Verbs in Sanskrit (धातुरूपनन्दिनी)

This article is about verbs in Sanskrit, based on a book धातुरूपनन्दिनी DHATURUPNANDINI by Janardan Hegade. Reader needs basic knowledge of DEVANAGARI script to read this article.

What is a sentence? It is nothing but, group of तिडन्त and सुबन्त words. तिडन्त words are verbs that ends with ति etc. सुबन्त words are nouns that have विभक्ति प्रत्यय. Generally most of the nouns (सुबन्त words) have came from धातु verbs only. So in Sanskrit verbs धातु are most important.  


So let's start our verbs study with tense. Verbs are known as लकार in Sanskrit. There are 10 लकार. We add vowels to ल and then add ट or ड़ So they are 

ट् , लिट् , लुट् , लृट्, लेट् , लोट् ,
ङ् , लिङ्, लुङ् and लृङ्   No लेङ् , no लोङ् लकार in Sanskrit. Only 10. 

Out of this 10 tenses, लेट लकार is used only in वैदिक literature. So no need to study, for day to day Sanskrit conversation. 10 - 1 = 9. However  लिङ् लकार has 2 subtypes. आशी लिङ् and विधि लिङ् So 9 + 1 = 10. लट् , लिट् , लुट् , लृट्, लोट् ,ङ् , आशी लिङ्, विधि लिङ्, लुङ्  and लृङ्

As we know, mainly there are 3 tense only. Present tense, past tense and future tense. The present tense, now, is like non-existing. The moment you speak, now, that time instance has gone. Present tense is लट् लकार. Sanskrit has अद्यतन  काल That applies to any today's event, where today is define as midnight to midnight. अद्यतन future tense (लृट् लकार) and अद्यतन past tense (लङ् लकार). Beyond 24 hours is नअद्यतन or अनद्यतन . अनद्यतन past tense (लुङ् लकार) and अत: future tense (लुट् लकार). अनद्यतन past tense is used for event, that is not so ancient. Sanskrit has परोक्ष tense also. This is for event that we have not seen. परोक्ष past tense (लिट् लकार) is used for describing ancient time, mythological stories etc. Future tense, no one has seen, so it is always परोक्ष. So Sanskrit language has not परोक्ष future tense. 

So let me summarize, we have 3 past tense. अद्यतन past tense (लङ् लकार), अनद्यतन past tense (लुङ् लकार) and परोक्ष past tense (लिट् लकार). We have 1 present tense लट् लकार. 2 future tense: (लुट् लकार) अत: or अनद्यतन  future tense and अद्यतन future tense (लृट् लकार ). 3 past + 1 present + 2 future = 6 tenses.

Remaining 4 tenses. (1) लोट् लकार for request or order (आज्ञा) लोट् लकार  never used for possibility. (example भवतु) (2) विधि लिङ् for rituals, invitation, prayer, possibility etc. (example भवेत् )(3) आशी लिङ् (example भूयात्) This one is most difficult one. So let's leave it. Anyway, instead of आशी लिङ् one can always use लोट् लकार (4) लृङ् लकार It is combination of past and future tense with cause and effect relationship. (example अभविष्यत्)The activity is not done/completed. It has effect of past tense. For example, if Krishna would not have preach Bhagvad Gita, Arjun would not have fight the battle.

महर्षि पाणिनि suggested to use only one past tense. लुङ् लकार, अनद्यतन past tense for both परोक्ष past tense (लिट् लकार) and अद्यतन past tense (लङ् लकार). Also for future tense instead of लुट् लकार, अत:or अनद्यतन  future tense, only use लृट् लकार, अद्यतन future tense. Let's further simplify it. 

महर्षि पाणिनि suggested to use लुङ् लकार for past tense, but लुङ् लकार is difficult. So in day to day life, (लङ् लकार) is popular for past tense, regardless of today's past event or any past event. महर्षि पाणिनि is सूत्रकार He gave so many formulas for grammar. If वाक्यकार (example Kalidas) has different opinion than सूत्रकार, then वाक्यकार is valid. If भाष्यकार (example Mallinath) has has different opinion than वाक्यकार , then भाष्यकार is valid. However, in Sanskrit, शिष्ट व्यवहार has the highest authority.

Adaagam अडागम

अडागम is special character अ is prefixed for verb for 3 tenses. (1) लङ् लकार (2) लुङ् लकार and (3) लृङ् लकार. First let's see the complexity, added by अडागम, latter we will look at the alternative simple solutions. 

For Sanskrit verbs, उपसर्ग: is also prefix. 50% of verbs used in day to day, Sanskrit conversation contains उपसर्ग: Now, this अडागम enters just before verb, then उपसर्ग is placed. So from left to right, first उपसर्ग then अडागम and then the verb धातु. So this involves complex rules of (1) स्वर संधि (2) व्यंजन संधि and (3) विसर्ग संधि for (1) लङ् लकार (2) लुङ् लकार and (3) लृङ् लकार. Many times वृद्धि संधि also happens. Here खलो कपात न्याय is applicable. Means all rules are evaluated and whichever rules are applicable, they are applied. 

Here is simple solution. ङ् लकार we can replaced with क्तवतु प्रत्यय (गतवान् etc). लुङ् लकार, we have already skipped. Instead of लृङ् लकार, we can use स्यात, स्यु:, स्याम etc. We cannot make it further simplified. :) 

Group (गण)
We have total 9 words (forms / रूप रूपाणि ) for each tense. First person (उत्तम पुरुष), Second person (मध्यम पुरुष) and third person (प्रथम पुरुष) + singular (एक वचन ) , 2 (द्वि वचन ) and plural (बहु वचन). So each tense has total 9 suffix, which are added at the end of verb (धातु) to indicate person and singular/plural. They are called आख्यात प्रत्यय Before adding this suffix, आख्यात प्रत्यय, one more suffix is added that is विकर्ण प्रत्यय. This विकर्ण प्रत्यय is specific to group (गण). Each verb belongs to specific group. विकर्ण प्रत्यय is applicable to 4  लकार  (tense) and 2  प्रत्यय . 4 लकार (1) ट् (2) लोट् (3) ङ् and (4) विधि लिङ् and 2 प्रत्यय (1) शतृ प्रत्यय  and (2) शानच प्रत्यय These 4 लकार are called सार्वधातुका: and remaining 6 लकार are आर्धधातुका:

How महर्षि पाणिनि did this grouping? Simple guideline: All the verbs who have some similarity should belong to single group. We also make group of people like (1) ladies and gentlemen 2 groups, (2) age-wise group, (3) native place wise group etc. What is that similarity for verbs? Just notice their forms (रूपाणि ) for above 4  लकार  (tense), if the have some common specific विकर्ण प्रत्यय, then they belong to that specific group (गण). So one should know, the usage of all verbs in day to day life, to identify the verb's membership to specific group. Other way is also true. If one knows the verb's group then he can make grammatically correct usage of that verb.  

Sanskrit language has approximately 2000 verbs. They are grouped under 10 गण. Almost 50% of verbs belongs to first गण. Its name is भ्वादि: . Its विकर्ण प्रत्यय is 'अ'. The 6th (name तुदादि:) has only 157 members. Its विकर्ण प्रत्यय is also 'अ'. The 8th गण (name तनादि:) has only 10 verbs. The 7th गण (name रुधादि:) has typical विकर्ण प्रत्यय 'न' . This विकर्ण प्रत्यय 'न'  is not suffix. It enters just before last character of the verb. Like kids prefer to jump compound wall to enter to school, even the gate is open ! :)  For example रुध धातु, न is added, so it becomes रुनध then रुणध.

Do you know, these 10 groups have also internal grouping.  गण 1, 4, 6 and 10 forms one group. They all have विकर्ण प्रत्यय that ends with vowels. So their धातु रूपाणि are relatively simple. These 4 गण study was part of our 8th standard school syllabus. Remaining 6 गण are little difficult, that we studied in 9th standard. 

In addition to these 10 groups (गण), two more groups are popular. As we know, they are (1) परस्मैपदी and (2) आत्मनेपदी. सम verbs belong to both of these groups. They are (3) उभयपदी. So in Sanskrit, each verbs belong to any one गण out of 10 गण and also any one group out of the above 3 groups. It is like 2 dimension array. The former membership decide विकर्ण प्रत्यय for the 4  लकार  (tense) and 2  प्रत्यय and the later one decide आख्यात प्रत्यय. Off course आख्यात प्रत्यय also depends on लकार

3 rules for all tense (लकार)
Now apart from this 10 groups' विकर्ण प्रत्यय, there are 3 major rules that applies to all the 10 tense (लकार)

  1. इदित धातु: (1) स्कुदि (2) वदि (3) कपि etc. verbs ends with इ. Here, इ is replaced with न् . We often speaks वन्दे मातरं. Here the original verb धातु is दि. इ is replaced with न्. So दि becomes वन्द. ए is added for आत्मनेपदी First person (उत्तम पुरुष),  singular (एक वचन ) present tense (लट लकार) So वन्द becomes वन्दे. Such इदित धातु are not always आत्मनेपदी. Not necessary. Even we can group all the verbs based on their last character. Another way of grouping....
  2. ष is replaced with स . For example ष्वद verb's forms (रूपाणि) contains स instead of ष 
  3. is replaced with न. For example णम verb's forms (रूपाणि) contains नम. 
Many times we use word 'निंदा', means criticism. Its origin is from a verb धातु named णिदि . Here both rule 1 and 3 are applicable. is replaced with न so it become निदि and इ is replaced with न् So it becomes निन्द


For each गण and its विकर्ण प्रत्यय , please refer the book धातुरूपनन्दिनी (ISBN 978-81-87276-67-3) This book contains forms for all 10 tense for all approx 2000 verbs. Obviously for all 10 tenses, all 9 forms are not given, just one form is given for third person singular ( प्रथम पुरुष एक वचन ), so remaining forms we can easily derive. Yes, for typical verb, special case, all 9 forms are given. In addition to that, for each verb (1) its membership to group (गण), and परस्मैपदी , आत्मनेपदी, उभयपदी is mentioned. (2) सेट , वेट & अनिट (3) णिची (4) सनि (5) भावे and (6) यकि forms रूपाणि are captured. 

Generally, one is excited for such book at the beginning. Later on, it remains unused. So Janardan Hegade, provided guidance about how to use this book. One should daily write all the forms (रूपाणि ) of all 10 tenses for at least one verb. Do not try to remember, just see the book and write. It will really make you master of Sanskrit verbs. This book is like dictionary. One can refer it whenever needed. The author also showed various other books for reference and compare them. 


I am thankful to Gauri Rao, PV Parameswaran, Shiva Kumar Kotikalapudi, Dev and N S Lakshmanan for their appreciation and encouragement for this article. I am also thankful to SriKanth, Usha Gopalakrishnan,Chandrasekaran and Sunil Kumar for appreciation and promoting YouTube video. Special thanks to Prashanth V, who helped to type few typical Devanagari character.  

  1. I have written this article based on my understanding of a day long session by Janardan Hegade. I may have misunderstood, misinterpreted some point. Please let me know any correction. 
  2. This article is not verbatim of Janardan Hegade's session. 
  3. For more details please refer the videos at YouTube. You will find many more details, that are not covered in this article. 
These YouTube videos (playlist) contains 3 topics (1) verbs DHATU  (2) SAMAAS (3) VIBHAKTI. This article only covers verbs DHATU. For other topics, stay tune this blog Express YourSelf !


Dev said...

way to go in learning Sanskrut. I want to start learning it, but dont know where to start from. Can you guide on this further.

N S Lakshmanan said...

A very good article attempting to explain in simple terms the very complex sanskrit grammar.

Nivedita said...

@Dev You could visit for details regarding the courses offered by Samskrita Bharati.

HARI OM! said...

हरि ॐ! अतीव उत्ततमं महोदय। धन्यवाद:
देवनागरी लिपि digital keying in very difficult for composite letters.

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