A Critical Linguistic Study of The Pratisakhyas (An Old and Rare Book)

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Also known as Parsadas, the Parisakhyas are a set treatise, grammatical in nature concerned with the precise euphonic and ritualistic recitation of the Vedic texts based on their distinguished Shakhas of branches. With this English book, Sukla Chakrabarti attempts a critical study of the great phonetic importance, both historical and comparative of the Pratisakhyas, highlighting the changes over a period of time - ancient, medieval and modern, and the role of language in pursuit of spirituality.

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Item Code: NAH396
Author: Sukla Chakrabarti
Language: English
Edition: 1996
ISBN: 8186791027
Pages: 503
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 530 gm
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Book Description
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About the Book

The present study of the Pratisakhyas inspite of its dry and critical nature. keeps in view the religious necessity to recite the mantras of the sacred scriptures correctly. Further while analysing the phonetics of the Pratisakhyas the author compares them with the subsequent changes till the modern time. Beside this, she attempts to show the role of the language for other pursuits also. 

In other words. Pratisakhyas was not a mere Inspiration for training the priest class but led to the linguistic development of ancient India also. Thus the motive behind the Pratisakhyakars was religious as well as linguistic.

“...... a very useful, informativean instructive book on a branch of Vedic study which has not been adequately probed into so far.”

“......... covered the subject systematically and scientifically. probing into the origin of sound. main divisions of Sanskrit alphabets which are based entirely on phonetic principles”

About the Author

Dr. Sukla Chakrabarti is an MA (1975) in Comparative Philology and Linguistics of University of Calcutta and obtained certificate and Diploma in Tamil Language from the same University. Besides, she holds the Titles of Kovid in Hindi, Kavyatirtha. Kavyaratna in Sanskrit and awaits Suttavisarad title in Pali very soon. The University of Calcutta conferred on her the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in -1990.

She has already three published book to her credit. These are ‘Tamil Script and Sound. Tamil Padagogical Dictionary (verbs)’. ‘Nirbacita Kobifa Guccha’. Hertranslation of History of Tamil literature in Bengali is on the verge of completion. She is preparing Dictionaries, such as, Tamil-EnglishBengali, Bengali-English-Tamil-Pali-English-Bengali and spoken Tamil (Tamil-English-Bengali). Besides her translations of Tamil Tolkappium and Tirukkural both in Bengali are under preparation too.

The member of the Senate, Dr Sukla is a senior Lecturer in the Department of Tamil and Associated lecturer in Department of Linguistics and in Department of Language Teaching (Tamil), Calcutta University.


Right from my school life when I had to acquire some preliminary knowledge of Vedas, Vedanta or Upanishad I felt inquisitive about the various aspects of the Vedas. So when I resolved to enter in the domain of research works I did not hesitate to select Pratisakhyas, the branch of Vedanga as the subject matter for my doctoral dessertation. Being a student of Linguistics I became enthused to go for a critical study of the great phonetic importance, both historical and comparative of the Pratisakhyas. ‘A Critical Linguistic Study of The Pratisakhyas’ is the outcome of long five years of research in the Department of Linguistics, Calcutta University from 1979-1984.

In every sphere of work in the land of India one may find that the goal is the attainment of spiritual realization. The present study of the Pratisakhyas too inspite of its dry and critical nature, keeps in view the religious necessity to recite the .mantras of the sacred scriptures correctly. Further while analysing the phonetics of the Pratisakhyas 1 compare them with the subsequent changes till the modern time. Beside this, ‘I attempt to show the role of the language for other pursuits also.

In other words, Pratisakhyas was not a mere inspiration for training the priest class but led to the linguistic development of ancient India also. Thus the motive behind the Pratisakhyakars was religious as well as linguistic.

The successful completion of this research work would not have been possible without the active, unsparing and painstaking guidance of my superviser Dr. Satya Ranjan Banerjee, Professor, Department of Linguistics, Calcutta University. I am grateful to Dr. (Mrs.) Ranganayaki Mahapatra, Professor and Head, Department of Tamil, Calcutta University for arranging the publication of this book. I convey my heartfelt thanks to both of them, my respected teachers.


I express my thankful gratitude to Sri Venkata Krishnam the former Registrar of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Calcutta, for his very valuable suggestions in shaping this book. I also convey my thanks to Mr. Sankar Bhattacarya and his staff, Punthi Pustak for their co-operation in publishing, and Mr. Bilash Hazra and his staff, Moder Printers, for printing this book.


I extend my thanks to all of them whose inspiration enthused me to take and complete this strenuous work.




1. Statement of the Problem:

In the vedic period a great stress was put on the proper study of the Vedas in their various aspects. This study was called vedanga which had six branches, and these were nothing but six ways of learning the vedas. They are siksa, kalpa, vyakarana, nirukta, chandah and jyotisam. Of these branches siksa, the study concerning sounds formed the subject-matter of the Pratisakhyas-our present inquiry. Thus the Pratisakhyas are included into the territory of vedanga and have a great phonetic importance, both historical and comparative. In the verious fields of study the Indian scholars have been trying to rebuild their past in the light of the present development throughout the world. There has been tremendous progress in the sphere of phonetics too in the modern era and it is a task awaiting our scholars today to show how far we have achieved in phonetics and how far we can do at present. But as far as our knowledge goes, no work undertaking to fulfil the purpose has yet come to us. S. Varma’s treatise entitled ‘Critical Studies in the Phonetic Observations of Indian Grammarians’, or instance, is no doubt a laudable enterprise in the field, but it is in the main a work on siksa, incidentally referring to the Pratisakhya wherever necessary. So the treatment of the Pratisakhyas in this work has been essentially insufficient and nexhaustive. W. S. Alien’s ‘Phonetics in Ancient India’ is a work on the Pratisakhyas, but the discussion of topics is extremely brief and as such has nut sufficiently dealt with all vital problems of the subject. The limitations of the aforesaid works have inspired me to take up an exhaustive inquiry into the various aspects of the Pratipkhyas and compare their position with that of the present development of the subject.


2. Nature, plan and object of the Present work :

India in the hoary antiquity, achieved a unique place in the science of language. Though everywhere inspired by a religious zeal and fervour, the various pursuits of knowledge undertaken by the ancient seers of this land such as philosophy, logic, phonetics, music, grammar, science, astrology etc., were actuated by a longing for the Infinite.’ This is why, in ancient India, thinking and belief, life and living were not segregated, but went together. The goal was the attainment of spiritual realisation of existence. This is also true in the science of language. The hard, dry and hair splitting study of linguistics was also tinged with this religious bent of mind. The present study of the Pratisakhya, though a critical and dry analysis of language of the vedas, arose as a religious necessity-to recite the mantras of the sacred scriptures correctly.


The word ‘pritisakhya’ which is composed of three parts, viz., prati, sakha and the suffix nya. is stated by Midhavaas a work “belonging to each individual branch or school’’ of the Vedas. Madhava’s view cannot be accepted as such because that will lead to the baseless supposition that there might exist as many Pratisakhyas as there were the vedic school. Further, the Vaidikabharana offers a, different suggestion. It says that the Pratisakhyas refer to a group sakhas, as the RP belongs to the Sakala and the Baskala sakhas of the Rg-veda. Thus viewed the Pratisakhyas may be counted as ‘a treatise applied to a group of schools of a particular veda.


Max Muller has also endorsed this view when he says, Pratisakhyas.....does not mean as has been supposed, a treatise on phonetic peculiarities of each Veda, but a collection of phonetic rules peculiar to one of the different branches of the four Vedas, i. e. to one of those different texts in which each of the Veda had been handed down rot ages in different families and different parts of India.” Whitney in his edition of the Atharva Veda Ptatisakhya (1862) has expressed his assent ill favour of this view and since then most of the scholars have accepted it.


Ghosh, in Paniniya Siksa, has remarked that the above view of Max Muller seems to have been expressed on inadequate grounds. “For, Madhava, quoted by Jnanendra Sarasvati in his gloss on the Siddh. Kau, (Pa. IV. 3. 59 ), explains Pritisakhya as ‘pratisakham bhavam’. And Anantabhatta too in the introduction to his commentary to the Sukla-Yajus Pritisakhy defines the word similarly and shows, after an elaborate discussion, that Katyayana’s work relates to all the fifteen sakhas which developed out of the Sukla Yajur-Veda. From the testimony of Durga also we learn that the Pritisakhya related to more schools than one.


The other term ‘parsada or parisada’ was also employed as a synonym for ‘Pratisakhyas’, as they were the outcome of the discussions of learned scholars in Vedic assemblies ( cf. parisadi bhavam parsadam ).


The Pratisakhyas are preliminary to works on grammar. bhyankar says in this connection, “Although the Pratisakhya works in nature are preliminary to works on grammar, it appears that the existing Pratisakhyas, which are the revised and enlarged editions of the old ones, are written after Panini’s mmar, each one of the present Pratisakhyas representing, of course, several ancient Pratisakhyas, which were written before Panini.”








List of Abbreviation







Phonetics and Phonology




Vowels and Consonants




On the Nature of some Sounds








The Doubling of Consonants




The Nature of Accent




Sandhi Proper


Chapter VIII:

Lengthening, Elision and Insertion




Some Processes Allied to Sandhi




Faults in Pronunciation




Some Phonological Behaviours












Sample Page

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