Sanskrit Dictionaries – General Introduction
The history of Sanskrit dictionary is, perhaps, older than that of the Sanskrit Grammar. It got started with Vedic Concordance named ‘Nighantu’. In reality, instead of being a dictionary, Nighantu is more or less a word. During later period, various dictionaries were compiled but, unfortunately, we have lost their original scripts.
Amara Simha’s ‘Amarakosa’ has been considered to be the oldest and most popular compilation. It is also known as Namalinganusasana. in later period, Halayudha-kosa, Vaijayanti-kosa, Mankha-kosa, Nama-mala and Anekartha-samgraha etc. names are worth mentioning.
Two voluminous dictionaries compiled in the 19th century are – Vacaspatyam and Sabdakalpadruma, which stand apart their modern style and technique, Both the volumes are replete with the quotes from the contemporary literature to explain the words convincingly. These, thus may be called a bridge between the dictionary and the encyclopedia.
In the modern times, Sanskrit English Dictionary of H.H. Wilsonm, W. Monier and Sanskrit Worterbuch of Oto Bohtlingk’s and Sanskrit English Dictionary by Vamana Sivarama Apte are the excellent works in this tradition.
Sabda Kalpadruma: A Comprehensive Sanskrit Dictionary in 5 volumes
Sabda Kalpadruma is a well known Sanskrit lexicon compiled by a few Bengali scholars at the instance of Raja Radhakanta Deb of Bengal. In this book, the words have been analyzed into their base-forms and suffixes, their genders determined and their Sanskrit synonyms noted.
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Vacaspatyam: A Comprehensive Sanskrit Dictionaryin 6 volumes
Vacaspatyam is a Sanskrit Lexicon, of 5442 pages, by Pandit Taranatha Tarkavacaspati, Calcutta. It is very full up to the end of the letter Pa (page 4550), whilst the rest of the alphabet is squeezed into 900 pages! It is said that the Bengal Govt, which largely subsidized the undertaking, ordered it to be curtailed. If that is so, it did a very unwise thing! (Col. GA Jacob in “A Handful Of Popular Maxims Current In Sanskrit Literature”)