The Original Paṇhavāyaraṇa / Praśnavyākaraṇa Discovered

Published: 31.12.2007
Updated: 02.07.2015

International Journal of Jaina Studies
(Online) Vol. 3, No. 6 (2007) 1-10



This paper reports the author's discovery of the original Paṇhavāyaraṇa/ Praśnavyākaraṇa together with a fairly old Sanskrit commentary. It describes the unique palm-leaf manuscript and its paper transcript both preserved in the National Archives of Nepal. The original text of the Praśnavyākaraṇa was lost at some point in history and another entirely different text was substituted in the place of the original aṅgasūtra. The version of the Praśnavyākaraṇa in circulation deals with the five sins and the consequences corresponding to them but a number of Jaina canonical texts indicate that the original Praśnavyākaraṇa should mostly deal with divination. Exactly this is the content of the Praśnavyākaraṇa discovered in Nepal. This paper discusses all these issues, narrates the description of the Praśnavyākaraṇa found in Jaina canonical texts, presents a list of all sections of the newly found text, and also reflects on the identity of the Sanskrit commentator Devanandi.


The Original Paṇhavāyaraṇa / Praśnavyākaraṇa Discovered

[1]The Sthānāṅgasūtra (Jambūvijaya 1985a: 311, sūtra 755) describes the Paṇhavāgaraṇa (Skt. Praśnavyākaraṇa), the tenth aṅga of the Jain canon, in the following way:

paṇhāvāgaraṇa-dasāṇaṃ dasa ajjhayaṇā pannattā, taṃjahā – uvamā, saṃkhā, isi-bhāsiyāiṃ, āyariya-bhāsitāiṃ, mahāvīra-bhāsitāiṃ, khomapasiṇāiṃ, komala-pasiṇāiṃ, addāga-pasiṇāiṃ, aṃguṭṭha-pasiṇāiṃ, bāhupasiṇāiṃ |

In the Paṇhavāgaraṇa-dasā ten adhyayanas are taught. They are as follows: comparison/ example (uvamā), decision/enumeration (saṃkhā), teachings of the seers (isi-bhāsiyāiṃ), teachings of the teachers (āyariya-bhāsitāiṃ), teachings of Mahāvīra (mahāvīra-bhāsitāiṃ), the issues associated with the way of divination which involves a deity's entering a linen cloth (khomapasiṇāiṃ), those issues associated with the way of divination which involves a deity's entering some soft object (?) (komala-pasiṇāiṃ), those issues associated with the way of divination which involves a deity's entering a mirror (addāga-pasiṇāiṃ), those associated with the way of divination which involves a deity's entering the surface of one's thumb (aṃguṭṭha-pasiṇāiṃ), and associated with the way of divination which involves a deity's entering the surface of one's arm (bāhu-pasiṇāiṃ).

Similarly, the Samavāyāṅgasūtra (Jambuvijaya 1985a: 444, Sūtra 145) describes it the following way:

se kiṃ taṃ paṇhāvāgaraṇāiṃ? paṇhāvāgaraṇesu ṇaṃ aṭṭhuttaraṃ
pasiṇasataṃ, aṭṭhuttaraṃ apasiṇasataṃ, aṭṭhuttaraṃ pasiṇāpasiṇasataṃ,
vijjātisayā, nāgasupaṇṇehi ya saddhiṃ divvā saṃvāyā āghavijjaṃti |
paṇhāvāgaraṇadasāsu ṇaṃ sasamayaparasamayapaṇṇavayapatteyabuddhavividhattha-bhāsābhāsiyāṇaṃ atisayaguṇauvasamaṇāṇapagāra-

āyariyabhāsiyāṇaṃ vitthareṇaṃ vīramahe-sīhiṃ viviha-vitthārabhāsiyāṇaṃ
ca jagahitāṇaṃ addāgaṃguṭṭhabāhuasimaṇikhomaāicca-mātiyāṇaṃ
ṇaṃ sabbhūyabiguṇappabhāvanaragaṇamativimhayakarīṇaṃ atisayamatītakālasamayedamatittha-karuttamassa thitikaraṇakāraṇāṇaṃ
durabhigamadurovagāhassa savvasavvaṇṇusammata-ssābudhajaṇavibohakarassa paccakkhayappaccayakarīṇaṃ paṇhāṇaṃ vivihaguṇamahatthā
jiṇavarappaṇīyā āghavijjaṃti |
paṇhāvāgaraṇesu ṇaṃ parittā vāyaṇā, saṃkhejjā aṇuogadārā, jāva
saṃkhejjāo saṃgahaṇīo. se ṇaṃ aṃgaṭṭhayāe dasame aṃge, ege
sutakkhaṃdhe, [paṇayālīsaṃ ajjhayaṇā], paṇayālīsaṃ uddesaṇakālā,
paṇayālīsaṃ samuddesaṇakālā, saṃkhejjāiṃ payasayasahassāiṃ paaggeṇaṃ
paṇṇatte, saṃkhejjā akkharā, aṇaṃtā gamā, jāva caraṇakaraṇaparūvaṇā
āghavijjati. se ttaṃ paṇhāvāgaraṇāṇi |[2]

What are the contents of the paṇhāvāgaraṇāiṃ? In the paṇhāvāgaraṇa, 108 praśnas, 108 apraśnas, 108 praśnāpraśnas, excellent supernatural vidyās, and supernatural conversation of snakes and eagles are taught.

In the Paṇhāvāgaraṇadasā, those great issues of praśnavidyās are explained, which are composed by the best Jinas, cause direct perception, and have manifold great qualities. [These issues] are hard to comprehend and fathom [but] can awaken ignorant men, and are approved by all omniscient Jinas. [These are] told, by great Jaina sages with great details, by those teachers who speak of various objects of manifold qualities and the ways of self-restraint in detail; and also by all those Pratyekabuddhas, who propounded our as well as others' doctrines in discourses of various purposes. These include the issues, beneficial to the world, which concern the mediums, such as a mirror, one's thumb or arm, a sword, a jewel, a piece of linen, and the sun. [They] shed light on many of [the?] great praśnavidyās and mindreading praśnavidyās, involved deities, ceremonial applications, and major qualities. [Those issues] involve the proofs for existence of the best of the Tīrthakaras in the distant past who resorted to self-restraint, and cause astonishment in the mind of people because of their true double impact.

In the paṇhāvāgaraṇa, a certain number of narratives, a certain number of anuyogadvāras, {a certain number of veḍha-verses, a certain number of verses, a certain number of niryuktis,}[3] a certain number of saṅgrahaṇīs, {and a certain number of pratipattis} are taught. In the tenth aṅga situated among the aṅga-texts, one śrutaskandha, {45 adhyayanas,} 45 uddeśaṇakālas, 45 samuddeśaṇakālas, numerous hundred-thousands of padas together with padāgras, a certain number of akṣaras, limitless gamas, {limitless chapters, a certain number of tasas, limitless thāvaras, and eternal as well as made-up, composed and settled bhāvas taught by the Jina are taught, indicated, explained, shown, instructed, [and] exhibited. That aṅga-text stands containing such teachings, such knowledge, such wisdom,} and such explanations on the cause and merits of self-restraint. Thus is the Paṇhāvāgaraṇa.

These descriptions indicate that the Praśnavyākaraṇa deals mainly with various issues concerning divination, for instance, essential and non-essential questions for the purpose of divination. The title of the text itself suggests the same thing: [Prophetic] Explanation of Queries. Abhayadeva, in the beginning of his commentary on the current version of the Praśnavyākaraṇa,[4] analyses the title of the text this way: Praśna in the title stands for praśnavidyās, or methods of explaining queries, involving mediums like one's thumb and so on, for divination purpose. The Praśnavyākaraṇa is thus named, because all these are explained or told here. He further says that this used to be the content of the text in earlier times, but by the time he composed his commentary nothing except explanations on the five types of sins and five types of their consequences were found in the text. This indicates that Abhayadeva himself was aware of the fact that the text he is commenting upon is not the original but a new text. Albrecht Weber (1883: 327; 1885: 17) noticed long ago that the original text of the Praśnavyākaraṇa, which the compilers of the above mentioned sūtras had before them, was lost at some point in history and another entirely different text was substituted in the place of the original aṅgasūtra.

Now as a sheer surprise, an archaic version of the Praśnavyākaraṇa in Prakrit, together with a Sanskrit commentary of one Jīvabhogin has been found preserved in a palm-leaf manuscript in the National Archives of Nepal. The accession number of the manuscript is 4-149 and can be found on NGMPP (Nepal German Manuscript Preservation Project) microfilm reel no. B 23/37. The palm-leaf manuscript was complete in 153 folios but now folios 142 and 143 are missing. There are some extra folios in the same handwriting at the end of the manuscript which contain charts and circular diagrams of akṣaras, mentioned or implied in the text. I am tempted to take this portion as an extension of the appendix included in the main body of the manuscript. There is an innocent little corrupt catalogue entry for this manuscript[5] in the vyākaraṇa section of the Bṛhatsūcīpatra [A so-called descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts belonging to the Vīrapustakālaya] published from Kathmandu, where it is identified as a grammatical text.[6]

As the manuscript is written in Jain Nāgarī, it is highly probable that it was written in western India but found its way from there to Nepal when Gujarati merchants traveled or migrated to Kathmandu valley in early mediaeval times. It is also possible that it was written by a Jain migrant in Kathmandu. The manuscript is not dated but I place it in the beginning of the 12th century on paleographical grounds. There is a paper transcript of this palm-leaf manuscript, which was made at least 56 years ago.[7] It is preserved in the same archives and is numbered 5–1462. It is microfilmed under reel number B 466/20. It is badly rat-eaten in the left-hand side and is of little use except in one place, where two folios of the palm-leaf manuscript are missing; obviously the two folios now missing in the manuscript were intact when the transcript was prepared.

This text is the best available candidate for the original Praśnavyākaraṇa. This text fits Abhayadeva's description: its subject is praśnavidyā, the discipline that is connected with divination. It is the most logical thing to take praśna in the title of the text in this sense. The description of the Sthānāṅgasūtra clearly suggests that the tenth aṅga is centred on this issue. Out of the ten topics mentioned there as the contents of the Praśnavyākaraṇa, the last five are on the various ways of divination. They deal with the issues related to the five ways of divination in which a deity enters a linen cloth (khomapasiṇāiṃ), or some soft object (?) (komala-pasiṇāiṃ), or a mirror (addāga-pasiṇāiṃ), or the surface of one's thumb[8] (aṃguṭṭha-pasiṇāiṃ) or arm (bāhu-pasiṇāiṃ).[9] The first two topics, comparison or example (uvamā) and decision or enumeration (saṃkhā), could also be somehow related to divination, but the other three, teachings of the seers (isibhāsiyāiṃ),[10] teachers (āyariya-bhāsitāiṃ), and Mahāvīra (mahāvīra-bhāsitāiṃ), indicate that legends were also part of the text.

The other two descriptions of the Praśnavyākaraṇa from the Nandisūtra and Samavāyāṅgasūtra, though highlight the legendary character of the Praśnavyākaraṇa known to them, tell us that it contained praśna, apraśna, and praśnāpraśna. These three issues can be the best interpreted as questions valid for divinatory consideration, the opposite, and the questions which are concerned with divination only to a certain degree. So, I conclude that the text of the Praśnavyākaraṇa known to the compilers of the Śvetāmbara Jain canon contained divination related issues as well as legends.[11] And, we have to say that the text now found is either only a part of the text they had in view or belongs to the Digambara tradition. I see a greater chance for the second option, because Pūjyapāda Devanandin who was instrumental in composition of Jīvabhogin's commentary (see below) was a well-known Digambara teacher.

It is peculiar feature of the text of the recently discovered Praśnavyākaraṇa that, unlike other aṅgasūtras, it is entirely in versified form, but is not presented in the form of dialogue. It begins with an invocation to Mahāvīra and to Śrutadevatā, the embodiment of the entire canonical knowledge.[12] In the third gāthā, Paṇha appears as the title of the text together with an epithet Jiṇapāyaḍa.[13] The full Prakrit title appears only in the mantra of Maūravāhinī Sudadevadā, found in the appendix at the end of the manuscript[14], where the goddess is identified as the paṇhavāyaraṇavidyā, the vidyā venerated in the Paṇhavāyaraṇa (not to be confused with the vidyādevīs of later times). The Sanskrit title Praśnavyākaraṇa, however, can be found in chapter colophons of the commentary.[15]

As the commentator states, the composer of the text was a Kevalin. This is contrasts with the traditional belief that the whole set of twelve aṅgas was composed by the Gaṇadharas,[16] who are counted among the Kevalins.

The text deals with the praśnavidyā in a rather complex way. It is divided into at least 33 short chapters, some of which are further divided into sub-chapters.[17] Some contents of the text, mainly those related with articulation and pronunciation can have significance far beyond the scope of the praśnavidyā.

Here I present a list of all sections of the text:

1 vargaracanāprakaraṇa Section on formation of series [of akṣaras]
2 yoninirdeśaprakaraṇa on indication of root [akṣaras]
3 śikṣāprakaraṇa on articulation and pronunciation [of akṣaras]
4 uttarādharaprakaraṇa on superior and inferior [akṣaras]
5 abhighātaprakaraṇa on abrupt articulation
6 jīvasaṃjñābhedaprakaraṇa on names and varieties of living beings
7 jīvacintāprakaraṇa on investigation into living beings
I. manuṣyādhikāra Sub-section on human beings
II. pakṣyadhikāra on birds
III. dvipadādhikāra on bipeds
IV. catuṣpadādhikāra on quadrupeds
V. apadādhikāra on creatures without feet
8 dhātubhedaprakaraṇa Section on varieties of metals
9 mūlacintāprakaraṇa on consideration of plants
10 muṣṭijñānaprakaraṇa on investigation into theft
11 saṃkaṭavikaṭaprakaraṇa on contracted and open [akṣaras]
12 saṃsthānavibhāgaprakaraṇa on distinction of the shape [of lost or stolen object]
13 varṇavibhāgaprakaraṇa on distinction of colour
14 ghanacchidravibhāgaprakaraṇa on distinction of solidness and hollowness [density]
15 gandhavibhāgaprakaraṇa on distinction of smell
16 rasavibhāgaprakaraṇa on distinction of taste
17 digvibhāgaprakaraṇa on distinction of the direction [of lost/stolen object]
18 sthānaprakaraṇa on location
19 naṣṭikājñānaprakaraṇa on investigation into [identity of] the lost object
20 tajjñātakaprakaraṇa on omens hinting at the lost object
21 saṃkhyāprakaraṇa on the number [of lost objects]
22 kālānayanaprakaraṇa on reckoning of the time [when the lost or stolen
object is found again]
23 nakṣatrānayanaprakaraṇa on reckoning of the star involved
24 dvikayogakāṇḍa on queries involving two possibilities
25 guṇakārakāṇḍa on multiplier [akṣaras in queries]
26 nandyāvartakakaraṇa on the Nandyāvartaka measure [for query analysis]
27 gajavilulitakaraṇa
on the Gajavilulita and counting measures
28 siṃhāvalokanaprakaraṇa on the siṃhāvalokana measure
29 sarvatobhadraprakaraṇa on the sarvatobhadra measure
30 aśvamohitaprakaraṇa on the aśvamohita [measure]
31 samaviṣamaprakaraṇa on similar and dissimilar [akṣaras]
32 guṇaprakaraṇa on multiplication
33 akṣarotpādanakāṇḍa on production of akṣaras

According to the colophon, the commentary is called Darśanajyotis, which is otherwise known as Sāradattā. The concluding verses mention that Jīvabhogin composed the commentary by the grace of Devanandin.[18] Hence, he was a junior contemporary, most probably a disciple, of the latter. If this Devanandin is the same as Pūjyapāda Devanandin the author of the Jainendravyākaraṇa and several Jain works, the commentator's time cannot be later than the end of the seventh century.

There is yet another source for the root text, at least for a large part of it: Muni Jinavijaya (1958) has published an inferior recension of the Praśnavyākaraṇa with a very brief commentary, under the title Jayaprākṛta. Like the keepers of his manuscript, who labeled it with the name Jayapāhuḍa, he did non even suspect that what he had found had a direct link with the original Praśnavyākaraṇa. As he admitted in his introduction, the text belonged to a distinct genre and every line in the manuscript was corrupt and suspect. He was not even sure about the title. He printed the whole text with Jayapāhuḍa at the top of each page but chose the title Jayapāyaḍa on the cover, ignoring the name Praśnavyākaraṇa found in the final colophon. In his introduction he promises to return to this issue with more material in future, but I am not aware of any of his subsequent publications related to praśnavidyā. He does not give precise details of the manuscript in his book, but if possible it would be nice to locate and use the Jaisalmer manuscript in future studies.

The discovery of this new text of the Praśnavyākaraṇa highlights divination as the focus of the original Praśnavyākaraṇa. As the descriptions of the three sūtras cited in the beginning of this article indicate, the original Praśnavyākaraṇa was largely concerned with this matter, but not exclusively. The recently discovered text, however, focuses on divination exclusively; it does not contain legends. It is not simple to answer why and how it is so, but it is hoped that matters will be clearer after a thorough study of the contents of the new text.


Acharya, Diwakar 2004. "Cataloguing Nepalese Manuscripts: Challenges and Rewards." A Report Read at the 29. Deutscher Orientalistentag, Halle: September 23, 2004. Published online:, pp. 21-24.

Kapadia, Hiralal Rasikdas. A History of the Canonical Literature of the Jainas. Surat: Hiralal Rasikdas Kapadia, 1941 (Reprint Ahmedabad: Sharadaben Chimanbhai Educational Research Centre, 2000).

Ludvik, Catherine 2007. Sarasvatī: Riverine Goddess of Knowledge. From the Manuscript-Carrying Vīṇā-Player to the Weapon-Wielding Defender of the Dharma. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2007.

Jambūvijaya, Muni. The Sthānāṅgasūtra and Samavāyāṅgasūtra. Jaina Āgama Series 3. Bombay: Mahāvīra Jaina Vidyālaya, 1985.

Jambūvijaya, Muni. The Sthānāṅgasūtra and Samavāyāṅgasūtra with the Vṛtti of Abhayadeva Sūri. Lāla Sundarlāl Jain Āgamagranthamālā Vol. II. The Text Originally Edited by Sāgarānanda Sūri. Reprinted in a Different Format. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1985(b).

Jinavijaya, Muni. Jayapāyaḍa Nimittaśāstra (A Work of the Science of Prognostics Making Prophecies on the Basis of the Letters of Speech). Singhi Jain Series 43. Bombay: Bharatīya Vidyā Bhavana, 1958.

Puṇyavijaya, Muni. Nandisūtra of Devalaka with Haribhadra's Vṛtti and SubCommentaries. Prakrit Text Society Series 10. Ahmedabad: Prakrit Text Society, 1966.

Praśnavyākaraṇa with Abhayadeva's Commentary. Āgamodaya Samiti Series. Bombay: Āgamodaya Samiti, 1919.

Śarmā, Bābukṛṣṇa. Bṛhatsūcīpatra. [A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts Belonging to the Vīrapustakālaya.] Vol. 6: Vyākaraṇa Section. Kathmandu: Vīrapustakālaya, 1965.

Schubring, Walther. Isibhāsiyāiṃ. Ausprüche der Weisen. Hamburg: De Gruyer, 1969.

Sen, Amulyachandra. A Critical Introduction to the Paṇhāvāgaraṇāiṃ, the Tenth Anga of the Jaina Canon. Dissertation zur Erlangung der Doktorwürde Philosophischen Fakultät der Hansischen Universität. Würzburg: Buchdruckerei Richard Mayr, 1936.

Shah, Umakant P. "Iconography of the Jain Goddess Sarasvatī." Journal of University of Bombay 10, 2 (1941) 195-218.

Weber, Albrecht. "Über die heiligen Schriften der Jaina." Indische Studien 16 & 17 (1883–1885) 211–479 & 1–90.

© The Editor. International Journal of Jaina Studies 2007


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