pada-vākya-pramāṇa… Since when? (with updated reference)

If you have read post-Classical śāstra, you will have certainly encountered the formulation above, describing the three foundational disciplines as focusing on
words (pada), i.e., grammatical analysis in Vyākaraṇa
sentences (vākya), i.e., textual linguistics in Mīmāṃsā
means of knowledge (pramāṇa), i.e., epistemology in Nyāya

The tripartition is handy and catchy, but clearly post-classic, also since the idea of distinguishing schools according to their “forte” and studying each of them in a technical way is probably itself post-classical. Thus, when did the tripartition originate, and by whom? When and where did it become standard?
As for the first question, until now, I have encountered it in Jayanta (10th c. Kashmīr), in a non-standard form, so that it may be thought that Jayanta lies just before its standardization.
As for the last question, in the following quote by Veṅkaṭanātha (13th c. Tamil Nadu) the standardisation seems complete:

The knowers of the śāstra divide the śāstra into three, according to the division into words, sentences and means of knowledge.

(padavākyapramāṇabhedena hi tredhā vibhajanti śāstraṃ śāstravidaḥ)

When and wher did you encounter this tripartition first?

UPDATE: You can read further references to the same compound in Mukula Bhaṭṭa (Kashmir, 9th–10th c.), Śaṅkara and Bāṇa (7th c.) here.

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog:, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

4 Replies to “pada-vākya-pramāṇa… Since when? (with updated reference)”

  1. Although I will not touch the questions of “periodization” (classical/post-classical) and “standardization,” I know of two references, one possibly and one definitely before Jayanta: the first is in Mukulabhaṭṭa’s Abhidhāvṛttimātṛkā (late 9th/early 10th c.); the second is in Anaṅgaharṣa Mātrarāja’s Tāpasavatsarāja (before Ānandavardhana, who lived in the mid-9th c.), where one of the introductory verses says that the learned assembly padavākyapramāṇeṣu sarvabhāṣāviniścaye | aṅgavidyāsu sarvāsu paraṃ prāvīṇyam āgatā |. (Most discussions of this formula take Mukula as the earliest attestation… this is why you should read kāvya!)

    • Many thanks, Andrew. Prof. Isaacson added an even older reference to Bāṇa, I will check whether it was already “standardised” and see whether I can manage to trigger your answer then.

      As for reading Mukula, to be honest, coming back from Athens Daniele and Malcolm had managed to convince me of the need to read him and I had copied his Abhidhāvṛttimātṛkā and was ready to read it every evening (instead of answering comments on the blog, for instance). But on the first evening I read all the verses (without commentary), just to have an idea of what was going on and there was too much alaṅkāraśāstra for me. Is the commentary very much different?

      • Elisa, you will find the commentary draws on vyākaraṇaśāstra and Mīmāṃsā–not only alaṅkāraśāstra. McCreas’s chapter in his “Teleology” is a useful accompaniment although he skips over some sections.

        (Note – while I don’t know if it would work given the time zones, I’d be happy to read the text with folks through our Sanskrit reading group (which seems to be on summer hiatus).)

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