Patanjali (Devana-gari) is the compiler of the Yoga Sutra, a major work containing aphorisms on the practical and philosophical wisdom regarding practice of Raja Yoga. (“Yoga” in traditional Hinduism involves inner contemplation, a rigorous system of meditation practice, ethics, metaphysics, and devotion to the one common soul, God, or Brahma/Atman.)
Virtually nothing is known about the life of Pataqjali, and some scholars believe he is entirely mythical. Various references suggest he lived between 200 BC and 400 AD – though several texts date him back several thousand years before this. Ancient texts often refer to Pataqjali as an incarnation of the serpent god Ananta, and he is sometimes depicted as half human and half serpent.
Pataqjali is the reputed author of the Yoga Sutra, as well as commentary on Pa-n.ini’s Sanskrit grammar (As.t.a-dhya-yi-) which is called ‘Maha-bha-s.ya’. There are also many ayurvedic texts attributed to him. Nearly all scholars believe these texts were actually written by different people in different eras.
Desiring to teach yoga to the world, he is said to have fallen (pat) from heaven into the open palms (anjali) of a woman, hence the name Patanjali.
The Yoga Sutra probably dates around BC 200. Pataqjali has often been called the founder of Yoga because of this work, although in reality is more a major figure. The Yoga Sutra is a treatise on Raja Yoga, built on the Samkhya school and the Hindu scripture of the Bhagavad Gita. Yoga is also found in the Puranas, Vedas and Upanishads. Still, this work is certainly a major work among the great Hindu scriptures and certainly is the basis of Raja Yoga. Pataqjali’s Yoga is one of the six schools of Hindu Philosophy. They give us the earliest reference to the popular term Ashtanga Yoga which translates literally as the eight limbs of yoga. They are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.
The Mahabhasya (“great commentary”) of Patanjali on the celebrated Ashtadhyayi of Panini is one of the three most famous works in Sankrit grammar. It was with Patanjali that Indian linguistic science reached its definite form. The system thus established is extemely detailed as to shiksha (phonology, including accent) and vyakarana (morphology). Syntax is scarecely touched, but nirukta (etymology) is discussed, and these etymologies naturally lead to semantic explanations. People interpret his work to be a defense of Panini, whose Sutras are elaborated meaningfully. He also attacks Ka-tya-yana rather severely. But the main contributions of Patanjali lies in the treatment of the principles of grammar enunciated by him.