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Shiva Sutras
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Shiva Sutras

The Shiva Sutras (IAST: ; Devan gar : ) or M heshvara Sutras (Devan gar : ) are fourteen verses that organize the phonemes of the Sanskrit language as referred to in the of , the foundational text of Sanskrit grammar. Within the tradition they are known as the , "recitation of phonemes," but they are popularly known as the Shiva Sutras because they are said to have been revealed to P ini by Shiva (also known as Maheshvara). They were either composed by P ini to accompany his A dhy y or predate him. The latter is less plausible, but the practice of encoding complex rules in short, mnemonic verses is typical of the sutra style.



IAST Devan gar
1. a i u
2. k
3. e o
4. ai au c
5. ha ya va ra
6. la
7. a ma a a na
8. jha bha
9. gha ha dha
10. ja ba ga a da
11. kha pha cha ha tha ca a ta v
12. ka pa y
13. a a sa
14. ha
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Each verse consists of a group of basic Sanskrit phonemes (i.e. open syllables consisting either of initial vowels or of consonants followed by the basic vowel "a") followed by a single 'dummy letter' or anubandha, conventionally rendered by capital letters in Roman transliteration. This allows P ini to refer to groups of phonemes with , which consist of a phoneme-letter and an anubandha (and often the vowel a to aid pronunciation) and signify all of the intervening phonemes Praty h ras are thus single syllables, but they can be declined (see A dhy y 6.1.77 below). Hence aL refers to all phonemes (because it consists of the first phoneme a and the last anubandha L); aC refers to vowels (i.e., all of the phonemes before the anubandha C: a i u e o ai au); haL to consonants, and so on. Note that some praty h ras are ambiguous. The anubandha occurs twice in the list, which means that you can assign two different meanings to praty h ra a (including or excluding , etc.); in fact, both of these meanings are used in the A dhy y . On the other hand, the praty h ra haL is always used in the meaning "all consonants"---P ini never uses praty h ras to refer to sets consisting of a single phoneme.

From these 14 verses, a total of 281 praty h ras can be formed: 14*3 + 13*2 + 12*2 + 11*2 + 10*4 + 9*1 + 8*5 + 7*2 + 6*3 * 5*5 + 4*8 + 3*2 + 2*3 +1*1, minus 14 (as P ini does not use single element praty h ras) minus 10 (as there are 10 duplicate sets due to h appearing twice); the second multiplier in each term represents the number of phonemes in each. But P ini uses only 41 (with a 42nd introduced by later grammarians, ra =r l) praty h ras in the A dhy y .

The Shiva Sutras put phonemes with a similar manner of articulation together (so sibilants in 13 a a sa R, nasals in 7 m n M). Economy (Sanskrit: ) is a major principle of their organization, and it is debated whether P ini deliberately encoded phonological patterns in them (as they were treated in traditional phonetic texts called Pr ti akyas) or simply grouped together phonemes which he needed to refer to in the A dhy y and which only secondarily reflect phonological patterns (as argued by Paul Kiparsky and Wiebke Petersen, for example). P ini does not use the Shiva Sutras to refer to homorganic stops (stop consonants produced at the same place of articulation), but rather the anubandha U: to refer to the palatals c ch j jh he uses cU.

As an example, consider A dhy y 6.1.77: iKo ya aCi:

  • iK means i u ,
  • iKo is iK in the genitive case, so it means ' in place of i u ;
  • ya means the semivowels y v r l and is in the nominative, so iKo ya means: y v r l replace i u .
  • aC means all vowels, as noted above
  • aCi is in the locative case, so it means before any vowel.

Hence this rule replaces a vowel with its corresponding semivowel when followed by any vowel, and that is why dadhi together with atra makes dadhyatra. To apply this rule correctly we must be aware of some of the other rules of the grammar, such as:

  • 1.1.49 a hii sthaneyogaH that shows that the genitive case in a sutra shows what is to be replaced
  • 1.1.50 sthane 'ntaratamaH that shows that the substitute of i is the semivowel that most closely resembles i, namely 'y'
  • 1.1.71 aadir antyena sahetaa that shows that i with the K at the end stands for i u because the Shiva sutras read i u K.

Also, rules can be debarred by other rules. Rule 6.1.101 akas savarNe d rghaH teaches that when the two vowels are alike a long vowel is substituted for both, so dadhi and indraH make dadh ndraH not *dadhyindraH. The akas savar e d rghaH rule takes precedence over the iKo ya aCi rule because the akas is more specific.


Shiv sutras are believed to be originated from Shiv's Tandav dance.

At the end of His Cosmic Dance,
Shiva, the Lord of Dance,
with a view to bless the sages Sanaka and so on,
played on His Damaru fourteen times,
from which emerged the following fourteen Sutras,
popularly known as Shiva Sutras or Maheshwara Sutras.

See also

Other languages

External links

hi: ml: new: ru: - zh:

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