Now we will study the last of the four Sanskrit compounds. What's interesting about this new compound is that both of its words are qualifiers. That is, neither word refers to the actual idea that the compound describes.
How does such a compound work? It's not something as simple as putting two adjectives together. Rather, the first word qualifies the second, and the second qualifies the idea. It is easy to confuse this sort of compound for a tatpurusha. Unfortunately, we can only tell them apart by relying on the compound's context. Like the tatpurusha, however, this compound's name is also an example of it. Consider the compound analysis below:
बहुर् व्रीहिर् यस्य सः → बहुव्रीहिः
bahur vrīhir yasya saḥ → bahuvrīhiḥ
he whose rice is much (or plentiful); a rich man
As you can see, this compound is called the bahuvrīhi. The name of this type of compound comes from two words: bahu, meaning "much," and vrīhi, meaning "rice." So, bahu-vrīhi literally means "much-rice," and it describes a person who has much rice. In ancient times, a person with a lot of rice would never have had to go hungry; so, he would have been considered wealthy. As a result, the word bahuvrihi describes a rich man. English has many examples of this sort of compound:
Someone whose feet are flat → flatfoot
Someone whose hair is red → redhead
Someone whose teeth are like sabers → sabretooth
Someone whose feet are flat → flatfoot
Someone whose life is low → lowlife
Someone whose coat is red → redcoat
Someone whose coat is turned → turn-coat
Someone whose belly is yellow → yellow-belly
Now we can fill in the chart from the beginning of the section. Of course, the bahuvrihi can only go in the one spot remaining. But let's think through this with an example: the word bahuvrīhi. A bahuvrīhi ("rich man") is not a type of vrīhi ("rice"); vrīhi is just something that a bahuvrīhi has. Likewise, a bahuvrīhi is not a special kind of bahu ("much"); bahu just describes how much vrīhi the bahuvrīhi has. So, both bahu and vrīhi are qualifiers of the main idea ("rich man"), but neither of them alone is the main idea. Contrast this with the other compounds we've seen:
A dharmakṣetra is a type of kṣetra. (The second word is the main idea.)
phalapatttra is partially phala and partially pattra. (Both words are the main idea.)
anukūlam is a more specific version of the abstract anu. (The first word is the main idea.)
|Word 2: Idea||Word 2: Qualifier|
|Word 1: Idea||dvandva||avyayibhava|
|Word 1: Qualifier||tatpurusha||bahuvrihi|
The bahuvrihi has been called
one of the most characteristically Sanskrit applications of nominal compounds, where "nominal" here refers to nouns, pronouns, and adjectives. It is also one of the most conceptually difficult compounds in the language. We will look at plenty of examples of this compound both here and throughout the rest of Nouns, so you will have plenty of time to get used to it.
The nature of the bahuvrihi
To understand the bahuvrihi, we should look at a few compound analyses. That said, consider the analyses below. The first is for the dvandva, the second is for the tatpurusha, and the third is for the bahuvrihi.
अश्वो गजश्च → अश्वगजौ
aśvo gajaśca → aśvagajau
The horse and the elephant
यो वनस्य गजः सः → वनगजः
yo vanasya gajaḥ saḥ → vanagajaḥ
forest elephant (that which is the elephant of the forest)
कृष्णो वृक्षो यस्य तत् → कृष्णवृक्षम्
kṛṣṇo vṛkṣo yasya tat → kṛṣṇavṛkṣam
The black-treed one (that whose tree is black)
The compound analysis for the tatpurusha has been expanded to include yad. With this expansion, we can distinguish among these three types of compounds based on the use of yad in their analyses:
- Type of Compound
- Use of yad
- yad can't be used
- yad is in case 1
- yad is never in case 1
From this, we can say that the bahuvrihi can't replace the main noun it describes because within the yad/tad structure, it's not in case 1. More plainly, we can say that the bahuvrihi is an adjective that describes the main noun but does not replace it.
Because it is an adjective, the bahuvrihi can appear in all three genders. This fact is very useful; it allows us to quickly identify whether a compound is a bahuvrihi compound. For example, consider the word kṛṣṇavṛkṣā. The word vṛkṣa is a masculine noun, but it is used as a feminine noun in the compound. This fact lets us know that kṛṣṇavṛkṣā is a bahuvrihi compound.
The largest issue that most students have with the bahuvrihi is its ambiguity. Consider kṛṣṇavṛkṣa again. Although we have the stem form right before us, there is no way to determine whether kṛṣṇavṛkṣa is a tatpurusha or a bahuvrihi. None at all. We must instead look at the entire verse — or perhaps the entire passage — and guess which meaning is intended.
अहं कृष्णवृक्षं गच्छामि
ahaṃ kṛṣṇavṛkṣaṃ gacchāmi
I go the black tree (tatpurusha).
अहं कृष्णवृक्षं वनं गच्छामि
ahaṃ kṛṣṇavṛkṣaṃ vanaṃ gacchāmi
I go to the black-treed (bahuvrihi) forest. (or "the forest of black trees," "the forest whose trees are black.")
अहं कृष्णवृक्षं वनं च गच्छामि
ahaṃ kṛṣṇavṛkṣaṃ vanaṃ ca gacchāmi
I go to the black tree (tatpurusha) and the forest.
When the compound is used alone, the compound is almost always a tatpurusha. But that, too, is not a certain rule:
Much rice (tatpurusha) is made.
The wealthy man (bahuvrihi) goes.
I assure you, however, that as you read more Sanskrit you will be able to differentiate between these two types automatically. Have faith and keep reading. Eventually, the entire system will be obvious to you.
In this lesson, we studied the fourth of the four Sanskrit compounds. This brings our study of the Sanskrit compounds to a close. To be sure, there are a few details that we will have to work out eventually; but, these details are less important than conceptual understanding. Details will reveal themselves over time.