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Gonarda – Historical Place Near Bhopal Associated With Patanjali

Gonarda is a historical place near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and is associated with Patanjali, the commentator, on grammar of Panini. Situated on a prominent north-south trade route, the earliest reference to Gonarda or Gonardapura is in one of the most ancient Buddhist works, Parayana-vagga, forming part of the Pali text Sutta-nipata.

According to an episode, a Brahmin named Bavari had emigrated from the (north) Kosala capital, Sravasti, and settled as a teacher in the country of Assaka (Asmaka) in the proximity of Mulaka (or Alaka) on the banks of the Godavari River. On learning about enlightenment of Buddha, Bavari sent a few of his disciples to meet Buddha at Sravasti. The team passed through Patitthana (Paithan, Aurangabad district, Maharashtra), the city of Mahissati (Mahishmati), Ujjaini (Ujjayini), Gonaddha, Vedisa (Vidisa), Vana-Sahvaya (Tumbavana), Kosambi (Kausambi), Saketa and finally Savatthi. Gonaddha or Gonarda, which was the intermediate step between Ujjaini and Vedisa, which have been satisfactorily identified with cities of Ujjain and Vidisha, respectively, in Madhya Pradesh, has to be located between these two. This location also finds support from the list of the yakshas (demigods), presiding over different localities in the Buddhist tract Mahamayuri. Some manuscripts read the name as Gonardana, while some Chinese translations have you-hi (Bull-joy) corresponding to Gonandana, or You-ts’oei (Bull-compress) corresponding to Gomardana, which is also the Tibetan rendering. It could be that the latter meaning is based on the Pali Gonaddha meaning “cow (or bull) – tied”, though it may also be regarded as a Prakrit form of gonarda, while the other forms are derived from, or are variants of, the Sanskrit gonarda, meaning “cow’s (or bull’s) lowing” (apparently in joy).

Atthakatha Paramatthajotika of the Suttanipata gives Godhapura as yet another form of the name which, perhaps, may have been at attempt at abbreviating the name Gonardapura. But if taken as another form of the name, it may have something to do with the reptile godha or lizard. Though now Gonarda cannot be identified, in view of its location between Ujjain and Vidisa, it can be concluded that it must have been situated somewhere in the proximity of Bhopal.

Gonarda is closely associated with the great Sanskrit grammarian Patanjali (200 BCE), the author of Mahabhasya (literally, great commentary). The period of his Mahabhashya and of Sutta-nipata is almost the same or very close to one another, viz., 2nd century BCE. As for Patanjali, this date is supported by his allusion to Puashyamitra’s court and sacrifice and Greek conquests o the cities of Saketa and Madhyamika, both of which occurred in the first half of the 2nd century BCE.

Candragomin’s Candravritti and Kasika Vritti (Banaras commentary) of Vamana and Jayaditya (700 CE) on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi (400 BCE) include Gonarda in the eastern division of India, which may be because Panini’s Ashtadhyayi includes Gonarda in the eastern division of India, which in turn is true because Panini mentions only two groupings of cardinal points, the north and the east, and this is found repeated in a traditional stanza in the Kasika and in Ksirasvamin’s commentary on Amarakosha.

Gonarda has also been mentioned by ancient Hindu writers on geography. Varahamihira, in his Brihat Samhita, places it in the southern division of Bharatavarsha, along with Akara (eastern Malwa), Dasapura (Madasor) and Tumbavana (Tumain). He refers to it in two other places as well but without any locational implication. It also finds mention among the southerners in the text of Parasara, cited by Utpala in his commentary on this work. Markandeya Purana also mentions it as a locality of the southern and western divisions of Bharatavarsha. But the other Puranas include it (together with the variants Govinda, Gonardha, Gonanda, Gomanta, Gomeda and Mananda) among the eastern countries (praya janapadas).

Studies in the Geography of Ancient and Medieval India (1971) D.C. Sircar – Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV page 325 – 326 – IHRF- 2011