You are on page 1of 11

Sanskrit Phonetics

(The sounds of the language)
Narsing Rao
nbrao@dataone.in
February, 2011
Table of Contents
Abstract.................................................................................................................................................3
Introduction..........................................................................................................................................3
Basic Sounds........................................................................................................................................4
Based on the Aśtādhyāyī of Pā ini and Prātiśākhyas ṇ ......................................................................4
Var asamāmnāya ṇ ........................................................................................................................4
Ak ara ṣ .........................................................................................................................................4
Ayogavāha...................................................................................................................................5
Vowel Variations.........................................................................................................................7
Based on the Śikśā of Pā ini ṇ ...........................................................................................................8
Encoding Considerations......................................................................................................................9
Summary.............................................................................................................................................10
Appendix: The First Sūkta of the gveda Ṛ ..........................................................................................11
Abstract
This paper describes the basic sounds of the Sanskrit language, based on their descriprion in
traditional works.
Introduction
Sanskrit is the only language which pays paramount important to correct pronunciation. When one
learns Sanskrit (or any Indian language for that matter), the first step is to learn the basic sounds of
the language as normally contained in the varṇasamāmnāya or varṇamālā. This is in sharp
constrast with English where the approach is to learn the alphabet (a, b, c, ...) which really gives one
no idea as to what the sounds of the language are. In fact the basic sounds of English are not
documented at all and have to be learnt only by convention.
The science of the correct pronunciation of Sanskrit is called Śikṣā (श"कï). Śikṣā is the first of a set
of works called the Vedāṅgās, which, as their name suggests, are indispensable for the
understanding of the veda. The earliest enumertaion of the Vedāṅgās can be found in the
Muṇḍakopaniṣad of the Atharvaveda:
तसH स हìवïच द शवद वद¯तव इशत ह सH य¯ बहशव¯ì व¯श¯त परï चवïऽपरï च । ततïऽपरï ऋगव¯ì यजव¯
सïHव¯ìऽथवव¯ श"कï कलपì वïकरण श-रक छ¯¯ì जयìशतषशHशत । अथ परï य¯करHशUगमयत ।
Hण¯कìपश-ष¯ १।१।४ -५
This passage enumerates the following six vedangas: Śikṣā (phonetics), Kalpa (ritual), Vyākaraṇa
(grammar and linguistics), Niruktam (etymology), Chhandas (prosody), and Jyotiṣa (astronomy).
The veda is the earliest recorded literature known to mankind and has been preserved for thousands
of years practically intact. The preservation of the veda is a remakable human achievement and
owes itself, among other things, to the emphasis on correct pronunciation. The chanting of the veda
therefore provides a model for the correct pronunciation of Sanskrit. However, each veda had
special rules of pronunciation applicable to that veda alone. Furthermore, there were several
branches of each veda, called śhakhās, characterized by variations in textual reading. But even so,
all śhakhās of a particular veda followed the same pronunciation rules as described in works called
prātiśākhyas. The word prātiśākhya means 'pertaining to all śhakhās' (of a particular veda).
Therefore there are works such as the Ṛgveda Prātiśākhya, Vājasaneyi Prātiśākhya (pertaining to
the Śukla Yajuyveda), Atharvaveda Prātiśākhya, and so on.
Similarly there were several Śikṣā works – some pertaining to a particular veda, and others not
specific to any veda. The total number of Śikṣās available is about 30.
For the purpose of this paper, the following works have been used:
1. The Śikṣā of Pāṇini
2. The Aśtādhyāyī of Pāṇini, along with relevant commentaries
3. Prātiśākhyas of the Ṛgveda and the Yajurveda, along with relevant commentaries
These works provide sufficient information for the pronunciation of Sanksrit in practice.
Basic Sounds
Based on the Aśtādhyāyī of Pāṇini and Prātiśākhyas
The basic sound of the Sanskrit language is called varṇa. The set of varṇas is normally referred to
the varṇasamāmnāya or varṇamālā. The varṇamālās of most Indian languages are similar to that of
Sanskrit.
Varṇasamāmnāya
The traditional enumeration of the varṇas is found in the māheśvara sūtras of Pāṇini and these
form the basis for his grammar. The fourteeen māheśvara sutras are:
अइउण । ऋऌक । एओङ । ऐऔच । हयवरट । लण । ञHङण-H । झभञ । घढUष । जबग¯¯" ।
खफछठथचटतव । कपय । "षसर । हल ।
The last consonant in each sutra (ण , क , ङ , and so on) is just a tag, used to form sets such as अक =
{अ इ उ ऋ ल }. There are two broad categories of varṇas:
• अच (vowels, called सवर)
◦ { अ इ उ ऋ ऌ ए ओ ऐ औ }
• हल (consonants, called वञ-)
◦ { ह य व र ल ञ H ङ ण - H झ भ घ ढ U ज ब ग ¯ ¯ ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त व क प " ष स }
The order may seem strange to those unfamiliar with this scheme – suffice it to say that the purpose
is to form various sets such as झ" = {झ भ घ ढ U ज ब ग ¯ ¯ }, चर = {च ट त व क प " ष स} and so
on. Also, note that the अ in ह, य, व etc. is used only for pronunciation – in other words, ह
represents ह .
