The efficiency of Sanskrit: Less words more meaning!

In this article, we shall see how Sanskrit increases its efficiency by removing unnecessary, good-for-nothing words from a sentence which the other languages are forced to carry just as a host carries parasites with itself. By the end of this article, you will realize that the language you currently speak contains many redundant words that needlessly lengthen your speech.

Though this analysis may apply to many situations, here we shall analyse only a few of them, by taking examples. Our sample sentences with their translations are given below.

1) Three things must be done before dying.  => त्रीणि कर्तव्यानि प्राङ्मरणात्।
2) A group of boys is playing. => एके बालाः खेलन्ति।
3) Ponds of water are drying. => जलानि शुष्यन्ति।
4) A beautiful woman carries away one’s heart. =>  सुन्दरी मनः मोहयति।

All the above translations have a striking feature in common. The Sanskrit version of each sentence is missing some key word(s) of its English counterpart.

In (1), the Sanskrit version does not contain the word for things.
In (2), the Sanskrit version does not contain the word for group.
In (3), the Sanskrit version does not contain the word for ponds.
In (4), the Sanskrit version does not contain the word for woman.

Let’s now try to understand, why the seemingly indispensable words in the English versions of the sentences are redundant in the Sanskrit counterparts.

Unnecessary noun after a number

Three things must be done before dying.  => त्रीणि कर्तव्यानि प्राङ्मरणात्।

Consider the above sentence. Why don’t we have a word for things in the Sanskrit version ? Specifically, why is the Sanskrit translation not त्रीणि वस्तूनि कर्तव्यानि प्राङ्मरणात्।
Is the translation containing the word वस्तूनि (which means things) wrong ? Actually not.
Well, both the translations are correct. But the word वस्तूनि is redundant and does not add any new meaning to the sentence. This is because त्रीणि itself means Three objects or Three things. Unlike in English (or Hindi), where three represents merely a number, in Sanskrit, त्रि represents a number while त्रीणि, which is the first vibhakti of त्रि, represents not the number three, but three objects. There is nothing alien about this. Afterall, the very purpose of a vibhakti is to convert a word representing a property (here, that property is the property of being three in number) to a word representing an object(s) (three objects in this case).

In fact, this observation can be extended to many cases where a noun follows a number. In such cases, the noun usually becomes redundant!

As another example, त्रीणि पर्यटनीयानि प्राङ्मरणात्। would mean…
Three places should be visited before dying.

Again, the Sanskrit version does not contain the word for places!

Unnecessary words for depicting a collection of objects

A group of boys is playing. => एके बालाः खेलन्ति।

many boys but one unit

eke bAlAH – Many boys but one unit.

Consider the above sentence. Why don’t we have a word for group in the Sanskrit version ? Specifically, why is the Sanskrit translation not एकः बालानाम् समूहः खेलति।
Is the translation containing the word  समूहः (which means group) wrong ? Actually not. Well, both the translations are correct. But the word समूहः is redundant and does not add any new meaning to the sentence. Why so ? Let’s see.

एकः बालः means one boy.
Here, both एक (one) and बाल (boy) are in their singular first vibhakti forms. Hence, एकः बालः represents a single boy.

बहवः बालाः means many boys.
Here, both  बहु (many) and बाल (boy) are in their plural first vibhakti forms. Hence, बहवः बालाः represents many boys.

Now consider..
एके बालाः which means a group of boys.
Here, बाल (boy) is in its plural first vibhakti form and  एक (one) is also in its plural first vibhakti form.
How can एक, which means one, exist in a plural form ? Again vibhakti comes to the rescue. Recall that, एक represents the property of being one. But एके, which is the plural first vibhakti form of एक, represents objects which are many (plural) and still have the property of being one. The objects are many, still they are considered one i.e. एके represents one group of many objects! Since, बालाः (boys) and एके (one group of many objects) have the same vibhakti viz. first vibhakti, they represent the same objects viz. a group of boys!

Hence, एके बालाः खेलन्ति। means A group of boys is playing.

This kind of application of vibhaktis can be extended to many cases where words representing a collection of objects become redundant!

One such application occurs in BhagawadGita (18|3).
त्याज्यं दोषवद् इति एके कर्म प्राहुः मनीषिणः। which means…
One class of thinkers says “Actions must be abandoned just as defects are abondoned”. Here again the Sanskrit version has no word for class!

I remember, my school textbook of Sanskrit said that only the singular vibhaktis of the word एक exist since it means one. But the sloka 18|3 of BhagawadGita refutes this claim by using the plural vibhakti form. This also sheds some light on the quality of school books that the students have available to study the language. The school course of Sanskrit seems to intentionally hide the charms of the language and let the Indians remain unaware of the intellectual capacities of their ancestors. Even those who are genuinely interested in learning the language seem to lose interest after they are forced to memorize the vibhakti tables. Its sad that the British achieved their aim by degrading our education system and making us aloof from our language (and even our nation).

Unnecessary words for depicting samples of uncountable things

Ponds of water are drying. => जलानि शुष्यन्ति।

jalAni

jalAni – ponds of water

Consider the above sentence. Why don’t we have a word for ponds in the Sanskrit version ? Specifically, why is the Sanskrit translation not जलस्य सरांसि शुष्यन्ति। Is the translation containing the word सरांसि (which means ponds) wrong ? Actually not.Well, both the translations are correct. But the word सरांसि is redundant and does not add any new meaning to the sentence. Let’s see why ?

जलस्य सरांसि means ponds of water.

जलानि, which is the plural first vibhakti form of जल, means samples/collections/ponds of water. How can water, which is uncountable, be plural ?

Again vibhaktis come to the rescue. जल means (the property of) being water.
जलम् , which is the singular first vibhakti of जल, means an object having the property of being water i.e. a collection/pond of water.

जलानि , which is the plural first vibhakti of जल, means objects (plural) having the property of being water i.e. collections/ponds of water.

Hence, जलानि शुष्यन्ति। means Ponds of water are drying.

This can be extended to other situations where masses of uncountable things are being spoken about. In such cases, the word for the mass of the uncountable thing becomes redundant!

Unnecessary nouns after adjectives

A beautiful woman carries away one’s heart. =>  सुन्दरी मनः मोहयति।

Consider the above sentence. Why don’t we have a word for woman in the Sanskrit version ? Specifically, why is the Sanskrit translation not सुन्दरी नारी मनः मोहयति।
Is the translation containing the word नारी (which means woman) wrong ? Actually not.
Well, both the translations are correct. But the word नारी is redundant and does not add any new meaning to the sentence. Let’s see why ?

The answer is similar to the previous answers. सुन्दर means (the property of) being beautiful.

सुन्दरः , which is the masculine first vibhakti of सुन्दर, represents a male object (a man) having the property of being beautiful. So सुन्दरः would mean a handsome man.

सुन्दरी , which is the feminine first vibhakti of सुन्दर, represents a female object (a woman) having the property of being beautiful. So सुन्दरी means a beautiful woman.

Hence, सुन्दरी मनः मोहयति। translates to A beautiful woman carries away one’s heart.

This kind of application can be extended to all the cases where a man / woman / male animal / female animal having certain quality is being described. In such cases, the gender-representing words like man, boy, lady etc become redundant.

These were just four examples. In your study of Sanskrit literature, you will find many such patterns which eliminate important looking redundant words. This is also one of the reasons that newbies in Sanskrit have difficulties in translating it because they find the sentences to be incomplete due to missing words, though the sentences are actually complete. The reason that they appear incomplete is that the reader has not fully grasped the concept of vibhaktis.

Also, when you speak in your native tongue the next time, try to figure out which words are really needed and which ones are useless.

That’s it for now. Bye.

This entry was posted in Sanskrit and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The efficiency of Sanskrit: Less words more meaning!

  1. Vinay KR says:

    नमो नमः,
    I have started reading agniveer’s series of sanskrit lessons. I am currently in seventh book. However I have one doubt which I hope you will kindly clear for me.

    In the sentence ” सुन्दरी मनः मोहयति।”
    Should it not be मनं ? Since action is being done on मन.. ?

    Please enlighten me. I really appreciate the efforts you have put in to bring out this series.
    Thanks.

    • gshah says:

      You think that it should be मनं because you falsely assumed that the original word is मन​ like राम​. But the original word is not मन, it is मनस्. मनस् is a सकारान्त नपुंसक लिङ्ग शब्द​. While राम​ is a अकारान्त पुल्लिङ्ग शब्द​. That means राम​ ends in अ because राम​ = र् + आ + म् + अ. But मनस् ends in स् because मनस् = म् + अ + न् + अ + स्. singular second vibhakti of अकारान्त पुल्लिङ्ग शब्द​ is like रामं, नरं or नृपं but singular second vibhakti of सकारान्त नपुंसक लिङ्ग शब्द​ is like मनः, यशः or नभः. (yasha is usually a name used for boys, but यशस् is actually नपुंसक लिङ्ग शब्द​ in sanskrit.)

      You got confused because you do not know the vibhaktis of सकारान्त नपुंसक लिङ्ग शब्द​.
      There are three ways to overcome this problem.
      (1) The hard way: Memorize all the vibhakti forms. There are more than 100 such forms that you should memorize. This can be frustrating.
      (2) The intellectual way: Study Panini’s ashtadhyayi (with a tutor, because it is by far the most advanced text of Sanskrit grammar and a beginner will not understand it how much ever intelligent he/she is). Once you are through ashtadhyayi, you can yourself derive all the vibhaktis using panini’s algorithms, you do not need to memorize them.
      (3) The easiest way and the way I have learned sanskrit: Study some Sanskrit book like bhagawad gita and try to guess the original word and its vibhakti, linga, vachana and lakaar as you study. see what role does the word play in the sentence. you should also have bhagawad gita’s translation (preferably in some indian language), so that you can see what word in the indian language corresponds to what word in sanskrit. For guessing, you should already have basic knowledge of sankrit so that you can guess the original word by looking at its vibhakti, so that you can break complex sandhis into simple words whose vibhaktis you can guess. To have such basic knowledge you can study either Agniveer series or mug up the book “Nootan Saral sanskrit vyakaran tatha rachna – Goyal brothers prakashan”. Once you guess the vibhakti of a word, confirm it from some vibhakti reference book. I am attaching a vibhakti reference book here which contains most of the vibhakti forms. In this book you can find मनस् on page 56. With continuous practice like this, soon you will start remembering all the vibhaktis without consciously memorizing them, like I do. Before writing मनः, I never consciously thought that it is सकारान्त नपुंसक लिङ्ग शब्द​ so it should be मनः. मनः came to my mind without any effort.

      • Vinay KR says:

        Thanks friend.
        You were right I have still not encounteted सकारान्त words. Pardon my ignorance for what I asked was a genuine doubt. I have many doubts just like that but I don’t have anyone to discuss it or get it clarified.
        Anyway thanks for clearing this. God bless you.

  2. Debabrata says:

    भवत: लेखा बहु उत्तमा सरला ज्ञानवर्धिका प्रेरणावर्धिका च अस्ति।
    अस्माकम् देशस्य शिक्षणपद्धति दोषपुर्ण:। साहित्यम् गणितम् विज्ञानम् भूगोल: इतिहास: इत्यदिनाम् शिक्षणम् पुर्वम् मातृभाषाभि: प्रचलति स्म। किन्तु इदानिम् सर्वे आंग्ल भाषा माध्यमेन पठनम् कुर्वन्ति। यदि वयम् एतानाम् पद्धतयाम् परिशोधनम् न कुर्म: चेत् संस्कृतस्य व्यवहार दैनन्दिन जीवने न भवति।

  3. gopalsamas says:

    your sanskrit series is very good.. still i have lot of doubts in vibhakti usage and kta pratyaya usage..ie., past participle ; excepting apte i am not able to locate any books on synatx ; apte is also not very lucid; can your recommend

    • gshah says:

      There is no easy book of Sanskrit sysntan in my knowledge either. The ultimate fallback for all the doubts is Ashtadhyayi. Unfortunately, it is very complex.

  4. Harshita says:

    This is to express sincere and heartfelt thanks to the author of this series of articles on sanskrit.
    I have recently taken up learning sanskrit, because I wanted to read our literature first hand and not translated by anyone – ‘right from the horse’s mouth’ so to say.

    And I was desperately looking for a reason why our sanskrit grammarians spent so much time on defining all its nuances right to the last dot – what speciality or feature does sanskrit get, because of all these rules – and now I know exactly why. It could not have been more lucidly explained and with such superb ease !!

    Again, thanks from the bottom of my heart. I hope you continue to write on sanskrit.
    You should know – it helps ImmenselY🙂
    Hope I can write my next comment in sanskrit😀

  5. Anu Gogoi says:

    I have read your….all articles… and now only cleared why I was mugging up those huge tables when I have studied SANSKRIT in 7th std….A many many thanx..sir… and I also recommend for BHARATSWABHIMAN ANDOLAN…… why should we have been buried down with British’s poorest Education System… We should retain our Original Early Education that were been present in BHARATVARSHA before Britsh come….. All your Articles are highly appreciated and beneficial….and want mention here is that I am Computer science Engineer..and I will very happy to develop programming language for computer.. and I will…. and just request you to continue your Sanskrit Articles..so far…

  6. C.S.Rajan says:

    Again I am strongly impressed by the VIBAKTHI quality of the nouns in Sanskrit. Well illustrated.
    Thanks for the lucid explanations. C.S.Rajan.

Express yourself..

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s