Avyayas.. The Indeclinables!

Exploring its types and illustrations..

Sujatha R
9 min readJun 2


Welcome to the treasure island of avyayas.. The gems here are indeed special.. Use them as they are.. They need no coverings!

They remain constant across the 3 lingas, the 3 vachanas, and the 7 vibhaktis. Avyaya indeed! Indeclinable they are.. They come in various shapes and forms.. Let us explore!

The if and but.. and and or
yes and no.. Ah and Oh
up and down.. far and near
now and then.. while and ago
All the spice and juice in conversation!
Oh yeah..
avaya power in action!

What is the Price?

Priceless I should say.. Like Instagram filters, they can highlight, veto, or even turn the meaning of the phrase.

I have a rather funny memory from my school days. In this new school, I was answering the dreaded Midterm Hindi Question paper in trepidation. Many questions had this odd Q1 अथवा Q2. What did अथवा even mean? And or Or? Fear of missing out, I answered every question like a maverick in that blurry language of mine.

And the terror story did not end there. My teacher in her lightening speed of correction perhaps awarded me points for all the Q1 and Q2s, and hence I had topped the Hindi Exam. I had to explain her the folly, see her get annoyyed, and get my paper reevaluated for a fair score :)

The connecting words.. Conjunctions

Conjunctions link and connect related phrases or clauses together. Hence, they help in constructing elegant and long sentences.

Let’s begin with the auspicious invocation अथ.. And now. An assertive voice with a bang..

अथ योगानुशासनम्

And now.. Lets begin the study of Yoga
-opening verse of Patanjali Yogasutras

अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा

And now.. the enquiry into Brahman
— opening verse of Brahmasutras

These avyayas are quite filler-chatty words. For the novice learner, they tend to ambush the understanding of the verses in the thick forest of Sandhi.. Let us use the Sword of learning and clear the pathways..

Some more assertions from Gita and other famous verses.

एव only /indeed

त्वम् एव माता च पिता त्वम् एव
You indeed are mother and you indeed are the father

कर्मणि एव अधिकारः ते
You only have the right to work!

तु .. हि.. खलु.. किल indeed

अविनाशि तु तत् विद्धि
Know that to be indeed imperishable

मात्रा-स्पर्शाः तु कौन्तेय
Oh Kaunteya.. Know these to be indeed from mere touch

जातस्य हि ध्रुवः मृत्युः
Indeed Death is certain for the Born -2.27

In fact, Bhagavad Gita is full of these. Sometimes these filler words are added just to fit the meter, and not for the specific meaning.

च And

भवान् भीष्मः कर्णः कृपः समितिञ्जयः ।

Yourself Bhishma and Karṇa and Kripa and Ashvatthama, Vikarna, and Saumadatti.. My victorious Allies
-Gita 1.8

अथवा .. वा Or

योगरतो वा भोगरतो वा
वा सङ्गविहीनः ।

One may take delight in “yoga” or worldly enjoyment “bhoga”
or One may delight by “company” or by “solitude”. But he whose mind delights in brahman.. he indeed enjoys real bliss
- Bhajagovindam 20

अथवा योगिनाम् एव.. कुले भवति धीमताम् ।

{He is reborn in a pious family..} Or he is born in the family of the wise Yogins -Gita 6.42

इह here

न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशम् पवित्रम् इह विद्यते ।
Here (in this world) .. There is nothing more purifying than Gyaanam -4.38

इव like

सूत्रे मणिगणा इव
Just like beads strung on a thread .. Everything rests in Me alone— 7.7

वागर्थाविव सम्पृक्तौ ..
जगतः पितरौ वन्दे पार्वतीपरमेश्वरौ ॥

Like vaak and artha, Speech and Meaning are quite inseparable.. Like the Parvathy and Parameshwara..
- Kalidasa

अपि even

अपि त्रैलोक्य-राज्यस्य
Even if I were to be the lord of the 3 worlds.. I would not consent for this battle..1.35

पुन: again

पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं
पुनरपि जननी जठरे शयनम्

yet again birth and yet again death..
yet again another birth in a womb

चेत् ..if

ज्यायसी चेत् कर्मणः ते मता बुद्धिः जनार्दन
If you knew buddhi was greater than karma.. Oh Janardana! Why do you associate me with this terrible karma — 3.1

एवम्, इति, इत्थं -In this manner / thus

एवम् उक्त्वा हृषीकेशम्.. गुडाकेशः परन्तपः
In this manner.. Gudakesha Arjuna spoke to Krishna -2.9

“न योत्स्ये” इति गोविन्दम् ..उक्त्वा तूष्णीम् बभूव ह ॥
“I shall not fight”.. In this manner he told to Govinda and became silent -2.9

इत्थं वृषाचलपतेरिह सुप्रभातं
In this manner.. those who read this suprabhatam everyday, shall benefit..

Quite a few turn in the sentences.. A quick recap of the words in this Island. Do visit it again!

अथ.. And now
च And
अथवा .. वा Or
इह here
इव like
एव only /indeed
तु .. हि indeed
अपि even
पुन: again
चेत् ..if
एवम्, इति
, इत्थं -In this manner / thus

Now that we are done with the invocation and phala shruti, and the basic forms, let us hop on to the fun Island of Pairs.

Island of Pairs

Let us examine these verses..

यदा तदा .. when then

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिः भवति भारत ।
अभ्युत्थानम् अधर्मस्य तदा आत्मानम् सृजामि अहम् ॥

Whensoever there is the decline of the dharma, and the uprising of adharma, then I shall create myself -4.6

यत्र तत्र .. where there

यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः
Where the women are worshipped, there the Gods shall rejoice!

यत्र योगेश्वरः कृष्णः
यत्र पार्थः धनुर्धरः ।
तत्र श्रीः विजयः भूतिः ध्रुवा नीतिः मतिः मम ॥

Wher there is Krishna, the Master of Yoga,
Where there is Partha, the archer,
There there is glory, victory and prosperity, and firm administration -18.78

यथा तथा.. like father like son.. as so

यथा भूमिस्तथा तोयं.. यथा बीजं तथाऽङ्कुरः ।
यथा देशस्तथा भाषा.. यथा राजा तथा प्रजा ॥

As the land so the ground water.. as the seed so the sprout.
As the region so the language.. as the king so the people.

यावत् as long as.. तावत् so long

यावत्-पवनो निवसति देहे
तावत्-पृच्छति कुशलं गेहे |

As long as one is alive,
So long his family members enquire about his welfare.
- Bhajagovindam

यावत् स्थास्यन्ति गिरयस्सरितश्च महीतले ।
तावद्रामायणकथा लोकेषु प्रचरिष्यति ।।1.2.36।।

As long as the mountains and rivers exist on this earth..
so long will the story of Ramayana spread among the people.
- Ramayana Balakandam

यतः ततः .. where there / from where.. from there

यतः कृष्णस्ततः धर्मः
यतः धर्मस्ततः जयः

where there is Krishna, there is Dharma
where there is Dharma, there is victory

अशान्तस्य कुतः सुखम् ॥
From where does Contentment arise for a Restless person? -2.66

And Some trivia.. These words are in fact tadditas, and have been obtained by adding pratyayas at the tail ends of pronouns.

तत्र => tasmin kshetre => that place => there
यत्र => yasmin kshetre => which place => where
Similarly यत्र, तत्र, कुत्र, सर्वत्र

तदा => tasmin samaye => that time => then
यदा => yasmin samaye => which time => when
Similarly यदा, तदा, कदा, सर्वदा

यथा, तथा, सर्वथा

यतः(from where), अतः(there/therefore),
कुतः(from where), एकतः(on one side), उभयतः (from both sides)

And we have a family of such words derived from pronouns..

यत्, यदा, यत्र, यथा, यतः, यदि
तत्, तदा, तत्र, तथा, तर्हि
किम्, कदा, कुत्र, क्व, कथम्, कुतः
सदा सर्वदा, सर्वत्र, सर्वथा, सर्वतः
अत्र, अतः
एकदा एकत्र, एकतः
उभयत्र, उभयथा, उभयतः
परत्र, पूर्वत्र, परतः पूर्वतः

Sense of Prohibition, Yes / No

मा .. Voice of Prohibition.. not

कर्मणि एव अधिकारः ते
You only have the right to work!
मा फलेषु कदाचन
मा कर्म-फल-हेतुः भूः
मा ते सङ्गः अस्तु अकर्मणि

and Not to its fruits
Do not work for the fruits
Do not get attached to inaction — Gita

मा कुरु धनजन यौवन गर्वं
हरति निमेषात्-कालः सर्वम्

Do not take pride on wealth, people and youth as it can be lost with time -Bhajagovindam

मा गृधः कस्यस्विद् धनम् ।
Do not grab excessive wealth — Ishavasa Upanishad

अलं.. Stop

अलं !
Stop with your nonsense!
Stop with your efforts!

