lesson 3





  • Understand nominal forms, which consist of a stem and an ending, the latter of which expresses the grammatical categories of gender, number, and case.
  • Have a basic grasp of the process of retroflexion in internal sandhi, and in particular, know the circumstances in which a preceding sound will convert an n or an s in a declensional ending into an or an .
  • Memorize the endings, in all numbers and cases, for a-stem nouns and adjectives in the masculine and neuter genders. Use the exercises in this lesson. For our in-class activity, we’ll focus on is the last one, on short phrases.
  • You might want to get a start on understanding the usage of the seven cases, although that is not a major focus of this lesson. Instead, we’re focusing on simply memorizing and practicing the forms.



I have prepared the following video lectures for this lesson. Please watch them before coming to class.


Adhyayanavidhiḥ: Nominals; a-stems.

Semantic Roles (kārakāṇi)

Adhyayanavidhiḥ: Kārakas.

Cases (vibhaktayaḥ)

Adhyayanavidhiḥ: cases; case usage.

Retroflexion (mūrdhanyīkaraṇam)

Adhyayanavidhiḥ: Retroflexion.



An important note on Sanskrit vocabulary: Sanskrit has a lot of words. At the early stages of your study of the language, it’s much more important to learn the basic grammar than to memorize vocabulary, especially given how much vocabulary there is, and how different the vocabulary can be from genre to genre, and from text to text. The vocabulary that I give here is provided mostly so that you can complete the accompanying exercises. I’ve also tried to choose common words.

To give you one example: in English we have two words for a hereditary ruler of a sovereign territory, namely, “king” and “monarch.” In Sanskrit, we have the basic word for “king,” namely rājā, as well as a number of expansions of that word: “great king” (mahārājaḥ), “king of kings” (rājādhirājaḥ), and so on. Any word that means “protector of men” means king as well, hence nr̥paḥ, narapālaḥ, and any word that means “lord of men,” hence nr̥patiḥ, narēśaḥ, narēśvaraḥ. So too any word that means “lord of the earth” or “protector of the earth” or “supporter of the earth”: bhūpālaḥ, bhūpatiḥ, bhūbhr̥t, pr̥thvīśvaraḥ, and so on.

Hence you should familiarize yourself with the following words, but you’re generally not going to be quizzed on the meanings of particular words. (Further information about each form can be found by clicking on the word.) The buttons on the right are links to other online dictionaries. (The last one, the Vācaspatyam, is a Sanskrit–Sanskrit dictionary, and so it probably won’t be useful to you for some time!)

I have assembled all of the vocabulary for this course into an Anki Deck for your convenience. Please see the Anki website for further details.

This vocabulary list is available as a Quizlet set.

Cultural Note


The Trivarga

At some point in the history of South Asia — in the nebulous period between the composition of the Vedas (1200–800 BCE) and the beginning of what is sometimes called “classical India” (100 BCE or so) — it became common, across a range of traditions, to think of human life as organized around the pursuit of three goals: pleasure (kā́maḥ), power (árthaḥ), and duty (dhármaḥ). These three goals are often presented as “the set of three” (trivargaḥ). Later on, a fourth goal was often added, namely liberation (mōkṣaḥ), making the set of three a “set of four” (caturvargaḥ).

These goals are called “human goals” (puruṣārthaḥ), with the word arthaḥ having a broader meaning in this context (as a “goal,” literally “that which is sought”) than when it more narrowly refers to wealth and power as one of the three goals. The term puruṣārthaḥ itself probably originated in the sphere of Brahmanical ritual, where certain actions were held to be “for the sake of the ritual” (kratvarthaḥ), that is, producing no reward in themselves for the one who performs them, while others were held to be “for the sake of the person” (puruṣārthaḥ), that is, if they are performed correctly, they result in something the performer wants. In this case we see yet another use of the word arthaḥ, namely indicating the “purpose” of something.

