Prātiśākhya

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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Pratisakhya, PrAtiZAkhya, Praatishaakhya


Prātiśākhya (‘pertaining to every branch [of the Vedas]’)

The Vedas, which are the basic scriptures of Hinduism, are difficult to understand due to two primary reasons: the archaic language and the special phonetic system.

Out of the six Vedāṅgas—subsidiary sciences that help us to understand the Vedas—the first two, viz., the Śikṣā and the Vyākaraṇa (phonetics and grammar) help us to unravel these two aspects.

The Prātiśākhyas are the earlier phase of development of these two aspects. Literally the word means a treatise pertaining to the particular śākhā or branch of the Veda. Going by this definition, every śākhā of the Vedas—and there were hundreds of them as mentioned in allied works—must have had its own Prāti-śākhya.

However, only very few of them— belonging to all the four Vedas—have survived till today.

They generally deal with topics like pronunciation, intonation, sandhis (rules of conjunction of letters or words), shortening or lengthening of the vowels, rules connected with the breaking up of samhitā-pāṭha (Vedic mantras in sentences) into padapāṭha (constituent words) and so on.

A brief description of some of these Prātiśākhyas may now be attempted here:

The Rkprātiśākhya of Śaunaka (a disciple of Aśvalāyana)—also known as Śiksāśāstra and Pārsada-—is a very ancient and important work. It is closely

associated with the Samhitopanisad part of the Aitareya Āranyaka (3.1.1). It echoes

the opinions of the various ācāryas (teachers of Vedic tradition) like Māṇḍukeya, Mākṣarya, Agastya, Suravīra and others.

It is in the form of sutras or kaṇḍikas (short sentences in prose), with a commentary by Uvaṭa. Another commentary by Viṣṇumitra is available only for the first two sections.

There are three sections of six paṭalas (subsections) each, making a total of 18 paṭalas with 103 kaṇdikās.

The subjects dealt with are: sariijñā (definitions); sandhis or conjunctions like praśliṣta and udgrāha; svaras (intonations); some more sandhis like natisandhi; kramapāṭha (a kind of breaking up of Vedic sentences); opinions of various other teachers; defects of pronunciation and intonation; traditional methods of chanting the Vedas; about the various Vedic meters and allied subjects.

The Taittirīyaprātiśākhya has two praśnas (sections), each containing twelve adhyāyas or chapters. It is also in the form of sutras. There are three well-known commentaries: Padakramasadana of

Māhiṣeya; Tribhāsāratna of Somayārya and Vaidikābharana of Gopālayajvā.

The first of these is the most ancient one. It deals with a ‘prakṛtipāṭha’ or a basic reading of a Vedic sentence from which the padapāṭha and the kramapāṭha can be derived. In addition it also deals with the sandhis related to the topics under consideration.

Belonging to the Śukla Yajurveda group is the Vājasaneyi Prātiśākhya of Kātyāyana. He is different from the Kātyāyana who has written a vārttika on

Pāṇini’s Astādhyāyi, and lived earlier than Pāṇiṇi (500 B. C.).

It is also in the form of sutras and has eight adhyāyas. The topics discussed include the characteristics of technical terms used, sandhis, rules concerning padapāṭhas, types of svaras and about the letters of the alphabet. Opinions of the ancient teachers like Sākalya, Kāśyapa and Sākaṭāyana are mentioned. Many technical terms used by Pāṇini—such as udātta (level intonation), svarita (higher pitch intonation), āmredita (repetition) and lopa (elision)—are already found here.

Even some sutras of this work have been repeated in the Astādhyāyi.

As regards the Sāmavedic Prāti-śakhyas two treatises are available: the Puspasutra and the Rktantra.

The former is the composition of the sage Puṣpa. It has ten prapāṭhakas or chapters. Upādhyāya Ajātaśatru has written a bhāṣya on it. It deals mainly with the stobhas (musical interjections like ‘hā u,’ ‘hā i,’ ‘hum,’ ‘ho’, ‘ohā’ and so on, interpolated into a sāman) giving all the details connected with them.

The Rktantra belongs to the Kauthumaśākhā of Sāmaveda. There are 287 sutras in five prapāṭhakas or sections. Sākaṭāyana is its author. He precedes Yāska and Pāṇini since the latter authors have mentioned him.

It deals mainly with the origin of the letters of the alphabet, their varieties as also some technical terms. The places of production of the letters in the mouth and sandhis have also been touched upon. For the Atharvaveda, only one treatise is available now. It is the Saunakīyacatura-dhyāyikā. It leans more towards grammar than intonation and other details.

