Sanskrit means ‘polished’ or ‘refined’ and is the name of the classical language of India. The sacred scriptures of Hinduism and also of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism were composed in Sanskrit, while the Tipitaka of Theravada Buddhism was composed in Pali.
The two languages share much in common, but Sanskrit has a more complex grammar and a larger vocabulary than Pali. Further, Sanskrit has its own script, called Devanàgarã, while Pali has no script. Even at the time of the Buddha, Sanskrit was spoken only in the royal court and by priests and intellectuals and for this reason the Buddha refused to have his sermons rendered into Sanskrit (Vin.II,139). He wanted his teachings to be accessible to all, not just to a small elite.
The Use of Sanskrit
Knowledge of Ayurveda originates in the Sanskrit language. Sanskrit is a precise phonetic language that uses a set of written symbols not familiar to most Westerners. The phonetic representation of Sanskrit words using the English alphabet is called transliteration. We can transliterate Sanskrit to English characters, but not every sound translates directly. There are quite a few sounds that do not exist in the English language, requiring special characters to represent them accurately.
One example is vaata, which translates to vata. The first 'a' in vata is a 'long a', as in “father;” it is held for two beats. The second 'a' is a 'short a,' as in “what.” Another example is a sound somewhere between an 'i', a 'u' and an 'r' that occurs in the word
This word is transliterated as prakrti. The V is pronounced as the 'ri' in the English spelling of the word Krishna. To make things even more complicated, among those who use Sanskrit the V is pronounced in northern India as the 'i' in “it” and in southern India as the 'u' sound in “root.” Because of the regional variations in pronunciation, on this Buddhist Ayurveda wiki both ru and ri are found in place of the technically correct
Another consideration is that the trailing 'a' in Sanskrit words is sometimes omitted because of the influence of the Hindi language. It is included in many of the words in this website. The trailing 'a' is also subject to grammatical changes depending on the letters that follow it and, for simplicity's sake, we generally ignore these rules. For example, the word meda (fat) can be transliterated as medo, medas, and meda depending on the word following it. Ordinarily, we use the most common form, meda, so that you, the reader, will have to learn only the one word. Of course, it would be wonderful if all our readers began the study of Sanskrit, inspired by the knowledge available in these ancient texts, but it is not our purpose here to teach that language.
The classical language of ancient India. In India it functioned as a lingua franca in much the same way as Latin in medieval Europe. In India Buddhist texts (Sutras and Shastras) were written either in Sanskrit or in closely related 'dialects', which were natural spoken languages, such as Pali or Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.
Sanskrit is the classical language of Indian and the liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is also one of the 22 official languages of India. The name Sanskrit means “refined”, “consecrated” and “sanctified”. It has always been regarded as the 'high' language and used mainly for religious and scientific discourse.
Vedic Sanskrit, the pre-Classical form of the language and the liturgical language of the Vedic religion, is one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family. The oldest known text in Sanskrit, the Rigveda, a collection of over a thousand Hindu hymns, composed during the 2nd millenium BC.
Today Sanskrit is used mainly in Hindu religious rituals as a ceremonial language for hymns and mantras. Efforts are also being made to revive Sanskrit as an everyday spoken language in the village of Mattur near Shimoga in Karnataka. A modern form of Sanskrit is one of the 17 official home languages in India.
Since the late 19th century, Sanskrit has been written mostly with the Devanāgarī alphabet. However it has also been written with all the other alphabets of India, except Gurmukhi and Tamil, and with other alphabets such as Thai and Tibetan. The Grantha, Sharda and Siddham alphabets are used only for Sanskrit.
Since the late 18th century, Sanskrit has also been written with the Latin alphabet. The most commonly used system is the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST), which was been the standard for academic work since 1912. Devanāgarī alphabet for Sanskrit Vowels and vowel diacritics
Sanskrit vowels and vowel diacritics Consonants
Sanskrit consonants Conjunct consonants
There are about a thousand conjunct consonants, most of which combine two or three consonants. There are also some with four-consonant conjuncts and at least one well-known conjunct with five consonants.
