Devanagari Script: Short vowels

H ² 7 + ª
a i u ¤ µ
H is pronounced as in cup, bus etc.
² is pronounced as in inform, init etc.
7 is pronounced as in look, book etc.
+ has no direct equivalent and is pronounced
somewhere in between ri and ru, like crystal.
ª is also like + and is pronounced somewhere
in between li and lu similar to glycerene.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Devanagari Script: Long vowels
The eight long vowels are
Hl ² 7 + 9 9 Hl H|
¡ ¢ £ ¥ ¦ ai § au
The first four are the long forms of the
corresponding short vowels.

9 and Hl are long vowels which do not have
short forms in Sanskrit.
9 and H| are often likened to diphthongs though
they are not strictly combinations of two vowels.
Hl is pronounced as in far, bar, fall etc.
² is pronounced as in easy, eagle etc.
7 is pronounced as in rooster, fool etc.
+ is the long form of +
9 is pronounced as in fable, gray etc.
9 is pronounced as in my, fly etc.
Hl is pronounced as in road, goat etc.
H| is pronounced as in down, noun etc.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The Support Vowels
The two support vowels are known as "ubhayakshara"
and are mostly appended to syllables. They are not
used independently like other vowels.
They add specific sounds to the syllables they are
appended to. These two support vowels are represented
using the first vowel H .
H H-
a¨ a©

The first is known as the "anuswara" and the second
"visarga" The anuswara adds a sound similar to the
sound of m in "sum" to the syllable. The visarga
adds a sound similar to "ha" to the syllable.
The "ha" will change depending on the vowel ending
the syllable. The visarga more or less extends the
vowel in the syllable with h+the same vowel as in the
syllable.
Example: if the syllable ends in vowel ² then the visarga
would add a sound like "hi".
There may be differences in the manner in which these
two are introduced in conventional Sanskrit Primers.
When reading Sanskrit, it will be necessary to render
the visarga in a way that will distinguish it from the
syllables ha, hi, hu etc. This may be accomplished by
shortening the vowel in the visarga.
One is tempted to ask, "well how can Sanskrit be a
phonetic language then, if the sound for a letter is
context dependent?". We shall answer this in a later
section dealing with phonetics.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Let us look at the first consonant.
T (ka)
The generic form of T is T . The nether
stroke is attached below the letter T .
Now, the familiar form of a consonant in
Sanskrit is the form when it is sounded with the
first vowel i.e., H . Thus
T + H = T
Pronouncing a consonant in its generic form
requires that no vowel sound be added to the
consonant’s generic sound. The generic sound is
quite similar to the sound associated with a basic
phoneme corresponding to a consonant in English.
For the consonant T the associated generic sound
will be like the ending syllable of the words
"lake", "bake" etc..
A pure consonant is linguistically defined to be
one without any vowel attached to it. Consonants
can be meaningful in practice only when uttered
along with a vowel. Ancient linguistic scholars
refered to the vowels as "life giving" aksharas
while the consonants were likened to the body.
It is common practice to introduce the consonants
to the student, in the form where the first vowel H
forms the syllable with the generic sound of the
consonant. Thus the student learns that T is
is pronounced like the first syllable of "cup" . In
India, children are often taught the aksharas in
this manner.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The first group of consonants are the Gutterals.
T G ¬ ¤ =
ka kha ga gha °a
T sounds like the first syllable in cup
G is the aspirated form of T

¬ sounds like the g in gum
¤ is the aspirated form of ¬
= sounds like the ng in finger
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The second group consists of the Palatals.
¬ 7 = H ¬
ca cha ja jha ±a
¬ sounds as in chair
7 is the aspirated form of ¬
= sounds as in jar, just
H is the aspirated form of =
¬ sounds similar to the last syllable of the
spanish word espana where the n has the
combination sound of the English n and y.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The third group of consonants are the cerebrals.
³ ó 7 7 T
·a ·ha ¸a ¸ha ²a
³ sounds similar to the t in taylor
ó is the aspirated form of ³
7 sounds similar to the d in day, differ etc.
7 is the aspirated form of 7
T sounds similar to the n in fund.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The fourth group is made up of the dentals.

