Language skills and the specialities of Sanskrit language
1. Language skills are primarily of three types – reading, writing, speaking.
2. In DIRECT learning, the method can be similar to the way a child learns a language from its mother. So, the sequence of acquiring the skills is speaking, reading, writing. I know a Tamil boy, who could not read or write Tamil. So, when he would be in Tamilnadu, he would converse fluently in Tamil. Yet whenever he would want to go from one place to another by bus, he would have to necessarily ask somebody, where a particular bus would be going to. In direct method, one may be able to speak a language for years and yet would not know the literary beauty and richness of literature available in the language.
3. In DISTANCE learning, the sequence has to be reading, writing, speaking.
4. In both methods, the reading skill implies that one would be able to read a text, even without understanding the meaning.
5. The writing and speaking skills imply that one is able to compose one’s thoughts and also express them.
6. Most languages have a colloquial style of speaking. The colloquial style is often quite loose and permissive in grammatical accuracy. But writing in a language may not be so permissive.
7. Writing skills are again of two types, writing prose and writing poetry. Sanskrit literature has a very, very rich treasure of poetry. Entire mahaabhaaratam महाभारतम् is all poetry of 100,000 verses! So are raamaayaNam रामायणम् and bhaagavatam भागवतम्
Note, that the English spellings here are the same as what one would type in BARAHA Pad, a unicode software platform, which helps you to type in Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malyalam, Bengali, Oriya, Gujarathi and Punjabi apart from English.
8. The first three languages, viz. Sanskrit, Hindi and Marathi have the common script known as devanaagarI देवनागरी. The basic letters, the alphabet of devanaagaree is called as varNamaalaa वर्णमाला. The next four languages are languages of four states of southern India. These languages viz. Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malyalam have their own scripts, all different from each other. Major characteristics of devanaagarI is that letters hang down from a reference line. In scripts of south Indian languages the letters stand above a reference line, as in English. The scripts of other four languages, viz. Bengali, Oriya, Gujarathi and Punjabi are derived from devanaagarI. For example the vowel ‘a’ as in fun, is अ in devanaagarI. It is অ in Bengali, ଅ in Oriya, અ in Gujarathi and ਅ in Punjabi.
9. Scripts of all Indian languages are phonetic. One writes what one pronounces. There is no need to understand the spellings of words. In English the vowel ‘a’ would be pronounced very differently in the words, fat, far, fall, face. Not so in any Indian language. In the alphabets of all Indian languages, vowels and consonants are grouped separately, first the vowels and then the consonants. This again is so methodical, compared to the Roman alphabet of English, where one finds the vowels ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’, ‘u’ and also ‘y’ sprewn all across the alphabet.
10. The vowel sounds are also in a methodical sequence.
अ to be typed as ‘a’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in fun
आ to be typed as ‘aa’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in far
इ to be typed as ‘i’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in fit
ई to be typed as ‘I’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in feet
उ to be typed as ‘u’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in foot
ऊ to be typed as ‘U’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in fool
ए to be typed as ‘e’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in ten
ऐ to be typed as ‘ai’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in ?? It seems there is no English word having this vowel sound
ओ to be typed as ‘o’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in four
औ to be typed as ‘ou’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in foul
अं to be typed as ‘aM’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in dumb
अः to be typed as ‘aH’ and pronounced as the vowel sound in ?? It seems there is no English word having this vowel sound
It may be noticed that the vowel sounds are in sets of two, short and long, as इ and ई in fit and feet or उ and ऊ in foot and fool.
The last vowel sound in the sequence is the aspiration sound called as visargaH विसर्गः This vowel sound comes only at the end of a word and is written as :, the colon in English. Actually, in English the colon is not even a punctuation sign. In devanaagarI it is a well-recognised, abundantly used vowel sound. It is always preceded by any of the other vowel sounds and lends the aspiration to that vowel sound. So it adds the aspiration effect to the vowel sound preceding it. The aspiration would be short or long, depending upon the preceding vowel.
In devanAgarI after ऊ as in fool, we have four more vowels ऋ Ru, ॠ RU, लृ lRu and लॄ lRU. Actually, there are consonant sounds inherent in these vowels. One would come across these vowels only infrequently. But the vowel Ru ऋ is very common in some words, e.g. RuShI ऋषी RugvedaH ऋग्वेदः or saMskRutam संस्कृतम्
With such repertoire of vowel sounds, it is possible to transcript in devanaagarI, vowel sounds of almost all languages around the world. Only two vowel sounds are not used in saMskRutam. They are ‘a’ as in ‘fat’ and ‘a’ as in ‘fall’. But modern devanaagarI script has adopted symbol of a crescent above the respective consonant, e.g.’fat’ is now written as फॅट् and ‘fall’ is written as फॉल्
11. The consonants vyaMjanaaH व्यंजनाः are also very methodically grouped into seven groups, depending upon the place, from where they emanate.
The first group is of guttural kanThavya कण्ठव्य consonants k क् kh ख् g ग् gh घ् ~g ङ्
It should be noticed that the basic consonant sound is without any vowel sound mixed into it. Hence all basic consonants are written with a small slash below the letter.
Every group of consonants is a set of five, two harsh kaThora-vyaMjanou कठोरव्यंजनौ Between the two harsh sounds, the first one is rather plain and the second one has a sound of ‘h’ mixed into it.
The next two consonants are soft mRudu -vyaMjanou मृदुव्यंजनौ. In these two also, the first one is rather plain and the second one has a sound of ‘h’ mixed into it.
The last consonant in the group is a nasal anunaasikam अनुनासिकम्.
It should be noticed that the nasal sound is most commonly written by a dot over the preceding consonant, when the nasal sound is in-between a word. But when the nasal sound is at the end of a word, it is written as a distinct “m” as in anunaasikam अनुनासिकम्
Puritans prefer that nasal sounds inbetween a word should also be written using anunaasikam of that group to which the following consonant (note, the consonant following the nasal sound) belongs. For example, if commoners may write anga as aMga अंग, the puritans would write it as a~ga अङ्ग.
12. The next group of consonants is dental, dantavya दन्तव्य.
c च् Pronunciation of c is as of ‘ch’ in ‘charm’
ch छ् There seems to be no word in English having pronunciation as of ch. In BARAHA, the transliteration of this sound is ‘ch’.
j ज् Pronunciation of ‘j’ is as of ‘j’ in ‘jail’
jh झ् Pronunciation of ‘jh’ is as of ‘z’ in ‘zeal’
~j ञ् There seems to be no word in English having pronunciation as of ~j.
As mentioned above, commoners may write the anunaasikam ~j, when it comes inbetween a word by a dot above the preceding consonant as in vyaMjanam व्यंजनम्. But the puritans would write it as vya~jjanam व्यञ्जनम्
13. The third group of consonants called as moordhanya मूर्धन्य is palatal, .
ट् T pronounciation is as of ‘t’ in ‘take’
ठ् Th This sound is by mixing ‘h’ sound into ‘t’ of ‘take’. There seems to be no word in English having pronunciation as of Th.
ड् D pronounciation is as of ‘d’ in ‘dam’
ढ् Dh There seems to be no word in English having pronunciation as of Dh.
ण् N This is a nasal sound along side of hitting the tongue on the palate. There seems to be no word in English having pronunciation of this sound.
14. Sounds of the fourth group of consonants, called as taalavya तालव्य emanate by releasing the tongue from the gums of upper teeth .
त् t There seems to be no word in English having pronunciation as of ‘t’. This sound is by removing the ‘h’ sound from the pronunciation of ‘th’ in ‘bath’.
थ् th pronounciation is as of ‘th’ in ‘bath’
द् d pronounciation is as of ‘th’ in ‘there’
ध् dh This sound is by mixing ‘h’ sound into ‘th’ of ‘there’. There seems to be no word in English, having pronunciation as of dh.
न् n pronounciation as of ‘n’ in ‘won’
15. Sounds of the fifth group of consonants, known as ओष्ठव्य emanate from releasing closed lips .
प् p has pronounciation as of ‘p’ in ‘pet’
फ् ph has pronounciation as of ‘f’ in ‘fat’
ब् b has pronounciation as of ‘b’ in ‘bat’
भ् bh has pronounciation as of ‘bh’ in ‘abhor’
म् m has pronunciation as of ‘m’ in ‘mum’
16. Sounds of sixth group of consonants emanate from movement of air in the mouth.
य् y has pronunciation as of ‘y’ in ‘yes’
र् r has pronunciation as of ‘r’ in ‘run’
ल् l has pronunciation as of ‘l’ in ‘lull’
व् v or w has pronunciation as of ‘w’ in ‘wet’
17. Sounds of seventh group of consonants are aspirations.
श् sh has pronunciation as of ‘sh’ in ‘dash’
ष् Sh This sound is by aspiration with little more rounding of the tongue towards the palate, somewhat more than when pronouncing ‘sh’ in ‘dash’
स् s has pronunciation as of ‘s’ as in ‘sit’
ह् h has pronunciation as of ‘h’ in ‘hat’
ळ् L has a palatal pronunciation, as if some ‘h’ sound is mixed into the sound of ‘l’ in ‘lull’. This letter is not very common and not at all seen in Hindi. It has however some usage in Sanskrit and Marathi.
18. There are two compound consonants which have special style of writing and hence are added into the list of consonants.
क्ष् kSh has pronunciation compounded from k + Sh
ज्ञ् j~j has pronunciation compounded from d + n + y. People in Hindi belt pronounce it as g + y + n.
19. Two letters which have assumed significance of holy letters or symbols also have special style of writing. They are oum ॐ and shree श्री
20. Complete letter is formed when a consonant sound is suffixed by a vowel sound. For example,
k + a = ka क् + अ = क
k + aa = kaa क् + आ = का
k + i = ki क् + इ = कि
k + I = kI क् + ई = की
k + u = ku क् + उ = कु
k + U = kU क् + ऊ = कू
k + Ru = kRu क् + ऋ = कृ
k + RU = kRU क् + ॠ = कॄ
k + lRu = klRu क् + लृ = क्लृ
k + lRU = klRU क् + लॄ = क्लॄ
k + e = ke क् + ए = के
k + ai = kai क् + ऐ = कै
k + o = ko क् + ओ = को
k + ou = kou क् + औ = कौ
k + aM = kaM क् + अं = कं
k + aH = kaH क् + अः = कः
21. devanaagaree script facilitates writing compounded letters also very crisply . For example
stree (meaning woman) is written as स्त्री In the Hindi belt, people seem to have developed an allergy to pronouncing this word ‘stree’ properly. They find it difficult to start the pronunciation directly as s+t+r+ee. Instead they have settled into a habit of pronouncing this word as i+s+t+r+ee.
raa-ShTra (meaning nation) is written as राष्ट्र
sthaa-na-bhra-ShTa (meaning displaced) is written as स्थानभ्रष्ट
For developing reading skills, one should be able to identify the SYLLABLES distinctly from each other. The concept to be practised should be to read SYLLABLE by SYLLABLE, maybe, slowly in the beginning. One would automatically pick up speed with practice. Note the syllables in the above words separated by hyphens.
22. A very charming speciality of devanaagaree, particularly for Sanskrit is conjugation, called as sandhi सन्धि and compounding, called as samaasa समास of words.
Conjugation is totally a logical extension of the concept of writing sounds, hence of a phonetic script. Conjugation is writing that sound which will emerge as the sound when two sounds are uttered in quick succession of each other. For example, try uttering “nara + uttama” नर + उत्तम in quick succession. It would very naturally become “narottama” नरोत्तम . So, a rule of conjugation has emerged a + u = o अ + उ = ओ.
23. awagraha अवग्रह written as capital “ऽ” for the silent visargaH विसर्गः (or to denote silent “a”) is another important and charming feature of rules of conjugation, involving visargaH. For example, te + aj~jaanam ते + अज्ञानम् would become te-j~jaanam तेऽज्ञानम् The avagraha between ‘te’ and ‘j~jaanam’ is not to be pronounced. But showing the presence of avagraha is important to understand the meaning properly. Without the avagraha, the meaning of ‘te j~jaanam’ ते ज्ञानम् would be “your knowledge”. With the avagraha, the meaning of ‘te aj~jaanam’ ते + अज्ञानम् = तेऽज्ञानम् would be your ignorance!! Pronunciation of both the phrases, with and without avagraha will be the same, but the meaning will be absolutely opposite!!
24. Compound words help to condense phrases into words. For example in the word “stree-dhanam”, the word “stree” means woman and the word “dhanam” means wealth. So the compound word “stree-dhanam” means wealth belonging to a woman. See, how a whole phrase such as “wealth belonging to a woman” becomes just a single word “streedhanam”.
25. There are many rules for composing conjugated and compounded words. Reading lot of Sanskrit will acquaint us with them. The objective of this first lesson has been to lay a good foundation to help anyone to start off reading Sanskrit. As mentioned earlier, reading skill is the first skill in distance-learning of a language. Running our eyes over lot of devanaagaree texts will make reading easy. Once one gets acquainted with the letters, one can also venture into writing them either by typing in English in BARAHA Pad or writing in one’s own handwriting.
Here is a popular prayer, where one prays to God, acknowledging that “You are my father, you are also my mother; you are my brother, you are my friend; you are the knowledge, you are the wealth; you are everything for me, oh God, oh God”
त्वमेव माता च पिता त्वमेव ।
त्वमेव बन्धुश्च सखा त्वमेव ।
त्वमेव विद्या द्रविणं त्वमेव ।
त्वमेव सर्वं मम देव देव ॥
Practice reading this prayer so many times, that you can recite it verbatim.
You can script it in BARAHA Pad as follows –
tvameva mAtA ca pitA tvameva |
tvameva bandhuSca saKA tvameva |
tvameva vidyA draviNaM tvameva |
tvameva sarvaM mama deva deva ||
tvameva maataa ca pitaa tvameva |
tvameva bandhushca sakhaa tvameva |
tvameva vidyaa draviNaM tvameva |
tvameva sarvaM mama deva deva ||
The above transliteration in English is given to make reading easy for the first time. But practice reading directly the devanaagaree text.
Also write it down in देवनागरी devanaagaree in your own handwriting.
The transliteration given above would help you to write, rather, type the prayer in देवनागरी Devanagaree using BARAHA Pad.
REVIEW OF THE LESSON
Compiled here below are all the words for which spelling in BARAHA PAD was also given.
Write them yourself in BARAHA PAD. Write them also in your own hand-writing. Do utter every letter when writing. Given below are also meanings of different words.
महाभारतम् = Title of the epic poem composed by sage Vyaasa. The all-famous scripture Bhagavadgeetaa is a part of this poem. This scripture contains advice given by Lord KRuShNa to his dearest desciple Arjuna, when Arjuna lost his motivation to be involved in the battle.
रामायणम् = Title of epic poem composed by sage Vaalmikee narrating the biography of Lord Raama
भागवतम् = Title of epic poem composed by sage Vyaasa, narrating the biography of Lord KRuShNa
देवनागरी = name of the script in which Sanskrit is written
वर्णमाला = alphabet of Devanaagaree
विसर्गः = symbol of aspiration at the end of a word
ऋषी = RuShee
ऋग्वेदः = name of one of the four basic scriptures of Hindu religion
संस्कृतम् = same of the language
स्वराः – अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ऋ ॠ लृ लॄ ए ऐ ओ औ अं अः = vowels
व्यंजनाः = consonants
कण्ठव्य क् ख् ग् घ् ङ् = set of consonants sounds of which emanate from the throat
कठोरव्यंजनौ = harsh consonants in a set
मृदुव्यंजनौ = soft consonants in a set
अनुनासिकम् = nasal sound belonging to the set
दन्तव्य च् छ् ज् झ् ञ् = set of consonants, sounds of which emanate from teeth
अंग = body or organ
अङ्ग = body or organ
व्यंजनम् = consonant (singular)
मूर्धन्य ट् ठ् ड् ढ् ण् = set of consonants, sounds of which emanate by striking the tongue to the roof
तालव्य त् थ् द् ध् न् = set of consonants, sounds of which emanate by striking on the gum above upper teeth
ओष्ठव्य प् फ् ब् भ् म् = set of consonants, sounds of which emanate from the lips
य् र् ल् व्
श् ष् स् ह् ळ्
क का कि की कु कू कृ कॄ क्लृ क्लॄ के कै को कौ कं कः
स्त्री = woman
धनम् = wealth
स्त्रीधनम् = wealth belonging to a woman
राष्ट्र = nation
स्थानभ्रष्ट = displaced from one’s place
सन्धि = conjgation
समास = compound word
नर + उत्तम = नरोत्तम = best among men
अवग्रह = symbol of silent Visarg or of silent ‘a’
ते + अज्ञानम् = तेऽज्ञानम् = your ignorance
त्वमेव माता च पिता त्वमेव । = You only are my mother, you only are my father
त्वमेव बन्धुश्च सखा त्वमेव । = You only are my brother, you only are my friend
त्वमेव विद्या द्रविणं त्वमेव । = You only are my knowledge, you only are my wealth
त्वमेव सर्वं मम देव देव ॥ = You only are everything for me, oh God, oh God
Similar to the set of letters क का कि की कु कू कृ कॄ क्लृ क्लॄ के कै को कौ कं कः write sets of letters for all the consonants, viz.
क् ख् ग् घ् ङ्
च् छ् ज् झ् ञ्
ट् ठ् ड् ढ् ण्
त् थ् द् ध् न्
प् फ् ब् भ् म्
य् र् ल् व्
श् ष् स् ह् ळ्
Remember, always utter loudly the pronunciation of whatever you write. That would make a comprehensive audio, visual, and manual exercise of the learning process. With so many energies focused in the effort, you will learn fast.