By Swami Harshananda
Māheśvarasutras literally means ‘aphorisms of Maheśvara Śiva’.
Grammar is the science of any language. Greater the perfection, more refined will be the language. Indologists, especially those who are adepts in the Sanskrit language have opined that the Astādhyāyi of Pāṇini (350 B. C.) is the best grammar that any language has produced.
Tradition believes that the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet were given by Lord Maheśvara or Śiva himself to Pāṇini by playing on his ḍamaru (small drum) fourteen times. Thus the fourteen sutras known as the Māheśvarasutras embodying all the alphabets were created.
These sutras are so ingeniously composed that they can be utilized for several grammatical processes. The last letter in each of these fourteen sutras is called ‘it’. It has to be omitted in the various grammatical processes. However, they serve the purpose of indicating the letters included up to them. For instance, ak means the letters a, i, u, ṛ, lr, from the first two sutras.
There are forty-two combinations which are possible and have been used in the original sutras and commentaries. These Māheśvarasutras are also known as Akṣaramāmnāyi and Caturdaśasutri.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore