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Sphots, Jati and Dravya
Author Name : Sharda Narayanan,
Binding : Hardbound
10 Digit ISBN : 8124606099
13 Digit ISBN : 9788124606094
Edition : 1st edition
Year : 2012
Pages : ix, 281 p
Bibliographic Details : Bibliography; Index
Size : 23 cm
Weight (approx.) : 550 gm
Price : $ 28

About The Book

This research study is concerned with understanding the concept of jati and dravya in the Vakyapadiya of Bhartrhari.

The concept of jati is crucial to the enunciation of sphota, the single most outstanding contribution of Vakyapadiya to the field of language study. The concept, already connected with the import of a word in Nyaya-Vaisheshika and Mimamsa schools, was brought into the field of linguistics by Bhartrhari. This book traces the development of language study from the Vedic period to the darshanas. It deals with the main contribution of Bhartrhari to the field of linguistic study and its impact on philosophy in general. It then presents a systematic study of the jati, dravya and bhuyo dravya samuddeshas in the Vakyapadiya, explaining all the karikas. It also views the concept of jati in the philosophies of Nyaya and Mimamsa, its development over the centuries and the necessity of modifying some tenets owing to the sharp criticism from other schools especially Buddhism. The volume includes relevant quotations from Sanskrit texts and makes use of important commentaries like the Prakasha of Helaraja and Ambakartri of Pt. Raghunatha Sarma.

The scholarly work will prove invaluable to scholars and students of Indology, particularly those keen on studying Indian linguistic philosophy with special reference to Bhartrhari.

Book Contents

1. Introduction 

Survey of Literature 

2. The Linguistic Tradition 

The Need for a Holistic View 
The Fourfold Division 
Padartha and Vakyartha 
The Nyaya View 
The Nature of Sound as per Nyaya-Vaisheshika 

3. Linguistic Philosophy of Bhartrhari 

The Word and the World 
Vivartta and Parinama 
The Akhanda Vakya 
Bhartrhari on the Concept of Pratibha 
The Development of Sphota 
The Sphotavada of Kumarila Bhatta 
Parthasarathi Mishra's Views in the Shastradipika 
The Sphota Siddhi of Mandana Mishra 
Jayanta Bhatta's Criticism of Sphota 

4. Concept of Jati in VakyapadIya 

Introduction to Vakyapadiya 

5. The Jati and Dravya Samuddesas

The Jati Samuddesha 
The Dravya Samuddesha 
The Bhuyo Dravya Samuddesha

6. Samanya in the Realists Philosophy 

The Nyaya Concept of Samanya 
The Mimamsa Concept of Jati 
The Criticism of the Buddhists 
The Response of the Realist Schools 
The Apohavada of Kumarila Bhatta

7. Conclusion 

Nature of Sound 
Linguistic Philosophy of Bhartrhari 
Bhartrhari's Conception of Jati 


Appeared in The Hindu, August 17, 2012, Power of the Word

Bhartrihari is an early figure in Indian linguistics who lived around 5th century B.C. His work is known as Vakya-padiya (treatise on words and sentences). But the word ‘Vakya’ is the name of the Science of Mimamsa exegesis, and ‘Pada’ is the name of the Science of Grammar.

This work is deals with relevant issues in Mimamsa and Grammar such as Jati (class) and Dravya (substance). It has three sections -- Brahma Kanda, Vakya Kanda and Pada Kanda.

In the first section, the author enunciates the nature of Sabda-tattva and Sphota; in the second, he discusses individual sentences and in the third, he explains different aspects of Pada or word.

All words first convey their form before conveying the meaning. Thus all words primarily convey Jati. First the Sabda-jati is conveyed and then, Artha-jati. The separate individuals are called Dravyas.

Bhartrihari is in agreement with other schools such as early Nyaya-Vaiseshika, Mimamsa and Samkhya in regard to the concept of Jati. He belongs to the Sabda-Advaita (Monism of Speech) School which identifies language and cognition. But it should be kept in mind that his philosophy does not show the world as an illusion, as is well known in the later Advaita. For him, the world is a real projection of Brahman. Verbal communication is a real manifestation of the supreme principle whose essence is Sabda.

The special contribution of Bhartrihari is the Sphota theory but it was known much before his time. The word ‘Sphota’ is derived from the root ‘Sphut’ meaning ‘to burst’, ‘to open’ or ‘to spurt.’ Patanjali uses this word. Panini refers to an ancient grammarian Sphotayana who may be taken as the earliest propounder of the Sphota theory.

