ShadPramanas (षड्प्रमाणाः)

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Shad Pramanas (Samskrit: षड्प्रमाणाः) comprise those six pramanas accepted variously in the ancient astika darshanas, the Shad Darsanas (Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa (Purva Mimamsa) and Vedanta (also known as Uttara Mimamsa)). Pramanas are an important aspect which differentiate each darshana siddhanta from one another. Each of the Astika and Nastika darshanas have extensively discussed about Pramanas or the theories of valid cognition.

परिचयः॥ Introduction

The theories of cognition (Pramana) formulated by the ancient thinkers, arose out of a need to understand valid cognition (Prama). Nyaya darshana is the fundamental darshana which offers the definitions and lakshanas for each of the four Pramanas that is accepted by them along with the khandana (disproval) of pramanas not accepted by their school. Different Darshana shastras have accepted the need and function of Pramana but they have their unique principles about the nature and scope of the Pramanas. (Pages 39 to 42 of Reference [1]). Both Astika and Nastika schools of thought have their own explanations for the pramanas accepted by them, thus atleast ten pramanas have been put forth in various Darshanas. Of these ten pramanas, six of them are accepted in varying numbers by each school of Astika Darshana shastras. Here we discuss briefly what the six kinds of pramanas which are accepted by the Astika darshanas.

षड्प्रमाणाः ॥ Shad Pramanas

Pramanas though are more than ten in number, six of them (Shad Pramanas) accepted by astika schools of darshanas are discussed here.

  1. प्रत्यक्षम् ॥ Pratyaksha (perception)
  2. अनुमानम् ॥ Anumana (inference)
  3. शब्दः ॥ Shabda (Word) or आगमः ॥ Agama (verbal testimony)
  4. उपमानम् ॥ Upamana (comparison)
  5. अर्थापत्तिः ॥ Arthaapatti (presumption)
  6. अभावः ॥ Abhaava or अनुपलब्धिः ॥ Anupalabdhi (negation or non-apprehension)

To facilitate ease of explaining the various pramanas the sutras of Nyaya darshana have been used to explain four of these six pramanas in the present article. It may be noted that while these same concepts are accepted in other darshanas also they are in some instances assumed and not explicitly mentioned as sutras. Gautama in his Nyayasutras lays down that there are four kinds of Pramanas.

प्रत्यक्षानुमानोपमानशब्दाः प्रमाणानि ।।३।। {प्रमाणौद्देशसूत्रम्} pratyakṣānumānopamānaśabdāḥ pramāṇāni ।।3।। {pramāṇauddeśasūtram} (Nyay. Sutr. 1.1.3) [2]

Pratyaksha (Perception), Anumana (Inference), Upamana (Analogy) and Shabda (Words) are the Pramanas. (Page 36 of Reference [3]) Now we proceed to discuss the six pramanas along with their Sutras and authoritative Bhashya.

प्रत्यक्षप्रमाणम् ॥ Pratyaksha Pramana

Knowledge which is produced by the contact of a sense-organ with an object is called pratyaksha pramana. Pratyaksha pramana is the primary and fundamental of all the sources of valid knowledge and it is universally recognized so by all schools of philosophy. According to Nyaya , perception is not the only source of our knowledge, but is the basis of the other sources or means of knowledge.

Pratyaksha (Perception) is a source of direct knowledge and leads one to apprehend the reality. All other means of knowledge are indirect sources of apprehending reality. Example: When the sense-organ, i.e. eye, comes in direct contact with a pot, there arises a perceptual knowledge of pot.


Pratyaksha pramana (Samskrit : प्रत्यक्षप्रमाणम्) is made of two words Prati (प्रति) and Aksha (अक्ष), which literally means "In front of the eyes".

Gautama Nyaya Sutra 4

इन्द्रियार्थसन्निकर्षोत्पन्नं ज्ञानं अव्यपदेश्यं अव्यभिचारि व्यवसायात्मकं प्रत्यक्षम् ।।४।।{प्रत्यक्षलक्षणम्} indriyārthasannikarṣotpannaṁ jñānaṁ avyapadeśyaṁ avyabhicāri vyavasāyātmakaṁ pratyakṣam ।।4।।{pratyakṣalakṣaṇam} (Nyay. Sutr. 1.1.4)[2]

Meaning : Sense perception is that cognition which is

  1. produced by the contact (सन्निकर्षाद्) of the sense organ (इन्द्रियम्) with the object (अर्थेः).
  2. अव्यपदेश्यं not expressible by words
  3. अव्यभिचारि not erroneous, non-deviatedness
  4. व्यवसायात्मकं doubtless with crystal clear clarity (well-defined)

Vatsyayana Bhasyam

The bhashyam for Nyaya sutra (1.1.4)

इन्द्रियस्यार्थेन सन्निकर्षाद् उत्पद्यते यत् ज्ञानं, तत् प्रत्यक्षम् ॥ indriyasyārthena sannikarṣād utpadyate yat jñānaṁ, tat pratyakṣam ॥ (Vats. Bhas. Nyay. Sutr. 1.1.4) (Page 59 of Reference [4])

The knowledge that arises by the means contact of sense organ with the object.

The constant connection of the means of valid cognition (Pramana) with the object (artha) is called nondeviatedness (अव्यभिचारित्वम्).

Annambhatta's Tarkasangraha, also ascertains the concept given by Nyaya sutras about Pratyaksha pramana. इन्द्रियार्थसन्निकर्षजन्यं ज्ञानं प्रत्यक्षम्। indriyārthasannikarṣajanyaṁ jñānaṁ pratyakṣam। [5]

Prabhakara's Purva Mimamsa

Prabhakara defines 'Pratyaksha' in a unique way quite different from other siddhantas. According to him Pratyaksha is 'sakshath pratitihi' or direct apprehension. Each act of Prayaksha (perception) consists of three factors.[6]

  1. the direct apprehension of the object (which proceeds directly from sense organs in contact with the object).
  2. the apprehending person or subject
  3. the act of cognition or apprehension

This distinctive view of Prabhakara has been called the Triputipratyakshavada and is discussed at length under the heading Pramanas in Astika Darshanas.

अनुमानप्रमाणम् ॥ Anumana Pramana

The second instrument of valid knowledge is Anumana Pramana. Gautama defines it as follows

Gautama Nyaya Sutra 5

अथ तत्पूर्वकं त्रिविधं अनुमानं पूर्ववत् शेषवत् सामान्यतोदृष्टं च ।।५।। {अनुमानलक्षणम्} atha tatpūrvakaṁ trividhaṁ anumānaṁ pūrvavat śeṣavat sāmānyatodr̥ṣṭaṁ ca ।।5।। {anumānalakṣaṇam} (Nyay. Sutr. 1.1.5)[2]

Meaning : After perception comes Inference which is led up to by perception; it is of three kinds - Purvavat (पूर्ववत्), Sheshavat (शेषवत्), and Samanyatodrshtam (सामान्यतोदृष्टम्).

Vatsyayana Bhashyam

The meaning of the above sutra is explained by Vatsyayana in his bhashya as follows

तत्पूर्वकमित्यनेन लिङ्गलिङ्गिनोः संबन्धदर्शनं लिङ्गदर्शनं चाभिसंबध्यते । लिङ्गलिङ्गिनोः संबध्द्योर्दर्शनेन लिङ्गस्मृतिरभिसंबध्यते । स्मृत्या लिङ्गदर्शनेन चाऽप्रत्यक्षः अर्थः अनुमीयते । (Vats. Bhas. Nyay. Sutr. 1.1.5) (Page 65 of Reference [4])

tatpūrvakamityanena liṅgaliṅginoḥ saṁbandhadarśanaṁ liṅgadarśanaṁ cābhisaṁbadhyate । liṅgaliṅginoḥ saṁbadhdyordarśanena liṅgasmr̥tirabhisaṁbadhyate । smr̥tyā liṅgadarśanena cā'pratyakṣaḥ arthaḥ anumīyate ।

Meaning : The expression तत्पूर्वकम् meaning 'led up to perception' refers to the darshana (perception obtained through the indriyas and manas) of the relation between the Linga (लिङ्ग । mark) and Lingi (लिङ्गि । object indicated by the mark) and also darshana of Linga itself. The darshana of the relation between linga (mark) and lingi (object) also implies Smrti (स्मृतिः । remembrance) of linga. Thus by means of Smrti and darshana of Linga (mark) the Apratyaksha (अप्रत्यक्षः । non-perceptible) object (अर्थः) is inferred (अनुमानम् । anumana). (Page 26 of Reference[3]). Thus anumana depends totally on previous experiences through pratyaksha and this knowledge follows other kinds of knowledge. Example : where there is smoke there is fire.

Kinds of Anumana

Anumana is of three kinds with each of them having two definitions with elaborately described examples by Vatsyayana for the Nyaya Sutras given by Gautama.

Purvavat (पूर्ववत्)

पूर्ववदिति, यत्र कारणेन कार्य्यमनुमीयते। यथा मेधोन्नत्या भविष्यति वृष्टिरिति । (Vats. Bhas. Nyay. Sutr. 1.1.5) (Page 65 and 66 of Reference [4])

pūrvavaditi, yatra kāraṇena kāryyamanumīyate। yathā medhonnatyā bhaviṣyati vr̥ṣṭiriti ।

Purvavat Anumana is that in which the effect is inferred from the cause; e.g. when we see the clouds rising, we infer that there will be rain. The cause is 'purva' or prior to the effect ; hence that in which the Anumana is based on the cognition of the cause has been called Purvavat. (Page 26 of Reference [3])

अथवा पूर्ववदिति, यत्र यथा पूर्व्वं प्रत्यक्षभूतयोः अन्यतरदर्शनेन अन्यतरस्य अप्रत्यक्षस्य अनुमानम् । यथा धूमेनाग्निरिति । (Vats. Bhas. Nyay. Sutr. 1.1.5) (Page 65 and 66 of Reference [4])

athavā pūrvavaditi, yatra yathā pūrvvaṁ pratyakṣabhūtayoḥ anyataradarśanena anyatarasya apratyakṣasya anumānam । yathā dhūmenāgniriti ।

Purvavat Anumana is that in which out of two things perceived on some former occasion, perception of one of the two things leads to inference of the other (which is not being perceived); e.g. when fire is inferred from smoke. (Page 26 of Reference [3])

Sheshavat (शेषवत्)

शेषवत् यत्र कार्य्येण कारणमनुमीयते । पूर्व्वोदकविपरीतमुदकं, नद्याः पूर्णत्वमं, शीध्रत्वञ्च दृष्ट्वा स्रोतसोऽनुमीयते भूता वृष्टिरिति । (Vats. Bhas. Nyay. Sutr. 1.1.5) (Page 65 and 66 of Reference [4])

śeṣavat yatra kāryyeṇa kāraṇamanumīyate । pūrvvodakaviparītamudakaṁ, nadyāḥ pūrṇatvamaṁ, śīdhratvañca dr̥ṣṭvā srotaso'numīyate bhūtā vr̥ṣṭiriti ।

Sheshavat Anumana is that in which the cause is inferred from the effect; e.g. when we see that the water of the river is not like what it used to be, and that the stream is fuller and the current swifter, we infer that there has been rain in the catchment areas. (Page 26 of Reference [3])

शेषवत् नाम परिशेषः, स च प्रसक्तप्रतिषेधेऽन्यत्र अप्रसाङ्गात् शिष्यमाणे सम्प्रत्ययः । यथा सदनित्यमित्येवमादिना द्रव्यगुणकर्मणामविशेषेण सामान्यविशेषसमवायेभ्यो विभक्तस्य शब्दस्य तस्मिन् द्रव्यकर्मगुणसंशये न द्रव्यमेकद्रव्यत्वात्, न कर्म शब्दान्तरहेतुत्वात्, यस्तु शिष्यते, सोऽयमिति शब्दस्य गुणत्वप्रतिपत्तिः । (Page 65 and 66 of Reference [4])

śeṣavat nāma pariśeṣaḥ, sa ca prasaktapratiṣedhe'nyatra aprasāṅgāt śiṣyamāṇe sampratyayaḥ । yathā sadanityamityevamādinā dravyaguṇakarmaṇāmaviśeṣeṇa sāmānyaviśeṣasamavāyebhyo vibhaktasya śabdasya tasmin dravyakarmaguṇasaṁśaye na dravyamekadravyatvāt, na karma śabdāntarahetutvāt, yastu śiṣyate, so'yamiti śabdasya guṇatvapratipattiḥ ।

The word sheshavat means remainder; with regard to an object there are certain possibilities - and some of these possibilities are eliminated; and there being no other possibilities - when the remaining possibility is cognised in relation to the said object, this cognition is Sheshavat. e.g. with regard to Sound, we find that it is an real entity (सत्) and is transient (अनित्यमम्) etc; and as these properties (being an entity and being transient etc) are found to be common to Substances (द्रव्यम्), Qualities (गुणः) and Actions (कर्म) only, their presence in Sound distinguishes it from the remaining categories of the Commoness (सामान्यम्), Specialness (विशेष्यम्) and Samavaya (समवाय । Pervasiveness) (all of which are three entities, but eternal). Now there arises a doubt as to whether Sound is a Substance, a Quality or an Action. This doubt is reasoned (by the process of elimination) in the following manner :

  • Sound cannot be a Substance (द्रव्यम्), because it pervades in a single substance (Akasha). No other dravya is pervasive only in one dravya. All Substances are either not inherent in any dravya (e.g. Atman) or inherent in more than one dravya (e.g. a jar).
  • Sound is not an Action (कर्म), because it is the originator of another sound, thus it gives rise to something that is of its own kind which is never the case with any action.
  • Sound is thus a Quality (गुणः) arrived at by the process of elimination of the other two. (Page 27 of Reference [3])
Samanyatodrshtam (सामान्यतोदृष्टम्)

सामान्यतो दृष्टं व्रज्यापूर्वकम् अन्यत्र दृष्टस्य अन्यत्र दर्शनमिति तथा चाऽऽदित्यस्य । तस्मात् अस्ति अप्रत्यक्षा अपि आप्यादित्यस्य व्रज्येति। (Page 65 and 66 of Reference [4])

sāmānyato dr̥ṣṭaṁ vrajyāpūrvakam anyatra dr̥ṣṭasya anyatra darśanamiti tathā cā''dityasya । tasmāt asti apratyakṣā api āpyādityasya vrajyeti।

Samanyatodrsta Anumana (is that in which the inference is based on a general observation) e.g. we have observed in all cases that we see a thing in a place different from where we saw it before only when it has moved; from such general observation we infer that the sun must be moving, even though we cannot perceive it. (Page 26 of Reference [3])

सामान्यतो दृष्टं नाम, यत्राप्रत्यक्षे लिङ्गलिङ्गिनोः सम्बन्धे केनचिदर्थेन लिङ्गस्य सामान्यादप्रत्यक्षो लिङ्गी गम्यते । यथेच्छादिभिरात्मा । इच्छादयो गुणाः । गुणाश्च द्रव्यसंस्थानाः । तद्यदेषां स्थानं स आत्मेति । (Page 65 and 66 of Reference [4])

sāmānyato dr̥ṣṭaṁ nāma, yatrāpratyakṣe liṅgaliṅginoḥ sambandhe kenacidarthena liṅgasya sāmānyādapratyakṣo liṅgī gamyate । yathecchādibhirātmā । icchādayo guṇāḥ । guṇāśca dravyasaṁsthānāḥ । tadyadeṣāṁ sthānaṁ sa ātmeti ।

Samanyatodrsta Anumana is that in which, the relation between the Linga and Lingi being Apratyaksha (imperceptible), the imperceptible Lingi is inferred from the similarity of the Linga (mark) to something else. e.g. When the Atma is inferred from Desire etc. Desire etc are a Qualities and Qualities always pervade in substances. Similarity of Desire to other qualities which pervade in substances leads to the Anumana that, that Substance in which Desire pervades is the Atma. (Page 27 of Reference [3])

उपमानप्रमाणम् ॥ Upamana Pramana

The third instrument of knowledge is called Upamana Pramana or Analogy. The knowledge of similarity is generated by Upamana. This knowledge arises by the use of comparison of two things and the presence of some common factors in a thing.


It is derived from the words Upa (उप) used in the meaning सादृस्य । saadrisya or similarity and मान । maana in the sense of measuring or cognition.

However, the word Upamana has been translated variously as comparison, analogy, identification, knowledge by similarity and knowledge by assimilation.

Gautama Nyaya Sutra 6

Gautama defines Upamana as below

प्रसिद्धसाधर्म्यात्साध्यसाधनं उपमानम् ।। ६ ।। {उपमानलक्षणम्} [2]

prasiddhasādharmyātsādhyasādhanaṁ upamānam ।। 6 ।। {upamānalakṣaṇam}

Upamana (Analogy ) is that which accomplishes its purpose through similarity to a known object.

Vatsyayana Bhasyam

The bhashyam on Nyaya sutra 6 is as follows

प्रज्ञातेन सामान्यात्प्रज्ञापनीयस्य प्रज्ञापनमुपमानमिति । यथा गौरेवं गवय इति । यदा खल्वयं गवा समानधर्मं प्रतिपद्यते तदा प्रत्यक्षतस्तमर्थं प्रतिपद्यत इति । समाख्यासम्बन्धप्रतिपत्तिः रूपमानार्थ इत्याह । यथा गौरेवं गवय इत्युपमाने प्रयुक्ते गवा समानधर्ममर्थमिन्द्रियार्थसन्निकर्षादुपलभमानो अस्य गवयशब्दः संज्ञेति संज्ञासंज्ञिसम्बन्धं प्रतिपद्यतइति । यथा मुद्गस्तथा मुद्गपर्णि यथा माषस्तथा माषपणि इत्युपमाने प्रयुक्ते उपमानात् संज्ञासंज्ञिसम्बन्धं प्रतिपद्यमानस्तामोषधीं भैषज्यायाहरति । एवमन्यो अप्युपमानस्य लोके विषयो बुभुत्सितव्य इति । (Page 69 and 70 of Reference [4])

prajñātena sāmānyātprajñāpanīyasya prajñāpanamupamānamiti । yathā gaurevaṁ gavaya iti । yadā khalvayaṁ gavā samānadharmaṁ pratipadyate tadā pratyakṣatastamarthaṁ pratipadyata iti । samākhyāsambandhapratipattiḥ rūpamānārtha ityāha । yathā gaurevaṁ gavaya ityupamāne prayukte gavā samānadharmamarthamindriyārthasannikarṣādupalabhamāno asya gavayaśabdaḥ saṁjñeti saṁjñāsaṁjñisambandhaṁ pratipadyataiti । yathā mudgastathā mudgaparṇi yathā māṣastathā māṣapaṇi ityupamāne prayukte upamānāt saṁjñāsaṁjñisambandhaṁ pratipadyamānastāmoṣadhīṁ bhaiṣajyāyāharati । evamanyo apyupamānasya loke viṣayo bubhutsitavya iti ।

