Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (study)

by A. Yamuna Devi | 2012 | 77,297 words | ISBN-13: 9788193658048

This page relates ‘Education (6): Literature’ of the study on the Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (in English) which represents a commentary on the Amarakosha of Amarasimha. These ancient texts belong the Kosha or “lexicography” category of Sanskrit literature which deals with the analysis and meaning of technical words from a variety of subjects, such as cosmology, anatomy, medicine, hygiene. The Amarakosa itself is one of the earliest of such text, dating from the 6th century A.D., while the Amarakoshodghatana is the earliest known commentary on that work.

Education (6): Literature

[Note: More than 100 works and authors have been cited by Kṣīrasvāmin in his commentary. These have been given already in Chapter II.]

The Vedas are the earliest literary works and the wealth of all Indian Knowledge. Amarakośa mentions them and Kṣīrasvāmin adds valuable remarks as presented below:

(a) Śrutiḥ (I. 5. 3; p. 43)–


Amarakośa gives 4 words–śrutiḥ, dharma, āmnāya and trayī to denote the Veda. The etymology given by Kṣīrasvāmin reveals its various facets.

Śrutiḥ is so called as it is 'heard'; the traditional method of instruction is oral and hence Veda is learnt only by listening thereby earning the name śrutiḥ

śrūyate śrutiḥ |

Veda is known as dharma since it is “that by which the dharma is known”:

vidantyanena dharmaṃ vedaḥ |

“As Veda is handed down traditionally;” it is known as āmnāyahaḥ

āmnāyate pāraṃparyeṇāmnāyaḥ |

“It has three limbs” and hence trayī

trayo'vayavāstrayī ātharvaṇastrayyuddhāraḥ |

Kṣīrasvāmin remarks that the Atharvaṇa which is popular as the fourth Veda is only a recapitulation of the three (Ṛg, Yajus and Sāman) and hence only the three are given prominence earning the name trayī. Of these terms indicating the Vedas, the term dharma (I.5. 3; p. 43) is glossed over a bit elaborately by Kṣīrasvāmin Amarakośa defines dharma as duty enjoined by the Vedas.

Kṣīrasvāmin explains the term in the words of Jaimini (I. 2) and Gautama as (p. 2-3)[1]

vaidiko vidhiḥcodanā lakṣaṇārtho dharmaḥ |
yad gautamaḥśruti smṛtivihito dharmaḥ |
smṛtyuktopi vaidika eva
vedamūlatvātsmṛteḥ |
tadvidhiriṣṭākhyastrayīdharmo'nyaḥ pūrtākhya ityeke |

Also in the Nānārtha varga, Amarakośa while explaining dharma[2] (III. 3. 138; p. 303) as a homonym mentions one of its meaning as merit or the Vedas.

Kṣīrasvāmin explains the term as ' that which upholds'; illustrating merit he mentions that the performance of sacrifice and adherence to non-violence is considered a merit; and Vedas help in the performance of sacrifices and in this sense the word should always be in neuter gender–

dharate dharmaḥ puṇyaṃ yāgādi—āhiṃsā ca | vede ca dharmaḥ | dharmasādhane yāgādau klībe | yacchrutiḥ[3]tāni dharmāṇi prathamānyāsan |

Mantra (III. 3. 167; p. 311)–

[The Vedas:]

Once again in the Nānārtha varga, Amarakośa mentions that the term mantra also denotes vedas.

Kṣīrasvāmin explaining it further mentions that the vedas are in the form of mantras and brāhmaṇas

mantra brāhmaṇātmako hi vedaḥ |

Kṣīrasvāmin further explains the etymology of the three Vedas as (III. 3. 167; p. 311)–Ṛg is ‘that with which it is praised or extolled’–

ṛcyate stūyate'nayā ṛk |

Sāman is ‘that which destroys sin’–

syati pāpaṃ sāma |

Explaining the homonym Kaṣṭa (III. 3. 39; p. 278)–difficult; Kṣīrasvāmin remarks that the study of the Sāma Veda is difficult–

kaṣṭāni sāmāni gahanānītyarthaḥ |

Yajus is ‘that with which a sacrifice is performed’–

ijyatenena yajuḥ |

Again, Kṣīrasvāmin while explaining the homonym upaniṣad (II. 3. 93; p. 292) in the sense of ‘principle’ mentions that ‘of all dharmas, a principle is regarded as highest’–

tatve'pi yathā—dharmasyopaniṣatparā |

Svaras (I. 5. 4; p. 43)–


The Vedas are recited with the svaras. Amarakośa mentions that the svaras are udātta and others; Kṣīrasvāmin lists the three svaras[4] as udātta, anudātta and svarita and adds the ekaśruti defining it as monotone –udātta ānudātta svaritāḥ | ūrdhvamādīyata ityudāttaḥ | ekaśrutistu svarāvibhāgaḥ |

It is to be noted that though the general rule was to recite the Vedas with the accent of the three svaras, yet the practice of reciting the mantras in monotone or ekaśruti is recorded as early as Paninian times (Pā. I. 2. 34–yajñakarmaṇyajapanyuṃkhasāmasu). The Taittirīya prātiśākhya (XV. 9) also records the use of monotone current in his period.

(b) Vedāṅga (I. 5. 4; p. 43)–

[The limbs of Vedas:]

Amarakośa makes only a passing reference that śikṣā and others constitute the Vedāṅgas.

Kṣīrasvāmin defines the term as ‘that which helps in understanding’ and names all the six Vedāṅgas viz., śikṣā, kalpa, vyākaraṇaṃ, niruktaṃ, jyotiṣaṃ and chandoviciti

āṅgyate jñāyate'nenāṅgamupakāram | śikṣā kalpo vyākaraṇaṃ niruktaṃ jyotiṣāṃ gatiḥ | chandoviciti rityetaiḥ ṣaḍaṅgo veda ucyate |

(c) Itihāsa (I. 5. 4; p. 43)–


Amarakośa mentions it as history and Kṣīrasvāmin justifies the same with etymology that the word ‘iti’ refers to ‘thus/ in this manner’ and ‘ha’ means ‘indeed’–

iti ha āsīdyatretītihāsaḥ itirevamarthe haḥ kilārthe |

No other detail about the itihāsa is available in both Amarakośa and the commentary, though Kṣīrasvāmin often cites many instances from the Mahābhārata.

(d) Ānvīkṣikī (I. 5. 5; p. 43)–


Amarakośa mentions that ānvīkṣikī as tarkavidyā. Kṣīrasvāmin explains Logic or ānvīkṣikī as,

“Is a study based on the principles of pratyakṣa (direct apprehension through the sense organs) and āgamathe fourth testimony accepted in the school of logic i.e. the āptavākya (words of the trust worthy person) and the Vedas”–

pratyakṣāgamābhyāmīkṣitasya paścādīkṣaṇamanvīkṣā sā prayojanaṃ yasyāḥ sānvīkṣikī tarkavidyā |

Thus Amarakośa takes only logic or tarka as ānvīkṣikī while Arthaśāstra takes it in a much broader sense of all sciences of reasoning.

The Arthaśāstra (I. 2. 10, 12)[5] defines ānvīkṣikī as philosophy constituting Sāṅkhya, Yoga and Lokāyata. He further adds that ānvīkṣikī is the lamp of all learning and ways and means of all karmas; also it is the support of all dharmas.

Amarakośa mentions that daṇḍanīti is Arthaśāstra (I. 5.5; p. 43) or the science of Polity.

(e) Smṛti (I. 5. 6; p. 43)–

[Law books:]

Amarakośa defines it as dharma saṃhitā 'collection of laws'. Kṣīrasvāmin defines it as 'that which reminds the manvādis along with its extinct and dispersed or scattered branches; or that which enjoins the duties–utsannaviprakīrṇaśākhānāṃ manvādibhiḥsmaraṇaṃ smṛtiḥ |dharmaḥ saṃdhīyate'syāṃ dharmasaṃhitā |

(f) Purāṇam (I. 5. 6; p. 43):

Amarakośa merely mentions that purāṇa is that which deals with the five topics. Kṣīrasvāmin defines purāṇa as in Nirukta (III. 4. 19)–‘that which is new though ancient’; and the five topics dealt with in a purāṇa as enumerated in the Viṣṇupurāṇa (III. 6. 24)–‘that which deals with creation, secondary creation, lineage, Manvantara and history of the lineage’–

purāpi navaṃ purāṇam | yataḥ
sargaśca pratisargaśca vaṃśo manvantarāṇi ca |
caiva purāṇaṃ pañcalakṣaṇam ||

18 pradīpaḥ sarvavidyānāmupāyaḥ sarvakarmaṇām | āśrayaḥ sarvadharmāṇāṃ śaśvadānvīkṣikī matā ||

(g) Mahākāvyas:

Mahākāvyas are epic-poems characterised by a few rules[6] set by the rhetoricians. One of its aspect characterized b y dividing the poetry into cantos is referred to by Kṣīrasvāmin as follows - Sarga (III. 3. 22; p. 274)–Chapter or canto: Amarakośa mentions sarga[7] to signify a canto or adhyāya.

Kṣīrasvāmin explains it as that which is read and further adds that in the context it refers to a repose in Mahākāvya and quotes its definition from Kāvyādarśa (I. 13) –

ādhīyate'dhyāyo'tra mahākāvyādau viśrāntisthanaṃ—sargabandho mahākāvyam |

Kṣīrasvāmin 's knowledge in the Mahākāvyas is revealed through his extensive citations from the Pañcamahākāvyas.

Amarakośa mentions padya and gadya in the Liṅgādisaṅgraha varga (III. 5. 31; p. 353)[8] and Kṣīrasvāmin defines the poetry as that which is composed in metres–

padyam ślokabandhaḥ

While prose is that which is in daṇḍaka

gadyam daṇḍakabaddham.

The prose literature is generally divided into two viz. kathā and ākhyāyikā. Amarakośa and Kṣīrasvāmin deal with these as follows–

Ākhyāyikā (I. 5. 5; p. 43)–

[Historical prose:]

Amarakośa mentions that ākhyāyikā is the factual narration and Kṣīrasvāmin supplements it with the example of Harṣacarita

ācaṣṭe—ākhyāyikā vṛttārthakathanāddharṣacaritādiḥ |

Kathā (I. 5. 6; p. 43)–

[Fictious Prose:]

Amarakośa calls a fictious prose as Kathā. Kṣīrasvāmin cites Kādambarī of Bāṇa as its example–

prabandhasya kalpanā yathā—kādaṃbaryādirutpādyatvāt |

Kṣīrasvāmin cites from the above twoworks. Though a contemporary of Bhoja and cites him often, Kṣīrasvāmin does not refer to the special type of composition called campū for which Bhoja was famous. Drama[9] an important division of kāvya is exclusively dealt with in the Nāṭya varga. Also, both Amarakośa and Kṣīrasvāmin donot deal with definitions of any other type of compositions like the sandeśa kāvyas, khaṇḍa kāvyas or the śāstra kāvyas. However, Amarakośa speaks of special varieties of writings such as the samasyā, pravahlikā and others as under–

Pravahlikā (I. 5. 6; p. 43)–


Pravahlikā and prahelikā are mentioned as synonyms in Amarakośa Kṣīrasvāmin defines it as that which suggests the intended sense.

Kṣīrasvāmin also adds that there are two varieties of prahelikās based on words and meanings, viz., śābdī and ārthī prahelikās and cites examples for both as follows–

śābdī prahelikā yathā—
pānīyaṃ pātumicchāmi tvattaḥ
kamalalocane |
yadi dāsyasi niyacchāmi no ced dāsyasi dehi me ||

Here the word dāsyasi is involved in the riddle and hence śābdī prahelikā. The splitting of the word dāsyasi is important factor to solve the riddle. Dāsyasi means ‘if you would give’ and if split as dāsī asi–‘if yo are a wonton woman’. ‘A passer by requests water from a lady and says that if she be a wanton woman, he does not wish to take water from her and if she is not, she may provide him with water.

Hence this is an example of śābdī prahelikā:

ārthī yathā—
yadi śvaśrā bhaṇitā pati vāsagṛhe dīpakaṃ dehi |
tat kiṃ
samuddhatamukho hṛdaye niveśayati dṛṣṭim ||

‘If you are asked by your mother-in-law to give a lamp to the husband's room why do you, with a proud face, b end down your sight?’.

Here the sense of the word dīpaka as lamp or the suggested sense of a heir to the family and the word vāsagṛha denotes 'a room or a house', both help in solving the riddle. The woman understanding the words of her mother-in-law that a heir to the family was what she meant, is shy and thus bends her face down.

Samasyā (I. 5. 7; p. 44)–

[Part of a composition:]

Amarakośa gives it as samasyārthā or part of a composition.

Kṣīrasvāmin explains it as the completion of the intended sense as it is incomplete also citing an example from Subhāṣitasaṅgraha (IV. 10)–

āpūrṇatvādvikṣiptaṃ samasyate saṃkṣipyate'nayā samasyā |
dāmodarakarāghāta vihvalīkṛtacetasā |
dṛṣṭam cāṇūramallena
śatacandraṃ nabhastalam ||


Kṣīrasvāmin presents a few lokoktis or proverbs explaining the following terms as follows–

(i) Loka (III. 3. 2; p. 269)–People: Illustrating the word Kṣīrasvāmin cites the proverb gatānugatiko lokaḥ implying that people follow blindly without reasoning–gatānugatiko lokaḥ |

(ii) Pulāka (III. 3. 5; p. 270)–Boiled rice: Illustrating the term pulāka boiled rice, Kṣīrasvāmin mentions the proverb ‘sthālī pulāka nyāya’ boiled rice in the cooking pot 'which implies that a sample of the cooked grain of rice from the cooking pot serves as a sample for all the rice in the pot–sthalī pulāka nyāya |

(iii) Āṅ (III. 3. 239; p. 330)–Explaining the avyaya in the meaning of preposition which is also an Upasarga when used with a root, Kṣīrasvāmin mentions the khuranakha nyāya ‘that the hoof of the animal is its nail’dhātuyogaje dhātvarthena kriyayāyogaje saṃbandhotthe dyotakatve yathā—ārohati | upasargo'pi khuranakhanyāyanātroktaḥ |

Footnotes and references:


Gautama Dharmasūtra with Maskarī Bhāṣya, Ed. L. Srinivasacarya, Government oriental Library Series No. 50, Mysore, 1917.


dharmaḥ puṇya yama nyāya svabhāvā'cāra somapāḥ |


Ṛg veda, X. 90. 16


uccairudāttaḥ | nīcairanudāttaḥ | samāhāraḥ svaritaḥ | ( I. 2. 29-31)


pradīpaḥ sarvavidyānāmupāyaḥ sarvakarmaṇām | āśrayaḥ sarvadharmāṇāṃ śaśvadānvīkṣikī matā ||


Kāvyādarśa–(I. 14-19)


sargaḥ svabhāva nirmokṣa niścayādhyāya sṛṣṭiṣu |


gadya padye kṛtau kaviḥ |


Dramas are dealt with in the section on “Arts”.

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