The schema of the three goals was both descriptive and prescriptive. It was descriptive in that every human pursuit could, in principle, be categorized under one or another of the three (or four) main goals. But it was prescriptive in that the education and training of a person involved the cultivation of proper attitudes and techniques regarding each of the main goals. Hence dhármaḥ, “duty,” was considered (in some circles at least) to be a higher-ranking goal than the other two.

Each goal generated a substantial amount of theoretical reflection. Thus there are systems of knowledge (śāstram) associated with each of them. The earliest of the lot were probably the dharmaśāstras, which set out the duties and expectations of different groups of people, regarding ritual, social interactions, and household life. The arthaśāstras include the famous Arthaśāstra ascribed to Kauṭalya (3rd c. BCE, but really the text was compiled around the 3rd c. CE), which provides detailed advice for kings and their ministers. The most well-known of the kāmaśāstras is the Kāmasūtra of Vātsyāyana (also around the 3rd c. CE).

Here is a verse that Vātsyāyana quotes in his Kāmasūtra:

ēvam arthaṁ ca kāmaṁ ca dharmaṁ cōpācaran naraḥ ihāmutra ca niḥśalyam atyantaṁ sukham aśnutē

“In this way (ēvam), when a man (naraḥ) attends to (upācaran) power, pleasure, and duty (arthaṁ ca kāmaṁ ca dharmaṁ ca), he obtains (aśnutē) extreme pleasure (atyanyaṁ sukham) without any pain (niḥśalyam) both in this world and the next (iha amutra ca).”



To practice the declension of a-stem nouns and adjectives, I recommend writing out the full declension of a couple of words (see the vocabulary list below), and quizzing yourself on the forms using flashcards. I made the following sets on Quizlet:

You can always check the forms that you generate against the forms provided by the Sanskrit Heritage declension tool. This is not always completely accurate, but as long as you input the stem correctly, you’ll probably find the right answers.

1. Masculine Singular

Write the following forms of the word arthaḥ (masculine) “wealth” in either Dēvanāgarī or Roman transliteration. You can use this Google Form if you prefer.

  1. Nominative singular (prathamā ēkavacanam)
  2. Accusative singular (dvitīyā ēkavacanam)
  3. Instrumental singular (tr̥tīyā ēkavacanam)
  4. Dative singular (caturthī ēkavacanam)
  5. Ablative singular (pañcamī ēkavacanam)
  6. Genitive singular (ṣaṣṭhī ēkavacanam)
  7. Locative singular (saptamī ēkavacanam)
  8. Vocative singular (sambōdhanam ēkavacanam)
2. Masculine Dual

Write the following forms of the word arthaḥ (masculine) “wealth” in either Dēvanāgarī or Roman transliteration. You can use this Google Form if you prefer.

  1. Nominative dual (prathamā dvivacanam)
  2. Accusative dual (dvitīyā dvivacanam)
  3. Instrumental dual (tr̥tīyā dvivacanam)
  4. Dative dual (caturthī dvivacanam)
  5. Ablative dual (pañcamī dvivacanam)
  6. Genitive dual (ṣaṣṭhī dvivacanam)
  7. Locative dual (saptamī dvivacanam)
  8. Vocative dual (sambōdhanam dvivacanam)
3. Masculine Plural

Write the following forms of the word arthaḥ (masculine) “wealth” in either Dēvanāgarī or Roman transliteration. You can use this Google Form if you prefer.

  1. Nominative plural (prathamā bahuvacanam)
  2. Accusative plural (dvitīyā bahuvacanam)
  3. Instrumental plural (tr̥tīyā bahuvacanam)
  4. Dative plural (caturthī bahuvacanam)
  5. Ablative plural (pañcamī bahuvacanam)
  6. Genitive plural (ṣaṣṭhī bahuvacanam)
  7. Locative plural (saptamī bahuvacanam)
  8. Vocative plural (sambōdhanam bahuvacanam)
4. Neuter

Repeat the above exercises (1–3), using the neuter word ratnam “gem” instead of arthaḥ. Use this Google Form if you prefer.

5. Masculine and neuter, all cases (I)

Write the following forms of the given word (provided here in its stem form) in either Dēvanāgarī or Roman transliteration. You can use this Google Form if you prefer.

