Lexicography, the Indian Method (1)

The ‘spoken word’ and ‘the meaning’ of that spoken word are the two inseparable and inherent properties of that word.

kaalidaasa, the greatest Sanskrit poet, compared these two properties of a word to the inseparable and eternal Indian Mythological couple ‘paarvati and parameaswara’ from whose parentage the entire universe has, according to the belief of the Hindus, come into existence.  kaalidaasa, therefore, promptly salutes this all powerful primary pair, in the introductory Sloeka of his work ‘raghuvaMSaM’ for favor of their blessings so that he should be showered with aplenty of wisdom from which words of these two inseparable properties may emanate in abundance and fill his kaavya.

Indian Semantics considers a spoken word as a Sabda, which means ‘a sound’ and which will naturally have a meaning to connote.  The four veadas, the genesis of which was attributed to the ‘four-headed god brahma’ do, in fact, contain Sabda, which denote some meaning and not meaningful words as we understand them today.   This ultimately made the Sanskrit language to have words, which can connote varied number of meanings in equally varied number of circumstances.  It has in fact been said that according to one ‘bhaashyakaara’ (commentator) of Sri Lalita sahasranaama, one akshara (meaning – one alphabet) in Sanskrit language has three hundred and sixty different meanings to connote.  This made the work of the Indian lexicographers a horrid affair and the most difficult one when compared to his counterparts in non-Indian languages in general and more particularly in English language, which is now spoken the world over.

According to Indian system of lexicography there were said to be ten different types of lexicons for the Sanskrit language, if one has to believe the words ‘daSavidha nighaMTuvulu’ which was in vogue amongst the learned-ones, the scholars until very recently. It may be now out of contention to have all the ten types of lexicons found in their original form, but of the ten types of lexicons amarakoeSamu (popularly known as amaraM) is the only one lexicon that is in use today for Sanskrit language. Other types such as meadini, halaayudha, viSvakoeSa, dhanuMjaya nighaMTuvu etc., have almost disappeared.



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