Nirukta Shastra

Nirukta Vedanga (Sanskrit: "etymology Veda-limb.") — auxiliary Vedic texts which discuss the origin and development of words; among the four linguistic skills taught for mastery of the Vedas and the rites of yagna. Nirukta relies upon ancient lexicons, nighantu, as well as detailed hymn indices, anukramani. Five nighantus existed at the time of sage Yaska, whose treatise is regarded a standard work on Vedic etymology.


There are altogether fourteen chapters in Nirukta out of which the first twelve chapters from the beginning are the main chapters and the two chapters in the end are given in the form of appendixes or supplementaries. These last two chapters can not be considered as a subsequent addition because sage Uvvat in his annotation of Yajurveda has taken excerpts from the Nirukta. Both he and sage ?Sayan? are well acquainted with the chapters of Nirukta. This goes to prove that the Nirukta is more ancient than the time when both these sages existed.

Nirukta is the commentary of Nighantu. In Nighantu are compiled the difficult and complex terms of the Vedas. There are difference of opinions regarding the actual numbers of Nighantu. Only one ?Nighantu? is available nowdays. Some scholars are of the views that Nidhantu is created by none other than Yask, but followers of ancient tradition. According to the Mahabharat (Ch-342 of Moksha dharm Shlokas 86-87) sage Kashyap is the creator of Nighantu.

Therefore going by the statement made in the Mahabharat it seems that it was the creation of Prajapati Kashyap during the Mahabharat period. There are five chapters in ?Nighantu?. The first three chapters from the beginning are called ?Naighantukand?, the fourth and the fifth chapter are called ?Naigam kand? and ?Daivatkand? respectively.

The first chapter contains words connected with nature and natural elements like earth. The second kand consists of root-words or mono-words.

The word Naigam means the impossibility to know about the exact meaning of the words and their nature.

In Daivat-kand is described the appearances of the deities and their abodes.

Nirukta tells us about the etymological expressions of words & its derivations. The meaning varies according to the etymological expressions.

The important of the Nirukta created by Yask is very great. In the very beginning of his literary composition sage Yask has illustrated about the principle of Nirukta in a scientific way. During his time the meanings of Vedas were interpreted on the basis of diverse opinions, which were as follows.

1. Adhidaivat
2. Adhyatm
3. Aakhyan Samay
4. Ethihasikah
5. Naidanah
6. Nairuktah
7. Parivrajahah
8. Yagyikah

These above mentioned various opinions shed light on the history of different contemplation?s of the Vedas.

Sage Yask had a great impact on many commentators of the Vedas in due course of time. Sage Sayan accomplished his commentaries of the Vedas after contemplating on his very system. Yask?s processes are also accepted and followed by the linguists of modern age. Being the sole representative of the Nirukta, the importance of Yasks volume is great.

Although Nirukta is itself is a commentary of the Vedas, but still, it is so complex at certain places that even the most learned commentators fail to understand its real meaning. Moreover the exact chapter of Nirukta are nor available traditionally. Along with the difficult language which the Nirukta contains its chapters are so complex at certain places that even a great annotator like Durgacharya experienced difficulty in understanding it. Because of its complex nature many scholars, before Vikram have tried their hands at writing commentaries on it.

Commentators of Nirukta

1) DURGACHARYA: Durgacharya is one of the most ancient commentator of the Nirukta, but he is certainly not the first one to do so. Numerous commentaries of earlier annotators are mentioned in his volume.

2) SKAND MAHESHWAR: This commentary is very ancient and scholarly. Commentary on the Rigveda is also available.

Importance of Nirukta

The term "Nirukta" has been described by sage Sayanacharya in the following way


The collection of independent words which helps in understanding their meaning are called Nirukta.

Durgacharya is of the opinion that Nirukta is supreme among the Vedanga and volumes because it helps us to understand the meaning of the words. The meaning of the word is of primary importance and the word itself is of secondary importance. Grammar is nothing but the study of the words. In ?Kalps? (part of Veda treating of rituals) the proper use of the Mantras in the vedic ceremonies are described. The mantra is used only in such situation where the words contained in that mantra is capable of expressing themselves completely. Therefore ?Kalpa? too helps in gaining knowledge of mantras meaning.

Nirukta is of greater value than ?Kalpa? because it helps in understanding the meanings of words, in all of their probable permutations and combinations, where as ?Kalpa? helps to understand the meanings of mantras, which themselves consist of words.

Although the study of grammar also helps in understanding the characteristics of words but I can not interpret the meaning of words as deeply as Nirukta. Therefore the study of the Nirukta is very necessary to understand the Vedas. It is a supplementary science of Grammar.





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