  1. śāstra- n. — accusative dual (dvitīyā dvivacanam)
  2. pāda- m. — locative dual (saptamī dvivacanam)
  3. puruṣa- m. — genitive singular (ṣaṣṭhī ēkavacanam)
  4. kāma- n. — ablative singular (pañcamī ēkavacanam)
  5. puruṣa- m. — dative singular (caturthī ēkavacanam)
  6. pāda- m. — instrumental dual (tr̥tīyā dvivacanam)
  7. mōkṣa- m. — locative singular (saptamī ēkavacanam)
  8. puruṣa- m. — accusative plural (dvitīyā bahuvacanam)
  9. kāma- m. — locative plural (saptamī bahuvacanam)
  10. pāda- m. — accusative dual (dvitīyā dvivacanam)
  11. vacana- n. — instrumental plural (tr̥tīyā bahuvacanam)
  12. pāda- m. — dative dual (caturthī dvivacanam)
  13. kāma- m. — accusative singular (dvitīyā ēkavacanam)
  14. puruṣa- m. — ablative plural (pañcamī bahukavacanam)
6. Masculine and neuter, all cases (II)

Write the following forms of the given word in either Dēvanāgarī or Roman transliteration. Pay attention to retroflexion! You can use this Google Form if you prefer.

  1. Give the instrumental singular (tr̥tīyā ēkvacanam) of the following words:
    1. artha- m.
    2. śāstra- n.
    3. kāma- m.
    4. mōkṣa- m.
  2. Give the genitive plural (ṣaṣṭhī bahuvacanam) of the following words:
    1. śāstra- n.
    2. vacana- n.
    3. puruṣa- m.
    4. kāma- m.
  3. Give the accusative plural (dvitīyā bahuvacanam) of the following words:
    1. puṣpa- n.
    2. kusuma- n.
    3. vacana- n.
    4. śāstra- n.
7. Adjectives

Use the vocabulary of this lesson, as well as the suggestions below, to write the following adjective-noun pairs in Sanskrit. You can use this Google Form if you prefer. [Although word order doesn’t matter, the Google Form will expect the adjective before the noun.]

  1. [the best (nominative)] [elephant (nominative)]
  2. [the best (nominative)] [gems (nominative)]
  3. [clear (nominative)] [water (nominative)]
  4. [clear (nominative)] [statement (nominative)]
  5. [various (nominative)] [people (nominative)]
  6. [various (nominative)] [gifts (nominative)]
  7. [charming (nominative)] [forests (nominative)]
  8. [charming (nominative)] [flowers (nominative)]

Repeat this exercise, but decline the adjectives and nouns in the instrumental case. (You can practice with all of the cases.)

8. Short phrases

Use the vocabulary of this lesson, as well as the suggestions below, to write the following short phrases in Sanskrit. Suggestions for case usages are given.

  1. [the best (nominative)] [of the elephants (genitive)]
  2. [the best (nominative)] [among the elephants (locative)]
  3. [the elephant (accusative)] [in the forest (locative)]
  4. [in the charming forest (locative)] [of the king (genitive)]
  5. [from the students (ablative)] [of the teacher (genitive)]
  6. [through the statements (instrumental)] [of the sacred texts (genitive)]
  7. [for the flowers (dative)] [of the forest (genitive)]
  8. [because of the dharma (ablative)] [of kings (genitive)]
  9. [in the house (locative)] [of the (two) students (genitive)]
  10. [out of desire (ablative)] [for gems (genitive)]
  11. [through people’s [genitive] various desires (instrumental)]
  12. [at the foot (locative)] [of the charming tree (genitive)]
  13. [with a gift (instrumental)] [to the people (dative)]
  14. [the sound (nominative)] [of water (genitive)] [in the forest (locative)]
  15. [among the sounds (locative)] [of the trees (genitive)] [of the forest (genitive)]
  16. [various flowers (nominative)] [at the feet (locative)] [of the king (genitive)]