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Learning Sanskrit - Syntax (1)

Syntax - An introductory study


Hi, Gabriel Pradīpaka again. You are about to start your study in Sanskrit syntax. This first document contains the first part of a deep study into Declension. In Declension, you have learnt a series of rules to decline words properly. Besides, you could see some simple sentences in which various declined words were used in a general way. For example:

शिवस्य गिरिः - Śivasya giriḥ
The mountain (giriḥ) of Śiva (śivasya)

In this case, you are using the word "śivasya" (Genitive case for "Śiva") in a standard way, that is: "of Śiva". This is the obvious and common use of words being declined in Genitive case. However, sometimes you "must" use a word declined in genitive when you would expect a dative instead. Look:

शिवस्य न विश्वं भवति - Śivasya na viśvaṁ bhavati
For (or "according to") Śiva (śivasya), there is no (na... bhavati) universe (viśvam)
(if you were to translate "śivasya" as "of Śiva, the sentence would sound somewhat strange, for example: "There is no universe belonging to Śiva" or something. Although this translation would make sense, when translating you must always keep the entire context in mind so that your translation can be a trustworthy one)

In this case, you would have expected "śivāya" (Dative case) instead of "śivasya" (Genitive case). In turn, I want to show you now an example by using "śivāya". You have learnt in Declension that Dative case mainly gives the sense of "for, to, for the sake of, etc.". For instance:

स शिवाय पुष्पं ददाति - Sa śivāya puspaṁ dadāti
He (saḥ) offers (dadāti) a flower (puṣpam) to Śiva (śivāya)

This is the obvious and "standard" way of using Dative case. Nonetheless, you can find a dative where you would expect an accusative. For example:

ज्ञानं शिवाय कल्पते - Jñānaṁ śivāya kalpate
Knowledge (jñānam) leads (or "is favorable to attain") (kalpate) to Śiva (śivāya)
(And not, "leads for Śiva, etc.", which does not make any sense)

Why am I talking to you about all those things? Because I want to show you that the use of declined words in Sanskrit is not always the same as that in English. For example, "kalpate" is derived from "kḷp" (to lead, to be favorable, etc.). This root uses an indirect object ("śiva" in this case) declined in Dative case and not in Accusative case as in English language. In short, you could not use "śivam" (accusative of "Śiva"), but "śivāya" (dative of "Śiva") in the above example. Thus, throughout the first two documents of this series (Syntax), you will learn many other things about Declension apart from those which were explained in Declension, that is, you will learn to use Declension in real world. After Declension, you will go deeper into Pronouns, Participles, Moods and so on.

to be continued


Further Information

Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

For further information about Sanskrit, Yoga and Indian Philosophy; or if you simply want to comment, ask a question or correct a mistake, feel free to contact us: This is our e-mail address.