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Sanskrit ( , originally , "refined speech"), is a historical Indo-Aryan language, the primary liturgical language of Hinduism and a literary and scholarly language in Jainism and Buddhism.[1] Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India[2] and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand.[3] Sanskrit holds a prominent position in Indo-European studies.

Classical Sanskrit is the standard register as laid out in the grammar of , 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, Sri Lanka and Nepal.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

The corpus of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and dharma texts. Sanskrit continues to be widely used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious rituals and Buddhist practice 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 may be translated as "put together, constructed, well or completely formed; refined, adorned, highly elaborated". It is derived from the root "to put together, compose, arrange, prepare",[7] where "together" (as English same) and "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 , 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 "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, "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.

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.[8] 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.[9]

The earliest attested Sanskrit texts are Brahmanical 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.[10]

From the Rigveda until the time of (fl. 4th century BCE) the development of the early Vedic 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.[11] 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).[12]

The oldest surviving Sanskrit grammar is 's ("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 '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 . 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.

Vedic Sanskrit

padapatha]]) manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century Sanskrit, as defined by , had evolved out of the earlier "Vedic" form. The beginning of Vedic Sanskrit can be traced as early as 1500 1200 BCE (for Rg-vedic and Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni). Scholars often distinguish Vedic Sanskrit and Classical or "P inian" 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.[12] Around the mid-1st millennium BCE, Vedic Sanskrit began the transition from a first language to a second language of religion and learning.

Classical Sanskrit

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.[13] A significant form of post-Vedic Sanskrit is found in the Sanskrit of the Hindu Epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The deviations from in the epics are generally considered to be on account of interference from Prakrits, or "innovations" and not because they are pre-Paninean.[14] Traditional Sanskrit scholars call such deviations r a ( ), meaning 'of the is', 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.[15]

According to , there were four principal dialects of classical Sanskrit: (Northwestern, also called Northern or Western), (lit., middle country), (Eastern) and (Southern, arose in the Classical period). The predecessors of the first three dialects are even attested in Vedic , of which the first one was regarded as the purest ().


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.[16] Accordingly, says , "most observers would agree that, in some crucial way, Sanskrit is dead".[13] He describes it in comparison with the "dead" language of Latin:[17]

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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[18] It did mean that Sanskrit was not used to express changing forms of subjectivity and sociality embodied and conceptualized in the modern age.[18] Instead, it was reduced to "reinscription and restatements" of ideas already explored, and any creativity in Sanskrit was restricted to religious hymns and verses.[20][21] When the British imposed a Western-style education system in India in the nineteenth century, knowledge of Sanskrit and ancient literature continued to flourish as the study of Sanskrit changed from a more traditional style into a form of analytical and comparative scholarship mirroring that of Europe.[22]

and contest Pollock's characterization, pointing out that modern works continue to be produced in Sanskrit: 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.[23]

European scholarship

European scholarship in Sanskrit, begun by Heinrich Roth (1620 1668) and Johann Ernst Hanxleden (1681 1731), [24] 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.

British hostility to Sanskrit

Traufmann considers that British hostility to Sanskrit was based on British Indophobia, which he calls a developmentalist, progressivist, liberal, and non-racial-essentialist critique of Hindu civilization and race science. The later was a theorisation of the English "common-sense view" that Indian's were "separate, inferior and unimprovable race", this was manifest by a neglect of Sanskrit in British academia.[25]


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 (Spar a) 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):


An alternate traditional ordering is that of the Shiva Sutra of .


The vowels of Classical Sanskrit written in Devanagari, as a syllable-initial letter and as a diacritic mark on the consonant (), pronunciation transcribed in IPA, IAST, and approximate equivalent in English:

Letter IPA IAST English equivalent (GA unless stated otherwise)
or a short near-open central vowel or schwa: u in bunny
long open back unrounded vowel: a in father (RP)
i short close front unrounded vowel: e in england
long close front unrounded vowel: ee in feet
u short close back rounded vowel: oo in foot
long close back rounded vowel: oo in cool
syllabic alveolar trill: closest to er in butter in rhotic accents
syllabic alveolar trill: closest to ir in bird in rhotic accents
syllabic dental lateral approximant: le in turtle
syllabic dental lateral approximant: longer le
e long close-mid front unrounded vowel: a in bane (some speakers)
ai a long diphthong: i in ice, i in kite (US, Canadian, and Scottish English)
o long close-mid back rounded vowel: o in bone (Scottish English)
au a long diphthong: ou in house (Canadian English)

The long vowels are pronounced twice as long as their short counterparts. Also, there exists a third, extra-long length for most vowels, called pluti, which is used in various cases, but particularly in the vocative. The pluti is not accepted by all grammarians.

