In this unit, we will extend the knowledge we've built up and focus on samāsas (compounds). Most of the rules for samāsas are in sections 2.1 and 2.2 of the Aṣṭādhyāyī.

The samāsa is one of Sanskrit's most notable features. Simple samāsas generally have just two words. But samāsas can themselves be combined to make longer samāsas, so there is no hard limit on how long they can be.

Since we have a basic understanding of subantas, we can understand the samāsa's core principles fairly easily. Generally, the idea is that if two subantas have some kind of semantic relationship:

  • गजस्य वनम्
    gajasya vanam
    the elephant's forest

then we can remove the sup-pratyaya from the first subanta and combine the two into a single word:

  • गजस्य वनम् → गजवनम्
    gajasya vanam → gajavanam
    the elephant's forest → elephant forest

But there are two subtleties here. First, not all semantic relationships are allowed to be expressed as samāsas. Second, some semantic relationships exist only as samāsas and cannot be expressed any other way. So in the lessons to come, we will learn how the system defines which are which.

adhikāra rules

All samāsas are defined under the following two adhikāra rules:

  • प्राक्कडारात्समासः। २.१.३
    prākkaḍārātsamāsaḥ (2.1.3)
    prāk kaḍārāt samāsaḥ
    Up to the rule containing kaḍāra (2.2.38), the samāsa

  • सह सुपा। २.१.४
    saha supā (2.1.4)
    saha supā
    [A samāsa] is [of a sup] with (another) sup.

Rule 2.1.4 inherits the term sup by anuvṛtti from rule 2.1.2, which is unrelated to samāsas. Together, rules 2.1.3 and 2.1.4 define a samāsa as a combination of two subantas.

Word ordering in a samāsa

How do we ensure that we order the words in a samāsa correctly? Simple, we use the following two rules:

  • प्रथमानिर्दिष्टं समास उपसर्जनम्। १.२.४३
    prathamānirdiṣṭaṃ samāsa upasarjanam (1.2.43)
    prathamā-nirdiṣṭam samāse upasarjanam
    In (the context of) a samāsa, the (term) stated in the first (vibhakti) is called upasarjana.

  • उपसर्जनं पूर्वम्। २.२.३०
    upasarjanaṃ pūrvam (2.2.30)
    upasarjanam pūrvam
    [In a samāsa], the upasarjana is (placed) before.

In the rules to come, anything stated in the first vibhakti is placed first in the compound, and anything in the third vibhakti is placed second.

sup deletion in a samāsa

Finally, we use this rule to delete the sup ending of the first subanta:

  • सुपो धातुप्रातिपदिकयोः। २.४.७१
    supo dhātuprātipadikayoḥ (2.4.71)
    supaḥ dhātu-prātipadikayoḥ
    A sup followed by a dhātu or a prātipadika [is replaced by luk].

However, a very small number of samāsas do not use luk here. Fittingly, they are called aluk-samāsas. For example, the word ātmanepadam is an aluk-samāsa.