6 ¤ 7 « +
ta tha da dha na
6 sounds like the first syllable of thirty
¤ is the aspirated form of 6
7 sounds like the first syllable of thus
« is the aspirated form of 7
+ sounds like the n in null, name etc..
----------------------------------------------------------------------
The fifth group of consonants are the Labials.

9 T 4 ¬ P
pa pha ba bha ma
9 sounds like p in pun
T is the aspirated form of 9
4 sounds like the b in butter
¬ is the aspirated form of 4
P sounds like the m in man
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Semivowels
4 ¹ ¬ 4
ya ra la va
Sibilants
H 9 B
¹a ºa sa
Aspirate
r
ha
---------------------------------------------------------------------
4 sounds like the y in young
¹ sounds like the r in real, similar to the Scottish
pronounciation.
¬ sounds like the l in laugh
4 sounds like the v in vast
H has no direct equivalent in English. It is like
the "g" a German would pronounce while
speaking English and saying Germany !
9 sounds like the first syllable in shall
B similar to the s in same
r sounds like the h in harmony.
There are three other consonants that one finds in use.
= ¬ :'
µa kºa j±a
= is usually included in the semivowels.
It is similar to ¬ but is pronounced with the tip
of the tongue folded back.
¬ is actually a conjunct being T + 9
:' is also a conjunct = + ¬
The first and the third are used freqently in old
sanskrit texts. The second is in common use today.
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Consonant Vowel combinations.
Sanskrit is a phonetic language. Any of the con-
sonants can form a syllable with any of the vowels.
Such combinations are written using special
ligatures (specific shapes different from those of
the normal vowels). The Devanagari script
follows fairly consistent rules to write a consonant
vowel combination. In standard literature, the term
medial vowel is sometimes used to refer to vowels
seen inside a word. Hence some scholars in the past
have refered to the ligatures as medial vowels. We
will see that while this is reasonable, exceptions do
occur.
Each vowel has a special shape associated with it
for use with a combining consonant. This is known
as a "matra" or simply vowel extension. A matra,
when added to the basic shape of a consonant, results
in a syllable consisting of the consonant and the
vowel.
Some matras are added to the right of the consonant,
some above or below the consonant and one specific
matra in Sanskrit is added to the left of the con-
sonant i.e., before drawing the consonant.
The matras associated with the vowels are shown
below.
Vowel: H Hl ² ² 7 7
matra : l | l
Ex. : T Tl |T Tl T T
Vowel: + 9 9 Hl H|
matra : l |
Ex. : T T T Tl T|
No matra is used for the combination with H since
this is considered the basic syllable for a consonant.
In consonants having a vertical stroke in their shapes,
the matras that get added above or below are drawn
coinciding the vertical stroke. For consonants not
having a vertical stroke, the matras are usually added
centered with respect to the horizontal span of
the consonant. Take 7 for example.
7 7l |7 7l 7 7
c 7 7 7l 7|
All the thirtythree consonants strictly follow
the above convention with very few exceptions.
The consonant ¹ has an exception for combinations
with 7 and 7 .
The forms for ¹ with 7 and 7 are 6 and -
respectively.
The combination of r and + is written as 8 .
As seen above 7 and + will be c .
----------------------------------------------------------------------
In respect of Sanskrit, the term conjunct refers
to a syllable formed with two or more consonants
and a vowel.
Let us look at an example of a conjunct.
The name Krishna is familiar to one and all.
In Devanagari it is written as T!Tl and
the word is made up of the two syllables T
and !Tl . The first syllable has the consonant T
combining with the vowel + and the second
syllable is a combination of 9 , T and Hl .
In Sanskrit, we reckon T!Tl as being made up of
two aksharas.
Here are some examples of two consonant conjuncts.
¬ = ¬ + +
¹9 = P + 9
F6 = B + 6
Note that in the first conjunct a half form of + is
attached to the vertical stroke of the first consonant.
In the second and third case, the first consonant has
lost its vertical stroke while the second consonant is
written in full.
Over the centuries, different conventions have been
adopted for writing conjuncts. We will see some
variations in the next section.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Writing methods for Conjuncts
As a general rule, consonants in a conjunct are
written in their half form except for the final
consonant which is written in its full form.
There are exceptions to this rule when the con-
sonants do not have a clear half form. The
consonants which do not have the vertical stroke
in their shape come under this category.
The following 22 consonants have a vertical stroke
in them.
G ¬ ¤ ¬ = H ¬
T 6 ¤ « + 9 4
¬ P 4 ¬ 4 H 9 B
The following do not have a vertical stroke in them.
= 7 ³ ó 7
7 7 ¹ r
T and T have a stroke in the middle.
For the twentytwo shown first, the half form is
obtained by simply removing the vertical stroke.
For T , the half form is 1 (not to be confused
with 4 ). The half form for T is very close to that
of 9 itself.
For the nine in the middle row above, a clear half
form is not standardized. Often the letters are just
reduced in size and placed before the succeeding
consonant in the conjunct. Considerable flexibility
exists in writing conjuncts with these consonants.
Examples of conjuncts with these nine, will be
given below.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Here are some examples of conjuncts. Please note that
there are nearly a thousand of these. Only some
are included here. The information relating to
IITM software has pointers to all the supported conjuncts.
¬ + ¬ - ¾
9 + 6 = |'
³ + ³ = '
7 + P = T
7 + 4 = "4
7 + 4 = ã
= + T = *
T + 6 = ±
H + ¹ = ~
r + P = ’
³ + ¹ = ³
7 + ¬ = 5
+ ÷ 7 + ¹ = -7
B + 6 + ¹ = F-'
9 + ³ + 4 = 74
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Devanagari- Rarely used Aksharas their
representations.
Among + + and ª only + is normally used as a
vowel with consonants. The other two are mostly
used as independent vowels and in cases where
they do combine with consonants, the following
consonants are the ones which figure most.
³ 6 7 « + B combine with +
ª is seen mostly with T
When ¹ combines with + , it is generally shown as
¹+ and not ¹ .
Note on timing.
The short vowels are pronounced for one unit of
time and the long ones two units. The unit of time
is not an absolute value by itself.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Letters which look similar and thus might confuse the
student initially are shown below..
² 7 r
i ¸a ha
¤ 4, ¬ P, ¤ «,
tha ya, bha ma, gha dha,
7 7, 6 +, 9 9,
¸ha da, ta na, pa ºa,
4 4
ba va
G may be confused with ¹ followed by a 4 i.e., ¹4.
The first part of G will in general be more curved
than ¹ but in in the case of the gutteral G , the bottom
stroke will overlap with the round of the 4 . The
comparison will be effected by writing the two aksharas
one below the other.
G
¹4
The student is urged to keep these similar looking shapes
in mind when learning the script.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Conjuncts with ¹ as the first consonant.
The consonant ¹ is special in that conjuncts
where ¹ occurs as the first consonant, are written
using a special ligature. In these conjuncts, the
presence of ¹ is indicated by a shape resembling
a hook above the last consonant of the conjunct.
Let us look at a few examples.
¹ + T = T
¹ + 6 = 6
¹ + T + 4 = 14
¹ + 6 + 4 = t4
¹ combines with almost every other consonant
and one finds several words in Sanskrit with ¹ as
well as 4 in a conjunct.
Earlier, we had mentioned about a conjunct with five
consonants. Here is the word with the conjunct.
TltF-4l Just two syllables in the word!
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Let us now look at some conjuncts in which
¹ appears as the second or third consonant.
We have already seen that ¹ belongs to the group
of semivowels. Most consonants will combine with
with ¹ and the resulting conjunct will usually end
with ¹ and an appropriate vowel. The presence of
¹ in the conjunct will be seen through a special
stroke added to the first consonant. Please observe
the following carefully and remember the writing
method for the consonant.
4 ¬ ³ -' 9 P
kra cra ·ra tra pra mra
Sanskrit books printed during the early part of the
twentieth century may show variations from the
above.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Now that you have learnt the basic writing
system used in Sanskrit, you might want to
see for yourself how well you can identify
and read the Devanagari script.
1. Identify the following aksharas and speak
them. You might also wish to distinguish
vowels from the consonants.
² 9 T ¬ r
Hl 4 7 G 6
¤ « ¹ 7 7
2. Speak out the folowing aksharas.
Bl rl 4l +| 7
4l Pl 6 ¬ 7l
3. Speak out the following conjuncts.
³ 4l |ã 9 F¬
4. No clues are given but figure out what
the words are. We have put spaces between
the letters for you to identify the aksharas
easily.
² = ¬ |¬ 9
¬ ¹l T
¬l |³ +
rl 4
H 4 B 6l
=l 9 +l B
H P |¹ T +
Hl P ¬l7
|7B ²B +l³
¬7 91BBB
At this point you would see the advantage of a
phonetic system of writing!

---------------------------------------------------------------------Let us look at the first consonant. We shall answer this in a later section dealing with phonetics. This may be accomplished by shortening the vowel in the visarga. A| a¨ A: a© The first is known as the "anuswara" and the second "visarga" The anuswara adds a sound similar to the sound of m in "sum" to the syllable. These two support vowels are represented using the first vowel A . There may be differences in the manner in which these two are introduced in conventional Sanskrit Primers. "well how can Sanskrit be a phonetic language then. it will be necessary to render the visarga in a way that will distinguish it from the syllables ha. hu etc. ---------------------------------------------------------------------The Support Vowels The two support vowels are known as "ubhayakshara" and are mostly appended to syllables. The visarga more or less extends the vowel in the syllable with h+the same vowel as in the syllable. When reading Sanskrit. One is tempted to ask. The "ha" will change depending on the vowel ending the syllable. They are not used independently like other vowels. . They add specific sounds to the syllables they are appended to. hi.A¬ is pronounced as in down. noun etc. The visarga adds a sound similar to "ha" to the syllable. Example: if the syllable ends in vowel i then the visarga would add a sound like "hi". if the sound for a letter is context dependent?".

Thus the student learns that k is is pronounced like the first syllable of "cup" . Ancient linguistic scholars refered to the vowels as "life giving" aksharas while the consonants were likened to the body. Now. Thus kq + A = k Pronouncing a consonant in its generic form requires that no vowel sound be added to the consonant’s generic sound. Consonants can be meaningful in practice only when uttered along with a vowel. ---------------------------------------------------------------------The first group of consonants are the Gutterals. in the form where the first vowel A forms the syllable with the generic sound of the consonant. k ka k K K kha g ga G gha H °a sounds like the first syllable in cup is the aspirated form of k .e.k (ka) The generic form of k is kq . A . For the consonant k the associated generic sound will be like the ending syllable of the words "lake". "bake" etc. children are often taught the aksharas in this manner. A pure consonant is linguistically defined to be one without any vowel attached to it.. In India. the familiar form of a consonant in Sanskrit is the form when it is sounded with the first vowel i. The generic sound is quite similar to the sound associated with a basic phoneme corresponding to a consonant in English. It is common practice to introduce the consonants to the student.. The nether stroke q is attached below the letter k .

just is the aspirated form of j M sounds similar to the last syllable of the spanish word espana where the n has the combination sound of the English n and y.g G sounds like the g in gum is the aspirated form of g H sounds like the ng in finger ---------------------------------------------------------------------The second group consists of the Palatals. z ·a z Z f Z ·ha f ¸a F ¸ha N ²a sounds similar to the t in taylor is the aspirated form of z sounds similar to the d in day. ---------------------------------------------------------------------The third group of consonants are the cerebrals. . differ etc. c ca c C j J C cha j ja J jha M ±a sounds as in chair is the aspirated form of c sounds as in jar.

name etc.F is the aspirated form of f N sounds similar to the n in fund. ---------------------------------------------------------------------The fourth group is made up of the dentals.. t ta t T d D T tha d da D dha n na sounds like the first syllable of thirty is the aspirated form of t sounds like the first syllable of thus is the aspirated form of d n sounds like the n in null. ---------------------------------------------------------------------The fifth group of consonants are the Labials. p pa p P pha b ba B bha m ma sounds like p in pun P is the aspirated form of p b B sounds like the b in butter is the aspirated form of b m sounds like the m in man ---------------------------------------------------------------------- .

similar to the Scottish pronounciation.Semivowels y ya Sibilants S ¹a Aspirate h ha --------------------------------------------------------------------y sounds like the y in young r sounds like the r in real. sounds like the l in laugh sounds like the v in vast x ºa s sa r ra l la v va l v S has no direct equivalent in English. There are three other consonants that one finds in use. L µa X kºa åO j±a . It is like the "g" a German would pronounce while speaking English and saying Germany ! x s h sounds like the first syllable in shall similar to the s in same sounds like the h in harmony.

A matra. when added to the basic shape of a consonant. --------------------------------------------------------------------Consonant Vowel combinations. Some matras are added to the right of the consonant. X is actually a conjunct being k + x åO is also a conjunct j + M The first and the third are used freqently in old sanskrit texts. the term medial vowel is sometimes used to refer to vowels seen inside a word.. In standard literature. The Devanagari script follows fairly consistent rules to write a consonant vowel combination. results in a syllable consisting of the consonant and the vowel. Vowel: A Aa i iI u U . Such combinations are written using special ligatures (specific shapes different from those of the normal vowels). Hence some scholars in the past have refered to the ligatures as medial vowels. The second is in common use today.L is usually included in the semivowels. We will see that while this is reasonable. Sanskrit is a phonetic language. before drawing the consonant. It is similar to l but is pronounced with the tip of the tongue folded back. exceptions do occur. This is known as a "matra" or simply vowel extension.e. Any of the consonants can form a syllable with any of the vowels. some above or below the consonant and one specific matra in Sanskrit is added to the left of the consonant i. Each vowel has a special shape associated with it for use with a combining consonant. The matras associated with the vowels are shown below.

Let us look at an example of a conjunct. As seen above d and § will be è . d è da dE ¢d dW d£ daE d^ d¬ do All the thirtythree consonants strictly follow the above convention with very few exceptions.matra : Ex. In consonants having a vertical stroke in their shapes. the matras are usually added centered with respect to the horizontal span of the consonant. Take d for example. The combination of h and § is written as ¶ . The consonant r has an exception for combinations with u and U . : k § ¦ k] a ka e © kE ¢ ¢k eE ª kW £ k£ AaE « kaE ¤ k[ A¬ ¬ k¬ ¥ k\ No matra is used for the combination with A since this is considered the basic syllable for a consonant. . the matras that get added above or below are drawn coinciding the vertical stroke. The name Krishna is familiar to one and all. are â and ã The forms for r with u and U respectively. For consonants not having a vertical stroke. the term conjunct refers to a syllable formed with two or more consonants and a vowel. : Vowel: matra : Ex. ---------------------------------------------------------------------In respect of Sanskrit.

There are exceptions to this rule when the consonants do not have a clear half form. g" Øp Þt = = = g m s + + + n p t Note that in the first conjunct a half form of n is attached to the vertical stroke of the first consonant. we reckon k]ÝNa as being made up of two aksharas. Here are some examples of two consonant conjuncts. In the second and third case. ---------------------------------------------------------------------Writing methods for Conjuncts As a general rule. K N B g t m G T y c D l j n v J p S M b x s . Over the centuries. In Sanskrit. consonants in a conjunct are written in their half form except for the final consonant which is written in its full form. The following 22 consonants have a vertical stroke in them.In Devanagari it is written as k]ÝNa and the word is made up of the two syllables k] and ÝNa . We will see some variations in the next section. The consonants which do not have the vertical stroke in their shape come under this category. the first consonant has lost its vertical stroke while the second consonant is written in full. different conventions have been adopted for writing conjuncts. N and Aa . The first syllable has the consonant k combining with the vowel § and the second syllable is a combination of x .

