Sanskrit (संस्कृता वाक् , for short संस्कृतम् ) is a historical Indo-Aryan language, a liturgical language of Hinduism and other Indian religions, and one of the 22 official languages of India.
Classical Sanskrit is the standard register as laid out in the grammar of , around the 4th century BCE. Its position in the cultures of South and Southeast Asia is akin to that of Latin and Greek in Europe and it has significantly influenced most modern languages of India.
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, qualifying Rigvedic Sanskrit as the oldest attestation of any Indo-Iranian language, and one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family.
The corpus of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and Hindu religious texts. Today, 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 some attempts at revival.
The Sanskrit verbal adjective saṃskṛta-
may be translated as "put together, well or completely formed, refined, highly elaborated". It is derived from the root "to put together, compose, arrange, prepare", where "together" (as English same
) and "do, make".
The language referred to as "the cultured language" has by definition always been a "sacred" and "sophisticated" language, used for religious and learned discourse and contrasted with the languages spoken by the people, "natural, artless, normal, ordinary". It is also called meaning the "divine language" or the "language of devas or demigods".
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. Among the evidence in favor of such a theory is the close relationship of the Indo-Iranian tongues with the Baltic and Slavic languages, vocabulary exchange with the non-Indo-European Finno-Ugric languages, and the nature of the attested Indo-European words for flora and fauna. Some scholars remain attached to the so-called "Out of India theory", which maintains that the Indo-Aryans were indigenous to India.
The earliest attested Sanskrit texts are certain books of the Rigveda, which may be located in the Punjab region and dated 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 (fl. 4th century BCE) the development of the Sanskrit language may be observed in 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.
The oldest surviving Sanskrit grammar is 's ("Eight-Chapter Grammar"). It is essentially a prescriptive grammar, i.e., an authority that defines (rather than describes) correct Sanskrit, although it contains descriptive parts, mostly to account for some Vedic forms that had already passed out of use 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), which evolved into the Middle Indic dialects, and eventually into the contemporary modern Indo-Aryan languages.
Sanskrit, as defined by , had evolved out of the earlier "Vedic" form. Beginning of Vedic Sanskrit can be traced as early as around 1500 BC (accepted date of Rig-Veda). Scholars often distinguish Vedic Sanskrit
and Classical or "Paninian" Sanskrit as separate 'dialects'. Though they are quite similar, they differ in a number of essential points of phonology
, and grammar
. Vedic Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas
, a large collection of hymns, incantations (Samhitas
), theological discussions, and religio-philosophical discussions (Brahmanas
, Upanishads) which are the earliest religious texts of the Hindu
religion. Modern linguists consider the metrical hymns of the Rigveda
Samhita to be the earliest, composed by many authors over 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 compilations. The current hypothesis holds that the Vedic form of Sanskrit survived until the middle of the first millennium BC. It is around this time that Sanskrit began the transition from a first language to a second language of religion and learning, marking the beginning of the Classical period.
For nearly two thousand 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 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. 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. Finally, there is also a language called "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit
" by scholars, which starts out from Buddhist prakrit
texts and gradually evolved to various forms of Sanskrit, some more prakritized than the others, According to , there were four principal dialects of classical Sanskrit, viz., (Northwestern, also called Northern or Western), (lit., middle country), (Eastern) and (Southern, arose in the Classical period). The predecessors of the first three are even attested in Vedic , of which the first one was regarded as the purest ('').
Exactly how and when Sanskrit became a "dead" language
isn't clearly understood, but the process was similar to that of Latin
, as describes it:
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 the result of a weakening of the political institutions that supported it as well as by 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 subcontinent. For example, Kashmiri
replaced Sanskrit as the language of literature after the thirteenth century and Sanskrit works from the Vijayanagara Empire
failed to circulate outside of their place and time of composition while works in Telugu
This "death" of Sanskrit did not mean it fell out of use in literary cultures of India and, despite literary use of vernacular languages, those who could read in vernacular languages could do the same in Sanskrit. What it did mean, though, was 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.
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
, and played an important role in the development of Western 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.
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):
An alternate traditional ordering is that of the Shiva Sutra
The vowels of Classical Sanskrit with their word-initial Devanagari
mark with the consonant
प् (/p/), pronunciation (of the vowel alone and of /p/+vowel) in IPA
, equivalent in IAST
and ITRANS and (approximate) equivalents in English are listed below:
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 /e/ and /o/ continue as allophonic variants of Proto-Indo-Iranian /ai/, /au/ and are categorized as diphthongs by Sanskrit grammarians even though they are realized phonetically as simple long vowels. (See above).
- There are some additional signs traditionally listed in tables of the Devanagari script:
- The diacritic ं called anusvāra, (IAST: ṃ). It is used both to indicate the nasalization of the vowel in the syllable ([◌̃] and to represent the sound of a syllabic /n/ or /m/; e.g. पं /pəŋ/.
- The diacritic ः called visarga, represents /əh/ (IAST: ḥ); e.g. पः /pəh/.
- The diacritic ँ called chandrabindu, not traditionally included in Devanagari charts for Sanskrit, is used interchangeably with the anusvāra to indicate nasalization of the vowel, primarily in Vedic notation; e.g. पँ /pə̃/.
- If a lone consonant needs to be written without any following vowel, it is given a halanta/virāma diacritic below (प्).
- The vowel /aː/ in Sanskrit is realized as being more central and less back than the closest English approximation, which is /ɑː/. But the grammarians have classified it as a back vowel..
- The ancient Sanskrit grammarians classified the vowel system as velars, retroflexes, palatals and plosives rather than as back, central and front vowels. Hence ए and ओ 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 mātrās. 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 /eː/ and /oː/ 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.
notations are given, with approximate IPA
values in square brackets.
| p प [p]
|| b ब [b]
|| t त [t̪]
|| d द [d̪]
|| ṭ ट [ʈ]
|| ḍ ड [ɖ]
|| c च [c͡ç]
|| j ज [ɟ͡ʝ]
|| k क [k]
|| g ग [g]
| ph फ [pʰ]
|| bh भ [bʱ]
|| th थ [t̪ʰ]
|| dh ध [d̪ʱ]
|| ṭh ठ [ʈʰ]
|| ḍh ढ [ɖʱ]
|| ch छ [c͡çʰ]
|| jh झ [ɟ͡ʝʱ]
|| kh ख [kʰ]
|| gh घ [gʱ]
| m म [m]
|| n न [n̪]
|| ṇ ण [ɳ]
|| ñ ञ [ɲ]
|| ṅ ङ [ŋ]
|| v व [ʋ]
|| y य [j]
|| l ल [l]
|| r र [r]
|| s स [s̪]
|| ṣ ष [ʂ]
|| ś श [ɕ]
|| ḥ ः [h]
|| h ह [ɦ]
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 (/ə/), and is named in the table as such.
Plosives – Sprshta
/kə/; English: skip
/kʰə/; English: cat
/gə/; English: game
/gʱə/; somewhat similar to English: doghouse
/ŋə/; English: ring
/cə/; English: exchange
/cʰə/; English: church
/ɟə/; ≈English: jam
/ɟʱə/; somewhat similar to English: hedgehog
/ɲə/; English: bench
/ʈə/; No English equivalent
/ʈʰə/; No English equivalent
/ɖə/; No English equivalent
/ɖʱə/; No English equivalent
/ɳə/; No English equivalent
/t̪ə/; Spanish: tomate
/t̪ʰə/; Aspirated /t̪/
/d̪ə/; Spanish: donde
/d̪ʱə/; Aspirated /d̪/
/n̪ə/; English: name
/pə/; English: spin
/pʰə/; English: pit
/bə/; English: bone
/bʱə/; somewhat similar to English: clubhouse
/mə/; English: mine
Phonology and Sandhi
The Sanskrit vowels are as discussed in the section above. The long syllabic l (ḹ) is not attested, and is only discussed by grammarians for systematic reasons. Its short counterpart ḷ occurs in a single root only, kḷp "to order, array". Long syllabic r (ṝ) is also quite marginal, occurring in the genitive plural of r-stems (e.g. mātṛ
"mother" and pitṛ
"father" have gen.pl. mātṝṇām
). i, u, ṛ, ḷ are vocalic allophones of consonantal y, v, r, l. There are thus only 5 invariably vocalic phonemes
- a, ā, ī, ū, ṝ.
Visarga ḥ ः is an allophone of r and s, and anusvara ṃ, Devanagari ं of any nasal, both in pausa (ie, the nasalized vowel). The exact pronunciation of the three sibilants may vary, but they are distinct phonemes. An aspirated voiced sibilant /zʱ/ 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 or other substrate languages. The nasal [ɲ] is a conditioned allophone of /n/ (/n/ and /ɳ/ are distinct phonemes—aṇu 'minute', 'atomic' [nom. sg. neutr. of an adjective] is distinctive from anu 'after', 'along'; phonologically independent /ŋ/ occurs only marginally, e.g. in prāṅ '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:
- k, kh, g, gh; c, ch, j, jh; ṭ, ṭh, ḍ, ḍh; t, th, d, dh; p, ph, b, bh; m, n, ṇ; y, r, l, v; ś, ṣ, s, h
or a total of 36 unique Sanskrit phonemes altogether.
The phonological rules to be 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 padapāṭha).
Sanskrit is famous for certain specialities, one of them being the Palindrome
As early as the 14th Century, the scholar Dyvagyna Surya Pandita wrote "Ramakrishna Viloma Kavyam," a set of poems that when read forward relate to Rama and the Ramayana, and when read in reverse relate to Krishna and the Mahabharata.
Sanskrit was spoken in an oral society, and the oral tradition was maintained through the development of early classical Sanskrit literature. 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. 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, Devanagari has been considered as the de facto writing system for Sanskrit, quite possibly because of the European practice of printing Sanskrit texts in this script.
The earliest known inscriptions in Sanskrit date to the first century BC. They are in the Brahmi script, which was originally used for Prakrit, not Sanskrit. 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. 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.
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.
Sanskrit in modern Indian scripts. May Śiva 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
, 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's 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.
Sanskrit grammatical tradition (vyākaraṇa, one of the six Vedanga disciplines) began in late Vedic India and culminated in the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini, which consists of 3990 sutras (ca. 5th century BC). After a century Pāṇini (around 400 BC) Kātyāyana composed Vārtikas on Pāninian sũtras. Patañjali, who lived three centuries after Pānini, wrote the Mahābhāṣya, the "Great Commentary" on the Aṣṭādhyāyī and Vārtikas. Because of these three ancient Sanskrit grammarians this grammar is called Trimuni Vyākarana. To understand the meaning of sutras Jayaditya and Vāmana wrote the commentary named Kāsikā 600 CE. Paninian grammar is based on 14 Shiva sutras (aphorisms). Here whole Mātrika (alphabet) is abbreviated. This abbreviation is called Pratyāhara.
Sanskrit has ten classes of verbs
divided into in two broad groups: athematic
. 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
, and reduplication
. Every root has (not necessarily all distinct) zero, guṇa
, and vṛddhi
grades. If V is the vowel of the zero grade, the guṇa-grade vowel is traditionally thought of as a + V, and the vṛddhi-grade vowel as ā + 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
, and locative
The number of actual declensions is debatable. Panini identifies six karakas corresponding to the nominative, accusative, dative, instrumental, locative, and ablative cases Panini defines them as follows (Ashtadhyayi, I.4.24-54):
- 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.
- 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.
- Karana ("instrument") "that which effects most." This is equivalent to the instrumental case.
- Adhikarana ('location'): or "substratum." This is equivalent to the locative case.
- Karman ('deed'/'object'): "what the agent seeks most to attain". This is equivalent to the accusative case.
- 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
The first and second person pronouns are declined for the most part alike, having by analogy
assimilated themselves with one another.
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
. Both, along with Sanskrit, belong to the Agglutinative languages
. 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. Some examples of nominal compounds include: Dvandva
- These consist of two or more noun stems, connected in sense with 'and'. There are mainly two kinds of dvandva constructions in Sanskrit. The first is called itaretara dvandva, an enumerative compound word, the meaning of which refers to all its constituent members. The resultant compound word is in the dual or plural number and takes the gender of the final member in the compound construction. e.g. rāma-lakşmaņau – Rama and Lakshmana, or rāma-lakşmaņa-bharata-śatrughnāh – Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna. The second kind is called samāhāra dvandva, a collective compound word, the meaning of which refers to the collection of its constituent members. The resultant compound word is in the singular number and is always neuter in gender. e.g. pāņipādam – limbs, literally hands and feet, from pāņi = hand and pāda = foot. According to some grammarians, there is a third kind of dvandva, called ekaśeşa dvandva or residual compound, which takes the dual (or plural) form of only its final constituent member, e.g. pitarau for mātā + pitā, mother + father, i.e. parents. According to other grammarians, however, the ekaśeşa is not properly a compound at all. Bahuvrīhi (possessive)
- Bahuvrīhi, or "much-rice", denotes a rich person—one who has much rice. Bahuvrīhi compounds refer (by example) to a compound noun with no head a compound noun that refers to a thing which is itself not part of the compound. For example, "low-life" and "block-head" are bahuvrihi compounds, since a low-life is not a kind of life, and a block-head is not a kind of head. (And a much-rice is not a kind of rice.) Compare with more common, headed, compound nouns like "fly-ball" (a kind of ball) or "alley cat" (a kind of cat). Bahurvrīhis can often be translated by "possessing..." or "-ed"; for example, "possessing much rice", or "much riced". Tatpuruṣa (determinative)
- There are many tatpuruṣas (one for each of the nominal cases, and a few others besides); in a tatpuruṣa, the first component is in a case relationship with another. For example, a doghouse is a dative compound, a house for a dog. It would be called a "caturtitatpuruṣa" (caturti refers to the fourth case—that is, the dative). Incidentally, "tatpuruṣa" is a tatpuruṣa ("this man"—meaning someone's agent), while "caturtitatpuruṣa" is a karmadhārya, being both dative, and a tatpuruṣa. An easy way to understand it is to look at English examples of tatpuruṣas: "battlefield", where there is a genitive relationship between "field" and "battle", "a field of battle"; other examples include instrumental relationships ("thunderstruck") and locative relationships ("towndwelling"). Karmadhāraya (descriptive)
- 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. Amreḍita (iterative)
- Repetition of a word expresses repetitiveness, e. g. dive-dive 'day by day', 'daily'.Dvigu
Because of Sanskrit's complex declension system the word order
is free (with a strong tendency toward SOV
, which was the original system in place in Vedic prose).
The numbers from one to ten:
The numbers one through four are declined. Éka is declined like a pronominal adjective, though the dual form does not occur. Dvá appears only in the dual. Trí and catúr are declined irregularly:
|| Feminine |
|| cátasras |
|| cátasras |
|| catasṛ́bhis |
|| catasṛ́bhyas |
|| catasṛ́bhyas |
|| catasṛṇā́m |
|| catasṛ́ṣu |
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
, which 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). Words originating in Sanskrit are estimated to constitute roughly fifty percent of the vocabulary of modern Indo-Aryan languages, and the literary forms of (Dravidian) Telugu
Especially among élite circles in India, Sanskrit is prized as a storehouse of scripture and 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, while Hindi and Urdu tend to be more heavily weighted with Arabic and Persian influence, Nepali, Bengali, Assamese, Konkani and Marathi still retain a largely Sanskrit and Prakrit vocabulary base. The Indian national anthem, Jana Gana Mana, is written in a literary form of Bengali (known as sadhu bhasha), Sanskritized so as to be recognizable, but still archaic to the modern ear. The national song of India Vande Mataram 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 剎那 chànà (Skt. क्षन 'instantaneous period of time') were borrowed from Sanskrit.
