The Pāṇinian school assumes that sentences have a basic structure. There is a verb, like gacchati (“goes”), that describes some action. And there are different components involved in this action:
रामः सीतायै वने मार्गेण कुट्या मृगं गच्छति।
rāmaḥ sītāyai vane mārgeṇa kuṭyā mṛgaṃ gacchati.
Rama goes to the deer in the forest from the hut via the path for Sita.
The different components of some action are called kārakas. Roughly, you can think of a kāraka as an intermediate idea between the meaning we want to express and the actual sup ending we use.
The Aṣṭādhyāyī describes six main kārakas and does so within the scope of these two rules, which we've seen before:
आ कडारादेका संज्ञा। १.४.१
ā kaḍārādekā saṃjñā (1.4.1)
ā kaḍārāt ekā saṃjñā
Up to the kaḍāra rule (rule 2.2.38), one saṃjñā [is allowed].
विप्रतिषेधे परं कार्यम्। १.४.२
vipratiṣedhe paraṃ kāryam (1.4.2)
vipratiṣedhe param kāryam
In matters of conflict, the later [rule] should be applied.
The kāraka section then begins with this adhikāra:
In the context of a kāraka, …
The six kārakas
Below, we present the basic semantics of the six kārakas. We also include some common secondary semantics. Most of these six kārakas can convey several other kinds of semantics, but we have omitted them here to keep this lesson at a reasonable length.
The first kāraka is apādāna, which is usually expressed by the fifth (“ablative”) case:
ध्रुवमपाये ऽपादानम्। १.४.२४
dhruvamapāye 'pādānam (1.4.24)
dhruvam apāye apādānam
In the sense of movement away, [a kāraka that is] the fixed point is called apādāna (ablation).
भीत्रार्थानां भयहेतुः। १.४.२५
bhītrārthānāṃ bhayahetuḥ (1.4.25)
For [roots] meaning bhī (to fear) or trā (to protect), [a kāraka that is] the source of fear [is called apādāna].
Here are some examples of these two rules:
नरो वनाद् ग्रामं गच्छति।
naro vanād grāmaṃ gacchati.
The man goes from the forest to the village.
रावणो रामाद् भीतः।
rāvaṇo rāmād bhītaḥ.
Ravana is afraid of Rama.
रामः सीतां राक्षसात् त्रायते।
rāmaḥ sītāṃ rākṣasāt trāyate.
Rama protects Sita from a rakshasa.
Next is sampradāna, which is usually expressed by the fourth (“dative”) case:
कर्मणा यम् अभिप्रैति स सम्प्रदानम्। १.४.३२
karmaṇā yam abhipraiti sa sampradānam (1.4.32)
karmaṇā yam abhipraiti sa sampradānam
[A kāraka that is] whom one aims to benefit with the action is called sampradāna (beneficiary).
रुच्यर्थानां प्रीयमाणः। १.४.३३
rucyarthānāṃ prīyamāṇaḥ (1.4.33)
For [roots] meaning ruc (please), [a kāraka that is] the one being pleased [is called sampradāna].
श्लाघह्नुङ्स्थाशपां ज्ञीप्स्यमानः। १.४.३४
ślāghahnuṅsthāśapāṃ jñīpsyamānaḥ (1.4.34)
For the roots ślāgh (praise), hnu (hide), sthā (stay, stand), and śap (vow, curse), [a kāraka that is] the one whom one wishes to be informed [of the action is called sampradāna].
Here are some examples of these three rules:
देवदत्ताय फलं ददाति
devadattāya phalaṃ dadāti
He gives a fruit to Devadatta. (1.4.32)
देवदत्ताय रोचते फलम्।
devadattāya rocate phalam.
Devadatta likes the fruit. (1.4.33)
He praises Devadatta. (1.4.34)
Next is karaṇa, which is usually expressed by the third (“instrumental”) case:
साधकतमं करणम्। १.४.४२
sādhakatamaṃ karaṇam (1.4.42)
[A kāraka that is] the most effectual means [is called] karaṇa (means).
And an example:
रामो धनुषा रावणं हन्ति।
rāmo dhanuṣā rāvaṇaṃ hanti.
Rama kills Ravana with his bow.
Then adhikaraṇa, which is usually expressed by the seventh (“locative”) case:
आधारो ऽधिकरणम्। १.४.४५
ādhāro 'dhikaraṇam (1.4.45)
[A kāraka that is] the locus of action [is called] adhikaraṇa (locus).
And an example:
अर्जुनः क्षेत्रे युध्यते।
arjunaḥ kṣetre yudhyate.
Arjuna fights in the field.
Then karma, which is usually expressed by the second (“accusative”) case:
कर्तुरीप्सिततमं कर्म। १.४.४९
karturīpsitatamaṃ karma (1.4.49)
kartuḥ īpsitatamam karma
[A kāraka that is] what the agent most desires [is called] karma (object),
तथायुक्तं चानीप्सितम्। १.४.५०
tathāyuktaṃ cānīpsitam (1.4.50)
tathā-yuktam ca an-īpsitam
and likewise for what is not desired but similarly related [to what is most desired].
What does rule 1.4.50 mean? To help us understand, here is an ancient example:
ओदनं भुञ्जानो विषं भुङ्क्ते
odanaṃ bhuñjāno viṣaṃ bhuṅkte
While eating rice, he eats poison.
Here, odanam (“rice”) is what the eater desires by his action, so it is karma by rule 1.4.49. viṣam (“poison”) is not desired; perhaps the eater doesn't know that the poison is present. So viṣam is out of scope in rule 1.4.49. However, viṣam has a similar relation to odanam, since it is connected with odanam by being mixed with it. Thus viṣam can be called karma by rule 1.1.50.
Our last kāraka is kartṛ, which is usually expressed in either the first (“nominative”) or the third (“instrumental”) case, depending on the verb's prayoga:
स्वतन्त्रः कर्ता। १.४.५४
svatantraḥ kartā (1.4.54)
[A kāraka that is] independent [is called] kartṛ (agent),
तत्प्रयोजको हेतुश्च। १.४.५५
tatprayojako hetuśca (1.4.55)
tat-prayojakaḥ hetuḥ ca
[A kāraka that is] the instigator of that [action is called kartṛ] as well as hetu (cause).
Here are some examples of these rules:
देवदत्त ओदनम् पचति।
devadatta odanam pacati.
Devadatta cooks rice.
राम ओदनं देवदत्तेन पाचयति।
rāma odanaṃ devadattena pācayati.
Rama makes Devadatta cook rice.
kāraka is a complex concept, but we hope the rules above give you some intuition for what it represents. Even so, we're still left with two questions:
How do we map a kāraka to a specific ending?
What if we want to express something that isn't a kāraka?
The next lesson will answer both of these questions.