Nirukta And The Study Of Etymology

Vedangas are six auxiliary disciplines associated with the study of Vedas that help in understanding the ancient scriptures. Like we stated earlier, the Vedangas are the limbs, so just how the limbs provide support to the body, the Vedangas perform various supportive functions in the study of Vedas. It provides protection of the Vedas and thus, the Vedic traditions.

Auxiliary Disciplines Associated With The Study Of Vedas

There are auxiliary disciplines associated with the study of Vedas. They are as follows:


It is the study of phonetics, which explains the correct pronunciation of Vedic hymns and mantras. The scripture of ancient India with Shiksha Vedanga describes the pronunciation and intonation of Sanskrit words, as well as the rules of word combinations.

To Know More: Shiksha Vedanga And The Study Of Phonetics


The Kalpa Vedanga contains sacrificial practices and rituals. The kalpa vedanga has four types of Sutras : Srauta Sutras, Smarta Sutras, Grhya Sutras, Dharma sutras.

To Know More: Arm Of The Veda Purusha – Kalpa Vedanga


Vyakarana Vedanga includes the Ashtadhyayi by Panini. They include the rule of Sanskrit grammar that helps an individual to form statements in Sanskrit


It measures and divides Vedic hymns and verses into different parts thus, with different syllables the recital of the verses becomes easier.


The study of Jyotisha Vedanga deals with the rule of tracking the motions of the sun and the moon and thus, laying down the foundation of Vedic rules and gestures.


Nirukta Vedangas are attributed to Yaska, an ancient grammarian. The Vedanga deals with an etymology for the words that occur during the Vedas. Let us discuss Nirukta Vedanga in detail.

Introduction To Nirukta

Nirukta is one of the ancient Vedangas, which is an ancillary science that connects with understanding the Vedas. Nirukta describes etymology which is the study concerned with the correct interpretation of Sanskrit words in the Vedas.

Nirukta Vedanga is the systematic creation of a glossary and it discusses how to understand uncommon Sanskrit words. The field is growing so much as almost all the words in the Vedic texts are composed in the 2nd-Millenium BCE.

The most celebrated scholar, Yaska, is the one who wrote the Nighantu – The book of Glossary. The study of Nirukta has been closely associated with Vyakarana. Vyakarna deals with linguistic analysis to help establish the proper meaning of the words. Yaska associates the study of Nirukta to be the prerequisite for the study of Vyakarana

Nirukta By Yaska

The field of Nirukta deals with the direct meaning of words, particularly of archaic words no longer in use. Yaska is the sage who approached the problem of solving the semantic analysis of words. He broke down the words into their components and then combined them in the context they were used to propose what the words actually could have meant.


There are three parts in the Nirukta Vedanga, are as follows:


  1. Naighantuka Kada: The Part of the Vedanga consists of lists in which Vedic words are collected under certain main ideas.
  2. Naigama Kanda or Aikapadika: The details contain a list of ambiguous and particularly difficult words of the Vedas.
  3. Daivata- Kanda: This section is a classification of deities according to the three regions: earth, sky and heaven.

A central premise of Yaska’s approach to Nirukta is that man creates more new words to conceptualize and describe the action, that is, nouns often have verbal roots. In addition to this, Yaska also added that not all words have verbal roots. Words are created to express external or internal reality perceived by an individual. According to Yaska, the perception of  a human mind depended upon the emotions like action, dynamism, existence, perishing, etc

Usage Of Nirukta Vedanga

Ancient Usage

Yaska has mentioned the Rig Veda in ancient tradition. In his Nirukta Vedanga, he portrays Nirukta in three ways. The first being the perception of a religious rite, the second from the perception of deities and the third being from the perception of the soul. However, he also added a fourth way to interpret the Rigveda where the gods mentioned were actually denoted as symbols of legendary individuals and thus, narratives were created in accordance with the same. It was mentioned that great poets and creative minds express double meaning, ellipses and novel ideas to interest the mind of the arcade. Nirukta in fact helps a reader to identify the alternate embedded meaning of the verses written by the sages in the Indian Sanskrit texts of the Vedas.

Medieval Usage

In Bhaskaraya’s commentaries, the rhetorical use of Nirukta has been mentioned profoundly. Thus, during the recital of many verses, you can understand how the simple meaning of a name which would actually seem to have an obvious meaning, could in the end depict something of a greater value.

Yaska has explained Nirukta in the set of 12 books. The most important part of Nirukta is the discussion where he explains the introduction of Vedas. Yaska has mentioned a considerable number of important grammarians as his predecessors in the Nirukta such as Galava, Shakapuni, Katthakya. Nirukta is very important for several reasons. Nirukta is the oldest attempt to understand the true meaning of words, thereby concentrating on etymology. And as we already discussed without understanding true etymology, it would have been nearly impossible to understand the verses and hymns of the Vedas.

Yaska’s Nirukta brings together and presents a cohesive study of verses and the main substance present in the Vedas. The selected verses of the Rig-Vedas are made explicit, by using illustrative passages and explanations that are given in the Nighantu and the Brahmanas. This is one of the most important parts of Yaska’s Nirukta. To conclude, we can say that Nirukta itself is a distinct branch of etymology and is primarily concerned with the meaning of a word or a term. It determines and conveys the true meaning intended towards the usage of certain words in certain forms. In addition to the same it is also stated that Nirukta concerns the formatting of a word, and the meaning given in context and in a different context, the word could have a different meaning, Thus, it is totally a study of words and their usage in a statement.