Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Vol. 16): Grammar and Dictionary of the Pali Language


Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956) was a scholar, social reformer powerful advocate of the rights of Dalits and women, chairman of the Constituent Assembly of India, and the country’s first law minister.

In 1976, the Government of Maharashtra set up the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Source Material Publication Committee to compile his complete works. The Committee consisted of the state’s then education minister and noted scholars and writers. In 1978, when Vasant Moon (Dalit activist, author and Officer on Special Duty) joined the Committee, it decided to procure and publish Dr. Ambedkar’s unpublished writings too.

The state’s Education Department started to publish a 22-volume series titled Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches in 1979, and it brought out this 16th volume in December 1998.  The series was re-printed by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in January 2014.

The present volume collects Dr. Ambedkar’s dictionary of the Pali language and grammar which he began compiling when he was past 50 years of age. The preface to the volume states that Babasaheb’s aim with the dictionary was to encourage the study of Buddhist India.

Dr. Ambedkar was deeply interested in Buddha and his teachings. He was not only a follower of Buddha’s teachings but also an experienced Buddhist scholar. Buddhist thoughts and principles are important elements of Indian culture. Vasant Moon in his editorial essay explains how these dictionaries were an effort by Dr. Ambedkar to make Buddhist texts – which were then found mainly in Pali and Sanskrit – available to the masses. Vasant Moon also compares Dr. Ambedkar’s efforts with those of Dr. Samuel Johnson who compiled the first modern dictionary of the English language.

The present volume is divided into four major parts.

Book I - Pali English Dictionary

This part is the reproduction of a manuscript prepared by Dr. Ambedkar himself. The copies of the manuscript were received by Vasant Moon from the Administrator General of Maharashtra State.

The longest section of the volume, it consists of a list of words translated from Pali to English. It is arranged in alphabetical order and the pronunciations of the Pali words are provided in Devnagari after every entry.

Book II - Pali Dictionary (into English Marathi, Gujarathi and Hindi)

The second part of the volume lists English, Marathi, Gujarathi (or Gujarati) and Hindi alternatives for Pali words. This section is incomplete and covers just the first two vowels in Pali, that is, A (अ) and Aa (आ).

Book III - Pali Grammar

Pali Grammar is divided into seven sections: Orthography (Section I); Rules of change (Section II); Etymology (Section III); Cardinals (Section IV); Syntax (Section V); General conversation (Section VI); and General information (Section VII). Each section carries several words and sentences as examples to aid in the understanding of the technicalities involved in the Pali grammar.

Book IV - Bouddha Pooja Patha

The final part of the volume contains verses in the worship of Buddha as well as the Panchashila and the Triratnas. The verses are translated from Pali to Marathi and presented in both the languages side by side. This was originally printed and published in booklet form by Dr. Ambedkar himself for the followers of Buddhism.

Focus by Kartik Chitrakar.


Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar

First edition compiled and edited by Vasant Moon


The first edition was published by the Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, in December 1998. This is a 2014 reprint by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, Delhi, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.


Jan, 2014