Bhartrihari says that the act of speech comprises three stages:

Conceptualisation by the speaker (Pasyanti – ‘idea’)

Actual act of speaking (Madhyama – ‘medium’)

Comprehension by the interpreter (Vaikhari – full utterance).

There is, of course, the highest stage called Para, which is identified with Brahman. For him, word is eternal. It is permanent, immutable and ever lasting. Word, its meaning and their relationship are eternal.

It is interesting to note that the celebrated rhetorician Anandavardhana, who propounded Dhvani (Suggestion) as the Soul of Poetry, says in his ‘Dhvanyaloka’ that he borrowed the term ‘dhvani’ from early grammarians (such as Patanjali and Bhartrihari) who refer to the letters produced through Sphota, as Dhvani.

The book under review is a brilliant exposition of the concepts of Sphota, Jati and Dravya as laid down by Bhartrihari. The concept of Jati is already well known to the followers of the Nyaya-Vaiseshika and Mimamsa schools. The book, organised in seven well-structured chapters, explores the unique way in which Bhratrihari showed the impact of linguistics on philosophy.

But it is a matter of regret that there are a number of printing mistakes in the text presented here (e.g., pp.12, 15, 16, 21, etc.). Notwithstanding this, Dr Sharada Narayanan needs to be lauded for this scholarly production which will be of great help to students of linguistic philosophy

Comment By Malhar Kulkarni
Appeared in Journal of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, Vol. 85, 2011-12

Bhartrhari’s Vakyapadiya (hereafter VP) has been a subject of rigorous study in the Sanskrit grammatical tradition for more than a thousand years. The text was translated into English along with the Sanskrit commentaries on it in the last 50 years. Some scholars also tried to translate the commentaries. The third kanda of this text consists of 14 sub chapters, called Samuddesas, which underwent this phenomenon essentially (for details, see Bibliography of Bhartrhari by Yves Ramseier, 1992). Yves Ramseier himself undertook to translate the Jatisamuddesa with the PrakirnaPrakasa, but have not reported for some time. Chaitali Dangarikar has partially translated the Jatisamuddesa with the PrakirnaPrakasa under the supervision of Malhar Kulkarni for her Ph.D. dissertation at IIT Bombay, Mumbai. On this backdrop, it becomes interesting to go through the present work and welcome it.
This is a revised version of the Ph.D. dissertation submitted by the author to the JNU which she eventually successfully defended. The work is divided into 7 chapters, along with the Bibliography and index. As the title suggests, the work is a philosophical study of the concept of Linguistic universal on the basis of the discussion available in the Jatisamuddesa of the VP. The 7 chapters are- 1. Introduction, 2. Linguistic Tradition, 3. Linguistic Philosophy of Bhartrhari, 4. Concept of Jati in VP 5. The Jati and Dravya Samuddesas, 6. Samanya in the Realist philosophy and 7. Conclusion.
In the introduction, the author summarizes the discussion in the ensuing chapters and also presents the survey of literature. The survey of literature does have no reference to the edition of the VP by W. Rau nor to important articles published by, for instance, Johannes Bronkhorst and Radhika Herzberger. This chapter also has traces of it being a dissertation primarily in the form of remarks such as ‘...this dissertation...’ (p. 4- twice), ‘...this thesis...’ (p. 4).
The second chapter discusses the development of language study from the Vedic period to the darsanas by discussing various aspects of vak and verbal cognition in various schools of Indian philosophy. This chapter covers topics like Levels of speech mentioned in Vedic literature, Levels of speech mentioned in VP, views of modern scholars on levels of speech in VP; Nyaya, Purvamimamsa and Vyakarana views on verbal cognition, nature of word, nature of relation between word and its meaning, word meaning and sentence meaning etc. The author concludes that “The grammarians’ view offers the most satisfactory explanation of language...”. The treatment of these philosophical disciplines is detailed and well presented.
The next chapter focuses on the Linguistic Philosophy of Bhartrhari. The topics discussed in this chapter include, Word and World, Vivarta and Parinama, Sphota, the Akhanda Vakya view, Bhartrhari on the concept of Pratibha, development of Sphota, Sphota in the works of Kumarila Bhatta and Parthasarathy Misra and Mandan Misra. The author concludes the chapter by saying that the concept of Sphota has undergone evolution and in essence the Sphota enunciated by Bhartrhari is not different from the definition of sabda given by Nyaya and Purvamimamsa. It is also concluded that the Nyaya and Purvamimamsa views cannot satisfactorily explain the concepts of slesa and upamsu kathana which Vyakarana can easily do with the help of the concept of Sphota.
The fourth chapter focuses on the concept of Jati in VP. This is a small chapter which talks of the mention of Jati in the first two kandas of VP. In the first kanda, Bhartrhari introduces the concept of akrti which is unique and in the second kanda, the concept of Jati is discussed in the context of the indivisibility of sentence and sentence meaning.
The fifth chapter is the most significant in the book as it deals with Jati, Dravya and Bhuyodravya samuddesas of the third kanda of the VP. This chapter presents each karika from these chapters and discusses them. Each karika is presented together with the roman transliteration. However no translation is provided. The topic presented in the karika is briefly presented along with, sometimes, the summary of discussion available in the commentaries as well as in modern literature. There is no substantial discussion that would make clear what Bhartrhari clearly opines about the concept of Jati through more than 100 karikas in the Jatisamuddesa.
According to us, Karika 6 is important to explain the idea of Jati by Bhartrhari. The karika is:

svd jatih prathamam sabdaih sarvair evdbhidhiyate|
tato ‘rthajatirupesu tad adhydropakalpana ||

This karika states that words primarily explain the Jati of their own form and this Jati is then superimposed on the Jati of the meaning. This fits in well with the overall vivarta theory mentioned by Bhartrhari right from the first karika of the VP and also elsewhere and this viewpoint follows very well the feature of Panin’s meta-language, namely that the word in Panini’s meta-language stands primarily for it’s own form. The author does not develop this theme in detail which is disheartening.
At other places, the author has expressed views where she disagrees with the traditional as well as modern interpretation of a particular word. Thus on p. 190, the author expresses her disagreement in the interpretation of the word samskara in Karika 55 in the following words: “Helaraja and following him, K.A.S. lyer and Raghunatha Sarma take samskara to mean sabdasamskara with which I do not agree.” Quite straight forward! She then continues to provide an explanation as to why she does not agree, in the following words: “Bhartrhari does not write with the technical rigidity that later grammarians adopt; in that sense he was not a vaiyakarana alone but clearly had equal facility in Mimamsa.” Thats all. However, this statement is obscure and there remains much to be explicated. What supports the view that Bhartrhari does not write with technical rigidity that later grammarians adopt. Further what could be the technical rigidity? Also the question that haunts the reader is what does it mean “to have equal facility in Mimamsa”?
The author then states what she thinks to be the correct interpretation of the word in the following words: “It is my belief that samskara here refers to the merit obtained by yajna, that is, the apurva in the practical context of ritual. Taking the karika to refer to linguistic technicalities is a roundabout explanation.” That’s all.
It is not sufficient and does not make any argument supported by evidences in the form of other occurrences of word and clues of theories. At another place, the author quotes the views of George Cardona (p. 201) on Karika 82. There is no mention whether these views are already published elsewhere or whether this is the first place where his views get mentioned. This was important. However, the author needs to be congratulated for presenting views of Cardona on this delicate issue and the present karika. The author concludes at the end of presentation of the karikas in the following way: “Thus it is established that jati is at the bottom of all transactions and cognitions of visible and invisible things” (p. 217).
The sixth chapter traces down the concept of Samanya in the Realists Philosophy where the author drives home the point, namely, that Kumarila through his spirited defence of the concept of Jati forced the Buddhist philosophers to modify their own stand on sunya and apoha. The last chapter, Conclusion summarizes the previous discussion and presents the conclusions reached in the earlier chapters collectively. This is followed by Bibliography. Clearly there are many entries that deserve a mention there. I shall cite 3 below-
    1.    Dangarikar,   Chaitali   and   Malhar   Kulkarni.   2009.    “A   Web-
Concordance of the PrakirnaPrakasa of Helaraja on the Jatisamuddesa
of the Vakyapadiya (3.1)”. Proceedings of the 3rd International
Sanskrit Computational Linguistics Symposium
. Edited by Amba
Kulkarni, 144-56. LNCS, Springer-Verlag, Germany.
    2.    Dangarikar, Chaitali and Malhar Kulkarni. 2010. “Helaraja on eight
Padarthas”. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, Vol. 83: 7-19
(ISSN: 0972-0766).
    3.    Dangarikar,   Chaitali   and   Malhar   Kulkarni.   2010.    “Helaraja’s
description of Ontological Semantics based on Bhartrhari’s Ontology”.
Journal of the Oriental Institute, Vol. LIX (1-2): 11-34 (ISSN: 0030-

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