The vowels and continue as allophonic variants of Proto-Indo-Iranian , and are categorized as diphthongs by Sanskrit grammarians even though they are realized phonetically as simple long vowels. (See above).

Additional points:

  • There are some additional signs traditionally listed in tables of the Devanagari script:
    • The diacritic called anusv ra, (IAST: ). It is used both to indicate the nasalization of the vowel in the syllable ( and to represent the sound of a syllabic or ; e.g. .
    • The diacritic called visarga, represents (IAST: ); e.g. .
    • The diacritic called chandrabindu, not traditionally included in Devanagari charts for Sanskrit, is used interchangeably with the anusv ra to indicate nasalization of the vowel, primarily in Vedic notation; e.g. .
  • If a lone consonant needs to be written without any following vowel, it is given a halanta/vir ma diacritic below ().
  • The vowel in Sanskrit is realized as being more central and less back than the closest English approximation, which is . But the grammarians have classified it as a back vowel.[26]
  • The ancient Sanskrit grammarians classified the vowel system as velars, retroflexes, palatals and plosives rather than as back, central and front vowels. Hence and are classified respectively as palato-velar (a+i) and labio-velar (a+u) vowels respectively. But the grammarians have classified them as diphthongs and in prosody, each is given two m tr s. This does not necessarily mean that they are proper diphthongs, but neither excludes the possibility that they could have been proper diphthongs at a very ancient stage (see above). These vowels are pronounced as long and respectively by learned Sanskrit Brahmans and priests of today. Other than the "four" diphthongs, Sanskrit usually disallows any other diphthong vowels in succession, where they occur, are converted to semivowels according to sandhi rules.


IAST and Devanagari notations are given, with approximate IPA values in square brackets.


o hya

dantyo hya


m rdhanya

t lavya

ka hya

spar a

alpapr a

mah pr a

anun sika
m ( )

v y

l r


The table below shows the traditional listing of the Sanskrit consonants with the (nearest) equivalents in English (as pronounced in General American and Received Pronunciation) and Spanish. Each consonant shown below is deemed to be followed by the neutral vowel schwa (), and is named in the table as such.

Stops spar a
alpapr a v sa
mah pr na v sa
alpapr a n da
mah pr na n da
anun sika n da
ka hya

; English: skip

; English: cat

; English: game

; similar to English: doghouse

; English: ring
t lavya

; English: exchange

; English: church

; English: jam

; similar to English: hedgehog

; English: bench
m rdhanya

; English: stop

; English: top

; English: door

; similar to English: adhere

; English: name

; Spanish: tomate

; Aspirated

; Spanish: donde

; Aspirated

; Spanish: nombre
o hya

; English: spin

; English: pit

; English: bone

; similar to English: clubhouse

; English: mine
t lavya
m rdhanya
o hya

; English: you

; American English: butter

; Spanish: la
; English: vase

; English: ship

; Retroflex form of

; English: same
; English ahead


Vedic Sanskrit had pitch accent: Some syllables had a high tone, and the following syllable a falling tone, though through ellipsis a falling tone may occur elsewhere.

Classical Sanskrit ...

Phonology and sandhi

The Sanskrit vowels are as discussed in the section above. The long syllabic l () is not attested, and is only discussed by grammarians for systematic reasons. Its short counterpart occurs in a single root only, "to order, array". Long syllabic r () is also quite marginal, occurring in the genitive plural of r-stems (e.g. "mother" and "father" have and ). are vocalic allophones of consonantal . There are thus only 5 invariably vocalic phonemes,


