Padārtha is a Sanskrit word for "categories" in Vaisheshika and Nyaya schools of Hindu philosophy.[1][2]

The term “Padārtha” derived from two “Pada” or word and “Artha” or the meaning or referent. Therefore etymologically the term Padārtha means “the meaning or referent of words”.[3]

Almost all the philosophical systems of India accept liberation as the ultimate goal of life; it is the summum bonum. For attaining liberation different philosophies prescribe different means. According to Gautama, liberation can be attained by the true knowledge of the categories or padārthas.[4] According to the Vaisheshika school, all things which exist, which can be cognised, and which can be named are padārthas (literal meaning: the meaning of a word), the objects of experience.

According to Vaisheshika school of philosophy Padārtha or all objects of experience can be primarily divided as "Bhāva" and "Abhāva". The bhāva padārthas are six types.[3] These are:

Later Vaiśeṣikas like, Śrīdhara and Udayana and Śivāditya added one more category abhava which means non-existence.[5]

The Nyāya metaphysics recognizes sixteen padarthas or categories and includes all six (or seven) categories of the Vaiśeṣika in the second one of them, called prameya.[5] These are:

The Vaiśeṣika categories or Padārthas are separate from the categories of Aristotle, Kant and Hegel. According to Aristotle, categories are logical classification of predicates; Kant states that categories are only patterns of the understanding and Hegel’s categories are dynamic stages in the development of thought, but the Vaiśeṣika categories are metaphysical classification of all knowable objects. Aristotle accepts ten categories 1. Substance, 2 Quality, 3 Quantity, 4.Relation, 5 Place, 6. Time, 7. Posture, 8.Property, 9.Activity and 10. Passivity. But the Vaiśeṣikas include the time and place under substance, relation under quality, inherence, quantity and property are quality, passivity is the opposite of activity Gautama enumerates sixteen Padārthas.[6]