c.4th century bce)
The name of Pāṇini's grammar, in which he analysed the whole phonology and morphology of Sanskrit in fewer than 4 000 sūtras (aphorisms), designed for memorization and oral transmission. This description of the language used by the educated brahmins of his time was quickly accepted as being so inclusive and accurate that it became the authoritative source for all questions of usage from that point onwards, and thus superseded all previous grammars, which disappeared as a result. What is now known as ‘Classical Sanskrit’ is the language codified in the rules and metarules of Pāṇini. A. L. Basham justly describes the Aṣṭādhyāyi as ‘one of the greatest intellectual achievements of any ancient civilization, and the most detailed and scientific grammar composed before the 19th century in any part of the world’.