Visarga is an allophone of and , and anusvara , Devanagari of any nasal, both in pausa (i.e., the nasalized vowel). The exact pronunciation of the three sibilants may vary, but they are distinct phonemes. An aspirated voiced sibilant was inherited by Indo-Aryan from Proto-Indo-Iranian but lost shortly before the time of the Rigveda (aspirated fricatives are exceedingly rare in any language). The retroflex consonants are somewhat marginal phonemes, often being conditioned by their phonetic environment; they do not continue a PIE series and are often ascribed by some linguists to the substratal influence of Dravidian[27] or other substrate languages. The nasal is a conditioned allophone of ( and are distinct phonemes 'minute', 'atomic' [nom. sg. neutr. of an adjective] is distinctive from 'after', 'along'; phonologically independent occurs only marginally, e.g. in 'directed forwards/towards' [nom. sg. masc. of an adjective]). There are thus 31 consonantal or semi-vocalic phonemes, consisting of four/five kinds of stops realized both with or without aspiration and both voiced and voiceless, three nasals, four semi-vowels or liquids, and four fricatives, written in IAST transliteration as follows:

or a total of 36 unique Sanskrit phonemes altogether.

The phonological rules which are applied when combining morphemes to a word, and when combining words to a sentence, are collectively called sandhi "composition". Texts are written phonetically, with sandhi applied (except for the so-called ).

Writing system

Kashmiri Shaivaite manuscript in the Sharada script (c. 17th century) Sanskrit was spoken in an oral society, and the oral tradition was maintained through the development of early classical Sanskrit literature.[28] Writing was not introduced to India until after Sanskrit had evolved into the Prakrits; when it was written, the choice of writing system was influenced by the regional scripts of the scribes. Therefore, Sanskrit has no native script of its own.[29] As such, virtually all of the major writing systems of South Asia have been used for the production of Sanskrit manuscripts. Since the late 19th century, devan gari has become the de facto standard writing system for Sanskrit publication,[30] quite possibly because of the European practice of printing Sanskritic texts in this script. Devan gari is written from left to right, lacks distinct letter cases, and is recognizable by a distinctive horizontal line running along the tops of the letters that links them together.

My name is 'incomplete third word is the name' (written) in Sanskrit
My name is 'incomplete third word is the name' (written) in Sanskrit

The earliest known inscriptions in Sanskrit date to the 1st century BCE.[31] They are in the Brahmi script, which was originally used for Prakrit, not Sanskrit.[32] It has been described as a "paradox" that the first evidence of written Sanskrit occurs centuries later than that of the Prakrit languages which are its linguistic descendants.[31][33] When Sanskrit was written down, it was first used for texts of an administrative, literary or scientific nature. The sacred texts were preserved orally, and were set down in writing, "reluctantly" (according to one commentator), and at a comparatively late date.[32]

Brahmi evolved into a multiplicity of scripts of the Brahmic family, many of which were used to write Sanskrit. Roughly contemporary with the Brahmi, the Kharosthi script was used in the northwest of the subcontinent. Later (around the 4th to 8th centuries CE) the Gupta script, derived from Brahmi, became prevalent. From ca. the 8th century, the Sharada script evolved out of the Gupta script. The latter was displaced in its turn by Devanagari from ca. the 11/12th century, with intermediary stages such as the Siddham script. In Eastern India, the Bengali script and, later, the Oriya script, were used. In the south where Dravidian languages predominate, scripts used for Sanskrit include Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Grantha.

iva]] bless those who take delight in the language of the gods. (Kalidasa)


Since the late 18th century, Sanskrit has been transliterated using the Latin alphabet. The system most commonly used today is the IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration), which has been the academic standard since 1888/1912. ASCII-based transliteration schemes have evolved due to difficulties representing Sanskrit characters in computer systems. These include Harvard-Kyoto and ITRANS, a transliteration scheme that is used widely on the Internet, especially in Usenet and in email, for considerations of speed of entry as well as rendering issues. With the wide availability of Unicode aware web browsers, IAST has become common online.

It is also possible to type using an alphanumeric keyboard and transliterate to devanagari using software like Mac OS X's international support.

European scholars in the 19th century generally preferred Devanagari for the transcription and reproduction of whole texts and lengthy excerpts. However, references to individual words and names in texts composed in European languages were usually represented with Roman transliteration. From the 20th century onwards, due to production costs, textual editions edited by Western scholars have mostly been in Romanized transliteration.


