Panini's ethnicity

krisna at krisna at
Wed Oct 18 03:54:46 UTC 1995

Anand Venkt Raman writes:
: >Sorry to wander off-topic, but I was reading a work titled "The Early 
: >Aryans of India" by S. B. Roy in which he writes that Panini was a 
: >Pathan. Is there any information to validate this claim?
: Several scholars including Sir Monier Williams suggest that Panini was
: a Pathan who moved to Pataliputra in the Maghadha empire from around
: the Taxila area in Pakistan. As to the proofs or grounds for these
: claims I have seen little.

Before we ponder Panini's Pathanicity, let us clarify what it
means to have been a Pathan in the 4th century B.C.E or
thenabouts.  It is most certainly not the image of a Pathan that
the modern mind fed on Bollywood movies first thinks of.

Frits Staal is a linguist who believes that Panini was most
likely a native of the North-Western part of Pakistan (I don't
think Staal puts Panini as far west as Afghanistan).  Staal's
conclusion is partly based on the small differences between the
language that Panini described in aStadhyaayi and that which his
immediate commentators Patanjali and Katyayana wrote about
(Patanjali is thought to have lived in Northern India and
Katyayana in Southern India).  Apparently, the differences are
not completely explained in terms of the time difference between
these three grammarians (and Katyayana is further in time and
space from Panini and his commentaries show greater disagreement
with the "acharya").

Another line of investigation is to see if the aStadhyaayi shows
any evidence that Panini was familiar with the Iranian language
family.  Sanskrit/Vedic and Persian should have been sufficiently
diverged by his time.  A native of Afghanistan was more likely to
have been familiar with the Iranian languages.  My guess is that
Panini was familiar only with Sanskrit and Vedic (or he did not
let on his nativity in his writings).

I also recall reading somewhere (in one of Staal's books) that
Panini and his brother were both grammarians much revered by
their peers.  Both were also believed to have been killed by
tiger attacks on a Tuesday (and that is part of the reason why
that day is considered inauspicious for grammarians).  Ah the
stuff that legends are made of!  Anyone have more information on


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