These words are well known; however it is interesting to look into their origins and usages.
The root from which these words are derived is भज सेवायाम् (भ्वादिः, उभय०). Although the nominal meaning of this root is “to serve”, this root can have several other meanings such as “to divide”, “to accept”, “to take refuge in”, “to experience”, “to worship”, and so on.
The word bhakta is derived as भज् + क्त (त) = भक्त which can be used as an adjective or as a common noun, generally in the masculine and neuter genders (as भक्तः and भक्तम् respectively).
भक्तः (masculine) – means “devotee”, “worshipper”, or “faithful servant”. Example:
न मे भक्तः प्रणश्यति (गीता ७.३१) – My devotee is never destroyed (i.e. never falls into evil ways).
भक्तम् (neuter) – means “part, division”, “food” or “cooked rice”. The reason it also means “cooked rice” is that it is divided among or served to several people. Example:
गन्धेन स्फुरता मनागनुसृतो भक्तस्य सर्पिष्मतः कर्कन्धूफलमिश्रशाकपचनामोदः परिस्तीर्यते ॥ उत्तररामचरितम् ४.१ ॥
The fragrance caused by the emerging (स्फुरता ) and slowly diffusing (मनाक् अनुसृतः) aroma (गन्धेन) of the rice cooked with ghee (सर्पिष्मतः भक्तस्य), mixed with the scents of various fruits and greens (कर्कन्धूफलमिश्रशाकपचनामोदः ) spreads all around (परिस्तीर्यते).
This word भक्त becomes भत्त in Prākṛt (several examples can be found in the Buddhist Tipiṭaka) and finally भात in Hindi.
भक्तिः is well known and generally used in the sense of “devotion” or “service” but can also mean “division”, “decoration” or “arrangement”, as in आबद्धमुक्ताफलभक्तिचित्रे (कुमारसम्भवं ७.१०) – “variegated by being inlaid with ornamental rows of pearls”
विभक्तिः – means “divided specially, or according to some order” – the prefix वि gives the sense that the division is not arbitrary but according to some rules. In Sanskrit grammar this has a special meaning as follows:
In Pāṇini’s grammar, all words are formed by attaching prefixes and/or suffixes to bases. Two broad classes of words are:
- Substantives (nouns, pronouns, and adjectives) – these are formed by attaching a suffix from a group of 21 suffixes (called सुप्) to a substantive base, called प्रातिपदिकम् । This results in declensions
- Verbs – formed by attaching a suffix from a group of 18 suffixes (called तिङ्) to a verbal root, called धातु । This results in conjugations
Both the सुप् and the तिङ् suffixes (प्रत्ययाः) are divided into groups of three, representing the singular, dual, and plural. That is why they are also called विभक्तिः । In the case of सुप् there are seven groups containing three suffixes each, and therefore there are named प्रथमा, द्वितीया, … , सप्तमी । Pāṇini does not explicitly name them because these names are well-known ordinal numbers meaning “first”, “second”, … “seventh”. Note that they are all feminine ordinals because they qualify विभक्ति which is a feminine noun. In the case of तिङ् special grammatical terms are used, which is why they are explicitly named as प्रथमः, मध्यमः, and उत्तमः, all qualifying पुरुषः (person). The English equivalents of these are “third person”, “second person”, and “first person”. The तिङ् suffixes are divided into two sets of nine (representing परस्मैपदम् and आत्मनेपदम्) and each set is further divided into three groups of three – that should be enough grammar for now…