Meaning : Analogy is that which makes known what is to be made known, through similarity to an object that is already well known ; e.g. the assertion 'as the cow so do the gavaya' i.e., animal called gavaya is like the cow.

A person, who has perceived a cow in a town goes to a forest, and perceives a wild cow. He has an apprehension "this animal is similar to a cow" owing to the meeting of his eyes with the animal.. This knowledge of similarity of a cow with a wild cow is acquired by comparison.

शब्दः आगमप्रमाणं वा॥ Shabda or Agama Pramana

The fourth instrument of knowledge is called as Shabda or Word. This knowledge depends on reliable authority and also on yogyata aakaksha, and aasatti of a sentence. Different sounds such as those arising from musical instruments and bamboos also contribute to the realization of this knowledge. Shabda literally means verbal knowledge, that evidence about objects realized by the power of words and sentences is called Shabda pramana. It is designated in various ways by the different schools of Indian thought. Thus, it is "shabda", according to Naiyayikas and Mimamsakas, "Shastra" according to Vedantins, "Aptavachana" according to Samkhya and "Aagama" to Yoga darshana.

Shabda Bodha is another aspect which reveals the advanced knowledge of the seers of Bharatavarsha wherein sound and its origin, words, sentences and aptavachana are extensively described by not only darshanikas but also by the nastikas and vaiyyakaranas.


According to Panini's dhatupata, the word शब्दः is derived from the dhatu श॑ब्दँ॑ used in the meaning of भाषणे शब्दक्रियायाम् उपसर्गादाविष्कारे च (speaking, in sound utterances, and revealing the meanings of upasargas)[7]

Gautama Nyaya Sutras 7 and 8

आप्तोपदेशः शब्दः।।७।।{शब्दलक्षणम्} सः द्विविधः दृष्टादृष्टार्थत्वात्।।८।।{शब्दभेदः} (Nyay. Sutr. 1.1.7 and 8) [2]

āptopadeśaḥ śabdaḥ।।7।।{śabdalakṣaṇam}saḥ dvividhaḥ dr̥ṣṭādr̥ṣṭārthatvāt।।8।।{śabdabhedaḥ}

The communication made by a reliable person is Shabda (word). The said word is of two kinds - Drsthartha, where the thing spoken of is perceived (drstha) here and the Adrsthartha, where the thing spoken of is not perceived (adrshta). (Page 49 and 50 of Reference [3])

Vatsyayana Bhashyam

अाप्तः खलु साक्षात्कृतधर्मा यथादृष्टस्यार्थस्य चिख्यापयिषया प्रयुक्त उपदेष्टा । साक्षात्करणमर्थस्य आप्तिः, तया प्रवर्त्तत इत्याप्तः । ऋष्यार्य्यम्लेच्छानां समानं लक्षणम् । (Page 70 of Reference [4])

aāptaḥ khalu sākṣātkr̥tadharmā yathādr̥ṣṭasyārthasya cikhyāpayiṣayā prayukta upadeṣṭā । sākṣātkaraṇamarthasya āptiḥ, tayā pravarttata ityāptaḥ । r̥ṣyāryyamlecchānāṁ samānaṁ lakṣaṇam ।

Meaning : That person is called 'Apta', 'reliable' who possesses the direct (साक्षात्) and right knowledge of things. He is moved by a desire to express the thing exactly according to his knowledge and is fully capable of speaking it. Apta can be rshis, aryas and mlecchas. (Page 50 of Reference [3])

यस्यामुत्र प्रतीयते, सोऽदृष्टार्थः । एवमृषि लौकिकवाक्यानां विभाग इति । yasyāmutra pratīyate, so'dr̥ṣṭārthaḥ । evamr̥ṣi laukikavākyānāṁ vibhāga iti । (Page 71 of Reference [4])

Where the thing spoken of is only believed to exist elsewhere is Adrstha and cannot be perceived here. This way the words and sentences given by rshis and ordinary men are differentiated. (Page 50 and 51 of Reference [3]).

Yoga darshana

Shabda pramana is also called as Agama pramana, sastra pramana according to the Yoga darshana.

