Lexicography is one of the important branches of technical literature in Sans-krit. The Nighaṇṭu, a vocabulary of Vedic words, is the oldest lexicon so far known. The Nirukta of Yāska (800 B. C.) is a commentary on it.
But among the extant lexicons of Sanskrit, the Amarakoṣa (also spelt as Amarakośa) of Amarasiṁha (A. D. 500), a Buddhist scholar, who might have adorned the court of Vikramāditya, is the best known and the most widely used.
Popularly known as the Nāma-liṅgānuśāsanam (‘a work which deals with vocables and their genders’), it is divided into three ‘kāṇḍas’ or books or sections. (Hence the name Trikāṇḍa also.) The first called Svargakāṇḍa deals with heavenly matters. The second called Bhūmikāṇḍa deals with earthly things. The third called Sāmānyakāṇḍa is concerned with general matters.
The whole work is in poetry, in the anuṣṭubh metre. The major part of the work deals with synonyms and only a small section called Nānārthavarga is devoted to homonyms.
Being the most popular of such lexicons, the Amarakoṣa has sixty commentaries. Out of them the Amarakoṣod-ghāṭana by Kṣīrasvāmin (11th cent A. D.) seems to be the earliest. Ṭīkāsarvasva of Sarvānanda (12th cent. A. D.) is a more scholarly work.