The first impulse to the study of grammar in India was given by the religious motive of preserving intact the sacred Vedic texts, the efficacy of which was believed to require attention to every letter. Thus, aided by the great transparency of the Sanskrit language, the ancient Indian grammarians had by the fifth century B.C. arrived at scientific results unequaled by any other nation of antiquity.
The oldest grammar that has been preserved is Panini's. It already represents a fully developed system, its author standings at the end of a long line of predecessors, of whom no fewer than sixty-four are mentioned and the purely grammatical works of all of whom, owing to the excellence and comprehensiveness of his work, have entirely perished.
The best known of the Sanskrit grammars used in this country during the latter half of the nineteenth century are those of Monier-Williams and Max Mullar. Both of these contain much matter derived from the native system that is of no practical utility, but rather an impediment, to the student of literary Sanskrit. All such matter has been eliminated in the present work, not from any prejudice against the Indian grammarians, but solely with the intention of facilitating the study of the subject by supplying only such grammatical data of the actual language as have been noted by scholars down to the present time. Vedic forms have also been excluded, but in order to furnish English and Indian students with the minimum material necessary for beginning to read works written in the older language, a brief outline of Vedic Grammar is given in Appendix III.
The aim of this book is to provide the student with the grammatical equipment which is necessary for reading a Sanskrit text with ease and exactness. The book is divided into seven chapters and three appendices. Chapters 1-2 deal with the Sanskrit alphabet and euphonic combinations-external and internal sandhis. Chapter 3-4 describes the system of Sanskrit declension and conjugation. Chapters 5-6 are related to indeclinable words, nominal stem formation, and compounds. Chapter 7 deals with syntax. The three appendices contain (1) a list of verbs, (2) a meter in Classical Sanskrit, and (3) chief peculiarities of Vedic Grammar.
The book is fully documented. It comprises (1) Introduction with a History of Sanskrit Grammar; (2) Table of Devanagari letters; (3) Sanskrit Index; and (4) General Index.
Arthur Anthony Macdonell was a noted Sanskrit scholar- born at Muzaffarpur in the Tirhut region of the state of Bihar in British India, the son of Charles Alexander Macdonell, of the Indian Army. He was educated at Göttingen University, then matriculated in 1876 at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, gaining a classical exhibition and three scholarships (for German, Chinese, and the Boden Scholarship for Sanskrit).
He graduated with classical honors in 1880 and was appointed Taylorian Teacher of German (language) at Oxford. In 1883 he obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig and then became Deputy Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford in 1888, and Boden Professor of Sanskrit in 1899 (a post that carried with it a fellowship of Balliol College, Oxford).
Macdonell edited various Sanskrit texts, wrote a grammar, compiled a dictionary, and published a Vedic grammar, a Vedic Reader, and a work on Vedic mythology; he also wrote a history of Sanskrit.