Grammatical tradition

Sanskrit grammatical tradition (, one of the six Vedanga disciplines) began in late Vedic India and culminated in the of , which consists of 3990 sutras (ca. 5th century BCE). About a century after (around 400 BCE) K ty yana composed V rtikas on P inian s tras. Pata jali, who lived three centuries after P ini, wrote the , the "Great Commentary" on the and V rtikas. Because of these three ancient Sanskrit grammarians this grammar is called Trimuni Vy karana. To understand the meaning of sutras Jayaditya and V mana wrote the commentary named K sik 600 CE. P inian grammar is based on 14 Shiva sutras (aphorisms). Here whole M trika (alphabet) is abbreviated. This abbreviation is called Praty hara.[34]


Sanskrit has ten classes of verbs divided into in two broad groups: athematic and thematic. The thematic verbs are so called because an a, called the theme vowel, is inserted between the stem and the ending. This serves to make the thematic verbs generally more regular. Exponents used in verb conjugation include prefixes, suffixes, infixes, and reduplication. Every root has (not necessarily all distinct) zero, , and grades. If V is the vowel of the zero grade, the -grade vowel is traditionally thought of as a + V, and the -grade vowel as + V.

The verb tenses (a very inexact application of the word, since more distinctions than simply tense are expressed) are organized into four 'systems' (as well as gerunds and infinitives, and such creatures as intensives/frequentatives, desideratives, causatives, and benedictives derived from more basic forms) based on the different stem forms (derived from verbal roots) used in conjugation. There are four tense systems:


Sanskrit is a highly inflected language with three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) and three numbers (singular, plural, dual). It has eight cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, instrumental, dative, ablative, genitive, and locative.

The number of actual declensions is debatable. P ini identifies six karakas corresponding to the nominative, accusative, dative, instrumental, locative, and ablative cases.[35] P ini defines them as follows (Ashtadhyayi, I.4.24 54):

  1. Apadana (lit. 'take off'): "(that which is) firm when departure (takes place)." This is the equivalent of the ablative case, which signifies a stationary object from which movement proceeds.
  2. Sampradana ('bestowal'): "he whom one aims at with the object". This is equivalent to the dative case, which signifies a recipient in an act of giving or similar acts.
  3. Karana ("instrument") "that which effects most." This is equivalent to the instrumental case.
  4. Adhikarana ('location'): or "substratum." This is equivalent to the locative case.
  5. Karman ('deed'/'object'): "what the agent seeks most to attain". This is equivalent to the accusative case.
  6. Karta ('agent'): "he/that which is independent in action". This is equivalent to the nominative case. (On the basis of Scharfe, 1977: 94)

Personal pronouns and determiners

Sanskrit pronouns are declined for case, number, and gender. The pronominal declension applies to a few adjectives as well. Many pronouns have alternative enclitic forms.

The first and second person pronouns are declined for the most part alike, having by analogy assimilated themselves with one another. Where two forms are given, the second is enclitic and an alternative form. Ablatives in singular and plural may be extended by the syllable -tas; thus mat or mattas, asmat or asmattas. Sanskrit does not have true third person pronouns, but its demonstratives fulfill this function instead by standing independently without a modified substantive.

There are four different demonstratives in Sanskrit: tat, etat, idam, and adas. etat indicates greater proximity than tat. While idam is similar to etat, adas refers to objects that are more remote than tat. eta, is declined almost identically to ta. Its paradigm is obtained by prefixing e- to all the forms of ta. As a result of sandhi, the masculine and feminine singular forms transform into and .

The enclitic pronoun ena is found only in a few oblique cases and numbers. Interrogative pronouns all begin with k-, and decline just as tat does, with the initial t- being replaced by k-. The only exception to this are the singular neuter nominative and accusative forms, which are both kim and not the expected *kat. For example, the singular feminine genitive interrogative pronoun, "of whom?", is . Indefinite pronouns are formed by adding the participles api, cid, or cana after the appropriate interrogative pronouns. All relative pronouns begin with y-, and decline just as tat does. The correlative pronouns are identical to the tat series.

In addition to the pronouns described above, some adjectives follow the pronominal declension. Unless otherwise noted, their declension is identical to tat.

