Sounds True: Speech, Language, and Communication

Sounds True:  Speech, Language, and Communication


At the end of the cosmic dance Lord Shiva the Lord of dance, sounded his damaru fourteen times.

For the sake of the upliftment of sages like sanaka.

According to legend, these sutras were written by Panini upon mystically hearing the beats of Siva-Nataraja’s damaru (hourglass-shaped drum). It has been said that the mantra is God in the form of sound. Therefore, words are an extension of that power. The tantra stresses the importance of sound as a divine substance and vehicle for salvation. And hence, entire cosmos is in the form of these sutras.

The Fourteen Verses Of Maheswara Sutra.

“The Maheshwara Sutra is the most ancient known Sanskrit alphabet sequence. This alphabet sequence is at the same time a powerful Mantra and the vibrations of its sound has healing powers.

1. अ इ उ ण् |
2. ऋ ऌ क् |
3. ए ओ ङ् |
4. ऐ औ च् |
5. ह य व र ट् |
6. ल ण् |
7. ञ म ङ ण न म् |
8. झ भ ञ् |
9. घ ढ ध ष् |
10. ज ब ग ड द श् |
11. ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त व् |
12. क प य् |
13.श ष स र् |
14. ह ल् |

The fourteen sutras contain all the letters of the Sanskrit varnamala- the svaras (vowels) a, i, u, R^i, lR^i, e, ai, o, au and all the vyanjanas (consonants). As per the Rig Veda Lord Shiva brought this Sanskrit alphabet sequence, and the Sanskrit language to earth. The sounds of the alphabet originated from Lord Shiva’s ‘damru’, probably some kind of a sound device.


Among those present at Nataraja’s dance was Panini. For him these 14 sounds meant the fourteen cardinal sutras of Grammer and on them he based his “Ashtadhyayi”. Given are the 16 vowels and 33 consonants that are evolved from these 14 Shiva Sutras.

16 vowels (a – ch)

a, Aa, i, Ii, u, Uu, ri, rii, lri, lrii, e, ai, o au, am, ah

33 consonants (ha l)

ka, kha, ga, gha, gna
ca, cha, ja, jha, jna
ta, ttha, da ddha, nna
ta, tha, da, dha, na
pa, pha, ba, bha, ma
ya, ra, la, va
sa, sha, sa


Key People:

  • Yaska
  • Panini
  • Pingala
  • Patanjali
  • Katyayana
  • Bhartrhari
  • Leonard Bloomfield
  • Ferdinand de Saussure
  • Harold G Coward
  • Harvey Alper
  • Jan Gonda
  • George Cardona
  • Frits Staal
  • Johannes Bronkhorst
  • Ashok Aklujkar
  • Paul Kiparsky
  • Subhash Kak


Key Contributions:

  • Yaska wrote Nirukta
  • Panini wrote Ashta-adhyayi
  • Pingala wrote Chhandashastra
  • Katyayana wrote Varttikas
  • Patanjali wrote Vyakaran-Mahabhashya
  • Bhartrhari wrote Vakyapadiyas



Key Sources of Research:


Karakatattva of Sesacakrapani an edition and study

Leela, K N


Indian Linguistics

Click to access Indian_Linguistics-1.pdf


Old ideas of language


Click to access oldideasoflanguage.pdf


Alper, Harvey P., ed.

Understanding mantras.

Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1991.


The word is the world: Nondualism in Indian philosophy of language

By Ashok Aklujkar


LANGUAGE AND REALITY On an episode in Indian thought

Johannes Bronkhorst

Click to access Language%20and%20Reality_On%20an%20Episode%20in%20Indian%20Thought_Bronkhorst.pdf


Coward, Harold G.

The sphota theory of language: a philosophical analysis.


Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1980.


Coward, Harold.

“The meaning and power of mantras in Bhartrhari’s Vãkyapadiya.”

Studies in Religion Toronto 11.4 (1982): 365-375.


Coward, Harold.

“Derrida and Bhartrhari’s Vākyapadīya on the Origin of Language.”

Philosophy East and West 40.1 (1990): 3-16.


Coward, Harold G.

The philosophy of the grammarians.

Vol. 5. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1990.






Pånini’s grammar: from meaning to utterance




Johannes Bronkhorst

Click to access 02e7e53a1c07adb71d000000.pdf



Staal, Frits.

Universals: Studies in Indian logic and linguistics.

University of Chicago Press, 1988.


Staal, Frits.

“Oriental ideas on the origin of language.”

Journal of the American Oriental Society (1979): 1-14.


Staal, Frits.

Discovering the Vedas: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights.

Penguin Books India, 2008.


Staal, Frits.

“The science of language.”

The Blackwell companion to Hinduism (2003): 348-359.


Cardona, George.

“Some principles of Pānini’s grammar.”

Journal of Indian Philosophy 1.1 (1970): 40-74.


On the structure of Pånini’s system

George Cardona


Click to access Cardona.pdf



Marco Ferrante


On movements of language−−within self, of self, about self, and between selves: Commentary on language and self

Lakshmi Bandlamudi


Staal, J. F.

“Sanskrit philosophy of language.”

History of linguistic thought and contemporary linguistics (1976): 102-136.


Sabda-Pramana: The Written and Spoken Word as Means for Right Knowledge.
An Issue of Nyaya Epistemology

Augustine Thottakara


Click to access P%20Pl%206%20Sabda-Pramana.Library%20Seminar.pdf


Language and Grammar

Click to access 334_03_05_09_KTPI_XII-Language.pdf


Economy and the Construction of the Sivasutras

Paul Kiparsky



Paul Kiparsky


Singh, Jaideva.

Spanda Karikas.

Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1980.


Dyczkowski, Mark SG.

“The Stanzas on Vibration.”

State of NY Press, Albany (1992).



“The Relationships Between Music and Language According to Hindu Theory.”

The World of Music 17.1 (1975): 14-23.


A Mathematical Analysis of Panini’s Sivasutras



Click to access petersen_jolli_proof.pdf

Author: Mayank Chaturvedi

You can contact me using this email mchatur at the rate of AOL.COM. My professional profile is on

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