lesson 1





  • Know how to pronounce all of the speech-sounds of Sanskrit.
  • Know how to introduce yourself in Sanskrit. I will ask you do to so in class!
  • [Optional] Memorize the Śivasūtras and be prepared to recite them next class.



I have prepared the following video lectures for this lesson. Please watch them before coming to class. Watching the video lectures should be enough to introduce the concepts (I hope it is anyway!) but I’ve also included links to Adhyayanavidhiḥ, the grammar handbook I’ve put together, as well as a list of cross-references to other grammars and handbooks. You don’t have to consult these additional sources! They are simply there if you happen to have them and would like to read more.


Adhyayanavidhiḥ: Vowels


Adhyayanavidhiḥ: Consonants

The Śivasūtras (optional)

Adhyayanavidhiḥ: The Śivasūtras

Note that this is an optional lesson for those interested in the tradition of Sanskrit grammar.


Vowel gradation

Adhyayanavidhiḥ: Vowel gradation

I will not offer a separate lecture on the Sanskrit accent, but you are invited to read the relevant portions of Adhyayanavidhiḥ, which introduce the inherited pitch-based accent (which you will sometimes see marked in these lessons) and the conventional stress-based accent.



Pronunciation exercises

Read the following words, checking your pronunciation against the provided audio files. If the words are displayed in Dēvanāgarī, and you would like to display them in Roman transliteration, select “Roman text” from the transliteration options in the top-right corner of this page.

For further practice, look at any of the short readings on this site that have associated audio files, and see if you can follow along with the text (in transliteration or Dēvanāgarī).

1. Vowel Quantity
  1. rāmaḥ “Rāma” (a name)
  2. ramā “Lakṣmī” (a name)
  3. jāram “lover”
  4. jarām “old age”
  5. kṣāmam “charring”
  6. kṣamām “forbearance”
  7. karaṇam “instrument”
  8. kāraṇam “cause”
  9. śāstram “sacred text”
  10. śastram “weapon”
  11. rasanam “croaking”
  12. rasanām “tongue”
  13. rātam “given”
  14. ratam “sex”
  15. mūkaḥ “silent”
  16. mukaḥ “the smell of cowdung”
  17. bhāgaḥ “portion”
  18. bhagaḥ (pudendum muliebre)
  19. grahaḥ “planet”
  20. grāhaḥ “crocodile”
2. Aspiration
  1. karaḥ “hand”
  2. kharaḥ “donkey”
  3. skandaḥ a name of Kārttikēya
  4. skandhaḥ “shoulder”
  5. kaṣaḥ “touchstone”
  6. kaśaḥ “whip”
  7. gaṇaḥ “group”
  8. ghanaḥ “cloud”
  9. citam “piled up”
  10. cittam “thought”
  11. chitam “cut off”
  12. jarā “old age”
  13. jharā “waterfall”
  14. asti “there is”
  15. asthi “bone”
  16. dārayati “tears apart”
  17. dhārayati “holds up”
  18. palam “a pala” (a measure of weight)
  19. phalam “fruit”
  20. stambaḥ “clod” (of grass)
  21. stambhaḥ “pillar”



Note that in the below dialogues, there is a dot (‧) between every word. That serves to indicate that we have not applied the rules of sandhi (the rules that govern how sounds are affected when they come into contact with each other). We will introduce those rules in a later lesson. For more on this convention, see the following lesson.

The following dialogue comes from a play called Nāgānandaḥ, attributed to the King Harṣavardhan of Kannauj (Kānyakubjam), who ruled between 606 and 647 CE. In the first act of the play, the ascetic Śāṇḍilya is sent on a mission and encounters the prince Jīmūtavāhana. This is the exchange that happens between them:

śāṇḍilyaḥ svasti ‧ bhavatē ‧ Śāṇḍilya Hail to you.
jīmūtavāhanaḥ (utthāya ‧) jīmūtavāhanaḥ ‧ aham ‧ abhivādayē ‧ Jīmūtavāhana (Rising from his seat) I, Jīmūtavāhana, salute you.
śāṇḍilyaḥ alam ‧ alam ‧ abhyutthānēna ‧ Śāṇḍilya No, no, don’t get up.

Śāṇḍilya addresses the prince by saying svasti bhavatē, literally “good-existence (svasti, nominative singular neuter of svasti-) to-you (bhavatē, dative singular masculine of bhavat-).” This formula, of a noun in the nominative case (to be introduced next week) and a pronoun in the dative case (also to be introduced next week), is used in a number of common greetings. For example:

  • namas tē — “reverence (namaḥ) to you ()”
  • suprabhātaṁ tē — “good morning (suprabhātam) to you ()”

In response, Jīmūtavāhana respectfully rises from his seat (utthāya, a form we will introduce later on meaning “having gotten up”) and uses the formula most often used to introduce oneself: his name (in the nominative case), the pronoun aham (meaning “I,” again in the nominative case), and the verb abhivādayē, which means “I salute” (the verb literally means “I cause [you] to say [something] back to me”: we will introduce causative constructions like this in the next quarter). With this sentence, Jīmūtavāhana both greets the ascetic, and informs him of his name, because he does not presume that the ascetic knows it already.

Note that Sanskrit is a highly inflected language, which means that the words are marked for various grammatical categories. The nouns have number and case (and usually gender as well), and the verbs have person, number, tense, mood, and diathesis. The verb abhivādayē is a first-person singular ātmanēpadam causative verb in the present tense and indicative mood. Hence the verb abhivādayē already reflects the fact that the speaker (“I”) is the subject of the verb, and the pronoun aham, meaning “I,” is strictly speaking unnecessary. By contrast, in English we would have to say “I salute you,” but “you” is left out of the formula in Sanskrit, because it is presumed to be known from context.

Śāṇḍilya responds to this act of courtesy by politely telling Jīmūtavāhana not to get up (alam means “enough,” and it construes with a noun in the instrumental case, here abhyutthānēna, which means “getting up”).

The formula used by Jīmūtavāhana is very often used when a student introduces himself or herself to a teacher:

śiṣyā mālatī ‧ aham ‧ abhivādayē ‧ Student (1) I, Mālatī, salute you.
ācāryaḥ bhōḥ ‧ āyuṣmatī ‧ bhava ‧ mālatī3 ‧ Teacher Long may you live, Mālatī.
śiṣyaḥ mādhavaḥ ‧ aham ‧ abhivādayē ‧ Student (2) I, Mādhavaḥ, salute you.
ācāryaḥ bhōḥ ‧ āyuṣmān ‧ ēdhi ‧ mādhavā3 ‧ Teacher Long may you live, Mādhava.

In these examples you can see the tradition response from the teacher: he or she begins by saying bhōḥ, a “vocative particle” (used to indicate that a sentence is addressed to someone specific), and then says “may you be long-lived.” The words for “may you be” above are ēdhi and bhava, which are the second-person singular imperative (parasmaipadam) forms of the verbs as and bhū respectively, both of which mean “be” and are used somewhat interchangably. The words for “long-lived” above are āyuṣmān, which is a nominative singular masculine, and āyuṣmatī, which is a nominative singular feminine. The difference in gender is because Mālatī has introduced herself with a name in the feminine gender, and Mādhava has introduced himself with a name in the masculine gender. Finally, the teacher says the student’s name, in the vocative case, but with an additional special feature that is only ever used in this context: namely, the teacher lengthens the final vowel of the student’s name (in Sanskrit this lengthening is called plutaḥ and is marked with the numeral “3”).

Note that Sanskrit has three genders — masculine, feminine, and “neither” (traditionally called “neuter,” but in the Latin rather than English meaning of the word) — and you may choose to use any one of these genders when speaking in Sanskrit in our class. You can let me know of your preferred gender either when introducing yourself or through a private message.

See also this handout on salutations in Sanskrit.