By Swami Harshananda
Vyākaraṇa or grammar is one of the six Vedāñgas. 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.
As in the case of many other ancient authors of well-known treatises, not much is known of Pāṇini also. From the meager sources of the writings of Hiuen Tsang and the Kathāsaritsāgara of Somadeva, he was the son of Sālaṅka, also known as Paṇina and Sāmana, and Dākṣī or Dākṣā, and was born at the village Sālātura in Gāndhāradeśa. Sometimes it is identified with Attock, now in the North-West Frontier province of Pakistan. Hence he was also known as Sālaṅka, Dākṣīputra, Ahika as also Sālāturīya.
He was a student of Varṣa who probably lived during the period of the Nandas. 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. Being blessed by him, he 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 Jāmbavatī-pariṇaya. Pāṇini mentions several grammarians who preceded him, like Āpiśali and Kāśakṛtsna. The Vrtti of Vararuci or Kātyāyana and the Mahābhāsya of Patañjali are the two most well-known commentaries on his magnum opus.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore