Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (study)

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

This page relates ‘Evaluation’ 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.

Chapter 7 - Evaluation

Every literature be it scientific or classical is complimented by the commentary literature. The Vedas, Vedāṅgas, Āgamas, Dharmaśāstras, Purāṇas, Itihāsas and the classical literature are all supplemented with commentaries. Language by its nature is ever changing from time to time and place to place. Any literature in a particular place or at a period of time needs explanation as it passes through different time and place.

The commentary explains the difficult words, derives the necessary words, elaborates the difficult concepts, points out the differences with respect to various places, highlights the nuances of the text and virtues of the writers and adds critical notes wherever necessary.

Even the earliest commentator of any text known at present is separated from the time of the poet by several centuries. Texts were handed down mostly by oral tradition and naturally several readings are available for the same stanza posing a problem for the commentator to separate the chaff and the grain. The texts invariably become obliterated by spurious readings, a fact hinted by Kṣīrasvāmin It is for the appreciative and sympathetic reader to judge how far he has succeeded in his mission. But one may justifiably observe that commentary of Kṣīrasvāmin has thrown much new light on the earliest available lexicon.

Amarakośodghāṭana, the title of Kṣīrasvāmin's commentary is well justified, as the study reveals; it helps the reader in opening the treasure house of words, viz., the vocabulary of Sanskrit Language. The commentary is handy and enlightens the reader wherever the text, Amarakośa, is too brief without explanations or ambiguous.

Kṣīrasvāmin's knowledge in a vast range of literature is revealed from his citations of literary works numbering more than hundred works from the Vedas, Itihāsa, Purāṇa, Smṛtis, Kāvyas, Āyurvedic texts, Jyotiṣa texts and so on.

Considering the enormity of the contents of the Amarakośodghāṭana, the present study had been under taken with the view to bring out the Socio-Political Cultural aspects of the text along with its grammatical specialities and peculiarities. Amarakośa also deals with the various forms of nature and Kṣīrasvāmin excels himself in his analysis of the Vanauṣadhi varga. all these have been discussed in the earlier chapters exhaustively though not completely. The main aim of the thesis being the contribution of Kṣīrasvāmin as a commentator and an independant writer in his own right, the main focus of the thesis is on Kṣīrasvāmin's Amarakośodghāṭana and its contents. These matters are recaptulated here.

From Amarakośodghāṭana one is able to understand the social structure of the time, the various professions that people engaged in, the political and economical situations in the then society, details about agriculture and trade and commerce; planning of the urban and rural dwellings with specific references to architectural specialities including roads and highways, the family unit comprising of various relationships and responsibilities, different activities of man's daily life comprising his needs of food, clothing and shelter, education, the position of women in various strata of the society, their pastimes, the social evils, the expertise in art and architecture, the faiths and beliefs of the people, the religious and philosophical tendencies and so on.

The comments on the term ‘caṣaka’ by Kṣīrasvāmin that it means all kinds of drinking vessels tell us the expansion of the sphere of language.

So also the discussion by Kṣīrasvāmin on the word ‘didhiṣūḥ’ as referring to an elder sister, a younger sister, a second husband and a brother-in-law, under different circumstances, throws much light upon the reception of the remarriages by the then society.

The measures of weight, volume and length; Divisions of time, the pearl necklaces named after their constituent strings etc are merely listed in Amarakośa are understood only with the help of Amarakośodghāṭana Kṣīrasvāmin reveals his mastery over the śāstras when he explains words related to them; he derives and explains them in accordance with the school which gives it some prominence as in explaining terms like dharma, śabda, vākya, prakṛti, buddhi, etc. He defines them according to the Smṛti, Vyākaraṇa, Mīmāṃsā, Sāṃkhya, Vaiśeṣika, Yoga and other darśanas. The minute differences between the schools are also broughtout in relavent contexts. For instance while explaining the synonyms of Buddhi (I.4.1; p.38) Kṣīrasvāmin mentions that these synonyms are taken as the charecter or attributes(dharma) of mind by the Sāṃkhya system while Vaiśeṣika system considers all the words to denote ‘mind’.

The difference of views of earlier lexicographers are also observed by Kṣīrasvāmin in his comments there by recording their views as prevelant during his time. One such instance is the explaination of the word nāsā–the upper threshold of a door, and śilā the lower threshold of the door, an architectural component. Both Gauḍa and author of Mālā agree with the above while Ācārya opines that the upper threshold is called uttarāsaṅga while the lower is Dehalī.

The instances where the earlier lexicographers or commentators are at fault are also brought to notice by Kṣīrasvāmin As for instance in enumerating the sequence of the diggajas(I. 2.5; p.23) with respect to their directions, Kṣīrasvāmin remarks that Bhāguri and Mālā had changed the order or places of elephants.

Kṣīrasvāmin is ‘just’ in criticizing or rather observant in identifying the mistakes of his predecessors—either the lexicographers or the commentators, as also Amarakośa As it is his duty as a commentator to improve upon the text he is commenting on.

He also points out the errors and variant readings–

(a) In the Vanauṣadi varga he points out the errors in Amarakośa, on the authority of Dhanvantari Nighaṇṭu and also suggests the correct readings of the terms based on the same. Explaining the term Ṛṣyaketu (I. 1. 27; p. 10) Kṣīrasvāmin specifically mentions that Viśvaketu is a wrong reading; so also in the context of cxommenting on the word–rathira (II. 8. 77; p. 191) he marks that the reading of the word as rathina is erroneous; he also mentions that the reading vyāvṛtta instead of vāvṛtta (III. 1. 92; p. 255) chosen or appointed is wrong and cites Bhaṭṭikāvya for authority.

(c) Variant readings are also recorded by Kṣīrasvāmin such as–prācīna and prācīra (II. 2. 3; p. 74) for a bound hedge; aṇi and āṇi (II. 8. 57; p. 187) for a pin of the axle.

(d) The regional influences in interpreting a word is also highlighted by Kṣīrasvāmin as in the instance of the word kūpaka (I. 9. 12; p. 63). He points out that some interpret it as the mast of a ship while Gauḍa takes it to denote a rock or a tree in the midst of the river.

(e) Commenting on the word Svar (I. 1. 6) Kṣīrasvāmin remarks that the word svar is placed first as it is most often found in usage–

svarge pare ca loke svariti vakṣyamāṇatve'pīha pracuraprayogārthaṃ svaḥśabdopādānaṃ vakṣyati ca bhūriprayogā ye yeṣu paryāyeṣvapi teṣu te |

Kṣīrasvāmin also remarks that the śrutis also refer to it as in bhūrbhuvaḥ suvaḥ and further states that the easterners read the word as tripiṣṭapa—

trṛtīyaṃ viṣṭapaṃ bhūrbhuvaḥ suvariti śruteḥ | tripiṣṭapamiti prācyāḥ prāyeṇa hyete pavau śasau ca vyatyasya paṭhanti |

Such observations help in recording the regional influences on the language and in furthering a linguistic study. Also a comparitive study of all the commentaries in such contexts would help in identifying the original readings of Amarakośa which has got corrupted over the centiries.

Instances where the text is ambiguous or needs more clarification is rectified in the commentary by adding necessary notes. In explanations of the terms kūkuda (III.1.14; p.238) and the like, Kṣīrasvāmin's commentary helps in understanding the societal view that giving a daughter in marraige by the Brāhma kind, was most appreciated.

The term Janyāḥ (II.7.58; p.175)–it is to be noted, according to Amarakośa, denotes a bridegroom's friends alone. Kṣīrasvāmin makes an addition to the meaning of the word as janīvoḍhāra meaning 'those who lead the bride' (to the bridegroom's house). He also says that it also denotes any companion who would lead the bride(to her husband's house)

Thus he cites the example from Raghuvaṃśa where Indumatī is lead by Sunandā

jāmāturvayasyāḥ janīvoḍhāro'pi yallakṣyam -yāhīti janyāmavadatkumārī |

Mallinātha also cites the above example and mentions that according to Amarakośa's interpretation it would be wrong and takes to help the Viśvakoṣa which gives the word janyā to denote the mother's friends.

Thus it is is evident that as acommentator Kṣīrasvāmin also sets right the deficiencies in the text and makes valuable conbtributions.

The extensive quotations from Dhanvantari Nighaṇṭu not only adds to the list of synonyms of trees and plants but is helpful in re-editing the text of Amarakośa as well as Dhanvantari Nighaṇṭu with these readings of Kṣīrasvāmin The commentary of Bhoja on Amarakośa, now unavailable is cited by Kṣīrasvāmin on many occasions. Efforts can be made to reconstruct the commentary of Bhoja onAK, with this.

Another instance of importance is his comment on the word Capala as cikura (III.1.46; p.245) fickle:

Deriving the word from the root cinu cinoti cikura caker vā Kṣīrasvāmin cites from Kumārasambhava (1.47) the verse—

tāṃ vīkṣya līlācikurāmanaṅgaḥ |

It describes the beauty of the eyebrows of Parvati subduing the pride of Cupid who had so long considered his bow to be most elegant and graceful.

It is interesting to note here that the actual reading in most of the editions of Kumārasambhava is lilācaturām. Only the Vallabhadeva commentary provides the reading cikura and the commentator remarks that such a word in sense of beauty is an ārṣaprayoga. Kṣīrasvāmin makes note of this usage and has recorded the information for posterity.

Grammatical authority is evident in his derivations and also the citations from Bhāsya, Kāsikā and other systems of grammar.

Most of the words are etymologically explained with the help of Paninian rules. The Liṅgādisaṅgraha varga and Avyaya varga are well illustrated with apt examples. The basic difference between the Cāndra and P aninian scools is that, the former is asaṃjñaka(without technical terms) and the latter is akālaka (does not defiine the tenses like parokṣa and vartamāna)

This also has been explained by Kṣīrasvāmin (III.5.28; p.352)—

candropajñamasaṃjñakaṃ vyākaraṇam pāṇinyupajñamakālakaṃ vyākaraṇam |

There are instances where Kṣīrasvāmin also specifies on authority of literary usages the use of words as individuals or as compound words.

One such example is as follows:

Barhiḥ and śuṣmā (I. 1. 54; p. 17)–


These are given as two individual words to denote fire in Amarakośa Kṣīrasvāmin remarks that these words can be used individually or as one-word. Both forms of usages are found in works of poets. He cites the examples from Śiṣupālavadhaṃ and Bālarāmāyaṇa.

He derives the word to signify ‘that which has grass as its strength’, grass being the best fuel for fire probably it was called so.

barhiḥ śuṣmeti vyastaṃ samastaṃnāma | barhirdarbhaḥ śuṣma balamasyeti barhati vardhate barhiḥ yathā—barhirmukhā devāḥ | śuṣyantyanena śuṣmā yallakṣyam—śuṣmaṇi praṇayanābhisaṃsthite | barhiruttha ityamaramālā yathā—dṛśaṃ barhaṇo barhirutthaḥ |

Another characteristic feature of Kṣīrasvāmin's commentary is that he also gives the Deśī words. Many such words presented by Kṣīrasvāmin are given in relevant contexts through out the thesis.

A sample of it is in explaining Pīyūṣaṃ (I.1.48; p.16)–Amrbosia: Kṣīrasvāmin adds that in Deśī it was denoted as samudranavanītam

samudra navanītaṃ deśyām |

His popularity is revealed in he being oft quoted by commentators of later centuries Uvaṭa in Nighaṇṭuṭīkā, Kṛṣṇa Daivajña commentator on Bījagaṇita, Mallinātha, the commentator on Mahākāvyas, and so on. Here are instances of Kṣīrasvāmin being cited by the Mallinātha, commentator on Mahākāvyas–

Udgamanīyam[1] (II.6.112; p.157)–

[A pair of washed clothes:]

According to Amarakośa, Udagamanīya is a pair of washed clothes. But Kṣīrasvāmin dispenses with the idea of a pair (yugma) as immaterial and in support of his views cites from Kumārasambhava. VII.11:

yugmavivakṣitam yallakṣyam—gṛhītapatyudgamanīyavastretisā maṅgalasnānaviśuddhagātri gṛhitapatyudgamaniyavastram | nivṛttaparjanyajalābhiṣeko praphullakāśā vasudheva reje ||

The context is Pārvati with her body cleansed by the festive bath and wearing the newly washed cloth, she shone like the earth recently drenched in rains and sprouting forth Kūśa flowers.