Uvvaṭa, in his commentary on the Ṛgveda Prātiśākhya, gives the definition of svara:
सवय¯त "बद¯त इशत सवरï ।
Svaras are those that make a sound (and can be pronounced independently). He gives the following
definition of vyañjana:
वञयश¯त पकटï- क व¯¯यथïश-शत वञ-ïश- ।
Vyañjanas are those that express meaning (in a word). For example, the words क प, Uप, and यप
have the same svaras (ऊ and अ); however the presence of different vyañjanas changes the meaning
of the word.
The Taittirīya Prātiśākhya defines vyañjana as a sound which is pronounced with the help of the
following svara:
पर ण सवर ण वञत इशत वञ-H ।
Akṣara
The term akṣara can be loosely translated by the word "syllable", although the rules for determining
what an akṣara is can be quite complicated. Here are some rules pertaining to akṣara from the
Vājasaneyi prātiśākhya:
सवरìऽकरH । १.९९ ।
A svara is an akṣara. Uvvaṭa, in his commentary on this sutra says:
सवञ- सï-सवïर "दì वïऽशप सवरìऽकरH
A svara, used alone or in conjunction with a vyañjana or anusvāra, is considered to be an akṣara.
Other sutras pertaining to akṣara are:
सहïदवञ- । १. १००।
Vyañjanas preceding the svara are considered to be part of the akṣara. For example, in the word
पशत, the akṣaras are प and शत.
उतर शïवशसत । १. १०१ ।
Vyañjanas following the svara are also considered to be part of the akṣara, provided they are
followed by a pause. Using this rule, the entire word वïक will be an akṣara.
सययìगïद¯ पवसय । १. १०२ ।
If a svara is preceded by saṁyoga, i.e. a conjunct consonant, the first consonant of the conjunct is
considered to be part of the previous akṣara. For example, in the word अश~ which has two ", the
first " is considered to be part of the first akṣara. The akṣaras in this word अ" are and ~.
There are many other sutras dealing with the finer aspects of determining what an akṣara is; the
interested reader is encouraged to explore the Vājasaneyi prātiśākhya.
Ayogavāha
In addition to the basic sounds (अच and हल ), there are other sounds known as अयìगवïह
(ayogavāha). These are sounds that cannot be made independently, but only with the help of other
sounds, in particular vowels.
Patañjali, in his commentary on the sutra हयवरट , says:
क प-रयìगवïहï । शवसज-ìयशजहवïHलìयìपधHï-ìयï-सवïर-ïशसकय यHï । कथ प-रयìगवïहï । य¯यकï
वहश¯त अ-पद¯षïश शय¯त ।
From the above, we see that there are six types of ayogavāhas:
1. शवसज-ìय (visarjanīya)
2. शजहवïHलìय (jihvāmūlīya)
3. उपधHï-ìय (upadhmānīya)
4. अ-सवïर (anusvāra)
5. -ïशसकय (nāsikya)
6. यH (yama)
Why are these called ayogavāhas? Because they are not part of the वणसHïमïय, that is, the original
set of sounds enumerated in the maheśvara sūtras but are heard (in the spoken language).
Visarjanīya
Pāṇini uses the term visarjanīya for what we nowadays refer to as visarga. It comes from vi + sṛj
which literally means "to release (air)". In Pāṇini's grammar, visarjanīya is a substitute for the
ending र of a pada (roughly analogous but much wider in scope than the English term "word"), as
indicated by the following rule
1
:
खरवसï-यìरवसज-ìय (८।२।१५)
The ending र of a pada is substitued by visarjanīya when followed by खर {ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त व क प
" ष} or when there is a pause (in speech). The र itself is often a subsitute for स .
Thus we have, for example, रïHस => रïHर => रïH
In the modern Devanāgari script, visarjanīya is indicated by a colon like symbol (:).
Now, visarjanīya itself can be substituted by a variety of sounds, depending on the circumstance. In
particular, two of the possible subsitutions are शजहवïHलìय (jihvāmūlīya) and उपधHï-ìय
(upadhmānīya):
क पवì Ñ कÑ पì च । (८।२।१४२)
When is visarjanīya is followed by any of क {क ख ग घ ङ } , it is substituted by jihvāmūlīya
(written as Ñ क or Ñ ख ) and when followed by प { प फ ब भ H } it is substituted by upadhmānīya
(written as Ñ प or Ñ फ ). Jihvāmūlīya means "produced from the root of the tongue" and
Upadhmānīya means "blowing".
For practical purposes, this rule works only in the case of क , ख , प , and फ , since in other cases other
rules supersede this rule.
Anusvāra
Anusvāra literally means "after (अ-) sound (सवïर)" is a purely nasal sound, formed by closing the
mouth and letting the air out through the nose, like ".mmm.".