A selection of Sanskrit conjunct consonants
You can find a full list of conjunct consonants used for Sanskrit at: http://sanskrit.gde.to/learning_tutorial_wikner/P058.html Numerals
Sanskrit numerals and numbers from 0-10 Sample text in Sanskrit
सर्वे मानवाः स्वतन्त्राः समुत्पन्नाः वर्तन्ते अपि च, गौरवदृशा अधिकारदृशा च समानाः एव वर्तन्ते। एते सर्वे चेतना-तर्क-शक्तिभ्यां सुसम्पन्नाः सन्ति। अपि च, सर्वेऽपि बन्धुत्व-भावनया परस्परं व्यवहरन्तु।
Translated into Sanskrit by Arvind Iyengar
Transliteration Sarvē mānavāḥ svatantratāḥ samutpannāḥ vartantē api ca, gauravadr̥śā adhikāradr̥śā ca samānāḥ ēva vartantē. Ētē sarvē cētanā-tarka-śaktibhyāṁ susampannāḥ santi. Api ca, sarvē’pi bandhutva-bhāvanayā parasparaṁ vyavaharantu.
Listen to a recording of this text by Muralikrishnan Ramasamy Another version of this text
सर्वे मानवाः जन्मना स्वतन्त्राः वैयक्तिकगौरवेण अधिकारेण च तुल्याः एव । सर्वेषां विवेकः आत्मसाक्षी च वर्तते । सर्वे परस्परं भ्रातृभावेन व्यवहरेयुः ॥
Transliteration (by Stefán Steinsson) Sarvē mānavāḥ janmanā svatantrāḥ vaiyaktikagauravēṇa adhikārēṇa ca tulyāḥ ēva, sarvēṣāṃ vivēkaḥ ātmasākṣī ca vartatē, sarvē parasparaṃ bhrātṛbhāvēna vyavaharēyuḥ.
Hear a recording of this text
Translation and recording by Shriramana Sharma Translation
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Sanskrit Translation Sanskrit Translation Our Price:$10.00
Online Sanskrit lessons http://acharya.iitm.ac.in/sanskrit/tutor.html http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/DBLM/olcourse/sanskrit.htm http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/eieol/vedol-0-X.html http://www.elportaldelaindia.com/El_Portal_de_la_India_Antigua/Sánscrito.html
Omkarananda Ashram's Sanskrit Page http://omkarananda-ashram.org/Sanskrit/Itranslt.html
Sanskrit Academy http://www.samskrtam.org/
Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon http://webapps.uni-koeln.de/tamil/
Sanskrit Library - contains digitized Sanskrit texts and various tools to analyse them http://sanskritlibrary.org/
Samskrita Bharati - an organisation established as an experiment in 1981 in Bangalore to bring Sanskrit back into daily life: http://www.samskrita-bharati.org/
American Sanskrit Institute http://www.americansanskrit.com
Sanskrit Studies http://www.sanskritstudies.org
Sanskrit Voice - a community of Sanskrit lovers http://sanskritvoice.com
An archive of Sanskrit dictionaries, readers & grammars in German, English & Russian. (circa 4000 Mb Book Scans, devanagari fonts): http://groups.google.com/group/Nagari
Download free devanagari fonts & transliteration macros. History and hi-res scans of Indian typography: http://nagari.southindia.ru
ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font specifically designed for ancient scripts, including classical & medieval Latin, ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic, Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham, Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Old Cyrillic, Phoenician, Avestan, Ugaritic, Linear B, Anatolian scripts, Coptic, Cypriot, Brahmi, Old Persian cuneiform: http://guindo.pntic.mec.es/~jmag0042/alphabet.html Languages written with the Devanāgarī alphabet
Bhojpuri, Hindi, Konkani, Maithili, Marathi, Mundari, Nepal Bhasa / Newari, Nepali, Pali, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Sindhi
Sanskrit (संस्कृतम् saṃskṛtam [sə̃skɹ̩t̪əm], originally संस्कृता वाक् saṃskṛtā vāk, “refined speech”), is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism and Buddhism.[note 1] Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand. Classical Sanskrit is the standard register as laid out in the grammar of Pāṇini, around the 4th century BCE. Its position in the cultures of Greater India is akin to that of Latin and Greek in Europe and it has significantly influenced most modern languages of the Indian subcontinent, particularly in India, Pakistan and Nepal. The pre-Classical form of Sanskrit is known as Vedic Sanskrit, with the language of the Rigveda being the oldest and most archaic stage preserved, its oldest core dating back to as early as 1500 BCE. This qualifies Rigvedic Sanskrit as one of the oldest attestations of any Indo-Iranian language, and one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family, the family which includes English and most European languages. The corpus of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and Hindu religious texts. Sanskrit continues to be widely used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious rituals in the forms of hymns and mantras. Spoken Sanskrit is still in use in a few traditional institutions in India and there are many attempts at revival.
The Sanskrit verbal adjective sáṃskṛta- may be translated as “put together, constructed, well or completely formed; refined, adorned, highly elaborated”. It is derived from the root saṃ-skar- “to put together, compose, arrange, prepare”, where saṃ- “together” (as English same) and (s)kar- “do, make”. The term in the generic meaning of “made ready, prepared, completed, finished” is found in the Rigveda. Also in Vedic Sanskrit, as nominalized neuter saṃskṛtám, it means “preparation, prepared place” and thus “ritual enclosure, place for a sacrifice”. As a term for “refined or elaborated speech” the adjective appears only in Epic and Classical Sanskrit, in the Manusmriti and in the Mahabharata. The language referred to as saṃskṛta “the cultured language” has by definition always been a “sacred” and “sophisticated” language, used for religious and learned discourse in ancient India, and contrasted with the languages spoken by the people, prākṛta- “natural, artless, normal, ordinary”.
Devimahatmya manuscript on palm-leaf, in an early Bhujimol script, Bihar or Nepal, 11th century. Sanskrit is a member of the Indo-Iranian sub-family of the Indo-European family of languages. Its closest ancient relatives are the Iranian languages Old Persian and Avestan. Within the wider Indo-European language family, Sanskrit shares characteristic sound changes with the Satem languages (particularly the Slavic and Baltic languages), and also with Greek. In order to explain the common features shared by Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages, many scholars have proposed migration hypotheses asserting that the original speakers of what became Sanskrit arrived in what is now India and Pakistan from the north-west some time during the early second millennium BCE. Evidence for such a theory includes the close relationship of the Indo-Iranian tongues with the Baltic and Slavic languages, vocabulary exchange with the non-Indo-European Uralic languages, and the nature of the attested Indo-European words for flora and fauna. The earliest attested Sanskrit texts are Hindu texts of the Rigveda, which date to the mid-to-late second millennium BCE. No written records from such an early period survive. However, scholars are confident that the oral transmission of the texts is reliable: they were ceremonial literature whose correct pronunciation was considered crucial to its religious efficacy. From the Rigveda until the time of Pāṇini (fl. 4th century BCE) the development of the Sanskrit language may be observed in other Vedic texts: the Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda, Brahmanas, and Upanishads. During this time, the prestige of the language, its use for sacred purposes, and the importance attached to its correct enunciation all served as powerful conservative forces resisting the normal processes of linguistic change. However, there is a clear, five-level linguistic development of Vedic from the Rigveda to the language of the Upanishads and the earliest Sutras (such as Baudhayana) The oldest surviving Sanskrit grammar is Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī (“Eight-Chapter Grammar”). It is essentially a prescriptive grammar, i.e., an authority that defines correct Sanskrit, although it contains descriptive parts, mostly to account for some Vedic forms that had become rare in Pāṇini's time. The term “Sanskrit” was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages, but rather as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social class and educational attainment in ancient India and the language was taught mainly to members of the higher castes, through close analysis of Sanskrit grammarians such as Pāṇini. Sanskrit, as the learned language of Ancient India, thus existed alongside the Prakrits (vernaculars), also called Middle Indic dialects, and eventually into the contemporary modern Indo-Aryan languages.
Main article: Vedic Sanskrit Sanskrit, as defined by Pāṇini, had evolved out of the earlier “Vedic” form. The beginning of Vedic Sanskrit can be traced as early as around 1500-1200 BCE (the accepted mainstream date of the Rig-Veda). Scholars often distinguish Vedic Sanskrit and Classical or “Pāṇinian” Sanskrit as separate 'dialects'. Though they are quite similar, they differ in a number of essential points of phonology, vocabulary, grammar and syntax. Vedic Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, a large collection of hymns, incantations (Samhitas), theological and religio-philosophical discussions in the Brahmanas and Upanishads. Modern linguists consider the metrical hymns of the Rigveda Samhita to be the earliest, composed by many authors over several centuries of oral tradition. The end of the Vedic period is marked by the composition of the Upanishads, which form the concluding part of the Vedic corpus in the traditional view; however the early Sutras are Vedic, too, both in language and content. Around the mid 1st millennium BCE, Vedic Sanskrit began the transition from a first language to a second language of religion and learning.
For nearly 2,000 years, a cultural order existed that exerted influence across South Asia, Inner Asia, Southeast Asia, and to a certain extent, East Asia. A significant form of post-Vedic Sanskrit is found in the Sanskrit of the Hindu Epics—the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The deviations from Pāṇini in the epics are generally considered to be on account of interference from Prakrits, or “innovations” and not because they are pre-Paninean. Traditional Sanskrit scholars call such deviations aarsha (आर्ष), or “of the rishis”, the traditional title for the ancient authors. In some contexts, there are also more “prakritisms” (borrowings from common speech) than in Classical Sanskrit proper. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is a literary language heavily influenced by Middle Indic, based on early Buddhist prakrit texts which subsequently assimilated to the Classical Sanskrit standard in varying degrees. According to Tiwari (1955), there were four principal dialects of classical Sanskrit: paścimottarī (Northwestern, also called Northern or Western), madhyadeśī (lit., middle country), pūrvi (Eastern) and dakṣiṇī (Southern, arose in the Classical period). The predecessors of the first three dialects are even attested in Vedic Brāhmaṇas, of which the first one was regarded as the purest (Kauṣītaki Brāhmaṇa, 7.6).
See also: Termination of spoken Sanskrit There are a number of sociolinguistic studies of spoken Sanskrit which strongly suggest that oral use of Sanskrit is limited, with its development having ceased sometime in the past. Accordingly, says Pollock (2001), “most observers would agree that, in some crucial way, Sanskrit is dead”. He describes it in comparison with the “dead” language of Latin: Both died slowly, and earliest as a vehicle of literary expression, while much longer retaining significance for learned discourse with its universalist claims. Both were subject to periodic renewals or forced rebirths, sometimes in connection with a politics of translocal aspiration… At the same time… both came to be ever more exclusively associated with narrow forms of religion and priestcraft, despite centuries of a secular aesthetic. The decline of Sanskrit use in literary and political circles was likely due to a weakening of the political institutions that supported it, and to heightened competition with vernacular languages seeking literary-cultural dignity. There was regional variation in the forcefulness of these vernacular movements and Sanskrit declined in different ways across the Indian subcontinent. For example, in Kashmir, Kashmiri was used alongside Sanskrit as the language of literature after the 13th century. Sanskrit works from the Vijayanagara Empire failed to circulate outside their place and time of composition. By contrast, works in Kannada and Telugu flourished. Despite this presumed “death” of Sanskrit and the literary use of vernacular languages, Sanskrit continued to be used in literary cultures in India, and those who could read vernacular languages could also read Sanskrit. It did mean that Sanskrit was not used to express changing forms of subjectivity and sociality embodied and conceptualized in the modern age. Instead, it was reduced to “reinscription and restatements” of ideas already explored, and any creativity in Sanskrit was restricted to religious hymns and verses. Hanneder (2002) and Hatcher (2007) contest Pollock's characterization, pointing out that modern works continue to be produced in Sanskrit: On a more public level the statement that Sanskrit is a dead language is misleading, for Sanskrit is quite obviously not as dead as other dead languages and the fact that it is spoken, written and read will probably convince most people that it cannot be a dead language in the most common usage of the term. Pollock’s notion of the “death of Sanskrit” remains in this unclear realm between academia and public opinion when he says that “most observers would agree that, in some crucial way, Sanskrit is dead” —Hanneder (2002:294) Hanneder (2009) argues that modern works in Sanskrit are either ignored or their “modernity” contested. The Sahitya Akademi has had, since 1967, an award for the best creative work written that year in Sanskrit. In 2009, Satyavrat Shastri became the first Sanskrit author to win the Jnanpith Award, India's highest literary award.
See also: Sanskrit in the West and Sanskrit revival European scholarship in Sanskrit, begun by Heinrich Roth (1620–1668) and Johann Ernst Hanxleden (1681–1731), is regarded as responsible for the discovery of the Indo-European language family by Sir William Jones. This scholarship played an important role in the development of Western philology, or historical linguistics. Sir William Jones, speaking to the Asiatic Society in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on February 2, 1786, said: The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists.
Further information: Śikṣā Classical Sanskrit distinguishes about 36 phonemes. There is, however, some allophony and the writing systems used for Sanskrit generally indicate this, thus distinguishing 48 sounds. The sounds are traditionally listed in the order vowels (Ach), diphthongs (Hal), anusvara and visarga, plosives (Sparśa) and nasals (starting in the back of the mouth and moving forward), and finally the liquids and fricatives, written in IAST as follows (see the tables below for details): a ā i ī u ū ṛ ṝ ḷ ḹ ; e ai o au ṃ ḥ k kh g gh ṅ; c ch j jh ñ; ṭ ṭh ḍ ḍh ṇ; t th d dh n; p ph b bh m y r l v; ś ṣ s h An alternate traditional ordering is that of the Shiva Sutra of Pāṇini.