प्रत्यक्षानुमानागमाः प्रमाणानि ॥ १.७ ॥ pratyakṣānumānāgamāḥ pramāṇāni ॥ 1.7 ॥ (Yoga. Dars. 1.7)[8]

Meaning : Pratyaksha Anumana and Agama are the three pramanas.

"Agama," literally means "that which has come", contextually it means that evidence which is realized by the process of understanding scriptures from rshis who constitute reliable authority.  

In general according to our tradition Agama pramanas are divided in two parts

  • Apaurusheya : Vedas.
  • Paurusheya  : Puranas, dharma sastras, and smritis along with other words of rishis and elders. Basically paurusheya pramanas ultimately do not and should not contradict the Vedas.

    तया च सर्वेषां व्यवहाराः प्रवर्तन्त इति । एवमेभिः प्रमाणैर्देवमनुष्यतिरश्च व्यवहाराः प्रकल्पन्ते नातोऽन्यथेति। (Vyasa. Bhas. Yoga. Dars. 1.7)[8]

    tayā ca sarveṣāṁ vyavahārāḥ pravartanta iti । evamebhiḥ pramāṇairdevamanuṣyatiraśca vyavahārāḥ prakalpante nāto'nyatheti।

    Thus concludes the bhasya of the 4 pramanas given by Nyaya sutras.

अर्थापत्तिः ॥ Arthapatti Pramana

Arthapatti is the presumption of something for the explanation of a known fact. The word arthapatti goes under various translations as presumption, postulation, supposition, implication, and assumption. When a given or perceived fact cannot be explained without some other fact we have to presuppose or postulate the existence of this other fact even though we do not perceive it. What is presumed is said to be a distinct source of knowledge. Thus the a process of explaining an otherwise inexplicable phenomenon by the explanation of the fact itself is called Arthapatti. Only the Mimamsakas (Prabhakara school) and Vedantins (Advaita) accept this pramana. Nyaya does not accept Arthapatti as given in sutra

अर्थापत्तिः अप्रमाणं अनैकान्तिकत्वात् ।।३।।{अर्थापत्तिप्रामाण्यपरीक्षा} (Nyay. Sutr. 2.2.3)[9] arthāpattiḥ apramāṇaṁ anaikāntikatvāt ।।3।।{arthāpattiprāmāṇyaparīkṣā}

Jaimini Mimamsa Sutra 1.1.5

The discussion about Arthapatti and Anupalabdi pramanas is not directly given in Mimamsa sutras. However, in the context of explaining whether Dharma is cognizable by means of Verbal injunctions, the following sutra was given, which forms the basis for all commentaries explaining about these two pramanas.

औत्पत्तिकस्तु शब्दस्यार्थेन सम्बन्धस्तस्य ज्ञानमुपदेशोऽव्यतिरेकश्चार्थेऽनुपलब्धे तत् प्रमाणं बादरायणस्यानपेक्षत्वात् -१,१.५ सू.1.1.5 (Shab. Bhas. Sutr. 1.1.5)[10]

autpattikastu śabdasyārthena sambandhastasya jñānamupadeśo'vyatirekaścārthe'nupalabdhe tat pramāṇaṁ sū.1.1.5 (Shab. Bhas. Sutr. 1.1.5)

Mm. Pt. Ganganatha Jha explains thus : the relelation of the word with its denotation is inborn; instruction is the means of knowing it (Dharma). Infallible regarding all that is imperceptible; it is a valid means of knowledge, as it is independent - according to Badarayana.[11]

Shabara Bhashya

In Shabara Bhashya which is the authoritative commentary for Purva Mimamsa sutras, Arthapatti for the above Mimamsa sutra is elaborated as follows

अर्थापत्तिरपि - दृष्टः, श्रुतो वार्थोऽन्यथा नोपपद्यते इत्यर्थकल्पना। यथा, जीवति देवदत्ते गृहाभावदर्शनेन बहिर्भावस्यादृष्टस्य कल्पना।।

arthāpattirapi - dr̥ṣṭaḥ, śruto vārtho'nyathā nopapadyate ityarthakalpanā। yathā, jīvati devadatte gr̥hābhāvadarśanena bahirbhāvasyādr̥ṣṭasya kalpanā।।

Arthapatti, "Presumption", as a Pramana also consists in the presuming of something not seen, on the ground that a fact already perceived or heard would not be possible without that presumption; for instance Devadatta who is not in the house, and this non-existence in the house leads to the presumption that he is somewhere outside the house (as without this, the aforesaid fact of his being alive and not in the house could not be explained).[12]

Prabhakara Mimamsa

Prakarana Panchika, a commentary on the siddhantas of Prabhakara Guru school of Mimamsa, composed by Shalikanatha Mishra defines Arthaapatti as follows

