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Shabdamanidarpanam (Kannada: ಶಬ್ದಮಣಿದರ್ಪಣಂ), also spelled Śabdamaṇidarpaṇam, is a comprehensive and authoritative work on Kannada grammar written by Kesiraja in 1260 CE.[1][2] This work, which literally means "Jewel-mirror of Grammar", remains to-date a comprehensive and authoritative work on Kannada grammar. The rules here are set forth in kanda metre and is followed by a prose commentary in vrutti (illustrative commentary by the author himself) and is considered a writing of high value.[1][3] Though Kesiraja followed the model of Sanskrit grammar of the Katantra school and that of earlier writings on Kannada grammar, his work has an originality of its own.[4]

Shabdamanidarpanam is the earliest extant work of its kind, and narrates scientifically the principles of old Kannada language and is a work of unique significance.[5]

Mention of early poets[edit]

The text of Sabdamanidarpanam starts with an invocation of the great Kannada poets of earlier generations who are considered as authorities by Kesiraja, as cited by him.

The expert way (sumārgam) of Gajaga, Gunanandi, Manasija, Asaga, Candrabhatta, Gunavarma, Srivijaya, Honna (Ponna), Hampa (Pampa), Sujanōttamsa – these provide the illustrative instances (lakshya) in this work. In Shabdamanidarpanam, about twenty poets and thirty works are cited, and almost every rule is explained with quotations. This work points out the Kannada language development in the preceding three centuries.

— Kesiraja (translated)

Grammar topics[edit]

Significance of grammar[edit]

In the very beginning of the Shabdamanidarpanam, in the preface section, Kesiraja explains the significance of Grammar in the context of a language and its learning:

Through grammar (correct) words originate; through the words of that grammar, meaning (originates); through meaning the beholding of truth; through the beholding of truth, the desired final beatitude; this (final beatitude) is the fruit for the learned.

— sūtra 10 of the Preface, Shabdamanidarpanam – Kesiraja [6]


In one of the aphorisms (sūtra) of Shabdamanidarpanam, Kesiraja gives a list of forms ending in /-tu/ and /-du/ labelling them as guNavaachi (ಗುಣವಾಚಿ), the adjectives.[7]


Shabdamanidarpanam is important from the view of lexicography. An attempt at lexicon-making is provided in several parts of the work. The work has the list of verbal roots and words containing ḷ and ḹ sounds. There is also a chapter called 'prayŌgasāra' where Kesiraja has quoted a number of rare words along with their meanings.[8]

Sound forms[edit]

Articulate sounds

By the wish of the individual soul, by means of suitable (vital) air, at the root of the navel, like a trumpet, the substance of sound (sabda- dravya) originates which is white (sveta, dhavala); its result is (articulate, aksharatmaka) sound (sabda); and: 'The body is the musical instrument, the tongue is the plectrum, the individual soul is the performer; on account of the operation of his mind (articulate) sound (sabda) originates which is of a white colour (dhavalavarna) and has the form of letters (aksharariipa).

— Ferdinand Kittel, translated from original Shabdamanidarpanam by Kesiraja.[6]
Inarticulate sounds

Inarticulate (anaksharatmaka) sounds, as thunder from the clouds or the roar of the sea, have no representations in grammatical alphabets.

— Ferdinand Kittel, translated from original Shabdamanidarpana by Kesiraja.[6]


  1. ^ a b E.P. Rice – pp 111
  2. ^ Dr. Jyotsna Kamat. "History of the Kannada Literature -III". Retrieved 2008-05-01. 
  3. ^ Sastri (1955), p359
  4. ^ Sahitya Akademi (1988), p. 1476
  5. ^ Encyclopaedia of Indian literature vol. 5, Sahitya Akademi (1996), pp. 3929
  6. ^ a b c A Grammar of the Kannada language in English, Ferdinand Kittel – pp. 4
  7. ^ Word-structure in Dravidian – By R. Śrīhari, B. Ramakrishna Reddy, Dravidian University, pp. 28
  8. ^ Lexicography in India : Proceedings of the First National Conference on Dictionary Making in Indian Languages, By Bal Govind Misra, page 82