A University of Cambridge PhD student has successfully solved a longstanding Sanskrit grammatical issue that has puzzled scholars since the 5th Century BC.

The student, Rishi Rajpopat, was able to decode a rule taught by Panini, a renowned expert in the ancient Sanskrit language who lived approximately 2,500 years ago.

Explaining his discovery process, Rajpopat shares:

“I closed the books for a month and just enjoyed the summer – swimming, cycling, cooking, praying and meditating. Then, begrudgingly I went back to work, and, within minutes, as I turned the pages, these patterns starting emerging, and it all started to make sense.”

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He further adds that he”would spend hours in the library including in the middle of the night”.

Meanwhile, his mentor and supervisor Professor Vincenzo Vergiani believes this will help impact the study of the language:

“Rishi has found a highly sophisticated solution to a problem that has confounded scholars for centuries. This discovery will greatly impact the study of Sanskrit at a time when there is growing interest in the language.”

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Rishi earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai in 2016. Prior to that, he had studied Sanskrit language, literature, and linguistics during high school and college.

After completing his Bachelor’s degree, he spent a year at the University of Oxford pursuing a Master’s degree in Pāṇinian Sanskrit linguistics.

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In 2017, Rishi began a PhD program in the same field at the University of Cambridge and is currently a full-time Academic Editor in at University of St Andrews in Scotland.