  • eka: "one", "a certain". (singular neuter nominative and accusative forms are both ekam)
  • anya: "another".
  • sarva: "all", "every". (singular neuter nominative and accusative forms are both sarvam)
  • para: "the other". (singular neuter nominative and accusative forms are both param)
  • sva: "self" (a reflexive adjective). (singular neuter nominative and accusative forms are both svam)


One other notable feature of the nominal system is the very common use of nominal compounds, which may be huge (10+ words) as in some modern languages such as German and Finnish. Nominal compounds occur with various structures, however morphologically speaking they are essentially the same. Each noun (or adjective) is in its (weak) stem form, with only the final element receiving case inflection. The four principle categories of nominal compounds are:[36]

These consist of two or more noun stems, connected in sense with 'and'. Examples are r ma-lak ma au Rama and Lakshmana, r ma-lak ma a-bharata- atrughn h Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna, and p ip dam limbs, literally hands and feet, from p i = hand and p da = foot.
There are many ; in a the first component is in a case relationship with another. For example, a doghouse is a dative compound, a house for a dog; other examples include instrumental relationships ("thunderstruck") and locative relationships ("towndwelling").
A compound where the relation of the first member to the last is appositional, attributive or adverbial; e.g., uluka-yatu (owl+demon) is a demon in the shape of an owl. are considered by some to be .[36]
Bahuvr hi compounds refer to a compound noun that refers to a thing which is itself not part of the compound. For example the word bahuvr hi itself, from bahu = much and vr hi = rice, denotes a rich person one who has much rice.


Because of Sanskrit's complex declension system the word order is free.[37] In usage, there is a strong tendency toward subject object verb (SOV), which was the original system in place in Vedic prose. However, there are exceptions when word pairs cannot be transposed.[38]


The numbers from one to ten:

The numbers one through four are declined. ka is declined like a pronominal adjective, though the dual form does not occur. Dv appears only in the dual. Tr and cat r are declined irregularly:

Three Four
Masculine Neuter Feminine Masculine Neuter Feminine
Nominative tr yas tisr s catv ras catv ri c tasras
Accusative tr n tisr s cat ras catv ri c tasras
Instrumental tribh s cat rbhis
Dative tribhy s cat rbhyas
Ablative tribhy s cat rbhyas


Modern-day India

Influence on vernaculars

Sanskrit's greatest influence, presumably, is that which it exerted on languages of India that grew from its vocabulary and grammatical base; for instance, Hindi is a "Sanskritized register" of the Khariboli dialect. However, all modern Indo-Aryan languages, as well as Munda and Dravidian languages, have borrowed many words either directly from Sanskrit (tatsama words), or indirectly via middle Indo-Aryan languages (tadbhava words).[4] Words originating in Sanskrit are estimated to constitute roughly fifty percent of the vocabulary of modern Indo-Aryan languages,[39] and the literary forms of (Dravidian) Malayalam and Kannada.[4] Literary texts in Telugu are lexically Sanskrit or Sanskritized to an enormous extent, perhaps seventy percent or more.[40]

Sanskrit is prized as a storehouse of scripture and as the language of prayers in Hinduism. Like Latin's influence on European languages and Classical Chinese's influence on East Asian languages, Sanskrit has influenced most Indian languages. While vernacular prayer is common, Sanskrit mantras are recited by millions of Hindus, and most temple functions are conducted entirely in Sanskrit, often Vedic in form. Of modern day Indian languages, Nepali, Bengali, Assamese, Konkani and Marathi still retain a largely Sanskrit and Prakrit vocabulary base, while Hindi and Urdu tend to be more heavily weighted with Arabic and Persian influence. The Indian national anthem, Jana Gana Mana, is written in a literary form of Bengali (known as sadhu bhasha); it is Sanskritized to be recognizable but is still archaic to the modern ear. The national song of India, Vande Mataram, which was originally a poem composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and taken from his book called 'Anandamath', is in a similarly highly Sanskritized Bengali. Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada also combine a great deal of Sanskrit vocabulary. Sanskrit also has influence on Chinese through Buddhist Sutras. Chinese words like ch n (Devan gar : 'instantaneous period of time') were borrowed from Sanskrit.

Revival attempts

The 1991 and 2001, census of India recorded 49,736 and 14,135 persons, respectively, with Sanskrit as their native language.[41] Since the 1990s, efforts to revive spoken Sanskrit have been increasing. Many organizations like the Samskrta Bharati are conducting Speak Sanskrit workshops to popularize the language. The state of Uttarakhand in India has ruled Sanskrit as its second official language. The CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) of India has made Sanskrit a third language (though it is an option for the school to adopt it or not, the other choice being the state's own official language) in the schools it governs. In such schools, learning Sanskrit is an option for grades 5 to 8 (Classes V to VIII). This is true of most schools affiliated to the ICSE board too, especially in those states where the official language is Hindi. Sudharma, the only daily newspaper in Sanskrit has been published out of Mysore in India since the year 1970. Since 1974, there has been a short daily news broadcast on state-run All India Radio.

