemporary Feature Geometry.
    • [3] Paper by Wiebke Petersen on 'A Mathematical Analysis of Pini's ?iva s?tras.'
    • [4] Paper by Madhav Deshpande on 'Who Inspired Pini? Reconstructing the Hindu and Buddhist Counter-Claims.'

  •   This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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