Sanskrit Notes

By Sunil Kumar


Pronunciation(uccharan) on the basis of Panini’s shiksha sutras.

kantha: throat: mouth and throat are unrestrained

talu: palatal: back of the tongue raised towards the palate

Middle(murdha); high, lingual, cerebral: where the tip of the tongue reaches towards but does not touch the palate

Danta: meaning teeth: tongue just behind the teeth

osthau: meaning two lips in which sound is controlled by the lips

Avagraha: Similar to apostrophe. Also called prodelision(the latter words loses its first vowel)
Avagraha symbol used to indicate prodelision of an अ a in many Indian languages as shown below.

It is usually transliterated with a symbol which looks like the letter ‘s’ in roman script, as in the Sanskrit philosophical expression शिवोऽहम् Śivo ’ham (Śivaḥ aham) , which is a sandhi of (शिव: + अहम्) ‘I am Shiva’.

The avagraha is also used for prolonging vowel sounds in modern languages, for example Hindi माँऽऽऽ! for ‘Mãããã!’ when calling to one’s mother, or when transliterating foreign words in instant messaging, for example, coOol can be transliterated as कूऽल .

The character is also sometimes used as a symbol to denote long or heavy syllables, in metrical poetry. For example, the syllables in the word छंदः chandaḥ ‘metre’ (in nominative) can be denoted as “ऽ ऽ”, meaning two long syllables.

The rhythm of language is infinitely varied; all aspects of language contribute to it: loudness, pitch, duration, pause, syntax, repeated elements, length of phrases, frequency of polysyllabic words.

Meter is another matter. It is an ordering of language by means of an extremely limited subset of its characteristics. In English (and in many modern languages) the language is ordered by syllabic stress. All other aspects of language are present, indeed they are vital to the rhythm of the verse; but they are not ordered by the meter.

However, marking stress is not the same as marking meter. A perfectly regular line of iambic pentameter may have anywhere from 2 to 9 stresses,[2] but it is still felt to exhibit 5 pulses or beats.

The word ‘attempt’ is a natural iamb:

at- tempt
In phonology, an iambic foot is notated in a flat representation as (σ’σ) or as foot tree with two branches W and S where W = weak and S = strong.

Iambic Pentameter is a meter referring to a line consisting of five iambic feet:

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. (Alfred Tennyson, “Ulysses”)
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? (William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18)

Sanskrit prosody or Chandas refer to one of the six Vedangas, or limbs of Vedic studies. It is the study of poetic metres and verse in Sanskrit.This field of study was central to the composition of the Vedas, the scriptural canons of Hinduism, so central that some later Hindu and Buddhist texts refer to the Vedas as Chandas.

The Chandas, as developed by the Vedic schools, were notable for including both linear and non-linear systems.

The system was organized around seven major meters, state Annette Wilke and Oliver Moebus, called the “seven birds” or “seven mouths of Brihaspati”, and each had its own rhythm, movements and aesthetics wherein a non-linear structure (aperiodicity) was mapped into a four verse polymorphic linear sequence.


The Gayatri meter was structured with 3 verses of 8 syllables (6×4), the Usnih with 2 verses of 8 and 1 of 12 syllables (7×4), the Anustubh with 4 verses of 8 syllables (8×4), Brihati with 2 verses of 8 followed by 1 each of 12 and 8 syllables (9×4), the Pankti with 5 verses of 8 syllables (10×4), the Tristubh with 4 verses of 11 syllables (11×4), and the Jagati meter with 4 verses of 12 syllables each (12×4).

In Vedic culture, the Chandas were revered for their perfection and resonance, with Gayatri meter treated as the most refined and sacred, and one that continues to be part of modern Hindu culture as part of Yoga and hymns of meditation at sunrise.

Chandrabindu used in Vedic Sanskrit to represent anusvara when the next word is anunasika(or starting with a vowel).

गायत्रेण प्रति मिमीते अर्कमर्केण साम त्रैष्टुभेन वाकम् ।
वाकेन वाकं द्विपदा चतुष्पदाक्षरेण मिमते सप्त वाणीः ॥२४॥

With the Gayatri, he measures a song; with the song – a chant, with the Tristubh – a recited stanza,
With the stanza of two feet and four feet – a hymn; with the syllable they measure the seven voices.

— Rigveda 1.164.24,

The 25 consonants are called sparsa as they require contact to be pronounced correctly. Aspirated(mahapranah):kha, tha, jha dha vs unaspirated(alpapranah): ka, cha, ga, ja etc.


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