In these Indian villages, inhabitants of all castes speak Sanskrit natively since childhood:

  1. Mattur in Karnataka[42]
  2. Mohad, District: Narasinhpur, Madhya Pradesh
  3. Jhiri, District: Rajgadh, Madhya Pradesh[43]
  4. Kaperan, District: Bundi, Rajasthan
  5. Khada, District: Banswada, Rajasthan
  6. Ganoda, District: Banswada, Rajasthan[44]
  7. Bawali, District: Bagapat, Uttar Pradesh
  8. Shyamsundarpur, District: Kendujhar, Orissa[45]

Symbolic usage

In the Republic of India, in Nepal and Indonesia, Sanskrit phrases are widely used as mottoes for various educational and social organizations (much as Latin is used by some institutions in the West). The motto of the Republic is also in Sanskrit.

Republic of India
'' Satyameva Jayate "Truth alone triumphs"
'' Janani Janmabh misca Svarg dapi gar yasi "Mother and motherland are greater than heaven"
'' Sarve Bhadr ni Pa yantu M Ka cid Duhkhabh g bhavet "May all perceive good, may not anyone attain unhappiness"[46]
Life Insurance Corporation of India
'', Yogakshemam Vah myaham "I shall take care of welfare" (taken from the Bhagavad Gita)[47]
Indian Navy
'' Shanno Varuna "May Varuna be peaceful to us"
Indian Air Force
'' "Touching the Sky with Glory" (from Bhagavad Gita: XI, Verse 24)[48]
Mumbai Police
'' Sadrakshanaaya Khalanigrahanaaya "For protection of the good and control of the wicked"
Indian Coast Guard
'' Vayam Raksh maha "We protect"[49]
All India Radio
'' Bahujana-hit ya bahujana-sukh ya "For the benefit of all, for the comfort of all"
Indonesian Navy
'' Jalesveva Jayamahe "On the Sea We Are Glorious"
Rajputana Rifles
'' Veerabhogya Vasundhara "The earth is fit to be ruled by the brave"
Aceh Province
'' Pancacita "Five Goals"

Many of the post Independence educational institutions of national importance in India and Sri Lanka have Sanskrit mottoes. For a fuller list of such educational institutions, see List of educational institutions which have Sanskrit phrases as their mottoes.

Interaction with other languages

Sanskrit and related languages have also influenced their Sino-Tibetan-speaking neighbors to the north through the spread of Buddhist texts in translation.[50] Buddhism was spread to China by Mahayanist missionaries sent by Emperor Ashoka mostly through translations of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit texts, and many terms were transliterated directly and added to the Chinese vocabulary. (Although Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is not Sanskrit, properly speaking, its grammar and vocabulary are substantially the same, both because of genetic relationship, and because of conscious implementation of P inian standardizations on the part of composers. Buddhist texts composed in Sanskrit proper were primarily found in philosophical schools like the Madhyamaka.) The situation in Tibet is similar; many Sanskrit texts survive only in Tibetan translation (in the Tanjur).

In Southeast Asia, languages such as Thai and Lao contain many loan words from Sanskrit, as do Khmer, Vietnamese to a lesser extent, through Sinified hybrid Sanskrit. For example, in Thai, the R vana the emperor of Sri Lanka is called 'Thosakanth' which is a derivation of his Sanskrit name 'Dashakanth' ("of ten necks").

Many Sanskrit loanwords are also found in Austronesian languages, such as Javanese particularly the old form from which nearly half the vocabulary is derived from the language.[51] [52] Other Austronesian languages, such as traditional Malay, modern Indonesian, also derive much of their vocabulary from Sanskrit, albeit to a lesser extent, with a large proportion of words being derived from Arabic. Similarly, Philippine languages such as Tagalog have many Sanskrit loanwords, although more are derived from Spanish.

