Where was PANini inspired? (Part II)

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 9 04:11:34 UTC 1998

  Where does 'Siva or Avalokitesvara inspire?

Hindus claim Panini was inspired by 'Siva.
Buddhists say it is actually from Avalokitezvara.
These competing claims originated in
the Tamil India. Reasons are given below.

With kind regards,
N. Ganesan

Section A: From Sanskrit Sources:

a) Inspired by 'Siva:
 Within the Paninian tradition, the first author to make
reference to this story is Haradatta, the author of the
commentary PadamaJjari on the KaazikaavRtti. In the
introductory section (vol. I, pp. 8-9), Haradatta
(10th century?) says, about PaaNini's extraordinary ability
 to see the entire infinite language:

    kathaM punar asmadAdInAM sarvalakSyadarzitvam? mA
    bhUd asnadAdInAm, asmadviziSTAnAM maharSINAM sambhavati/
    yasya vA IzvarAnugrahaH sa sarvaM pratyakSayati/
    atraiva hi laukikAH smaranti -

     yenAkSarasamAmnAyam adhigamya maheZvarAt
     kRtsnaM vyAkaraNam proktaM tasmai pANinaye namaH

    iti/ akSarasamAmnAyaM ca vyAcakSate devasUtrANiti

    How can folks like us see all the target language?
    Perhaps not for folks like us, but such [an ability]
    is possible for the great sages who are superior
    to us. Or, a person who has been graced by God can
    directly see everything. In this context, the learned
    of the world remember, "Salutations to Panini, who
    having acquired the akSarasamAmnAya from the
    Great Lord [='Siva] narrated the whole grammar."
    They call the akSarasamAmnAya by the term devasUtra.
 >>> from Ref. 1.

 Haradatta is a South Indian author from the Chola area.

b) Inspired by Avalokitezvara:


Tibetan Lamas, Bu-ston (13th century) and TArAnAtha (1608 AD) expand
on ManjusrimUlakalpa. This sutra called Manjusrimulakalpa
(10th century) awards a lower form of enlightenment
(=zrAvakabodhi) to Panini. It never explicitly says that
 Avalokitezvara taught Panini the grammar nor more specifically
akSarasamAmnAya (alphabet).

Manjusrimulakalpa is one of the very few buddhist
Sanskrit texts that have survived in India. It was found
at Manalikkara Matam near PadmanAbhapuram, a stone's throw
from Cape Comarin and was edited by
T. Ganapati Sastri at Tiruvananthapuram.
Possibly this is from Muulavaasam buddhist monastery,
few miles from Potiyil mountain in the deep South.
An avalokitezvara from Muulavaasam monastery
was discovered in Gandhara region with the
inscription, 'dakSiNApatho mUlavAsa lokanAtha'.

Avalokita is said to be a resident of
Potalaka. GaNDavyUha(2-3 centuries AD) and Taaranaatha
locate Potalaka in the deep South. Potalaka is
 located in the Malaya mountains by Hsuan Tsang.
N. Dutt, B. C. Law, S. Hikosaka, K. A. Nilakanta Sastri
and others identify Potalaka with Potiyil in the
Malaya mountain range.

Candragomin, who saved the Mahabhasya tradition from
extinction went and settled down at the Mount Potalaka.
He is still living there, according to Taranatha.

Hsuan Tsang says that in Potalaka od South India,
"to the people at the foot of the mountain
Potalaka who pray for a sight of the Bodhisattva,
he appears sometimes as a Pazupata TIrthika
or as Mahezvara" (Watters 1905: p. 229).
We have inscriptional evidence for
the presence of pAzupathas in a management role
of the temple at kuRRAlam at the foot of potiyil
in the tenth century.

Manimekalai has an episode where a vidyAdhara
couple make a pilgrimage to Potiyil.
Manimekalai, the only Buddhist epic (6th century)
we have, does not say whether Potiyil is Buddhist or Hindu.

Hsuan Tsang says that Panini was born in
the Northwest and inspired by 'Siva.
He never says that Panini in the Northwest
was inspired by Avalokitezvara.

> From Hsuan Tsang, we understand that
In the Northwest they make a belated
conversion of Panini to Buddhism.
After 500 years of his times, Panini was reborn
a bright boy who converts to Buddhism.
We are NOT told by Hsuan Tsang that
this boy, a reincarnation of
Panini after some 500 years, was
inspired by Avalokitezvara.

DharmakIrti, the author of the grammar RUpAvatAra is
from South India. Malur Rangacharya in his RUpAvatAra edition
done at Madras guesses him to be the Ceylonese DharmakIrti,
author of bAlAvatAra. When Rangacharya made this guess,
Manimekalai, the Tamil Buddhist epic was not discovered.
After that, 10s of avalokitas and 100s of buddha statues
have been discovered standing in maNDapams of
Siva or Vishnu temples. Inst. of Asian studies, Madras
is bringing out a book on these Tamil Buddhist sculptures.
But Rupavatara is attested in many
inscriptions widely in Tamilnadu and Kerala at least 100 years
before the time of bAlAvatAra."At eNNAyiram in South Arcot
the Chola Rajendra I endowed a large collection
of (1) 270 junior students of whom 40 studied the
elements of grammar according to the rUpAvatAra..."
(A History of South India by K. A. Nilakanta
Sastri, p.323). He must have been named after the famous
logician,  DharmakIrti who hailed from Tamil South

DharmakIrti, a Buddhist of 10th century, cites
the same verse as quoted by Haradatta earlier.
First is that prayer to Mahesvara and then only
to Buddha. In the Mahayana Buddhist context,
it means that DharmakIrti makes a prayer to Bodhisattva
Avalokitezvara first and then only to Buddha.

Section B: From Tamil Sources:

c) Inspired by 'Siva

    uzakkum maRai nAlin2um uyarntu, ulakam Otum
    vazakkin2um, matik kaviyin2um, marapin2 nATi, -
    nizal poli kaNicci, maNi neRRi umiz cegkaN,
    tazal purai cuTark kaTavuL tanta tamiz tantAn2.

                                              - kampan2 2762
                                      (9th or 11th century)
    Here, Kamban in his Ramayana,  talks of Agastya
    teaching Tamil in Potiyil mountain.

    "Greater than the four Vedas,
       widely used by common folk, and
       also in learned poetry, Tamil excels;
     Agastya teaches that Tamil,
       which he learnt from 'Siva,
          holding an axe,
          with a third eye red as a ruby, and
          with a body glowing like fire."

The 11-12th century Saivaite text Nandikezvara kArikA/kAzikaa
says that from 'Siva's dance the Sanskrit
letters were born.

nRttAvasAne naTarAjarAjo nanAda DhakkAM navapaJcavAram/
uddhartukAmaH sanakAdisiddhAn etad vimarze zivasUtrajAlam //
  (MaAabhASya (nirNayasAgar ed.) I:132

This text is most likely Southern and not Kashmiri as the name, naTarAja
never occurs in Kashmiri 'Saivaite texts. Also,
Nandikezvara Kaarikaa is never quoted in any Kashmiri
text. Furthermore, Upamanyu,  the commentator
on this work refers to Chidambaram Nataraja's dance
and, myths of  RSis like vyAgrapAda and pataJjali.
Upamanyu bhakta vilAsam is a popular Sanskrit text
retelling the PeriyapurANam stories of Tamil 'Saivaite
saints (nAyanmAr). Prof. Raffaele Torella informed that "This
is strongly my impression" when I queried whether Nandikezvara KArikA
is a Southern text. Tamil kuutta nUl, a dance treatise, (13-14th
century?) says: "From one side of 'Siva's drum comes Sanskrit
letters and the other side gives birth to Tamil
letters." This myth is retold in Kanchi purANam also.

(((Aside: Relations between Kashmir Saivism
and Southern Agamic and Tamil Saiva SiddhAntam  need to be explored
much further. Dance is celebrated in many poems of sangam texts.
Siva's dance is portrayed vividly many times in Tirumantiram,
CilappatikAram, Karaikkal Ammai's (fifth century) decads
of songs, Tevaram etc., For entry of Dance in Sanskrit
tradition, a) Indu Sekhar, Origin and decline of Sanskrit
drama, b) S. A. Srinivasan, On the origin of Natyasastra,
For Nataraja concept, see Zvelebil, AnandatANDava mUrti.
A. Danielou, While the Gods play talks of Dravidian
part in SaivAgamas. Compared to Tamil sources, Siva's dance
in Mahabharata and Kumarasambhava are meagre, only a
couple of words. Kalidasa more over, has Southern connexions
(cf. G. Hart's works)))).

d) Inspired by Avalokitezvara:

 Ayum kuNattu avalOkitan2 pakkal akattiyan2 kETTu
 Eyum puvan2ikku iyampiya taNTamiz IGku uraikka
 nIyum uLaiyO? en2il, 'karuTan2 cen2Ra nIL vicumpil
 Iyum paRakkum', itaRku en2 kolO collum! EntizaiyE.

                                     - puttamittiran2Ar,
                                        (11th century)

 This is from a 11th century grammar, ViiracOziyam.
 Its author is puttamittiran2 (Buddhamitra), the
 Chieftain of PonpaRRi naaDu.

 He says in the foreword (paayiram) of the book that
 AvalOkitiisvara taught Tamil to Agastya first.
 In such explicit terms, Avalokitezvara never inspires
 Panini in Sanskrit texts at all.

    "My dear girl, adorned with jewels!
       My attempt at explaining Tamil grammar
       which Agastya learnt from Avalokitesvara,
        is like a house fly trying to follow
        the Garuda's path in the big sky."


Tamil (its grammar), Agastya, Potiyil (Potalaka), 'Siva
are intimately related in all possible combinations
in post-classical Tamil literature all the time.
'Siva inspiring Panini within the Paninian tradition
is told for the first time by Haradatta of Chola area.
Around 10th century, manjusrimulakalpa, which may well be Southern,
tells Avalokitezvara awarded 'srAvakabodhi enligtenment
to Panini. Outside the Paninian tradition, Hsuan Tsang
 narrates Panini being inspired by 'Siva in 'Salatura.
 This story he might have heard during his years
in the South. However Tsang might have narrated it during his
travelogue writing on 'Salatura and its most famous son, Panini.
In any case, there is no association of 'Siva and
Panini before Hsuan Tsang. No Sanskrit text tells us
that Avalokitezvara inspired Panini to write his grammar
whereas in Tamil viiracOziyam tells us that
Avalokitezvara taught Tamil grammar to Agastya.

Lokesh Chandra,1979, ODDiyAna: a new interpretation says:
"the acculturation of 'Siva into Buddhist tradition
may have takenplace in South India and thence it was
transmitted to Indonesia where 'Siva-Buddha
syncretism was deeply entrenched."

Given that 'Siva teaches Tamil grammar to Agastya is attested
early in Tamil and that competing Buddhist and Hindu claims
originate and evolve both in Southern Sanskrit and Tamil
texts, then these ideas about Panini's inspirers travelled

With kind regards,
N. Ganesan

Inspiration for this writeup came from M. Deshpande,
Who Inspired Panini?  Reconstructing the Hindu and Buddhist
Counter-Claims", Journal of the American Oriental Society,
117.3 (1997), pp. 444-465. (Ref.1). My e-disscussions with
Prof. Deshpande and Dr. S. Palaniappan are always useful.
My thanks to them. - N. Ganesan

Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list