By Swami Harshananda
Vyākaraṇa or grammar is one of the six Vedāñgas (‘limbs of the Vedas’, subsidiary sciences that help to understand the Vedas).
Out of the several vyākaraṇas of Sanskrit said to have existed, the Astādhyāyī of Pāṇīni is considered as the best and the most authoritative. Even today it is extremely popular and is studied enthusiastically by all the serious students of Sanskrit. (See ASTĀDHYĀYĪ for details.)
As in the case of many other ancient authors of well-known treatises, not much is known of Pāṇini also. From the meagre sources of the writings of Hiuen Tsang (A. D. 600-664) and the Kathāsaritsāgara
of Somadeva (11th cent. A. D.), he was the son of Sālaṅka, also known as Paṇina and Sāmana, and Dākṣī (or Dākṣā), and was born at the village Śālātura in Gāndhāra-deśa (the modern Kandahar in Afghanistan). Sometimes it is identified with Attock, now in the North-West Frontier province of Pakistan. Hence he was also known as Śālaṅka, Dāksīputra, Ahika as also Śālāturīya. He was a student of Varṣa who probably lived during the period of the Nandas (5th cent. B. C.). Kātyāyana, Vyāḍi and Indradatta were his classmates. Being ridiculed as a dullard by them, he is said to have got Lord Śiva’s grace through severe austerities and being blessed by him, composed his great work, the Astādhyāyi.
He is said to have met with his death in an encounter with a lion.
Several scholars have battled for years to fix his date. It ranges from 700 B.C. up to 350 B.C.
Apart from the Astādhyāyi (his magnum opus), he is said to have written another work called Jāmbavatl-parinaya.
Pāṇini mentions several grammarians who preceded him, like Āpiśali and Kāśakṛtsna.
The Vrtti of Vararuci (or Kātyāyana) and the Mahābhāsya of Patañjali (200 B. C.) are the two most well-known commentaries on his magnum opus.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore