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Adhikarana In Sanskrit Grammar

Adhikrana is the place where an action is performed by an agent or the locus of an object. Sanskrit grammarians define adhikarana as adhara (locus) of the action either through the agent or object. The location can be of three kinds –

Aupasleshika – where the agent of the object is in contact with the locus as in, ‘he sits on the mat’, or in ‘he cooks rice in the pot.

Vaisayika – where the location is an object as in ‘he has a desire for moksha

Abhivyapaka or location of pervasion, as oil in the sesame plant.

According to Vedantins and Mimamsakas, the term adhikarana stands also for an aphorism or a group of aphorisms. It comprises Brahma Sutras or Mimamsa Sutras that serve as the base for identifying select Upanishadic passages or texts for a thorough analysis by putting forth arguments for and against and thus enabling one to ascertain the true import of the text or texts. The number of adhikaranas in Brahma Sutras in the systems of Vedanta varies. According to Shankara, there are 199 adhikaranas. Ramanuja identifies 160 adiharanas. Madhvacharya considers the number of adhikaranas as 223. Nimbarka accepts 161 adhikaranas. An adhikarana is explicated in terms of the conclusive viewpoints of a particular school of thought. Sabarasvami wrote the adhikaranas in his bhashya upon Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini. Herein, discussion is commenced with regard to the nature of dharma, the meanings of Vedic sentences, etc.

Adhikaranatva is a type of svarupa sambandha. For example, when it is said ‘There is a pot on the floor (bhutala)”, the floor, is the substratum (adhikarana). And, adhikaranata (the state of being adhikarana) is explained as adhikaranasvarupa.

In the context of explaining the theory of superimposition, Advaitins make a distinction between adhisthana and adhara or adhikarana. According to them, the element which is presented as related to the superimposed object is termed adhara and that element, the misapprehension of which leads to the presentation of something else in its place, is called adhisthana. In the case of the erroneous cognition of shell as silver, the ‘this’ element of shell is presented as related to the superimposed object – silver in the form ‘This is silver.’ Hence, the ‘this’ element is the adhara (adhikarana). And, the misapprehension of the true nature of shell leads to the presentation of silver, and hence shell in its specific aspect is termed adhisthana.