अर्थापत्तिलक्षणम्। विना कल्पनयाऽर्थेन दृष्टेनाऽनुपपन्नताम्। नयताऽदृष्टमर्थं या साऽर्थापत्तिस्तु कल्पना।। 1 ।। इति। arthāpattilakṣaṇam। vinā kalpanayā'rthena dr̥ṣṭenā'nupapannatām। nayatā'dr̥ṣṭamarthaṁ yā sā'rthāpattistu kalpanā।। 1 ।। iti। (Prak. Panc. Arthapatti Paricheda)[13]

दृष्टेनाऽर्थेनाऽदृष्टस्याऽर्थस्याऽर्थान्तरकल्पनायामसत्यामनुपपत्तिमापादयता याऽर्थान्तरकल्पना, साऽर्थापत्ति:। यथा - जीवतो देवदत्तस्य गृहाभावदर्शनेन बहिर्भावस्याऽदृष्टस्य कल्पना।

dr̥ṣṭenā'rthenā'dr̥ṣṭasyā'rthasyā'rthāntarakalpanāyāmasatyāmanupapattimāpādayatā yā'rthāntarakalpanā, sā'rthāpatti:। yathā - jīvato devadattasya gr̥hābhāvadarśanena bahirbhāvasyā'dr̥ṣṭasya kalpanā।

According to Mm. Pt. Ganganatha Jha the above sloka and bhashya are summarized as :

"In a case where the well-ascertained perception of a thing or things (artha) cannot be explained or reconciled without the presumption of another thing or things, then it is this presumption that constitutes Arthapatti. For instance, when we know that Devadatta is alive and perceive that he is not in the house, these two things - being alive and non-existence in the house cannot be reconciled unless we presume his existence somewhere outside the house; and the presumption of this external existence is what is called Arthapatti" (Page 70 of Reference [6])

अभावः अनुपलब्दिः वा ॥ Anupalabdhi or Abhava Pramana

The concept of Abhava (अभावः । negative existence) has been discussed in two forms, namely, actual presence or absence of a thing (reality) and knowledge of the same. Reality of existence is expressed by words such as asat (असत्), alika (अलीकः), nirupakhya (निरूपाख्या) etc, while the way of knowing it is expressed as Anupalabdhi (अनुपलब्दिः). Simply put, negation is that there is some reality known as Abhava and the means to ascertain it is known as Anupalabdhi.

Even though Kanada explains the concept of Abhava in his Vaiseshika sutras, the means of knowing it as as a pramana (Anupalabdhi) has been put forth by Kumarila Bhatta and their close followers the Vedantins. अभाव is accepted by Naiyāyikas as a separate Padartha (पदार्थः) and not as a pramana.[14] According to Kumarila Bhatta Mimamsa and Advaita Vedanta Anupalabdhi is an independent pramana.[1]

Shabara Bhashya

As given previously the Mimamsa Sutra 1.1.5 explains about Abhava or Negation also. The Shabara Bhashya is given below.

अभावोऽपि प्रमाणभावो नास्तीत्यस्यार्थस्यासन्निकृष्टस्येति। abhāvo'pi pramāṇabhāvo nāstītyasyārthasyāsannikr̥ṣṭasyeti।

Abhava, Negation or non-apprehension stands for the non-existence of the (five) means of cognition and it is what brings about the cognition that "it does not exist" in regard to things not in contact with the senses.[12]

Kumarila Bhatta Mimamsa

Kumarila in his Slokavartika, based on the above sutra and bhashya defined Abhava Pramana and lays down his arguments about the 4 types of Abhava as given below

प्रमाणपञ्चकं यत्र वस्तुरूपे न जायते। वस्तुसत्तावबोधार्थं तत्राभावप्रमाणता।।1।। वस्त्त्वसङ्करसिद्धिश्च तत्प्रामाण्यसमाश्रया। (Sloka. Vart. Abhava. 1-2)[15][16]

pramāṇapañcakaṁ yatra vasturūpe na jāyate। vastusattāvabodhārthaṁ tatrābhāvapramāṇatā।।1।। vasttvasaṅkarasiddhiśca tatprāmāṇyasamāśrayā।

Summary : In the case where the aforesaid five means of knowledge (Pratyaksha, Anumana, etc) do not aid in the comprehension of the existence of object in particular, we have Negation as the sole means of cognition. The ascertainment of the non-contact (non-existence) of an object depends upon the validity of this (negation) as the means of cognition.[17]

Kinds of Abhava

Pragabhava (प्रागभावः)

The non-existence of curd in milk is called Pragabhava or Prior Negation.[17]

क्षीरे दध्यादि यन्नास्ति प्रागभावस्स उच्यते।।2।। kṣīre dadhyādi yannāsti prāgabhāvassa ucyate।।2।।(Sloka. Vart. Abhava. 2)

Pradhavamsabhava (प्रध्वंसाभावः)

The non-existence of milk in curd is called Pradhvamsabhava or Negation by Destruction.

