Lesson 15


15.1 Introduction to Dhātu-Pāṭha

A word standing alone expresses a universal: in a sentence it refers to a particular, and its meaning is restricted according to the context. A word is thus given many meanings in the dictionary: the particular meaning is selected according to the context in which it is used.

Nouns, which name things, “freeze” an aspect of the activity of a dhātu; whereas verbs, which express the activity of a sentence, derive directly from the dhātu. A dhātu is therefore the most universal element of all words; and the Dhātu-Pāṭha is a dhātu dictionary, as it were: it provides a sense of the underlying meaning of the dhātu — usually in just one word!

The Dhātu-Pāṭha (lit. “Recitation of Roots”) also encodes a wealth of grammatical information about the conjugation of verbs and the formation of nouns derived from each dhātu: much of this information will not be used at this stage of the study. This lesson is concerned with extracting the artha, or “meaning”, of each dhātu from the Dhātu-Pāṭha, and its application in the study of the scriptures.


15.2 The Contents Page

This lists the ten gaṇa, or classes of dhātu conjugation. Each gaṇa is named after the first dhātu in its section: for example, the first is भ्वादिगण, which word is formed from bhū-ādi-gaṇa, the class beginning with √ bhū, where ādi means “beginning with”.

The eleventh class, कण्ड्वादिगण, is a class of dhātu derived from nouns, i.e., names that have come to be used as verbs. As an example of this class in the dictionary, see “2. Payasya” in 586a, where “Nom.” is the abbreviation for “Nominal Verb”. (Note: “Nominal” is the adjectival form of “noun”, and here means “derived from a noun”.)

The immediate utility of this page is that it connects the dictionary classification, e.g., “cl.1”, with that used in the Index, e.g., भ्वा॰.

Note that this publication1 makes use of alternate character forms to those we have been using in this course (see section 9.A.2); and since the page numbers are also in devanāgarī, note the numeral forms used (especially for 8 and 9).


15.3 The Text Body

Turn to the first page of the body of the Dhātu-Pāṭha: after the heading the rest of the page, and subsequent pages, are divided into two columns. In the lefthand column the first entry is:

भू सत्तायाम् ।

This is the first dhātu (bhū) together with its artha, or “meaning”, (sattāyām). Following this are a few lines of technical information which may be ignored, and the next entry is:

एध् वृद्धौ ।

and so on. Note the layout which gives the dhātu and artha in two columns: there may be more than one dhātu in the first column, and the artha may spread over more than one line. For example, a little lower down is the entry:

नाथृ, नाधृ याच्ञोपतापैश्वर्य-
ऽऽशीःषु ।

giving both dhātu the same artha.

In the Dhātu-Pāṭha each dhātu usually has an extra syllable appended to the end of it, and sometimes one appended before it: for example, the above four appear in the dictionary as भू एध् नाथ् and नाध्. These extra syllables are called anubandha (lit. “bound along with”), and encode further grammatical information which is not now required: our interest at this stage is in the basic dhātu and its artha.

The artha is generally expressed in saptamī vibhakti, which may be translated as “in the sense of”. For example, the dhātu एध् edh (to prosper, increase, become happy grow strong — MW231c) is used “in the sense of Vṛiddhi (growth, success, fortune, etc. — MW1011a)”. Thus all words derived from this dhātu have this sense of expansive good fortune — a sense that may be overlooked in some of the English words offered in translation.

Where the artha is a single word, the eka-vacana form is used; when two words (formed into a samāsa), the dvi-vacana form; and when three or more words, the bahu-vacana form. When the artha has two or more words, the compound formed is an itaretara dvandva samāsa (see 11.B.1), forming a simple list of words which, not compounded, would be expressed in the same vibhakti and be joined together with (“and”). In this type of samāsa only the last word of the compound takes a vibhakti ending; the others remain in their prātipadika form.

To get back to the prātipadika form as listed in the dictionary, use the following:

  1. eka-vacana endings have six forms:
    for an ending in -e, read -a,
    for an ending in -āyām, read ,
    for an ending in -yām, read i,
    for an ending in -au, read i,
    for an ending in -i, remove -i (i.e., ends in halanta vyañjana),
    for an ending in -uvi, read ū,
  2. dvi-vacana samāsa end in -yoḥ, which is removed,
  3. bahu-vacana samāsa end in ṣu,
    for those ending in -eṣu, read -a,
    in other cases simply remove the -ṣu.

The itaretara dvandva samāsa will generally not be found in the dictionary as one would expect to find a samāsa listed, instead the words will need to be looked up separately. This is straightforward enough: simply start at the left and find the word in the dictionary that uses most syllables; assume that is the first word, and then repeat the process with the following syllables— but do remember that sandhi rules apply at the junction of words.

Some entries in the Dhātu-Pāṭha differ from the common format of the dhātu and artha illustrated above. For example, when the artha is given as two separate words, both in saptamī vibhakti, then the first of the pair is a viśeṣaṇa. The last entry on the first page is of this type:

ह्राद अव्यक्ते शब्दे ।

Here the dhātu hrād (to delight or refresh — MW1307c) is used “in the sense of unmanifest (avyaktaMW111b) sound (śabdaMW1052b)”. The quality of happiness and refreshment referred to, is thus that which comes from within, from the stillness of unmanifest sound, and not that happiness and refreshment that comes from without, i.e., through the senses — here we have a subtlety of meaning that is not at all obvious from the English translation.

The interpretation of other variations in the format is described:

  1. When the dhātu is followed by (“and”, “also”), then this has the same artha as the previous dhātu.
  2. When the artha is given as a word followed by , then the artha for that dhātu is that word together with the artha of the previous dhātu.
  3. When the artha is followed by नोच्यते, it means that the artha is not given elsewhere in the Dhātu-Pāṭha.
    (नोच्यते = -उच्यते = not spoken, i.e., not mentioned elsewhere.)
  4. When the artha is followed by इत्येके (= इति - एके = thus in one) or इत्यन्ये (= इति - अन्ये = thus in another), this refers to artha given in different versions of the Dhātu-Pāṭha as handed down, and are comments by the compiler of this edition.
  5. Where the arthais given as a samāsa ending in अर्थाः (prathamā bahu-vacana of अर्थ्; bahu-vacana because the artha applies to several dhātu), then “अर्थाः” may be translated as “for the purpose of”, i.e., expressing motive. For example, dhātu क्रथ् has the artha हिंसार्थाः (हिंसा = “injury”, “harm” — MW1297c), and may be construed as “for the sake of (causing) injury”, or “with the aim of harming”.
  6. Some entries have an unusual format, enclosed by pūrṇavirāma () and may have the order of dhātu and artha reversed: these dhātu have a special meaning when they are मित् causatives (treated as having an इत् म् which prevents the normal lengthening of in the causative).

15.4 The Index

In the body of the Dhātu-Pāṭha the dhātu are grouped together according to common grammatical features of their development into words. This ordering is not at all helpful in seeking the entry for the dhātu. Fortunately the Dhātu-Pāṭha includes an index listing the dhātu in alphabetical order and indicating where each dhātu is listed in the body. The index also provides more grammatical information, some of which is helpful in finding the correct dhātu.

The index starts on page 53: each page is divided into two columns, so that a dhātu together with its grammatical information is listed on one line, in fact, one row of tabulated data, six columns wide. These columns, from left to right, provide the following information:

  1. The dhātu together with its anubandha: the index is ordered alphabetically according to this column.
  2. The gaṇa to which the dhātu belongs: this column has just the first syllable of the gaṇa, which is shown in full on the contents page.
  3. The bhāṣā (= speech; synonymous with pada used in this course), which may be ātmane-bhāṣā , parasmai-bhāṣa, or ubhayato-bhāṣā (= both, i.e., ātmane॰ and parasmai॰).
  4. Whether the dhātu is सेट् (= स् - इट्, accepts augment in its expansion), or अनिट् (= अन् - इट्, does not do so): this may be ignored at this stage.
  5. The page number on which the dhātu together with its artha may be found.
  6. The column on that page where it may be found.

The first entry of the index shows that the dhātu अक (with its anubandha) belongs to भ्वादिगण, is परस्मै-भाषा, and may be found on page 17 column 1, as:

अक, अग कुटिलायां गतौ ।

Note that the index has two entries for dhātu अक् with different anubandha vowels (i.e., अक and अकि), whereas the dictionary lists only one dhātu अक्. Where the dhātu has more than one entry in the index, do make use of the information given in the dictionary immediately after the dhātu heading word: this information gives the class (gaṇa) and bhāṣa of the dhātu (see #2 and #3 above); for example, “cl. 1 Ā.” means class 1 (bhvādi-gaṇa) and ātmane-bhāṣā; “cl. 4 P.” means divādi-gaṇa parasmai-bhāṣā, etc. (the table of contents in the Dhātu-Pāṭha gives the order of the gaṇa). Where the dictionary gives both bhāṣā, as “P. Ā.”, this is the equivalent of ubhayato-bhāṣā in the Dhātu-Pāṭha.

At the end of the index, on page 99, is an Addendum listing entries that had been omitted from the main index.


15.5 Dhātu Spelling Changes

The spelling of the dhātu may differ from that given in the dictionary:

  1. An initial स् may be spelt here with an initial ष्.
    E.g., सूत्रसिव् listed as षिवु; उपनिषद्सद् as षदॢ
  2. An initial न् may be spelt here with an initial ण्.
    E.g., नादनद् listed as णद्; नीलनील् as णील्
  3. When the dhātu has a final as an anubandha, it may require the insertion of a nasal after the vowel of the dhātu.
    E.g., आनन्दनन्द् listed as [टु] नदि; मुण्डकमुण्ड् as मुडि.

These spelling changes may also be combined, as in निन्दानिन्द् which is listed in the Dhātu-Pāṭha as णिदि.

(Those seeking the technical reasons behind these changes should consult the commentaries to Pāṇini 6.1.64, 6.1.65, and 7.1.58 respectively.)


15.6 Illustrations of Dhātu-Pāṭha Use

The dhātu for each word of the previous exercise of Dictionary Practice (section 14.6) will be used as a practical demonstration in the use of the Dhātu-Pāṭha: the dhātu is located in the index, then its artha found in the body, and finally the artha is examined in the dictionary.

(1)mw758aभी 1.bhī, cl.3. P. … to fear, be afraid of
Dh.P. Index [ञि] भी जु॰ प॰ अ॰ २६ १
Dh.P. Body: ञिभी भये ।
mw747a भय bhaya n. (√bhī) fear, alarm, dread …

Notes: This dhātu has its anubandha syllable placed in front of it: in the index this is enclosed in square brackets so that the dhātu भी may be found in alphabetical order. The class (juhotyādi-gaṇa) and bhāṣā agree with the information provided in the dictionary, so the dhātu entry ञिभी is sought in the Dhātu-Pāṭha body in the first column of page 26: it is the second entry.

The notes in section 15.3 may be used to “remove” the vibhakti from the artha (although this declension should be familiar), and the remaining word in its prātipadika form is looked up in the dictionary. In this case the given artha is itself derived from the dhātu being examined, and thus provides no further insight into the sense of the dhātu than that provided by the dictionary entry.

(2)mw648aपॄ pṛī, cl.9 P. … to fill … to sate, cherish, nourish
Dh.P. Index: पॄ क्र्या॰ प॰ से॰ ३९ १
Dh.P. Body: पॄ पालनपूरणयोः ।
mw623a Pālana mf(ī)n. guarding, nourishing … n. the act of guarding, protecting, nourishing, defending…
mw642a Pūraṇa mf(ī)n. filling, completing, satisfying … m. “completer” … n. the act of filling or filling up.

Notes: The index has three entries for dhātu पॄ, so the class (kryādi-gaṇa and bhāṣā information from the dictionary is used to select the correct one. The dhātu with its artha are in fact at the top of the second column of page 39: there are a number of such errors, so beware! The vibhakti ending of the artha is the dvi-vacana form (see section 15.3), so we can expect to look up two words in the dictionary. As nouns (which is the sense here), both words end in “-na” (with or without sandhi changes) — this is a common neuter suffix usually meaning ”the act of …”, and is given as such in the dictionary translation.

The artha pālana adds the sense of “nourishing” to the “filling up” of pūraṇa (which itself derives from the dhātu pṝ). This gives a beneficial aspect to the dhātu: it is not to fill to the point of bloatedness, nor is it to fill with rubbish, but the sense is of generous abundance.

(3)mw1302aहृ 1.hṛi, cl.1. P.Ā. … to take, bear, carry
Dh.P. Index: हृञ् भ्वा॰ उ॰ अ॰ २० १
Dh.P. Body: हृञ् हरणे ।
mw1289a Haraṇa mf(ā or ī)n. carrying, holding, containing … n. the act of carrying or bringing or fetching.

Notes: The gaṇa and bhāṣā are used to select the dhātu entry.

(4)mw252bकम्प् kamp, cl.1.Ā. … to tremble, shake.
Dh.P. Index: कपि भ्वा॰ आ॰ से॰ ८ २
Dh.P. Body: कपि चलने ।
mw391b Calana, mf(ā)n. moving, movable, tremulous … n. shaking motion, shaking, trembling.

Notes: if the dhātu is not found at its expected place in the alphabetical order in the index, nor in the Addendum, then check for applicable dhātu spelling changes (see section 15.5): the third rule applies here.

(5a)mw395bचित् 4.cit, cl.1 … to perceive, fix the mind upon, attend to …
Dh.P. Index: चिती भ्वा॰ प॰ से॰ २ १
Dh.P. Body: चिती सञ्ज्ञाने ।
mw1133c Saṃ-jñāna mf(ī)n. producing harmony … n. unanimity, harmony with … consciousness … right perception

Notes: Again, the gaṇa is used to select the entry in the index.

Observe the aspect of harmony and unity provided by the artha: there is no passion or ulterior motive in the perception or attention of the dhātu cit.

(5b)mw300cकृ 1.kṛi … cl.2. P. … to do, make, perform, accomplish.
Dh.P. Index: [डु]कृञ् त॰ उ॰ अ॰ ३८ २
Dh.P. Body: डुकृञ् करणे ।
mw254a Karaṇa mf(ā)n. doing, making, effecting, causing … m. a helper, companion … n. the act of making, doing, producing, effecting, …

Notes: The dictionary entry for this dhātu is quite lengthy: reading through the first column of page 301, it also gives “cl.1. P.” and “cl.5. P.” as well as “cl.8 (this is the usual formation in the Brāhmaṇas, Sūtras, and in classical Sanskrit)”.

The Dhātu-Pāṭha does not list a class 2 dhātu कृ, hence the return to the dictionary for more information. In practice the cl.5 dhātu should also be examined, but its artha हिंसायाम्, meaning “in the sense of injury” is inappropriate to the original word that led us to the dhātu in the first place.

(5c)mw963bविद् 1.vid, cl.2. P. … to know, understand, perceive, learn …
Dh.P. Index: विद् अ॰ प॰ से॰ २५ १
Dh.P. Body: विद् ज्ञाने ।
mw426a Jñāna n. knowing, becoming acquainted with, knowledge …

Notes: The gaṇa and bhāṣā given in the dictionary are used to choose among the five entries in the index for dhātu विद्.

(6)mw783aमन् man, cl.8.4. Ā. … to think, believe, imagine.
Dh.P. Index: मन दि॰ आ॰ अ॰ २९ २ and मनु त॰ आ॰ से॰ ३८ २
Dh.P. Body: मन ज्ञाने । and मनु अवबोधने ।
mw426a Jñāna n. knowing, becoming acquainted with, knowledge…
mw101b Ava-bodhana, n. informing, teaching, instruction.

Notes: Since the dictionary gives two classes for this dhātu and both are listed in the index, the artha for both need to be examined. In fact, given the original word that led to the dhātu, and which was to do with pride, both artha seem applicable: one to the opinion held in the mind, and the other to the expression of that opinion in word or deed (thus informing others).


15.7 Study of the Scriptures

Since most scriptures are available in translation, it would be a pointless exercise to apply the dictionary and Dhātu-Pāṭha to merely confirm the translation; in fact, all translations are significantly flawed by two factors: the first is the translator’s level of understanding of the subject (in respect of the scriptures that means spiritual understanding) and his ability to express that understanding in another language; secondly, the student (the reader of the translation) has his own limited associations with the words in his native tongue. These sources of error and misunderstanding are minimized by studying the scriptures in the original language, and, through tracing the etymology of each word to its finest, most universal source, thereby overcoming the limitations that the individual has with particular words and ideas.

The translations are helpful in selecting a passage for study, and to confirm that the correct word is being traced through the dictionary. After this preparatory work with the dictionary and Dhātu-Pāṭha, the passage is considered in relation to the section of scripture in which it occurs, in relation to the scripture as a whole, in relation to the entire Veda: the mind is thus turned towards the spiritual world, and slowly trained to view all of life in terms of that spiritual world. It does take practice before realizing that the scriptural texts can only be understood through contemplation and meditation.

As an illustration of this method of study, let us examine a verse from the Bhagavad Gītā: Chapter 10 Verse 33 is selected simply because it has some words and concepts introduced in this course. It is an extract from Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s response to Arjuna’s asking for details of His Glory and powers; the first line of the verse is:

अक्षराणामकारोऽस्मि द्वन्द्वः सामासिकस्य च ।

Of letters I am the letter A; I am the copulative of compound words.

At first glance, this statement does not appear to be at all profound or have any spiritual associations whatsoever, but nonetheless we pursue it through the dictionary and Dhātu-Pāṭha to see what may be discovered.

Removing the sandhi from this line, we have:

अक्षराणाम् अकारः अस्मि द्वन्द्वः सामासिकस्य च ।

अक्षराणाम्ṣaṣṭhī bahu-vacana of अक्षर.
mw3b अक्षर a-kshara mfn. imperishable … n. a syllable, letter, vowel, sound, word.
mw1a 3. a a prefix having a negative or privative or contrary sense.
mw327a Kṣara mfn. melting away, perishable; m. a cloud; n. water; the body.
mw327a क्षर् kṣar, cl.1. P. to flow, stream, glide; to melt away, wane, perish …
Dh.P. क्षर भ्वा॰ प॰ से॰ १८ २ । क्षर सञ्चलने ।
mw1132a Saṃ-calana n. moving about, agitation, trembling, shaking.

अकारःprathamā eka-vacana of अकार.
mw1a -kāra m. the letter or sound a. (see beginning of Lesson 3.A).
mw274b कार 1.kāra mf(ī)n. √kṛi … making, doing, working … m. (ifc.) an act, action; the term used in designating a letter or sound or indeclinable word …
mw300c कृ 1.kṛi … cl.2. P. … to do, make perform, accomplish
Dh.P. [डु]कृञ् त॰ उ॰ अ॰ ३८ २ । डुकृञ् करणे ।
mw254a Karaṇa mf(ī)n. doing, making, effecting, causing … m. a helper, companion … n. the act of making, doing, producing, effecting …

अस्मिeka-vacana uttama-puruṣa laṭ of √as = “I am”.
mw117a अस् 1.as cl.2. P. to be, live, exist, be present…
Dh.P. अस अ॰ प॰ से॰ २५ १ । अस भुवि ।
mw760c 2.Bhū mfn. becoming, being, existing … f. the act of becoming or arising; the place of being, space, world, or universe.

द्वन्द्वःprathamā eka-vacana of द्वन्द्व.
mw503b द्वंद्व n. a couple, male and female … m. a copulative compound (or any compound in which the members if uncompounded would be in the same case and connected by the conjunction “and”).
mw503b द्व original stem of dvi.
mw504c द्वि two.

सामासिकस्यṣaṣṭhī eka-vacana of सामासिक.
mw1206b सामासिक mf(ī)n. (from sam-āsa), comprehensive, concise, succinct, brief; relating to or belonging to a compound word; m. or n. a compound word.
mw1152a सम् 2.sam ind. (connected with 7.sa and 2.sama), with, together with, along with, altogether.
mw1152a सम 2.sama mf(ā)n. even, smooth … same, equal, similar, like, equivalent, like to or identical or homogenous with …
mw1111b 7.sa ind. expressing “junction”, “conjunction” … “similarity”, “equality” … “having the same”.
mw159c 1.Āsa m. seat.
mw159c आस् 2.ās to sit quietly, abide, remain.
Dh.P. आस अ॰ आ॰ से॰ २३ १ । आस उपवेशने ।
mw207a Upa-veśana n. the act of sitting down, a seat; the being devoted to or engaged in.

mw380a 2.ca ind. and, both, also, moreover, as well as …


The following personal reflections are offered as illustrative of this process of study: they are neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad; they are simply what were presented to the mind in considering the passage.

In all languages the first letter is A. The primacy of its position at the head of the alphabet reflects its role as the source of the whole alphabet. In Sanskrit this is easy to demonstrate: the figure given in 1.A.6 summarizes the core role of in forming all the vowels; and from the five mouth positions of these vowels, are derived all the consonants. All words are formed from sound, and all sounds are derived from ; they are all but a modified form of that , which is their source and support.

In responding to Arjuna’s question, Kṛṣṇa gives many examples of being the foremost of several classes, and here the illustration is being the A of letters. Here the allusion is also to Consciousness as being the underlying Source and Support of the manifest creation (√asa bhuvi, “in this world”).

The sounds of the alphabet are imperishable (akṣara): they may be manifest, they may change, they may be unmanifest, but are not subject to absolute destruction. If the sounds of the alphabet are imperishable, how then does one describe their source and support, the ever-present ? This may be understood as referring to the immutable Consciousness underlying the whole creation.

The mark of the dvandva samāsa is that there is an equality between the joined elements, and each retain its individuality (see 11.B.1). Giving this as the foremost of the samāsa — where there is no difference in importance between the elements — places the emphasis on that which links them together. By analogy it is Consciousness that underlies the ever-changing variety of creation, holding it all together as one, yet allowing the elements to retain their individuality.

By way of illustration, the attention at the moment is on the words on this page, on their significance and meaning. But what of the letters which form the words? Or the ink that forms the letters? And what about the paper that holds the ink in place? The plain white paper, which is taken for granted, is like Consciousness; and all the words, which are deemed important and interesting, are like creation.


15.8 Study Practice

As a practice in using the dictionary and Dhātu-Pāṭha in studying the scriptures the other half of this verse from the Bhagavad Gītā is offered, together with its grammatical division down to the prātipadika level.

Examine each word in the dictionary, tracing it to its dhātu where possible, then find the artha in the Dhātu-Pāṭha, and examine those words in the dictionary.

Having done this mechanical work, consider the passage in a universal or spiritual sense, and write down what is presented to the mind. There are no right or wrong answers here, so do not look for clever results: the exercise is one of stretching the mind to larger issues than those that daily life normally offers. There is no rush with this part of the exercise: let the scripture come to mind over a period of a week or so, and then write down your understanding in clear readable English. As with all exercise, a little performed regularly has the greatest benefit in the long term.

अहमेवाक्षयः कालो धाताहं विश्वतोमुखः ॥
I am verily Time inexhaustible; I am the Dispenser facing everywhere.

Removing the sandhi from this line, we have:

अहम् एव अक्षयः कालः धाता अहम् विश्वतोमुखः ॥

अहम् prathamā eka-vacana of personal pronoun “I”.
एव avyaya = veryily, indeed.
अक्षयः prathamā eka-vacana of akṣaya = inexhaustible.
कालः prathamā eka-vacana of काल = time.
Notes: from the information given in the dictionary, it is not possible to select which of the entries in the Dhātu-Pāṭha index is the correct one: one needs to examine the artha for the three possibilities and compare that with the meaning given in the dictinoary. (The last entry is the most appropriate.)
धाता prathamā eka-vacana of dhātṛ = dispenser.
विश्वतोमुखः prathamā eka-vacana of viśvatomukha = facing everywhere.
Notes: the verb अस्मि used in the first line of this verse, is implied here.
  1. Editor’s Note: Wikner is here referring to the print edition of the Dhātupāṭha edited by J.L. Shastri and published by Motilal Banarsidass. It is available for purchase from the publisher’s website, but I have not been able to find an online version.