Dharmāḥ & Dharmāṇa

These are two Sanskrit plurals for “dharma”. Dharmāḥ, afaik, is very well attested in Buddhavacana, dictionaries etc. But dharmāṇa appears in Buddhavacana as well, but not in any dictionaries I can find.

What is the origin of these two different means of forming plurals?

1 Like


Are they both nominative plurals?

I understand that dharma has lost its terminal -n over time; might this be a case that the latter form above pertains to the older stem form dharman?

Or perhaps an influence from a Prakrit?


I’m no pali scholar but could this have been derived from dhammaanu -‘of the dhamma’ I think?

with metta

Yes. It might be an eccentricity of so-called “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” versus regular Sanskrit? BHS has both dharmāḥ & dharmāṇa accounted for in it.

AFAIK, dhammānu, if it is a plural & a genitive, in Sanskrit is dharmāṇām. Very close. But a single “m” & a lengthened vowel (ā) can make all the difference, especially in Sanskrit & Sanskrit-derived languages.

1 Like

I think so. I’ve seen a couple of opinions that proper Sanskrit writers would never have ended up with the constructions seen in BHS, perhaps an innuendo that BHS is simply pidgin Sanskrit, at best.

1 Like

An example of usage from the Abhāvasamudgataparivarthaḥ:

smarāmyahaṃ pūrvamatītamadhvani acintiye kalpi narāṇamuttamaḥ | utpannu lokārthakaro maharṣirnāmnā hi so’bhāvasamudgato’bhūt || 1 || sa jātamātro gagane sthihitvā sarveṣa dharmāṇa abhāvu deśayī | tadānurūpaṃ kṛtu nāmadheyaṃ śabdena sarvaṃ trisahasra vijñapī

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough Sanskrit to know at all how irregular or regular it is.

1 Like