Anusvāra is a subsitute for H and - under circumstances described by the following rules:
Hìऽ-सवïर (८।३।२३)
-शïप¯ï¯तसय झशल (८।३।२४)
The first of the above rules states that the ending H of a pada must be substituted by anusvāra if
followed by any consonant.
The second rule states that H and - that do not occur at the end of a pada are also substituted by
anusvāra if followed by झल (any consonant except ह य र ल व ङ ञ ण - H ).
The Ṛgveda prātiśākhya says that anusvāra can be considered to be either a vowel or a consonant:
अ-सवïरì वञ- वï सवरì वï । (१.३)
1 We use the standard numbering convention for the aṣṭādhyāyī – adhyāya | pāda | sūtra

Anusvāra is indicated by a dot above the letter. Here are some examples:
Substitution : गहH + गचछशत = गह गचछशत । य"ï- + शस = य"ïशस । आकH + सयत = आक सयत ।
No substitution: ¯वH + अत = ¯वHत (not followed by consonant), गमयत , H¯यत (not followed by झल)
Anusvāra in turn can be subsituted by other sounds – we will not cover all the details here.
In the Yajurveda, anusvāra is pronounced with a ग sound. The relevant rule is found in the
वïसश"कï (specific to Yajurveda phonetics):
अ-सवïरì यजषयवHधयïयऽशप य¯ï भवत ॥ २३८ ॥
त¯ï गकïरसयकì - "ïश¯तश"ïसरपर ॥ २३९ ॥
Nāsikya
Nāsikya means "pronounced through the nose". All vowels have two forms: अ--ïशसक (anunāsika -
nasal) and अ---ïशसक (aannunāsika - non-nasal, or normal). The anunāsika form is written with a
candrabindu sign ँ. Here are some examples from the Ṛgveda:
स ¯ वï एह वकशत । (१.१.२)
Hï चछ द रशHì

ररशत -ïUHï-ï । (१.१०९.३)
इ¯¯ì यì ¯सयरUरï अवïशतर- । (१.१०१.५)
कद¯¯थï - : पïत ¯ वयतï । (१.१२१.१)
Furthermore the consonants {य व ल } also have anunāsika variants. These are also referred to as
अ¯तसथ (antahstha – literally, "standing between") , or semi-vowels. Here are examples:
"यय: । दकवव¯¯तì । शवदïशललखशत ।
Yama
Yama, literally meaning "twin" is a very subtle sound – its name indicates that it is similar to
another sound. Yama is discussed extensively in the ṣikśās and the prātiśākhyas. It represents a
transition sound between a non-nasal and a nasal. For example, if you carefully observe the
pronunciation of agni, you will notice that it is pronounced as:
agg*ni
where the g* represents the yama.
Vowel Variations
Vowels have further variations based on:
• Duration {हसव, ¯ìघ , पलत }
• Pitch {उ¯ïत, अ-¯ïत, सवररत }
• Nasalization {अ--ïशसक, अ---ïशसक }
Bhattoji Dikṣita, in his Siddhānta Kaumudī, summarizes the variations as follows:
तद¯¯थH - अ इ उ ऋ एषï वणï-ï प¯यकHषï¯" भ¯ï । लवणसय दï¯" । तसय ¯ìघïभïवïत । एचïHशप दï¯" ।
तषï हसवïभïवïत ।
– अ इ उ ऋ these have 18 variations (3 durations X 3 pitches X 2 nasalizations = 18) each
ल - has 12 variations, since it has no ¯ìघ form, only हसव and पलत (2 X 3 X 2)
– ए ओ ऐ औ these have 12 variations each since they don't have any हसव form, only ¯ìघ and पलत
Based on the Śikśā of Pāṇini
As mentioned earlier, there are over 30 extant Śikṣā works. Some Śikṣā works address the phonetics
of a particular vedic śākhā whereas others are more generic. Of these, the Śikṣā of Pāṇini is generic
in that it applies to all vedic śākhās. It is also perhaps the most well known.
The Pāṇiniīya śikṣā is a metrical composition. The ślokas referring to the number of varṇas of are
as follows:
शतषशषशतषषशषवï वणï "मभHत
2
Hतï ।
पïक त ससक त चïऽशप सवयH पìकï सवयमभवï ॥ ३ ॥
सवरï वव"शतर कश सप"ï-ï पञवव"शत ।
यï¯यश सHतï हषì च¯वïरश यHï सHतï ॥ ४ ॥
अ-सवïरì शवसगश Ñ कÑ पì चïशप परïशशतì ।
¯ ससपषशशत शवजय लकïर पलत एव च ॥ ५ ॥
According to these ślokas, Svayambhū ( Brahmā) himself created the sounds of the Prākṛta and
Saṁskṛta languages, and these number either 63 or 64. They are:
Svara
अ, इ, उ, ऋ (each having हसव, ¯ìघ , पलत) – 4 X 3 = 12
ए, ओ, ऐ, औ (each having ¯ìघ , पलत) – 4 X 2 = 8
ल 1
Total 21
Sparsha
क , ख, ग , ङ , ..., प , फ , ब , घ , H 25
य र ल व " ष स ह 8
Yamas (one for each varga) 5
अ-सवïर, शवसग , Ñ क, Ñ प 4
Grand Total 63
2 Alternate reading: समभवत
Some add to this the पलत form of ल , making a total of 64. Note that pitch and nasalization
variations in svaras are ignored.
Encoding Considerations
Unicode is now widely used as a character encoding scheme and supports practically all the
character sets used in the world. However, the current Unicode encoding scheme is script based,
which is why it is unsuitable for Sanskrit. The reason is that Sanskrit gives paramount importance
to sound, and not to writing.
Script has been more or less irrelevant to the preservation of the language. The Devanagari script
has been in use only for the last 1000 years. Prior to that, Brahmi was widely used. Sanskrit
manuscripts are found in a variety of scripts including Devanāgarī, Shāradā, Brāhmī, and Grantha.
The earliest specimens of writing available in India are the Brāhmī and Kharoṣṭi inscriptions of
Aśoka. Writing was certainly known by Pāṇini (as evidenced by the word lipi), but we do not know
what script was used in those times – it is difficult to imagine that such a huge volume of literature
could have be preserved without a script.
There have been attempts to propose phonetic encodings for Sanksrit; however no system is widely
accepted. Phonetic encoding is of paramount importance for accurate preservation. Furthermore, it
will make searching easy and useful. Having powerful search capabilities is indispensible for
research purposes.
For preservation of vedic texts, many more sounds will need to be encoded.
Here is an example of how a Vedic passage should be encoded:
सशहतïपïठ
अ€श•Hì‚ळ प€रìशह‚ त य€जसय‚ ¯ €वH€श¯वज‚ । हìतï‚र रत€Uïत‚H ॥ (१.१.१)
प¯पïठ
अ€व• । ई€ळ† € । प€रऽशह‚ तH । य€जसय‚ । ¯ €वH । ऋ€श¯वज‚H । हìतï‚रH । र€त€ऽUïत‚HH ।
The sounds (in the saṁhitā paṭha) are:
अ (हसव, अ-¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
ग - इ ( हसव, उ¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
H इ ( ¯ìघ , सवररत, अ---ïशसक)
ळ ए ( ¯ìघ , एकशशत, अ---ïशसक)
प उ (हसव, अ-¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
र ओ (¯ìघ , उ¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
ह इ (हसव, सवररत, अ---ïशसक)
त अ ( हसव, एकशशत, अ---ïशसक)
अ-सवïर
य अ (हसव, अ-¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
ज ञ अ (हसव, उ¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
स य अ (हसव, सवररत, अ---ïशसक)
¯ ए ( ¯ìघ , अ-¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
व अ (हसव, उ¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
H ऋ ( हसव, अ-¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
त व इ (हसव, उ¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
ज अ (हसव, सवररत, अ---ïशसक)
अ-सवïर
ह ओ ( ¯ìघ , उ¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
त अ ( ¯ìघ , सवररत, अ---ïशसक)
र अ ( हसव, एकशशत, अ---ïशसक)
अ-सवïर
र अ (हसव, एकशशत, अ---ïशसक)
त - अ (हसव, अ-¯ïत, अ---ïशसक)
U अ ( ¯ìघ , उ¯ïतब , अ---ïशसक)
त अ (हसव, सवररत, अ---ïशसक)
H अ (हसव, एकशशत, अ---ïशसक)
अ-सवïर
Summary
This paper has attempted to clarify some fudamentals of Sanskrit phonetics and has raised some
issues pertaining to the encoding of Sanskrit.
Appendix: The First Sūkta of the Ṛgveda
अश•Hìळ इशत -वचसय सकसय व~ïशHतì HUचछ¯¯ï ऋशष । अश•¯ वतï । गïयतì छ¯¯ ।
अ€श•Hì‚ळ† प€रìशह‚ त य€जसय‚ ¯ €वH€श¯वज‚H । हìतï‚र रत€Uïत‚HH ॥ १ ॥
अ€श• पव‚शभ€र ऋशष‚शभ€रìडì€ -त‚-र€त । स ¯ €वï एह व‚कशत ॥ २ ॥
अ€श•-ï‚ र€शयH‚शव€¯पìष‚H€व द¯€वद¯‚ व । य€"स‚ वì€रव‚तHH ॥ ३ ॥
अ•€ य य€जH‚धव€र शव€~त‚ परर€भरशस‚ । स इद€वष‚ गचछशत ॥ ४ ॥
अ€श•हŠतï‚ क€शवक‚ त स€¯यशश€तश‚वसतH । ¯ €वì ¯ €वशभ€रïग‚Hत ॥ ५ ॥
य¯€ङग ¯ï€"ष€ ¯वH•‚ भ€¯ क‚ रर€षयशस‚ । तवतस€¯यH‚शङगर ॥ ६ ॥
उप‚ ¯वï• द¯€वद¯‚ व€ ¯ìषï‚वसतरU€यï व€यH । -Hì€ भर‚ ¯त€ एH‚शस ॥ ७ ॥
रïज‚¯तHधव€रïणï‚ गì€पïH€तसय€ ¯ìद¯‚ वव । वU‚Hï-€ सव ¯H‚ ॥ ८ ॥
स -‚ शप€तव‚ स€-वऽ•‚ सपïय€-ì भ‚व । सच‚सवï - सव€सतय ॥ ९ ॥

.10 Appendix: The First Sūkta of the Ṛgveda..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................8 Encoding Considerations.............................................................................................................................................................................................4 Ayogavāha.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................3 Basic Sounds..........................................................................................3 Introduction..................................................................Table of Contents Abstract..........................4 Based on the Aśtādhyāyī of Pāṇini and Prātiśākhyas...........................7 Based on the Śikśā of Pāṇini..........................................................5 Vowel Variations.............................................................9 Summary...................11 ....................................................4 Varṇasamāmnāya..........................................................................................................................................4 Akṣara.................................................................................................................

When one learns Sanskrit (or any Indian language for that matter). which.Abstract This paper describes the basic sounds of the Sanskrit language. and Jyotiṣa (astronomy). c. Similarly there were several Śikṣā works – some pertaining to a particular veda. and so on. the following works have been used: 1. This is in sharp constrast with English where the approach is to learn the alphabet (a. each veda had special rules of pronunciation applicable to that veda alone. Niruktam (etymology). श/रक. called śhakhās. For the purpose of this paper. In fact the basic sounds of English are not documented at all and have to be learnt only by convention.. Vājasaneyi Prātiśākhya (pertaining to the Śukla Yajuyveda). Chhandas (prosody). are indispensable for the understanding of the veda. The total number of Śikṣās available is about 30. the first step is to learn the basic sounds of the language as normally contained in the varṇasamāmnāya or varṇamālā. The word prātiśākhya means 'pertaining to all śhakhās' (of a particular veda). there were several branches of each veda. The preservation of the veda is a remakable human achievement and owes itself. Introduction Sanskrit is the only language which pays paramount important to correct pronunciation. The chanting of the veda therefore provides a model for the correct pronunciation of Sanskrit. characterized by variations in textual reading. Prātiśākhyas of the Ṛgveda and the Yajurveda. Kalpa (ritual). b. The Śikṣā of Pāṇini 2. based on their descriprion in traditional works. and others not specific to any veda. But even so.. Atharvaveda Prātiśākhya. The earliest enumertaion of the Vedāṅgās can be found in the Muṇḍakopaniṣad of the Atharvaveda: तस स ह व च द शवद वद तव इशत ह स य बहशव व श त पर चव ऽपर च । तत ऽपर ऋगव यज&व' ( स व ऽथव*व ( श क कलप व करण. The science of the correct pronunciation of Sanskrit is called Śikṣā (श क ). as their name suggests. Śikṣā is the first of a set of works called the Vedāṅgās. Therefore there are works such as the Ṛgveda Prātiśākhya. to the emphasis on correct pronunciation. . along with relevant commentaries 3. Furthermore. The Aśtādhyāyī of Pāṇini. The veda is the earliest recorded literature known to mankind and has been preserved for thousands of years practically intact. Vyākaraṇa (grammar and linguistics).) which really gives one no idea as to what the sounds of the language are. among other things. along with relevant commentaries These works provide sufficient information for the pronunciation of Sanksrit in practice. . छ जय शतषश शत । अथ पर य कर श6गमयत । &ण:क पश/ष १।१।४ -५ This passage enumerates the following six vedangas: Śikṣā (phonetics). all śhakhās of a particular veda followed the same pronunciation rules as described in works called prātiśākhyas. However.

