Category Archives: Adjectives

The lionlike hero is dispassionate

Thats a pretty cool sentence, don’t you think? To me, it means that a truly brave hero is one that is not too ferocious. In other words, barking and growling isn’t the real mark of a valiant hero. Another thing this sentence means to me is that real valor is to conquer ones own passions.

How to say it in Sanskrit?

OK, hero is obviously the subject of the sentence. The word for hero is vīra. There’s only one of them, singular. The ending for singular subjects is -ḥ – so the right word to use in this sentence is vīraḥ.

Now, lionlike… to say that in Sanskrit start with the word for “lion” – siṁha. Now, apply a suffix that will gave the sense of “from, of,” – its a little messy to explain this from English to Sanskrit, but the suffix we’re looking for is -a. When we add -a to siṁha (you may have to review this) it becomes saiṁha (the first vowel in the root “strengthened”). So this means “of a lion” aka “leonine” aka “lionlike.”

Now, to use this word as an adjective we just make sure it has the same ending type as the word its supposed to describe. “lionlike” is an adjective describing the hero, so we configure the ending of saiṁha to match the ending of the word “hero” in this sentence (vīraḥ) – so we should use saiṁhaḥ.

Now we need a word for dispassionate. The word will start from the root, passion: raja. We can make this mean dispassionate by adding a prefix, like the English prefix “dis-“. That prefix in Sanskrit is vi- (meaning “separate/ distinct from”). So the word for dispassionate is viraja. Now, we are using this word like a verb –  is dispassionate. So we just need to configure it like a verb, to match the subject – in other words to be in 3rd person singular, that’s -ti. So the word is virajati.

With these three words we can form our sentence, “The lionlike hero is dispassionate.” saiṁhaḥ vīraḥ virajati. 

One last thing left to do is make it flow easy when spoken (sandhi rules), so it becomes saiṁho vīro virajati – सैंहो वीरो विरजति

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Sanskrit Adjectives – “The horse sees that beloved, beautiful Krishna.”

Adjectives are words that describe nouns.

Adjectives are inflected just like the noun they modify.

सुन्दरा (sundara) {“beautiful”} is an adjective. Here are some examples how to use it:

सुन्दरो नरो ऽश्वं गच्छति
sundaro naro ‘śvaṁ gacchati
“The beautiful man goes to the horse”

सुन्दरं नरो ऽश्वं गच्छति
sundaraṁ naro ‘śvaṁ gacchati
“The man goes to the beautiful horse.”

There are four words in these sentences:

  1. sundara {“beautiful”}
  2. nara {“man/human”}
  3. aśva {“horse”}
  4. gaccha {“goes”}

The words are inflected, of course, so they have specific endings. All the words except sundara have the same inflection in both sentences, so let’s look at those words first:

  1. naraḥ {singular – “a / the man” – as the subject of the sentence}
  2. aśvam {singular – “a/the horse” – as the object of the sentence}
  3. gacchati {third person singular verb – “he goes”}

[The above three words blend together by the rules of sandhi to become “naro ‘śvaṁ gacchati.”]

So we know that the sentence is talking about a man going to/towards a horse. Now we’ve got to consider the fourth word, sundara. In the first sentence it’s inflected as sundaraḥ (which becomes sundaro by blending/sandhi). It is inflected with the ending you give to nouns that are subjects (see, it matches naraḥ, the subject of the sentence?). So this is the key to knowing which one is “beautiful,” the man or the horse. In this case, since the inflection of the word “beautiful” (sundaraḥ) matches the inflection of the word “man” (naraḥ) we know that the man, not the horse, is being described as beautiful. So the first sentence means, “The beautiful man goes to the horse.”

In the second sentence the word order is exactly the same, but notice that the ending of the adjective “beautiful” (sundara) is different. This time it’s not sundaraḥ, it’s sundaram. Here it’s not inflected like a subject-noun, it’s inflected like an object noun. Thus it matches the inflection of the object-noun in the sentence (aśvam – “to the horse”). So in this sentence, the meaning is, “The man goes to the beautiful horse.”

Here are a few more details about Sanskrit adjectives:

  • You can use multiple adjectives to define one noun, like in English, “the beautiful, graceful, shy lady.”
  • You can even simply state an adjective without specifying a noun! In English too, like “Beautiful!” But in saskrit the inflection of the stand alone adjective gives a strong hint as to what “beautiful!” is directed towards.
  • Pronouns can be used like adjectives, and they then come to mean “this” or “that” – referencing back towards some previously spoken or unspoken instance of conversation.
  • If there’s a sentence where there’s confusion about which noun an adjective modifies, it should usually be the noun closest to the adjective by word order in the sentence.

Here’s an example of a relatively elaborate Sanskrit sentence (relative to our current level):

कृष्णं स प्रियो ऽश्वं पश्यति सुन्दरम्
kṛṣṇaṁ sa priyo ‘śvaṁ paśyati sundaram

The subject of the sentence is “beloved” (priyaḥ, which became priyo due to blending with the next word). How do I know? Because the -ḥ ending on a noun indicates a singular subject. 

What “beloved”? saḥ priyaḥ (“sa priyo” when the words blend together). Sa is the pronoun “he”, but here it’s used as an adjective for priya. So it’s like “him, my beloved.” Or “this beloved man.”

What is the object doing? For this, you must find the verb. The verb in this sentence is paśya (inflected as paśyati to match the third person singular noun, priyaḥ) – “see.” So, “This beloved man sees…”

Sees what? For that, you must find the object of the sentence. In this sentence the object could be either Kṛṣṇa {“The All-Attractive”} or Aśva {“the horse”} since both of them are nouns and both are inflected with “-m” indicating that they are the object of the sentence. Unfortunately for those of us who are kind of addicted to hearing about Krishna, the All-Attractive, he is not the object of this sentence. We know this because the word kṛṣṇa can be a noun, but most often is an adjective. The meaning of the word is “black.” Black is the color that attracts all light, so this adjective is used as a noun to give a proper name to the All-Attractive Supreme Being, Krishna. “Horse” on the other hand, is a noun, and can’t very well be used as an adjective. It’s just a noun. So the sentence will only be sensible if “horse” (aśva) is the object and “black” (kṛṣṇa) is the adjective.

So, “That beloved man sees the horse.” What kind of horse? A “black horse.”

There’s one more word in the sentence, it’s sundara, “beautiful.” So, who is beautiful, the beloved or the horse? Well the inflection of sundara here is sundaram which matches kṛṣṇam and aśvam. We’ve already determined that aśvam {“horse”} is the noun, and kṛṣṇam {“black”} is the adjective. Now we have a second adjective describing the horse, sundaram. So:

That beloved man sees the beautiful, black horse.

Since we are so let down by the failure of this sentence to live up to it’s potential, let’s try to fix it to be what we wanted.

What we want to say is “The horse sees that beautiful, beloved Krishna.”

So we will start by inflecting aśva as the subjectaśvaḥ.

The verb can stay like it was before, paśyati since the new subject, aśvaḥ is still third person and singular.

Now we need to change the previous subject, priyaḥ into an object-adjective, priyam. And we need to move the pronoun-adjective saḥ so that it modifies our object, Krishna.

So:

saḥ kṛṣṇam priyam aśvaḥ paśyati sundaram

And when we blend the words together:

स कृष्णं प्रियो ऽश्वं पश्यति सुन्दरम्
sa kṛṣṇaṁ priyaṁ aśvaḥ paśyati sundaram

“The horse sees that beloved, beautiful Krishna.”