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Kātyāyana (कात्यायन) (c. 3rd century BC) was a Sanskrit grammarian, mathematician and Vedic priest who lived in ancient India.


He is known for two works:

  • The Varttika, an elaboration on Pāṇini grammar. Along with the Mahābhāsya of Patañjali, this text became a core part of the Vyākarana (grammar) canon. This was one of the six Vedangas, and constituted compulsory education for students in the following twelve centuries.
  • He also composed one of the later Sulba Sutras, a series of nine texts on the geometry of altar constructions, dealing with rectangles, right-sided triangles, rhombuses, etc.[1]


Kātyāyana's views on the sentence-meaning connection tended towards naturalism. Kātyāyana believed, that the word-meaning relationship was not a result of human convention. For Kātyāyana, word-meaning relations were siddha, given to us, eternal. Though the object a word is referring to is non-eternal, the substance of its meaning, like a lump of gold used to make different ornaments, remains undistorted, and is therefore permanent.

Realizing that each word represented a categorization, he came up with the following conundrum (following Matilal):

"If the 'basis' for the use of the word 'cow' is cowhood (a universal) what would be the 'basis' for the use of the word 'cowhood'?

Clearly, this leads to infinite regress. Kātyāyana's solution to this was to restrict the universal category to that of the word itself — the basis for the use of any word is to be the very same word-universal itself."

This view may have been the nucleus of the Sphoṭa doctrine enunciated by Bhartṛhari in the 5th century, in which he elaborates the word-universal as the superposition of two structures — the meaning-universal or the semantic structure (artha-jāti) is superposed on the sound-universal or the phonological structure (śabda-jāti).

A mathematician

In the tradition of scholars like Pingala, Kātyāyana was also interested in mathematics. Here his text on the sulvasutras dealt with geometry, and extended the treatment of the Pythagorean theorem as first presented in 800 BCE by Baudhayana.[2]

Kātyāyana belonged to the Aindra school of grammarians and may have lived towards the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent.

External links


  1. Joseph, George Gheverguese: The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics, (2000), p. 328
  2. Pingree, David. Jyotihsastra: Astral and Mathematical Literature. Otto Harrassowitz. Wiesbaden, 1981. ISBN 3-447-02165-9.(1981), p. 6

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