It is to be remembered that in the context of commenting on Ku.Sam Mallinātha also seems to accept the explanation of Kṣīrasvāmin and takes it for authority:

...patyurvarasyodgamanīyavastram dhautavastram | dhautamudgamanīyam syāt iti halāyudhaḥ | tatsyā …. ityamaraḥyugagrahaṇam tu prāyikābhiprāyam | āta evatra kṣīrasvāmi yugam prāyaśo yallakṣyam tadeva iti vyāravyāya gṛhitapatyudgamanīyavastrāityetadevodāhṛtavān |

(b) Kṛṣṇadaivajña in his commentary on Bījagaṇita (p.41) justifying the usage of the text–

bhājyācchedyaḥ śudhyati pracyutaḥ san sveṣu sveṣu sthanakeṣu krameṇa | yairyairvarṇaiḥ saṃguṇo yaiśca yaiśca rūpairbhāgahare labdhayastāḥ syuratra | tā labdhayaḥ ityatra tacchabdasya vidhīyamānaliṅgatā śaityaṃ hi yasyā prakṛtirjalasya ityadau prasiddhā daive yugasahasre dve brāhmaḥ kalpau tu tau nṛṇāṃ

ityasya vyākhyāvasare likhitaṃ ca kṣīrasvāminā sarvanāmnāṃ vidhīyamānānūdyamānaliṅgagrahaṇe kāmacaraḥ iti |

This seems to be the reflection of the idea expressed in Pradīpa on the statement in Mahābhāṣya which reads–

kiṃ yattatsāsnālāṅgūla-kakudakhuraviṣāṇyartharūpaṃ saḥ śabdaḥ |

The Pradīpa remarks that in the use of sarvanama words which equate the sense and word the use of pronouns need not strictly follow the general rule that the qualifiers should adhere to the gender of the qualifying noun–

kiṃ yattaditi—uddiśyamānapratinirdiśyamānayorekatvamāpādayanti sarvanāmāni paryāyeṇa talliṅgamupapādata iti kāmacārataḥ sa śabdaḥ iti pulliṅgena nirdeśaḥ |

Kṣīrasvāmin's mastery over a vast field of literature is evident from his citations. As stated by himself in the introductory verses he is a great scholar commentator.

He has tried to point out the apaśabdas, add new words and meanings, give etymological derivations and substantiate them with the rules of grammar–

prakṛti pratyaya vākyaircyastasamastairniruktanigadābhyām | iti saptāṣṭaiḥ pathibhirnāmnāṃ pārāyaṇaṃ kurmaḥ ||bhagnābhidhānakṛto vivarītāraśca yatra vibhrāntāḥ | nāmāni tāni bhaṅktumaho ādhyavasitāḥ smaḥ ||

He has contributed to the field of commentarial literature, his valuable work, Amarakośodghāṭana which is very helpful in understanding the words and their meanings.

As a commentator he also brings to notice the various legends, myths and beliefs of the society which are discussed in the respective sections.

Kṣīrasvāmin's scientific temparament is witnessed in his explanations of mirage, rainbow and clouds as already presented in the chapter on Nature aspects.

With the crispness in commentary there lies a flaw. At times Kṣīrasvāmin only presents the etymology of the word without mentioning the word in the text which he comments upon. The reader has to carefully observe the verse in Amarakośa and read the previous and latter derivations to understand the word derived by Kṣīrasvāmin Whereas Mallinātha, Bhānuji and others give the first and last words of the list of synonyms and mention their numbers also. This feature is lacking in Kṣīrasvāmin, which makes one lost, especially in the Vanauṣadi varga where it is difficult to separate one variety from the other.

Also it is to be noted that all the words of Amarakośa are not commented upon but most of them are dealt with.

From the study and analysis, Kṣīrasvāmin still the earliest commentator with his text fully available stands as a beacon light illuminating the work of Amara.

Footnotes and references:


ānāhataṃ niṣpravāṇi tantrakaṃ ca navāmbare |tatsyādudgamanīyaṃ yad dhautayor vastrayor yugam ||

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: