Unique Tradition of Commentaries and Sub-Commentaries

There is an unique tradition in sanAtana dharma to write not only commentary but various types of sub-commentaries and glosses on the main commentary. This culture shows deep interest and scholariness of AcArya-s of sanAtana dharma.

We have

mUla sloka or sUtra - Main verse
bhASya - Main commentary on the verse
vArtika - gloss
chandrikA / dipikA - annotations / explanatory notes.

To explain in more detail, there are different types of commentaries that can be written on a particular work. 

They are:

bhAshya – bhAshya is that work which explains each of the words other original work & gives the explanation of the main work.

vyAkhya – vyAkhya is a detailed analysis or explanation of the work which might or might not explain each word of the original.

vivaraNa – a quite detailed analysis of the original work explaining the various concepts in depth.

TikA – annotation which is not a detailed analysis of the original work but gives the gist or explanation in short of the original work. This might omit certain words or verses which doesn’t require much explanation.

dipikA – as the word denotes lamp illumining the original work going into subtle concepts and explaining most of the technical aspects of the work. The famous dipikA that comes to mind is the guDhArtha dipikA of madhusudana sarasvatI which is a commentary on the bhagavad gItA as well as the bhAvArtha dipikA of sridhara sVamI on the bhAgavat purANa. Another example is commentary on gItA by Adi Sankara, nilakanTha has written a dipikA on Adi Sankara's bhAshya.

vArtika – a critical analysis of the original work.

Out of this vArtika is most unique

What is a vartika?

vArtika is oft-explained through the below sloka:

Ukta anuktha duruktaanaam chintha yatra pravarthathe
Tam grantham vaartikam praahurvaarthikajnaa maneeshinah


That work which contains ukta, anuktha and duruktha is called as vartika by people who know about vartikas.

vArtika is thus explained as that work which deals with UKTA, ANUKTA and DURUKTA – explaining the content of the original work, explaining those things which have been omitted from the original and correcting things that have been wrongly mentioned in the original work.

It is only a vArtika which can go against the original work – all other commentaries cannot go against the original work. Thus we find Sureshwara differing from Sankara’s interpretation in certain places in Brihadaranyaka Bhashya.

It is interesting that instead of DURUKTA (wrongly mentioned things are corrected), anandagiri gives the word of SU UKTA for explanation of VARTIKA in his tika on the Brihadaranyaka Bhashya Vartika.


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