Where was Panini inspired? (Part II)

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 24 15:16:00 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.

I was checking VeeracOzhiyam, the 11th century Tamil grammar
by a Buddhist author. This is only one of the two
surviving buddhist tamil works,the rest were destroyed.

Buddhamitran, the ViiracOziyam author, tells that
"Avalokitezvra's fame has several 100,000 facets and
this Tamil is that Avalokitezvara's Tamil".
This is in addition to his declaration about
Avalokitezvara teaching Tamil to Agastya in the
foreword of the book.

"pan2n2URaayiram vitattil poliyum pukaz avalOkitan2 meyttamiz"
     - the last poem in kiriyaapatap paTalam, viiracOziyam.

This is an important new evidence that Buddhist grammarians
fostered Tamil by the grace of Avalokitezvara.

Manjusrimuulakalpa, 11th-12th centuries, awards a lower
form of enlightenment, zrAvakabodhi to Panini. This could very well
be a Southern text. (cf. Indology archives)

N. Ganesan

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.

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