Sanskrit: स्वराज्ये चावसत्प्रीतः प्रजा धर्मेण पालयन्


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England, English (UK)
What I hope will be a fairly interesting grammatical question.

I'm still on the Story of Sāvitrī and Satyavān in the Mahābhārata and I reached this verse, which I found quite complex grammatically:

अन्तर्हितायां सावित्र्यां जगाम स्वगृहं नृपः ।
स्वराज्ये चावसत्प्रीतः प्रजा धर्मेण पालयन् ॥ १-२० ॥

The first half is fine. We begin with a locative absolute construction: अन्तर्हितायां सावित्र्यां "at the disappearance of Sāvitrī, when Sāvitrī vanished", जगाम "he went" स्वगृहं "to his own home" नृपः "the king".

"When Sāvitrī vanished, the king went to his own home."

स्वराज्ये "in his own kingdom" चा = च "and" वसत् = अवसत् "he lived".

It's the next four words I think are quite tricky and I wouldn't mind a second opinion.

पालयन् is an interesting word. It seems to be a present, active, participle, declined in the nominative singular, masculine to agree with the king. Exactly what this word is, though, is quite interesting. In his entry for पाल्, Monier-Williams has this much to say:

पाल् cl. 10. P. (Dhātup. xxxii, 69) पालयति (°ते; also regarded as Caus. of √ 2. पा [Pāṇ. 7-3, 37, Vārtt. 2, पत्.], but rather Nom. of पाल below; p. P. पालयत् Ā. °लयान; pf. °लयाम् आस; aor. अपीपलत्),

So in other words, when we have waded through all the abbreviations, Monier-Williams reckons it's what I would call a denominative of pāla- "guard, protector, keeper; protector of the earth, king", although he concedes it's also regarded as a causitive of √pā- "watch, keep, preserve; protect; govern".

To me, the most likely analysis is that this is a denominative of pāla- and the meaning of पालयन् is either "protecting", or, I think, "ruling, governing" would be a better translation. And it would be a participle qualifying नृपः, so he "lived in his own kingdom, ruling/where he ruled ..." स्वराज्ये अवसत् पालयन्" (without saṃdhi).

धर्मेण is then easy "righteously, virtuously".

प्रजा is really interesting. Because it seems to be pra- + jā- and, since is a monosyllabic ā- stem, the paradigm has a lot of forms which are the same. Saṃdhi means this could be prajā or prajāḥ and there are an awful lot of jāḥ-s in the - paradigm.

I think it is probably an accusative plural (prajāḥ). "He lived in his own kingdom, where he ruled his people righteously", however, I can't overlook the possibility that is an instrumental singular.

The reason for that is this extra word प्रीतः, which seems to be masculine singular, qualifying the king. But it's a past passive participle in form, and I can't overlooked the possibility of "loved by the people" प्रीतः प्रजा.

So, do we go with "The beloved king lived in his own kingdom, where he ruled his people righteously", or do we go for "he lived in his own kingdom, where, beloved by his people, he ruled righteously", or something else altogether?

I have to say, I'd be particularly interested in a second opinion on the derivation of the word पालयन्.

For what it's worth, one translator (whom I've so far found much less reliable) has gone with:

And that hero began to live in his kingdom, ruling his subjects righteously.


Which agrees very nicely with what I've got, whereas another (generally more reliable) translator has gone with:

When Sávitri vanished, the king returned to his city, where he lived a hero in his own kingdom, his people protected by the rule of Law.


Of course, we must allow for the fact translators often aim for natural, readable translations, (as I am) and might alter the grammar and phrasing, but all the same, I'd be interested in other people's opinions.
  • I've done a little bit of thinking and I notice that the word "hero" comes up in a lot of translations of this verse.

    Now while Monier-Williams doesn't seem to list "hero" exactly as a translation of प्रीतः, I did notice in at least one version of the text, the word वीरः appears in place of प्रीतः while the rest of the line is unchanged.

    To me, this suggests that it is unlikely that prajā(ḥ) goes with prītaḥ and it is probably best not to overcomplicate it and simply take प्रीतः as some kind of description of the king. I think "beloved" is probably the better choice. Monier-Williams gives the definition of प्रीत as:

    प्रीत mfn. pleased, delighted, satisfied, joyful, glad;

    pleased or delighted or satisfied with, joyful at, glad of (with instr. loc. gen., or ifc.), RV. &c. &c.;

    beloved, dear to (gen. or comp.), Cāṇ.; Hit.;

    kind (as speech), Hit.

    Well I don't think "kind (as speech)" is a very good definition and I've tried to discount the second meaning by noting that for प्रीतः other texts have वीरः, which leads me to drift away from the idea that perhaps प्रजा is an instrumental ("pleased with his subject" < doesn't seem very likely in context either).

    So that leaves me with a choice of "joyful, glad" or "beloved". It could well be "joyful", but, the fact that other version have वीर makes me think that it's more likely this word is being used to describe how other people think of the king (beloved) than how the king is feeling himself (joyful).
    <<I think it is probably an accusative plural (prajāḥ). "He lived in his own kingdom, where he ruled his people righteously", however, I can't overlook the possibility that is an instrumental singular.>>

    I believe, you did overthink a bit here. As far as I know, prajā as instrumental singular would really not be encountered outside the Vedas. I'd really appreciate if you could present some counterexamples.

    As for प्रीतः, I'd say, the king was glad/satisfied with his meeting with Sāvitrī. It has nothing to do with his subjects.
    Thanks Dib!

    No I don't have any counter-examples, I'm sure you're right, I was going only on what seemed plausible grammatically. I have to say the monosyllabic paradigm isn't one of my strongest :p In fact, all those years ago, my textbook was Madhav Deshpande's Saṃskr̥tasubodhinī and I don't think he really devotes much attention to it (without wishing to disparage him if it's my memory that's at fault) - presumably because many of the forms of that paradigm are not very common in the later language?