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[Skt.,=union], general term for spiritual disciplines in Hinduism, Buddhism, and throughout S Asia that are directed toward attaining higher consciousness and liberation from ignorance, suffering, and rebirth.
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Indian philologist and philosopher of the second century B.C.

Patanjali’s Mahabhashya (Great Commentary) is one of the oldest sources of information about classical Sanskrit, the dialects of ancient India, and various aspects of ancient Indian society. It is a commentary on the grammar of Panini and the works of Katyayana, especially the Varttika, which gave a critical analysis of Panini. Patanjali wrote on various philosophical issues, such as Sankhya, a dualistic philosophy. Many of his ideas on medicine were incorporated in a treatise called Charaka. The author of works on literature and poetry, Patanjali also compiled the Nata-sutra, a manual for actors.

Patanjali the author of Mahabhashya (second century B.C.) has traditionally been identified with Patanjali the founder of the religious-idealist yoga system and author of Yoga-sutra (The Doctrine of Yoga). Most probably, they were two different people.

Patanjali has been depicted as a mythological being, with the upper part of his body human and the rest snakelike; there is often a crown of five snakes above his head. Sculptures and paintings of Patanjali are found in many Shivaite temples in South India, particularly in the city of Chidambaram. A historical personage, Patanjali is venerated by Shivaites as an incarnation of the gods Anantishvara and Shiva.


Patanjali. The Vyakarana-Mahabhasya of Patanjali, 2nd ed. Edited by F. Kielhorn, vols. 1–3, 1892–1909.


Sastri Udaywir. Sankhyasidhanta. Delhi, 1962.
Staal, J. F. A Reader on the Sanskrit Grammarians. Cambridge, 1972. (With bibliography.)


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