Uvvaṭa. and so on) is just a tag. The varṇamālās of most Indian languages are similar to that of Sanskrit. The Taittirīya Prātiśākhya defines vyañjana as a sound which is pronounced with the help of the following svara: परण सवरण वञत इशत वञ/ । Akṣara The term akṣara can be loosely translated by the word "syllable". Varṇasamāmnāya The traditional enumeration of the varṇas is found in the māheśvara sūtras of Pāṇini and these form the basis for his grammar. is used only for pronunciation – in other words. ङ . The fourteeen māheśvara sutras are: अइउण । ऋऌक । एओङ । ऐऔच । हयवरट । लण । ञ ङण/ । झभञ । घढ6ष । जबग: खफछठथचटतव । कपय । षसर । हल । । The last consonant in each sutra (ण . and यVप have the same svaras (ऊ and अ). Also. The set of varṇas is normally referred to the varṇasamāmnāya or varṇamālā. in his commentary on the Ṛgveda Prātiśākhya. called वञ/) ◦ {हयवरलञ ङण/ झभघढ6जबग: खफछठथचटतवकप षस} The order may seem strange to those unfamiliar with this scheme – suffice it to say that the purpose is to form various sets such as झ = {झ भ घ ढ 6 ज ब ग : }. For example. य. क . 6Vप.Basic Sounds Based on the Aśtādhyāyī of Pāṇini and Prātiśākhyas The basic sound of the Sanskrit language is called varṇa. the words कV प. चर = {च ट त व क प ष स} and so on. व etc. ह represents ह . although the rules for determining . called सवर) ◦ {अइउऋऌएओऐऔ} हल (consonants. however the presence of different vyañjanas changes the meaning of the word. There are two broad categories of varṇas: • • अच (vowels. gives the definition of svara: सवय* त बद त इशत सवर ( । Svaras are those that make a sound (and can be pronounced independently). used to form sets such as अक = {अ इ उ ऋ लP }. note that the अ in ह. He gives the following definition of vyañjana: वञयश त पकट / क& व* Uयथ *श/शत वञ/ श/ । Vyañjanas are those that express meaning (in a word).

Uvvaṭa. the first consonant of the conjunct is considered to be part of the previous akṣara. 2. but only with the help of other sounds.९९ । A svara is an akṣara. is considered to be an akṣara. says: क प&/रय गव ह ( । शवसज*/bयशजहव Vलbय पध /bय /&सव र/ शसकय य ( । कथ. there are other sounds known as अय गव ह (ayogavāha). . 6. in his commentary on the sutra हयवरट . १०१ । Vyañjanas following the svara are also considered to be part of the akṣara. we see that there are six types of ayogavāhas: 1. the entire word व क will be an akṣara. १०२ । If a svara is preceded by saṁyoga. in the word अशa( which has two . स]यय ग द ( पVव*सय । १. प&/रय गव ह ( । य य&क वहश त अ/&पद ष श शVय त । From the above. Here are some rules pertaining to akṣara from the Vājasaneyi prātiśākhya: सवर ऽकर । १. 4. १००। Vyañjanas preceding the svara are considered to be part of the akṣara. शवसज*/bय (visarjanīya) शजहव Vलbय (jihvāmūlīya) उपध /bय (upadhmānīya) अ/&सव र (anusvāra) / शसकय (nāsikya) य (yama) Why are these called ayogavāhas? Because they are not part of the वण*स म य. that is. the interested reader is encouraged to explore the Vājasaneyi prātiśākhya.what an akṣara is can be quite complicated. Patañjali. a conjunct consonant. provided they are followed by a pause. the first is considered to be part of the first akṣara.e. These are sounds that cannot be made independently. 5. 3. the original set of sounds enumerated in the maheśvara sūtras but are heard (in the spoken language). For example. Using this rule. The akṣaras in this word अ are and a(. in the word पशत. the akṣaras are प and शत. उतरश वशसत( । १. Ayogavāha In addition to the basic sounds (अच and हल ). i. There are many other sutras dealing with the finer aspects of determining what an akṣara is. Other sutras pertaining to akṣara are: सह दव*ञ/( । १. used alone or in conjunction with a vyañjana or anusvāra. in his commentary on this sutra says: सवञ/( स /&सव र( &द व ऽशप सवर ऽकर A svara. in particular vowels. For example.

mmm. प. two of the possible subsitutions are शजहव Vलbय (jihvāmūlīya) and उपध /bय (upadhmānīya): क& पवl( Ñ क Ñ पm च । (८।२।१४२) When is visarjanīya is followed by any of क& {क ख ग घ ङ } . For practical purposes. it is substituted by jihvāmūlīya (written as Ñ क or Ñ ख ) and when followed by प& { प फ ब भ } it is substituted by upadhmānīya (written as Ñ प or Ñ फ ). as indicated by the following rule1: खरवस /य रवसज*/bय( (८।२।१५) The ending र of a pada is substitued by visarjanīya when followed by खर {ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त व क प ष} or when there is a pause (in speech). The Ṛgveda prātiśākhya says that anusvāra can be considered to be either a vowel or a consonant: अ/&सव र वञ/.Visarjanīya Pāṇini uses the term visarjanīya for what we nowadays refer to as visarga. like ". Thus we have. ख . Anusvāra is a subsitute for and / under circumstances described by the following rules: ऽ/&सव र( (८।३।२३) /श प तसय झशल (८।३।२४) The first of the above rules states that the ending followed by any consonant. formed by closing the mouth and letting the air out through the nose.". In particular. since in other cases other rules supersede this rule. The र itself is often a subsitute for स. र स => र र => र ( In the modern Devanāgari script. Jihvāmūlīya means "produced from the root of the tongue" and Upadhmānīya means "blowing". of a pada must be substituted by anusvāra if The second rule states that and / that do not occur at the end of a pada are also substituted by anusvāra if followed by झल (any consonant except ह य र ल व ङ ञ ण / ). visarjanīya is indicated by a colon like symbol (:).३) 1 We use the standard numbering convention for the aṣṭādhyāyī – adhyāya | pāda | sūtra . depending on the circumstance. व सवर व । (१. Anusvāra Anusvāra literally means "after (अ/&) sound (सव र)" is a purely nasal sound. visarjanīya itself can be substituted by a variety of sounds. and फ. Now. visarjanīya is a substitute for the ending र of a pada (roughly analogous but much wider in scope than the English term "word"). It comes from vi + sṛj which literally means "to release (air)". this rule works only in the case of क. In Pāṇini's grammar. for example.

Here are examples: यय&]: । दकवव] तb । शवद शलल]खशत । Yama Yama. The relevant rule is found in the व सश क (specific to Yajurveda phonetics): अ/&सव र यज&षयव धय यऽशप य भवत ॥ २३८ ॥ त गक रस.१०१. These are also referred to as अ तसथ (antahstha – literally. or semi-vowels. All vowels have two forms: अ/&/ शसक (anunāsika nasal) and अ//&/ शसक (aannunāsika . anusvāra is pronounced with a ग sound. गमयत.non-nasal.३) ] इ x य सयV]र6र ] अव शतर/ । (१. It represents a transition sound between a non-nasal and a nasal. In the Yajurveda. Vowel Variations Vowels have further variations based on: • • • Duration {हसव.२) चछद रश bररशत / 6 / ( । (१. सवररत } Nasalization {अ/&/ शसक. सयत । No substitution: Uव + अत = Uव त (not followed by consonant). वयत . Here are some examples from the Ṛgveda: स व ] एह वकशत । (१.१) ] Furthermore the consonants {य व ल } also have anunāsika variants. For example. । (१. "standing between") .५) कद Uथ /y: प त. literally meaning "twin" is a very subtle sound – its name indicates that it is similar to another sound.१. यत (not followed by झल) Anusvāra in turn can be subsituted by other sounds – we will not cover all the details here.१२१. if you carefully observe the pronunciation of agni. Here are some examples: Substitution : गPह + गचछशत = गPह. you will notice that it is pronounced as: agg*ni where the g* represents the yama.शस । आक + सयत = आक. Yama is discussed extensively in the ṣikśās and the prātiśākhyas. or normal). पल&त } Pitch {उ त. bघ*.य&क / श तश सरपर( ॥ २३९ ॥ Nāsikya Nāsikya means "pronounced through the nose". अ//&/ शसक } .Anusvāra is indicated by a dot above the letter. अ/& त. गचछशत । य / + शस = य . The anunāsika form is written with a candrabindu sign ँ].१०९.

Of these. The Pāṇiniīya śikṣā is a metrical composition. इ. only हसव and पल&त (2 X 3 X 2) ए ओ ऐ औ – these have 12 variations each since they don't have any हसव form..अ इ उ ऋ एष . पल&त) – 4 X 3 = 12 ए. औ (each having bघ*. ङ. उ.. Svayambhū ( Brahmā) himself created the sounds of the Prākṛta and Saṁskṛta languages. They are: Svara अ. since it has no bघ* form. पUयक ष तष . bघ*. ग. Some Śikṣā works address the phonetics of a particular vedic śākhā whereas others are more generic. . शवसग*. घ. यरलव षसह 21 25 8 5 4 63 Yamas (one for each varga) अ/&सव र. the Śikṣā of Pāṇini is generic in that it applies to all vedic śākhās. पल&त) – 4X2= 8 लP 1 Total Sparsha क. there are over 30 extant Śikṣā works. पञवव शत( । य यश स Pत हषm चUव रश य ( स Pत ( ॥ ४ ॥ अ/&सव र शवसग*श Ñ क Ñ पm च शप पर शशतm । ससपPषशशत शवजय लPक र पल&त एव च ॥ ५ ॥ & According to these ślokas. Ñ प Grand Total 2 Alternate reading: समभवत( . in his Siddhānta Kaumudī.. and these number either 63 or 64. It is also perhaps the most well known. ओ.Bhattoji Dikṣita. ऐ. ऋ (each having हसव. फ. summarizes the variations as follows: तद Uथ . ख. प. Ñ क. ब.सकP त च ऽशप सवय प क ( सवयमभ&व ॥ ३ ॥ सवर वव शतरकश सप */ . हसव भ व त । भ ( । लPवण*सय द । तसय bघ *भ व त । एच शप द । अ इ उ ऋ – these have 18 variations (3 durations X 3 pitches X 2 nasalizations = 18) each लP . only bघ* and पल&त Based on the Śikśā of Pāṇini As mentioned earlier. The ślokas referring to the number of varṇas of are as follows: शतषशषशत&षषशषव * वण *( मभ& त2 त ( । प कP त स. वण */ .has 12 variations.