न .. No cannot

एनम् छिन्दन्ति शस्त्राणि.. एनम् दहति पावकः ।
Weapons cannot cleave it.. Fire cannot burn it — Gita 2.23


धिक् त्वाम्!
Shame on you!

O dear

हे, अबे

किम् आश्चर्यम् !
What a surprise!
(Here, the intent is not to question, just like in English)

रे रे चातक !
O dear Chataka bird! The empty clouds merely thunder and give no rains! Not every cloud deserves your waiting..

अहो बत! महत् पापं कर्तुं व्यवसिता वयम् ।
Alas! We were engaged in committing a great sin -Gita 1.45

We are done with the big chunk of Avyayas. Let’s briefly explore the other types and the value they bring to the table.

Sense of Time

प्रातः, सायम्, दिवा, नक्तम् => morning, evening, day, night
अद्य, ह्यः, श्वः => today, yesterday, tomorrow
ह्यः, परह्यः, प्रपरह्यः
yesterday, day before yesterday, 2 days before yesterday
श्वः, परश्वः, प्रपरश्वः tomorrow, day after tomorrow, 2 days after tomorrow

अधुना, इदानीम्, सम्प्रति => now
पुरा long ago
sada always
चिरम् long time

चिरंजीवी भव
May you live a long life!

Sada sukhi bhava!.. always be happy

Sense of Space

अधः below
उपरि above
समया near
अन्तरा in between

Sense of Manner

प्रायः maybe
सहसा, झटिति => suddenly
नूनम् surely
सहसा at once
शनैः slowly
शनैः शनैः
उपरमेत् बुद्ध्या धृति-गृहीतया
Slowly Slowly one should cease from mental activity.. with the help of buddhi and grit of determinition.- Gita 6.25

उच्चैः, नीचैः => high, low
prithak seperate
पुनः,भूयः, मुहुः => again again
नाना various

नानाच्छिद्रघटोदरस्थितमहादीपप्रभा भास्वरं
The many holes of a pot, seated in which a great lamp emanating light.. He shines and the world shines.. Salutations to Him..
-Dakshinamurthy Stotram.

Number Sense

It is interesting to see the expanded scope of numbers..

सकृत, द्विः, त्रिः, चतुः, पञ्चवारं
Once, twice, thrice, four times, five times

Rama was known to be a सकृत archer.. Do it once and do it right.

एकधा , द्विधा, त्रिधा, चतुर्धा, पञ्चधा…. शतधा सहस्रधा
One way, two ways, three ways.. 100 ways, 1000 ways

ekam eva brahma.. trividha avagamyate..
That ONE is seen in 3 ways

VarnAshrama dharma chaturdha vibhakta
VarnAshrama is divided into 4 kinds

एकशः, द्विशः, त्रिशः, चतुश्शः पञ्चशः…… शतशः सहस्रशः
In ones, in twos, in threes, in fours.. in 100s.. in 1000s

The students marched in 100s.. शतशः

बहुशः in most cases, in general
mostly.. I will come ..बहुशः

kramashah.. in order
Students came in order.. kramashah


नमः, स्वस्ति, स्वाहा, स्वधा
These are used in the 4th vibhakti, in the sense of sampradana or offering to God/deity/ancestors.

श्रीकृष्णाय नमः ।
शिवाय नमः ।
नमस्ते {नमः ते => namah to you}

सह with
विना, ऋते without
प्रति towards
नाम name
सुखम् happy
वृथा waste
मिथ्या false

शम् auspicious
अस्तु may it be

शं नो मित्रः .. शं वरुणः
May the Sun be auspicious to us.. May Varuna be auspicious to us

{शङ्कर comes from शं}

शुभम् अस्तु.. May there be Good

अस्तम् set
suryah astam gacchati
Sun is going to set

That was a long listing of avyayas. Do come back and refer the examples. Happy Learning! शुभं भूयात् & All the Best!


Prof Narasing Rao’s lectures on Advaita Academy.

Further Reading




Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns