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Oldest Dictionary In India

Nighantu is the earliest available lexicographical work in India. This dictionary represents five collections of about 1,840 Vedic words or groups of words. Nighantu is popularly regarded as single book, and the five collections are treated as its chapters. The first three of these are called Naighantuka Kanda, Aikapadika or Nigama Kanda and the fifth is the Daivata Kanda. Together, they are known as Samamnaya.

The authorship of the Nighantu is uncertain. Yaska’s Nirukta purports to be a commentary on Nighantu, but on the basis of his own compilation of Vedic words he is said to have composed them.

Naighantuka Kanda contains 1,341 synonyms in 69 groups for objects belonging to nature and society.

Naigama Kanda consists of three groups of 278 homonyms, as well as adjectives, verbs, particles, common names, etc.

Daivata Kanda has proper names of 151 Vedic gods like Agni, Indra etc.

The main purpose of composing the first known dictionary in ancient India was to facilitate Vedic study. At the same time, consisting of names belonging to both the material and divine world, it also gives a glimpse of the world of the Vedic sages.

Although Yaska’s Nirkuta was intended to be a commentary on Nighantu, it is largely an independent work. A late medieval commentary on Nighantu by Devaraja Yajvan is available. There have been other Nighantus, too, which are now lost.

Sometimes the work is ascribed to one Kashyapa, on the basis of a couple of verses of the Mahabharata, but the ascription is controversial.