अ//&/ शसक) अ/&सव र अ (हसव. Note that pitch and nasalization variations in svaras are ignored. अ/& त.‚ । ह त ‚र. many more sounds will need to be encoded. अ//&/ शसक) अ (हसव. अ//&/ शसक) इ (हसव. अ//&/ शसक) अ (हसव.Some add to this the पल&त form of लP. Script has been more or less irrelevant to the preservation of the language. The reason is that Sanskrit gives paramount importance to sound. एकश&शत. सवररत. Here is an example of how a Vedic passage should be encoded: स. For preservation of vedic texts. अ/& त. Encoding Considerations Unicode is now widely used as a character encoding scheme and supports practically all the character sets used in the world. सवररत. अ//&/ शसक) ओ ( bघ*. ॥ (१. and not to writing. अ//&/ शसक) इ ( हसव. अ//&/ शसक) ए ( bघ*. Writing was certainly known by Pāṇini (as evidenced by the word lipi).१) प प ठ( अ€व• । ई€ळ†€ । प&€र(ऽशह‚त । य€जसय‚ । €व । ऋ€शUवज‚ । ह त ‚र । र€त€ऽ6 त‚ The sounds (in the saṁhitā paṭha) are: ग ळ प र ह त य ज स ञ य / अ (हसव. एकश&शत. सवररत. and Grantha. it will make searching easy and useful. अ//&/ शसक) उ (हसव. making a total of 64. The Devanagari script has been in use only for the last 1000 years. Brāhmī. उ त. However. which is why it is unsuitable for Sanskrit. the current Unicode encoding scheme is script based. य€जसय‚ €व P€शUवज. There have been attempts to propose phonetic encodings for Sanksrit. अ/& त. Phonetic encoding is of paramount importance for accurate preservation. Furthermore. रत€6 त‚ . The earliest specimens of writing available in India are the Brāhmī and Kharoṣṭi inscriptions of Aśoka.१. उ त. अ//&/ शसक) । . Brahmi was widely used. Having powerful search capabilities is indispensible for research purposes. but we do not know what script was used in those times – it is difficult to imagine that such a huge volume of literature could have be preserved without a script. अ//&/ शसक) अ ( हसव. Sanskrit manuscripts are found in a variety of scripts including Devanāgarī.शहत प ठ( अ€श• b‚ळ प&€र शह‚त. however no system is widely accepted. अ//&/ शसक) ए ( bघ*. उ त. Prior to that. अ//&/ शसक) इ ( bघ*. Shāradā. अ/& त.

उ त. अ//&/ शसक) अ/&सव र अ (हसव. उ तब. अ//&/ शसक) ऋ ( हसव. अ/& त. अ//&/ शसक) अ ( bघ*. अ/& त. एकश&शत. अ//&/ शसक) इ (हसव. एकश&शत. अ//&/ शसक) अ (हसव. सवररत. अ//&/ शसक) अ ( bघ*. अ//&/ शसक) अ/&सव र ओ ( bघ*. अ//&/ शसक) अ/&सव र Summary This paper has attempted to clarify some fudamentals of Sanskrit phonetics and has raised some issues pertaining to the encoding of Sanskrit. . एकश&शत.व त ज ह त र र त 6 त / व अ (हसव. अ//&/ शसक) अ (हसव. अ//&/ शसक) अ (हसव. सवररत. अ//&/ शसक) अ (हसव. उ त. उ त. अ//&/ शसक) अ ( हसव. सवररत.

क‚ रर€षयशस‚ ष ‚वसतर6€य व€य उप‚ Uव • द €वद व€ ‚ 6&चछ ऋशष( । अश• वत । ग यतb छ ( । ' । ह त ‚र. य€ज ‚धव€र. शव€aत(‚ परर€भVरशस‚ अ€श•हŠत ‚ क€शवक‚ त&( स€Uयशश€तश‚वसत ( य €ङग € &ष€ Uव •‚ भ€x.Appendix: The First Sūkta of the Ṛgveda अश• bळ इशत /वच*सय सVकसय वa श त अ€श• b‚ळ† प&€र शह‚त.‚ वb€रव‚त । €व ॥१॥ ॥३॥ । स €व ] एह व‚कशत ॥ २ ॥ । स इद€वष&‚ गचछशत ॥ ४ ॥ €वशभ€र ग‚ त ॥ ५ ॥ । तवतस€Uय ‚शङगर( ॥ ६ ॥ । / € भर‚ त€ ए ‚शस ॥ ७ ॥ । व6*‚ /.€ सव ‚ ॥८॥ । सच‚सव /( सव€सतय ॥ ९ ॥ र ज‚ त धव€र ण . य€जसय‚ €व P€शUवज‚ अ€श•( पVव'‚शभ€र ऋशष‚शभ€रbड € /Vत‚/र€त अ€श•/ ‚ र€शय ‚शव€Uप ष‚ €व द €वद व ‚ अ•€ य. रत€6 त‚ । य€ स.‚ ग €प P€तसय€ bद वव ‚ स /(‚ शप€तव‚ सV€/वऽ•‚ सVप य€/ भ‚व .