See also ŚIKSĀ and VEDĀNGAS.


References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

OLD CONTENT

Prātiśākhya (‘pertaining to every branch [of the Vedas]’) The Vedas, which are the basic scriptures of Hinduism, are difficult to understand due to two primary reasons: the archaic language and the special phonetic system. Out of the six Vedāṅgas—subsidiary sciences that help us to understand the Vedas—the first two, viz., the Śikṣā and the Vyākaraṇa (phonetics and grammar) help us to unravel these two aspects. The Prātiśākhyas are the earlier phase of development of these two aspects. Literally the word means a treatise per¬taining to the particular śākhā or branch of the Veda. Going by this definition, every śākhā of the Vedas—and there were hundreds of them as mentioned in allied works—must have had its own Prāti- śākhya. However, only very few of them— belonging to all the four Vedas—have survived till today. They generally deal with topics like pronunciation, intonation, sandhis (rules of conjunction of letters or words), short¬ening or lengthening of the vowels, rules connected with the breaking up of sariihitā- pāṭha (Vedic mantras in sentences) into padapāṭha (constituent words) and so on. A brief description of some of these Prātiśākhyas may now be attempted here: The Rkprātiśākhya of Saunaka (a disciple of Aśvalāyana)—also known as Śiksāśāstra and Pārsada-—is a very ancient and important work. It is closely associated with the Samhitopanisad part of the Aitareya Āranyaka (3.1.1). It echoes the opinions of the various ācāryas (teach¬ers of Vedic tradition) like Māṇḍṅkeya, Mākṣarya, Agastya, Suravīra and others. It is in the form of sutras or kaṇḍikas (short sentences in prose), with a com¬mentary by Uvaṭa. Another commentary by Viṣṇumitra is available only for the first two sections. There are three sections of six paṭalas (subsections) each, making a total of 18 paṭalas with 103 kaṇdikās. The subjects dealt with are: sariijñā (definitions); sandhis or conjunctions like praśliṣṭa and udgrāha; svaras (intona¬tions); some more sandhis like natisandhi; kramapāṭha (a kind of breaking up of Vedic sentences); opinions of various other teachers; defects of pronunciation and intonation; traditional methods of chanting the Vedas; about the various Vedic meters and allied subjects. The Taittirīyaprātiśākhya has two praśnas (sections), each containing twelve adhyāyas or chapters. It is also in the form of sutras. There are three well-known commentaries: Padakramasadana of Māhiṣeya; Tribhāsāratna of Somayārya and Vaidikābharana of Gopālayajvā. The first of these is the most ancient one. It deals with a ‘prakṛtipāṭha’ or a basic reading of a Vedic sentence from which the padapāṭha and the kramapāṭha can be derived. In addition it also deals with the sandhis related to the topics under consideration. Belonging to the Śukla Yajurveda group is the Vājasaneyi Prātiśākhya of Kātyāyana. He is different from the Kātyāyana who has written a vārttika on Pāṇini’s Astādhyāyi, and lived earlier than Pāṇiṇi (500 B. C.). It is also in the form of sutras and has eight adhyāyas. The topics discussed include the characteristics of technical terms used, sandhis, rules concerning padapāṭhas, types of svaras and about the letters of the alphabet. Opinions of the ancient teachers like Sākalya, Kāśyapa and Sākaṭāyana are mentioned. Many technical terms used by Pāṇini—such as udātta (level intonation), svarita (higher pitch intonation), āmredita (repetition) and lopa (elision)—are already found here. Even some sutras of this work have been repeated in the Astādhyāyi. As regards the Sāmavedic Prāti- śakhyas two treatises are available: the Puspasutra and the Rktantra. The former is the composition of the sage Puṣpa. It has ten prapāṭhakas or chapters. Upādhyāya Ajātaśatru has written a bhāṣya on it. It deals mainly with the stobhas (musical interjections like ‘hā u,’ ‘hā i,’ ‘hum,’ ‘ho’, ‘ohā’ and so on, interpolated into a sāman) giving all the details connected with them. The Rktantra belongs to the Kauthumaśākhā of Sāmaveda. There are 287 sutras in five prapāṭhakas or sections. Sākaṭāyana is its author. He precedes Yāska and Pāṇini since the latter authors have mentioned him. It deals mainly with the origin of the letters of the alphabet, their varieties as also some technical terms. The places of production of the letters in the mouth and sandhis have also been touched upon. For the Atharvaveda, only one treatise is available now. It is the Saunaklyacatura- dhyāyikā. It leans more towards grammar than intonation and other details. See also ŚIKṣĀ and VEDĀNGAS.