Amarakosha – a thesaurus in verses

स्य ज्ञानदयासिंधोरगाधस्यानघा गुणाः 
सेव्यतामक्षयो धीराः स श्रिये चामृताय च

O wise ones! Serve those who are oceans of knowledge and compassion and are pure so as to get the nectar of real wealth and eternal life.   

It was customary for every ancient India text to start with a mangalacharnam – a verse or a short composition seeking well being of every one or seeking blessing for the successful completion of the project. The above sloka is the mangalacharanam of Amarakosha and I have also used the same as the mangalacharam for my AtoZ challenge. The specialty of this mangalacharanam is that, deviating from the norm, it is not addressed to any particular deity. The mangalacharam led some scholars to say that Amarsinha was a Buddist. But scholars like Dr. Sivaja S Nair who have done extensive research on this have found more proofs to the contrary.

This is the first blog post of my AtoZ blogging challenge 2021. Coincidentally this was the first Sanskrit book that I fell in love with. Moreover, my theme being ‘Beauty of Sanskrit and Sanskrit Texts‘, it is appropriate that the first post is about a book on Sanskrit thesaurus.

So we had this large wooden trunk in our ancestral house. I am talking of my childhood days spent in my native village. This trunk was full of books – some consisting of paper and some of palm leaves. There were also a large number of beautifully handwritten books and manuscripts left over as legacy by my grandfather. There were Odia books, Hindi books, English books and Sanskrit books. Some Sanskrit books were written in Devanagari script and some in Odia. In our school days we used to write our Sanskrit exam in Odia script.

During summer vacations when it was no more possible to play outside I used to explore this trunk clandestinely. Maybe in some other post I will talk about this clandestine element. One day I took out this book titled Amarakosha. It was written in Odia script. As I went through it I fell in love with the sheer beauty of the composition in it even though I did not understand the meaning of the stanzas. I can still recall the first sloka:

Swaravyaam swarga naka tridiva tridashalaya 
Suroloko dwau divyau dwe striyam klibe tribishtapam

This sloka is about various names of heaven or the ether element. You have to believe me when I say that I wrote the above out of memory. Amarakosha is also called as namalinganushasanam which means a treatise in which words with their genders are given. For example in the above sloka the synonyms of heaven are given as – swar, swarga, naka, tridiva, tridahsalaya, suraloka, dwau, divyau, trivistapa. Dwau and div are feminine gender, tribishtapam is the neuter gender (klibalinga), and the rest are of masculine gender.

Of course I do not remember many since I was not serious about gaining any mastery over Sanskrit and I used to try to memorise the slokas in the first one or two pages just for fun and time pass. Another one that I still remember is the following which gives various synonyms of Goddess Laxmi:

Laxmi padmalaya padma kamala sriharipriya
Indira lokmata ma khirodatanaya rama
Bhargavi lokajanani kshirasagarakanyaka

That is the beauty of Sanskrit language. Even a mundane thesaurus can be written in verse form. In fact most of the famous treatises on mathematics, dance, music, medical science etc. have all be written in verses as we will see in subsequent posts.

Amarakosha may literally mean the lexicon that is immortal. But here the name means the Kosha compiled by Amara which is short of Amarasimha. This is the most authoritative lexicon for synonyms and for determining the gender of a word. Of course Nighatnu is the earliest Sanskrit thesaurus. But its coverage was restricted to the vedas only.

The fact that apart form all Indian languages, this text was translated into Chinese, Italian, French etc. shows the interest of scholars and spiritual seekers from all over the world in Sanskrit literature. This interest continues even today. Unfortunately, in spite of having proof that the discovery of certain mathematical and scientific concepts which are attributed to western scholars were actually there in Sanskrit texts hundreds of years before these scholars were born, no attempt has been made either by the international or the Indian community to rectify these wrong attributions.

Some notable other texts starting with alphabet A are: Ashtadhyayi / Arthasashtra / Atharva Veda / Agni Purana / Adbhut Ramayana / Adhyatma Ramayana / Ashtavakra Gita / Abadhuta Gita / Atmapuja Upanishad / Aryabhattiya / Abhignanashakuntalam / Avantisundari (Dandi) /Amaru Shataka /Aittiriya Upanishad / Astanga Hridayam /Astanga Sangraha. In case I missed a book please let me know.

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P.S: This is the first post (alphabet A post) of Blogchatter AtoZ Challenge 2021. My theme this year is ‘The beauty of Sanskrit and Sanskrit texts’, where in I explore selected compositions in Sanskrit and also some unique aspects of Sanskrit language. Join with me in my journey to understand India’s intellectual heritage.

All the posts of AtoZ Challenge 2021 can be accessed here.

32 thoughts on “Amarakosha – a thesaurus in verses

  1. A wonderful start of your A to Z. Thanks for sharing the wisdom, through the treasured verses from Amarkosha. Looking forward to more enlightenment through your future posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An absolutely delightful post to start my day with! I have a great interest in languages, thesaurases, and Sanskrit continues to be the least explored. Your detailed explanation is educative for me and I ll be coming back to read it again, for greater understanding. Congratulations on a great start.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sanskrit is interesting. Of course needs some patience to understand the nuances in the initial stages. Plus point is most Indian languages have lots of Sanskrit words. Thanks for stopping by.


  3. That was 1 beautiful post. There is so much to explore in Sanskrit literature and Sanskrit texts. Loved reading it will be definitely following it. Just to mention i shall forward it to my mom who reads Sanskrit texts
    Deepika Sharma

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, what an enlightening post. I am thrilled to learn that there is so much to know about our sanskrit language. Through your posts, you are definitely enlightening all of us and inspiring the next generation to learn sanskrit.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Looking forward to all your informative and enlightening posts on our rich culture and heritage. This post of yours reminded me of the big trunk of my grandfather which also had many books and scriptures (some in Sanskrit).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Goosebumps reading this! Great choice of topic for A2Z.
    So glad you discovered the heritage trunk with such precious books in your ancestral home.
    I believe that this serendipity has made you who you are.
    Hope the trunk is still there. Truly interested to access.
    The wealth of info needs to be documented, translated & published. Many books aren’t available.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amarkosha – A thesaurus in verses, the name itself is so sweet and when the post starts with mangalacharanam it binds the interest from the beginning. The reference of the wooden trunk from the ancestral house tells that these books are real gems. I loved the synonyms of heaven in the shloka. Thanks for sharing this with us. look forward to reading about informative books and information being shared.

    Liked by 1 person

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