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Bhashya (Sanskritभाष्य, Bhāṣya) is a "commentary" or "exposition" of any primary or secondary text in ancient or medieval Indian literature.[1] Common in Sanskrit literature, Bhashya is also found in other Indian languages such as Tamil. Bhashya are found in various fields, ranging from the Upanishads to the Sutras of Hindu schools of philosophy, from ancient medicine to music.[2][3][4]

The Indian tradition typically followed certain guidelines in preparing a Bhashya. These commentaries give meaning of words, particularly when they are about condensed aphoristic Sutras, supplementing the interpreted meaning with additional information on the subjects.[2] A traditional Bhasya would, like modern scholarship, name the earlier texts (cite) and often include quotes from previous authors.[5] The author of the Bhasya would also provide verification, acceptance or rejection of the text as interpreted, with reasons, and usually include a conclusion.[2] The title of a commentary work sometimes has the title of the text commented on, with the suffix "-Bhashya".[6]

Among the earliest known Bhashya are the Maha-bhashya of Patanjali from the 2nd century BCE,[7] and Sabara Bhashya of the Mimamsa school of Hinduism, dated to have been likely composed between 100 BCE and 200 CE, but no later than the 5th century.[8] An example of Buddhist literature Bhashya is Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośa-Bhāṣya.[9]


The term bhashya literally means "speaking, talking, any work in the current, vernacular speech".[1] The term also refers to, states Monier-Williams, any "explanatory work, exposition, explanation, commentary" that brings to light something else.[1] A bhashyakrit is the author, and these words are related to the root bhash which means "speak about, describe, declare, tell".[1] (Cf. the productive ending -ology in English, which derives from the Greek verb λεγῶ (legō), meaning "speak".)


A typical Bhashya would be an interpretation of a Sutra or other classical work word by word.[10] It can also consist of word by word translations and the individual viewpoint of the commentator or Bhashyakara.

There are numerous Bhashyas available on various Sanskrit and non-Sanskrit works. A few examples are Brahma Sutra Bhashya by Sri Madhvacharya[11] and Sri Adi Shankara,[12] Gita Bhashya and Sri Bhashya[13] by Sri Ramanuja and Mahabhashya by Patañjali.[14]

Tamil literary tradition[edit]

Following the Sanskrit literary tradition, commentaries to literary works remain one of the most important and telling aspects of the Tamil literary tradition. Commentaries to ancient Tamil works have been written since the medieval period and continue to be written in the modern era.[15]: 21  Many ancient Tamil works continue to remain in comprehension chiefly due to exegesis or commentaries written on them. The most famous examples of such works are the Tolkappiyam and the Tirukkural,[15]: 23–24  with the latter remaining the most reviewed work in the Tamil literature.[16]: 337  According to K. Mohanraj, as of 2013, there were at least 497 Tamil language commentaries written by 382 scholars beginning with Manakkudavar from the Medieval era. Of these, at least 277 scholars have written commentaries for the entire work.[17]: 463 

Nakkeerar, Ilampooranar, Senavaraiyar, Paerasiriyar, Deivachilaiyar, Nacchinarkkiniyar, Manakkudavar, Paridhiyar, Parimelalhagar, Kalladar, and Adiyarkku Nallar are some of the most celebrated commentators in the history of Tamil literature, all of whose works are praised on par with the original works to which they wrote exegeses.[15]: 23–24 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Monier Monier-Williams (2002), A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Etymologically and Philologically Arranged to cognate Indo-European Languages, Motilal Banarsidass, page 755
  2. ^ a b c Richa Vishwakarma and Pradip Kumar Goswami (2013), A review through Charaka Uttara-Tantra, International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, Volume 34, Issue 1, pages 17–20
  3. ^ Karin Preisendanz (2005), The Production of Philosophical Literature in South Asia during the Pre-Colonial Period (15th to 18th Centuries): The Case of the Nyāyasūtra Commentarial Tradition, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Volume 33, pages 55–94
  4. ^ PV Kane (2015 Reprint), History of Sanskrit Poetics, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120802742, page 29
  5. ^ Elisa Freschi (2012), Proposals for the Study of Quotations in Indian Philosophical Texts, Religions of South Asia, Vol 6, No 2, pages 161, also 161-189
  6. ^ GC Pande (2011), Life and Thought of Śaṅkarācārya, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120811041, pages 93-107
  7. ^ A Datta (2009), Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, Volume 2, Sahitya Akademi, ISBN 978-8126023844, page 1338
  8. ^ Othmar Gächter (1990), Hermeneutics and Language in Purva Mimamsa: A Study in Sabara Bhasya, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120806924, page 9
  9. ^ Lodrö Sangpo (Translator, 2012), Abhidharmakośa-Bhāṣya of Vasubandhu, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120836105
  10. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 77.
  11. ^ References about Srimad Ananda Tirtha
  12. ^ Brahma Sutra Bhashya
  13. ^ Sribhashya
  14. ^ K. Kunjunni Raja. "Philosophical elements in Patañjali's Mahābhāṣya". In Harold G. Coward; K. Kunjunni Raja (eds.). Encyclopedia of Indian philosophies. Vol. 5 (The Philosophy of the Grammarians). Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 115. ISBN 81-208-0426-0.
  15. ^ a b c R. Mohan and Nellai N. Sokkalingam (2011). உரை மரபுகள் [Conventions of Commentaries]. Chidambaram: Meiyappan Padhippagam.
  16. ^ M. V. Aravindan (2018). உரையாசிரியர்கள் [Commentators] (8 ed.). Chennai: Manivasagar Padhippagam.
  17. ^ M. G. Kovaimani and P. V. Nagarajan (2013). திருக்குறள் ஆய்வுமாலை [Tirukkural Research Papers] (in Tamil) (1 ed.). Tanjavur: Tamil University. ISBN 978-81-7090-435-9.

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