A Sanskrit loanword encountered in many Southeast Asian languages is the word bh , or spoken language, which is used to mean language in general, for example bahasa in Malay, Indonesian and Tausug, basa in Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese, phasa in Thai and Lao, bhasa in Burmese, and 'phiesa in Khmer.

Usage in modern times

Many of India's and Nepal's scientific and administrative terms are named in Sanskrit, as a counterpart of the western practice of naming scientific developments in Latin or Greek. The Indian guided missile program that was commenced in 1983 by DRDO has named the five missiles (ballistic and others) that it has developed as Prithvi, Agni, Akash, Nag and Trishul. India's first modern fighter aircraft is named HAL Tejas.

Recital of Sanskrit shlokas as background chorus in films, television advertisements and as slogans for corporate organizations has become a trend. The opera Satyagraha by Philip Glass uses texts from the Bhagavad Gita, sung in the original Sanskrit.

Recently, Sanskrit also made an appearance in Western pop music in two recordings by Madonna. One, "Shanti/Ashtangi", from the 1998 album Ray of Light, is the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga chant referenced above set to music. The second, "Cyber-raga", released in 2000 as a B-side to Madonna's album Music, is a Sanskrit-language ode of devotion to a higher power and a wish for peace on earth. The climactic battle theme of The Matrix Revolutions features a choir singing a Sanskrit prayer from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in the closing titles of the movie. Composer John Williams featured choirs singing in Sanskrit for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom[53] and in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The Sky1 version of the title sequence in season one of Battlestar Galactica 2004 features the Gayatri Mantra, taken from the Rig Veda (3.62.10). The composition was written by miniseries composer Richard Gibbs.

Sanskrit has also seen a significant revival in China. Musicians such as Sa Dingding have written pop songs in Sanskrit.[54]

Computational linguistics

There have been suggestions to use Sanskrit as a metalanguage for knowledge representation in e.g. machine translation, and other areas of natural language processing because of its relatively high regular structure.[55] This is due to Classical Sanskrit being a regularized, prescriptivist form abstracted from the much more complex and richer Vedic Sanskrit. This leveling of the grammar of Classical Sanskrit began during the Brahmana phase, and had not yet completed by the time of P ini, when the language had fallen out of popular use.

See also



  1. Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit
  2. a b c
  3. Masica, pp. 36 37
  4. Masica, p. 38
  5. a b M. Witzel, Inside the Texts-Beyond the Texts, Harvard, 1997.
  6. a b
  7. Hock, H. "Language death phenomena in Sanskrit: Grammatical evidence for attrition in contemporary spoken Sanskrit" in Studies in the Linguistic Sciences v.13 no.2 1983 Dept. of Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Dept. of Linguistics
  8. a b c
  9. A notable exception are the military references of N laka ha Caturdhara's 17th-century commentary on the Mah bh rata, according to .
  10. T. K. John, "Research and Studies by Western Missionaries and Scholars in Sanskrit Language and Literature," in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. III, Ollur[Trichur] 2010 Ed. George Menachery, pp.79 - 83
  11. Salomon (1998), p. 7
  12. a b Salomon (1998), p. 86
  13. a b
  14. In northern India, there are Brahmi inscriptions dating from the 3rd century BCE onwards, the oldest appearing on the famous Prakrit pillar inscriptions of king Ashoka. The earliest South Indian inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi, written in early Tamil, belong to the same period.
  15. a b Lennart Warnemyr. Compounds
  16. , cited in
  18. See the seal of the Government of Goa
  19. See e.g. File:LIC Logo.svg
  20. The IAF Motto, Official website
  21. See banner on Indian Coast Guard website
  22. See this page from the Indonesian Wikipedia for a list
  23. ''BBC - Awards for World Music 2008 - Asia/Pacific'', broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four television.
  24. First suggested by



Further reading




  • Otto B htlingk, Rudolph Roth, Petersburger W rterbuch, 7 vols., 1855 75
  • Otto B htlingk, Sanskrit W rterbuch in k rzerer Fassung 1883 86 (1998 reprint, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi)
  • Manfred Mayrhofer, Kurzgefasstes etymologisches W rterbuch des Altindischen, 1956 76
  • Manfred Mayrhofer, Etymologisches W rterbuch des Altindoarischen, 3 vols., 2742 pages, 2001, ISBN 3-8253-1477-4

External links


Sanskrit documents


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