Nirukta

Definition - What does Nirukta mean?

Nirukta is a Sanskrit word that means “explained” or “interpreted.” It is one of the six auxiliary disciplines known as the Vedangas, which support the study of the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures. Nirukta is the study of etymology and is concerned with proper interpretation of the Sanskrit words, given their context in the ancient texts.

Written in Sanskrit, the Vedas laid the foundation for both yoga and Hinduism. Sanskrit words can often have various meanings, and to further complicate matters, the Vedas contain obscure and even unknown words. The study of nirukta delves into the origins and meanings of these words and the phrases they form, allowing clearer interpretation of the Vedas.

Yogapedia explains Nirukta

While grammar helps in the understanding of words, nirukta provides a deeper interpretation that is necessary to the study of the Vedas. In particular, nirukta focuses on archaic words and phrases that have ancient usages but whose meanings have been lost in present day.

In general, the Vedangas provide insight into not only the meaning of the Vedas but also the meters, structure and language of the ancient text. They also provide understanding of other post-Vedic texts and aspects of Hindu and yogic philosophy.

In addition to nirukta, the Vedangas are:

  • Shiksha - the study of phonology, phonetics and pronunciation. This focuses on the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and the way words are combined and expressed in a Vedic recitation.
  • Chhandas - the study of prosody, which looks at poetic meter. This includes analyzing the number of syllables per verse and any fixed patterns within them.
  • Vyarkarana - the analysis of grammar and linguistics in order to establish the precise way in which words and sentences were constructed to express ideas.
  • Kalpa - the focus on ritual instructions, including for rites of passage. It also explores the concepts of individual duty and proper conduct.
  • Jyotisha - the study of timekeeping. It deals with the astrological and astronomical aspects of selecting the best dates and times to perform Vedic rituals and rites.

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