---------------------------------------------------------------------Here are some examples of conjuncts. H F C d z r Z h f k and P have a stroke in the middle. Considerable flexibility exists in writing conjuncts with these consonants. For k . M p z d f d H k S h z d + + + + + + + + + + + + c t z m y v k t r m r g = = = = = = = = = = = = · çO Êó î ÌY ¹ Äð ³ ½ ’ z® é .The following do not have a vertical stroke in them. the half form is obtained by simply removing the vertical stroke. Only some are included here. For the nine in the middle row above. will be given below. The information relating to IITM software has pointers to all the supported conjuncts. the half form is À (not to be confused with v ). For the twentytwo shown first. The half form for P is very close to that of p itself. Please note that there are nearly a thousand of these. a clear half form is not standardized. Often the letters are just reduced in size and placed before the succeeding consonant in the conjunct. Examples of conjuncts with these nine.

Note on timing. Among § ¨ and ¯ only § is normally used as a vowel with consonants. The other two are mostly used as independent vowels and in cases where they do combine with consonants.. ---------------------------------------------------------------------Letters which look similar and thus might confuse the student initially are shown below. na. i i T tha F ¸ha b ba f ¸a y. K may be confused with r followed by a v i. The first part of K will in general be more curved than r but in in the case of the gutteral K . The unit of time is not an absolute value by itself. G gha p pa D. d.n s x + + + d t z + + + r r v = = = Ód# ÞæO ¾qv ---------------------------------------------------------------------Devanagari. v va h ha B bha t ta m. x.. the bottom .Rarely used Aksharas their representations. ya. The short vowels are pronounced for one unit of time and the long ones two units. z t d D n s combine with § ¯ is seen mostly with k When r combines with § . ºa. the following consonants are the ones which figure most. it is generally shown as rq§ and not r¦ . da.e. ma. dha. n. rv.

stroke will overlap with the round of the v . Here is the word with the conjunct. Most consonants will combine with . In these conjuncts. We have already seen that r belongs to the group of semivowels. ---------------------------------------------------------------------Conjuncts with r as the first consonant. kaÏÞÓyaI Just two syllables in the word! ---------------------------------------------------------------------Let us now look at some conjuncts in which r appears as the second or third consonant. The comparison will be effected by writing the two aksharas one below the other. are written using a special ligature. we had mentioned about a conjunct with five consonants. K rv The student is urged to keep these similar looking shapes in mind when learning the script. Earlier. r r r r + + + + k t k t = = + + kI tI y y = = ÀyI ÏyI r combines with almost every other consonant and one finds several words in Sanskrit with r as well as y in a conjunct. Let us look at a few examples. The consonant r is special in that conjuncts where r occurs as the first consonant. the presence of r is indicated by a shape resembling a hook above the last consonant of the conjunct.

Speak out the following conjuncts. No clues are given but figure out what the words are.¢l xg. s£ va z®W haE ma @« b£ t¦ ¢¹ n¬ l¥ p#E dE FaE ÞlE 3. you might want to see for yourself how well you can identify and read the Devanagari script. Please observe the following carefully and remember the writing method for the consonant. Speak out the folowing aksharas.r£ kq . i Hq g. 4.with r and the resulting conjunct will usually end with r and an appropriate vowel. You might also wish to distinguish vowels from the consonants. We have put spaces between the letters for you to identify the aksharas easily. Identify the following aksharas and speak them. The presence of r in the conjunct will be seen through a special stroke added to the first consonant. @ kra c# cra z® ·ra æO tra p# pra m# mra Sanskrit books printed during the early part of the twentieth century may show variations from the above. i AaE G eE y D k d r l K u h t C 2. ---------------------------------------------------------------------Now that you have learnt the basic writing system used in Sanskrit. 1.

la ¢z nh£ b#¥ A vE s.iIs.ta ja p n£ sA mE ¢r k nAaE mW gafq ¢ds.n£zq g¤fq eÀsEsªIsAt this point you would see the advantage of a phonetic system of writing! .

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