नास्तिता पयसो दध्नि प्रध्वंसाभाव इष्यते। ... ।।3।। nāstitā payaso dadhni pradhvaṁsābhāva iṣyate। ... ।।3।। (Sloka. Vart. Abhava. 3)

Ayonabhava (अन्योन्याभावः)

The non-existence of a cow in a horse and viceversa is known as Anyoyabhava or Mutual Negation.

गवि योऽश्वाद्यभावस्तु सोऽन्योन्याभाव उच्यते।।3।। gavi yo'śvādyabhāvastu so'nyonyābhāva ucyate।।3।।

Atyantabhava (अत्यन्ताभावः)

The lower portion of the hare's head, being devoid of hardness and a supernumerary growth in the form of horns, is called Atyantaabhava or Absolute Negation.

शिरसोऽवयवा निन्मा वृद्धिकाठिन्यवर्जिताः। शशश्रृङ्गादिरूपेण सोऽत्यन्ताभाव उच्यते।।4।। śiraso'vayavā ninmā vr̥ddhikāṭhinyavarjitāḥ। śaśaśrr̥ṅgādirūpeṇa so'tyantābhāva ucyate।।4।।

In general understanding, Abhava is also the knowledge by which we immediately cognize the non-existence of an object, e.g. absence of rainfall indicates that the connection of cloud and the wind has not happened. Thus Abhava not only explains the existence or absence of objects but also the presence or absence of a particular event (such as reaction between cloud and wind).[18]

Pramanas in Astika Darshanas

While what the shad pramanas are have been discussed here, Pramanas in Astika Darshanas (आस्तिकदर्शन-प्रमाणानि) discusses which darshana accepts which pramanas as means for valid cognition along with the number of pramanas that they consider in their siddhanta.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Harh, Amal Kumar. (1994) Ph. D Thesis Title : The Means of knowing a negative fact a critical study on the theory of Anupalabdhi in Indian philosophy. (Chapter 2) University of North Bengal
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Nyaya Sutras (Adhyaya 1 Ahnika 1)
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Mm. Ganganatha Jha. (1939) Gautama's Nyayasutras With Vatsyayana Bhashya. Poona : Oriental Book Agency. (Page no 20)
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 Pt. Gangadhara Sastri Tailanga. (1896) The Nyayasutras with Vatsayana's Bhashya and Extracts from the Nyayavarttika and the Tatparyatika. (Page 48 of PDF) Benares : E. J. Lazarus & Co
  5. Tarkasamgraha (Pratyakshanirupanam)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Mm. Ganganatha Jha. (Reprint 1978) The Prabhakara School of Purva Mimamsa. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Publishers
  7. Panini's Ashtadhyayi (Verb forms for Shabda)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Yoga Darshana with Vyasa Bhasya (Pada 1)
  9. Nyaya Sutras (Adhyaya 2 Ahnika 2)
  10. Shabara Bhashya For Purva Mimasa Sutra (1.1.5) (Adhyaya 1 Pada 1 Adhikara 4)
  11. Mm. Pt. Ganganatha Jha (1933) Shabara Bhasya, Translated into English. Volume 1 (Adhyayas 1 to 3). Baroda : Oriental Institute
  12. 12.0 12.1 Mm. Pt. Ganganatha Jha (1933) Shabara Bhasya, Translated into English. Volume 1 (Adhyayas 1 to 3). Baroda : Oriental Institute
  13. Prakarana Panchika by Shalikanatha Mishra (Prabhakara Guru's School) Arthapatti Parichedha
  14. Paper Presentation by Prof. K. Subrahmanayam titled Pramāṇas in Indian Philosophy
  15. Slokavartika of Kumarila Bhatta (Bhaga 3)
  16. Pt. Rama Sastri Tailanga (1808) The Mimamsa Sloka Vartika of Kumarila Bhatta with the Commentary of Parthasarathi Mishra. Benares : Chowkhamba Sanskrit Book Depot
  17. 17.0 17.1 Mm. Pt. Ganganatha Jha. (Second Edition 1983) Slokavartika. Translated from the original sanskrit with extracts from the commentaries "Kasika" of Sucharita Mishra and "Nyayaratnakara" of Parthasarathi Mishra. Delhi : Sri Satguru Publications
  18. M. Chandraiah. (2002) Ph. D. Thesis Title : Anupalabdhi as a Pramana. A Critical Study. Tirupati : Venkateswara University