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Sanskrit Lexicons of Ancient India


Dr. A.S. Nene

Retired Professor of Civil Engineering, VNIT Nagpur, India
E mail:
Introduction: Shabdakosh or lexicons are encyclopedias of words. The first
Shabdakosh or lexicon known as Nighantu was compiled in a period 2000
B.C approximately. This text, referred by many composers of lexicons, is not
available now.
The Nighantus are the glossaries or lists of rare and obscure words occurring
in the Vedic hymns. According to Yaska Muni they were collected and
classified by the descendants of ancient sages for the easier understanding
of the Vedic texts.
The Nirukta is a famous work of Yaska. It is the oldest Indian Treatise on
Etymology, Philology and Semantics. This being a commentary on the
Nighantus, collection of obscure words which tradition ascribes also to
Yaska, follows the three-fold division of the contents of the Nighantus.
Subsequently the word Nighantu became equivalent word to lexicon. The
nature of lexicons changed from time to time. The noun, verb, adjective,
proper noun related to a specific word were included. The work of
compilation of a lexicon was considered as an art and was included in sixtyfour art of engineering. This art was named as Abhidhan Shastra. The
ancient lexicons were arranged alphabetically as these are arranged in
present times.

Sanskrit Lexicons of ancient India

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Un-available Lexicons: There were many lexicons which were referred by

next generation but are not available now. Authors of such lexicons are;
1 Bhaguri

6 Rantidev

2 Bopalit

7 Vachaspati (ShabdarNav)

3 Durgasingh (Hugga)

8 Vararuchi

4 Katya

9 Vikramaditya (Sansaravart)

5 Rabhas

10 Vyadi (Utpalini)

The names in bracket are the titles of the lexicons.

Available Lexicons: The oldest available lexicon is Namalinganushasan or
Amarakosh of Amar Simha. He belonged to the period of King Vikramaditya
of 7th century. There are 80 commentaries available on the text. No other
Sanskrit text has received such attention. The book Amarkosha comprises of
three volumes and each volume has numerous chapters.
The first volume Heaven and others has words pertaining to gods and
heavens. The second volume, "Earth and others" deals with words about
earth, towns, animals and humans. The third volume "Common" has words
related to grammar and other miscellaneous words.
The text was basically composed for the use by poets or writers. Most of the
verses are in a specific poetic meter (Anushtupa Chanda).
The lexicon Anekarth Samucchyaya (Different name of same word) was
composed by Shashwat. This text is based on Amar Kosh.
The authors and titles of other lexicons, compiled during 10th to 17th century,
are given in a table below.
10th Century
Author Title & Brief Description

Sanskrit Lexicons of ancient India

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MahakshyapaNak Anekartha Dhwanimanjiri

Halayudh Abhidhan Ratnamala
Dhanapal Prakrutlakshmi
Yadavprakash Vaijayanti consists of 43 chapters and 3500 words
11th Century
Raja Bhja Bhojan Nighantu
Ajaypal Nanartha Sangraha
Mankh Anekarthkosh
12th Century
DharaNidas Anekartha Saar
Dhananjaya 1 Namamala or Nighantusamay.
Dhananjaya 2 Paryay Shabdaratna Sanskrut with Talagu script.
Maheshvara Vishvaprakash





composition i.e. 1112


1. Trikandkosh
2. Haravali
3. Ekaksharkosh
4. Dwirupkosh
5. VarNadeshna

Hemachandra (A Jain

1. Abhidhan ChitamaNi
2. Anekarth Sangraha
3. Deshinam Mala
4. Nighantushash on Botanical terms.
13th to 15th Century

Keshavswami NanartharNavsamkshepa
Medinikar Nanarthashabdakosh
Shridhar Sen Viswalochan or Muktavali
Padmanath Datta Bhuriprayoga
Sanskrit Lexicons of ancient India

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Mahip Shabdaratnakar and Anekarthtilak

Erugapa Nanartharatnamala
Raghav Nanarthamanjiri
Vamanbhatt BaNa Shabdaratnakar and Shabdachandrika
Makarand Das Paramandiya Namamala

1. Sharadiyakhyanmala
2. Anekarth-Namamala
3. Shabdanekarth
16th Century


16th Century

Shahaji Raje of Shabdaratna Samanvaya and Shabdarth Sangraha

Mahadev Ekaksharkosh and Avyayakosh
Shriharsha Dwirupakosha and Sankhyakosh
unknown authors Vastuvidyankosh (on Physics)
Vaidyakiya Kosh (Medical- 25 in numbers)
Jyotishyakosh ( Astrology -5 in numbers)
Bi-lingual lexicons by Sanskrit to Kannada- 2Nos.
unknown authors Persian to Sanskrit - 4Nos.
Sanskrit to Nepali
Sanskrit to Tibetan
17th Century
Raghunath Pandit Rajavyavharkosh Marathi,Farsi and Telagu
minister of Shiwaji equivalent words of Sanskrit.
Conclusion: The ancient Indian lexicons are essential tools of study of the
Sanskrit language. Composing a lexicon was considered as an art and was
patronized by various rulers of India.
Sanskrit Lexicons of ancient India

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Acknowledgement: This article is based on chapter 21 of the book by

1. Amarakosha,
2. Claus








literature; Vol. 5. Scientific and Technical Literature. Fasc. 4.) Viii, pp.
303401.. DM 48, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.
3. Hemchandracharya , Abhidhan Chintamani Kosh

published by

Devchand Lalbhai Jain Pustakoddhar Samstha , Jain eLibrary Website , Folder No. 016087.
4. Lakshman Sarup, The Nighantu and The Nirukta (London, H. Milford
1920-29), Repr. Motilal Banarsidass 2002, ISBN 81-208-1381-2.
5. Velankar, S.B.(1985), Physical Sciences of ancient India, a Marathi
book published by Ms K.B. Dhavle, Girgaon Mumbai, chapter 21,pp

Sanskrit Lexicons of ancient India

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