From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Nighantu, NighaNtu, Nighantu

Religious tradition declares that all words including the words of our daily life and usage have been derived from the Vedas. As the volume of the Vedas grew through new revelations, there arose the need for proper and correct understanding of the words and phrases by which the Vedic rituals could be performed properly. Then the results alone can be predicated and attained.

Origin of Nighantu

This need led to the compilation of the Nighantu or the first Vedic Lexicon. This work commands the same respect as for Vedas. The compiler is not known. Yāska’s[1] commentary on it known as the Nirukta is available even now. Another known as Nighantu-nirvacana by Devarāja Yajvan[2] is also available. This work purports to supply additional material on the Nighantu.

Sections of Nighantu

The Nighantu has five adhyāyas or chapters. They are:

  • First three are known as the Naighantuka Kānda
  • Fourth as the Naigama Kānda
  • Last as the Daivata Kānda

Naighantuka Kānda

The Naighantuka Kānda deals with synonyms, the total numbers of words being 1341. The Naigama Kānda deals with homonyms[3] whose number comes to 278.

Daivata Kānda

The Daivata Kānda deals with the names of deities in the three regions:

  1. Earth
  2. Sky
  3. Heaven

They total up to 151. This takes the grand total of the words of the Nighantu to 1770.


The topics include:

  • Physical elements like the earth, water and air
  • Objects of nature like clouds, dawn, day and night
  • The human body and its limbs
  • Objects and qualities associated with people such as prosperity, anger and fighting
  • Physical abstract qualities like lightness and heaviness


If the word ‘nighaṇṭu’ is understood in a more general way as a ‘dictionary,’ the following Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionaries may be mentioned:

  1. Amarakośa of Amarasimha, also called Nāmalihgānuśāsana[4]
  2. Anekārthasamuccaya of Sāśvata[5]
  3. Anekārthadhvanimañjari of Mahākṣapaṇaka[6]
  4. Vaijayantīkośa of Yādavaprakāśa.[7]
  5. Abhidhānaratnamālā of Halāyudha[8] more popularly known as the Halāyudhakośa
  6. Nānārthaśabdakośa[9] by Medinīkara[10]

Nighaṇṭus or dictionaries dealing with special topics like botany and medicine were also composed in later times.


  1. He lived in 800 B.C.
  2. He lived in 12th cent. A. D.
  3. It is called as ekapadi.
  4. He lived in A. D. 500.
  5. He lived in 6th cent. A. D.
  6. He lived in A. D. 900.
  7. He lived in A.D. 1100.
  8. He lived in A. D. 950.
  9. He is also called as Medinīkośa.
  10. He lived in A. D. 1100.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore