Pavananti anticipates H.Scharfe by about 7-8 centuries

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Fri Feb 28 05:38:22 UTC 1997

In trying to explain the basis for the usage of the word 'suutra' in
Sanskrit,  Jan Gonda follows H. Sharfe and says " The name sutra (literally
"thread"), which is applicable  to both the whole work and its individual
sentences or paragraphs, has been variously explained, but there can be no
doubt that it is taken from the image of weaving and of woven material made
out of threads. A thread stretched out lengthwise as a warp to be crossed by
the woof may continue - then sutra becomes a name for the whole work - or it
may be cut on both sides of the frame - then sutra denotes the single
paragraphs." (Source: "The Ritual Sutras") He also says that other
explanations do not, or not satisfactorily account for the double use of the

In a Tamil grammatical work called "nannuul", literally meaning good book or
text, there is a description of how a text is produced. I am giving the
translation of nannuul.28 below.

"With words as cotton("panci"), utterance/verse ("panuval") as yarn ("iLai"),
poet/expert ("pulavan") knowing the right words as the woman, mouth as hand,
knowledge as spindle ("katir"), faultless text ("nuul") is

It should be noted that "panuval" and "nuul" are also used as synonyms for
texts. The fact that a woman is shown to be the weaver is in accord with
evidence in Classical Tamil poems showing women (especially widows) to be the

'nannuul'  was composed by a Jain ascetic named 'pavaNanti' who belonged to
the late 12th or early part of 13th century C.E.

S. Palaniappan

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