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putrān dehi – Hindu Phobia of The Telegraph

putrān dehi’ = “give [us] daughters and sons”

The Telegraph is running a campaign urging Hindus to chant “santānān dehi” instead of “putrān dehi” so that (in their opinion) people ask for daughters also, not just sons.

This change is unnecessary. The words ‘putrān dehi’ mean both “give [us] sons” and “give [us] daughters and sons”.

To understand this, we need to know the principle of ‘ekaśeṣa’ in Samskrita grammar, by which the masculine dual can also stand for a female and a male, and the masculine plural can also stand for females and males collectively.

First, we look at masculine dual. The masculine dual ‘haṃsau’, which ordinarily means “two male haṃsas”, also means “a female haṃsa and a male haṃsa”. As the ‘Siddhāntakaumudī’ says under ‘Aṣṭadhyayī’ 1.2.67: “haṃsī ca haṃsaśca haṃsau” (“a female haṃsa and a male haṃsa—haṃsau”). Another example of this is that the word ‘putrau’ which ordinarily means “two sons” can also mean “a daughter and a son”. The ‘Siddhāntakaumudī’ says under ‘Aṣṭadhyayī’ 1.2.68: “putraśca duhitā ca putrau” (“a son and a daughter—putrau”). The ‘Amarakoṣa’ (2.6.37) says “putrau putraśca duhitā ca”, i.e. the word ‘putrau’ means “a son and a daughter”. Similarly, the word ‘pitarau’ which ordinarily means “two fathers” or “two forefathers”, also means “the mother and the father”. A famous example is by Kālidāsa in the opening verse of the ‘Raghuvaṃśa’: “jagataḥ pitarau vande pārvatī-parameśvarau” where he uses the word ‘pitarau’ in the sense of “mother and father”.

putrān dehi

The same is true for the masculine plural. The masculine plural ‘haṃsāḥ’ means both “many male haṃsas” and “many female and male haṃsas”. Similarly the masculine nominative plural ‘putrāḥ’ means both “many sons” and “many daughters and sons”. For example, Kālidāsa uses the word ‘putravataḥ’ in ‘Kumārasambhava’ (verse 1.27). Commenting on this, Mallinātha says “putrāśca duhitaraśca putrāḥ … te’sya santīti putravān”, i.e. “sons and daughters—putrāḥ; he who has them is putravān”.

Just like the nominative plural ‘putrāḥ’ means both “many sons” and “many daughters and sons”, the accusative plural ‘putrān’ means both “[to] many sons” and “[to] many sons and daughters”.

Therefore, ‘putrān dehi’ is to be understood in the general sense as “give [us] daughters and sons”. No change in the ‘añjali’ mantra is required. A correct understanding of the word ‘putrān’ is all that is needed.

Finally, the proposed emendation “santānān dehi” is highly inappropriate as it violates the ‘anuṣṭup’ metre. The words “putrān dehi dhanaṃ dehi” (originally from ‘Yājñavalkyasmṛti’ 1.291) have eight syllables as is expected in a quarter of an ‘anuṣṭup’ verse. In contrast, the words “santānān dehi dhanaṃ dehi” have nine syllables.

Nityānanda Miśra is a renowned author based in Mumbai. Born in Lucknow, Misra is an MBA from IIM Bangalore. He writes on Indian literature, arts, and music. His famous books are KumbhaThe Om Mala(English & Hindi), and Mahaviri. He has edited and authored eleven books in Sanskrit, Hindi, and English.

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