The 1991 Indian census
reported 49,736 fluent speakers of Sanskrit, mostly among the Hindu priestly castes. 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 CBSE
(Central Board of Secondary Education) in 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, including but not limited to Christian missionary schools, affiliated to the ICSE
board too, especially in those states where the official language is Hindi
, the only daily newspaper in Sanskrit has been published out of Mysore
since the year 1970. Since 1974, there has been a short daily news broadcast on All India Radio.
Sanskrit is reported to be spoken natively by the population in Mattur village in central Karnataka. Allegedly, Inhabitants of all castes learn Sanskrit starting in childhood and converse in the language.
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" Nepal
: Janani Janmabhūmisca Svargādapi garīyasi
"Mother and motherland are greater than heaven" Goa
: Sarve Bhadrāni Paśyantu Mā Kaścid Duhkhabhāg bhavet
"May all perceive good, may not anyone attain unhappiness" Life Insurance Corporation of India
: Yogakshemam Vahāmyaham
"I shall take care of welfare" (taken from the Bhagavad Gita
) Indian Navy
: Shanno Varuna
"May Varuna be peaceful to us" Indian Air Force
: Nābha Sparsham Dīptam
"Touch the Sky with Glory" Mumbai Police
: sadrakshanaaya cahlaaha nighranayah
"For protection of the good and control of the wicked" Indian Coast Guard
: Vayam Rakshāmaha
"We protect" All India Radio
: Bahujana-hitāya bahujana-sukhāya
"For the benefit of all, for the comfort of all" Indonesian Navy
: Jalesveva Jayamahe
"On the Sea We Are Glorious" 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.
Interactions with Eastern and Southeastern Asiatic languages
Sanskrit and related languages have also influenced their Sino-Tibetan-speaking neighbors to the north through the spread of Buddhist
texts in translation. Buddhism was spread to China
missionaries 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 vocabulary is substantially the same, both because of genetic relationship, and because of conscious imitation 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
The Thai language contains many loan words from Sanskrit. For example, in Thai, the Rāvana – 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 traditional Malay, Modern Indonesian, and numerous Philippine languages, Old Javanese language (nearly half) and to a lesser extent, Vietnamese, through Sinified hybrid Sanskrit.
Sanskrit's 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
. 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.
Recently, Sanskrit also made a brief 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 single "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 also featured a choir singing in Sanskrit for 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.
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. 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 Panini, when the language had fallen out of popular use.
- Cameron, Bruce Sanskrit Pronunciation.
- Coulson, M. Teach Yourself Sanskrit.
- Goldman, Robert P. Devavāṇīpraveśikā: An Introduction to the Sanskrit Language.
- Kale, M. R. A Higher Sanskrit Grammar.
- Macdonell, Arthur Anthony A Sanskrit Grammar for Students.
- Maurer, Walter Harding The Sanskrit Language: An Introductory Grammar and Reader.
- Shastri, Vagish Conversational Sanskrit.
- Monier-Williams, Monier (1846). A Practical Grammar Of The Sanskrit Language Arranged With Reference To The Classical Languages Of Europe For The Use Of English Students. W. H. Allen & co.. Grammars
- Whitney, William Dwight The Roots, Verb-Forms and Primary Derivatives of the Sanskrit Language: (A Supplement to His Sanskrit Grammar)
- Wackernagel, Debrunner, Altindische Grammatik, Göttingen.
- vol. I. phonology Jacob Wackernagel (1896)
- vol. II.1. introduction to morphology, nominal composition, Wackernagel (1905)
- vol. II.2. nominal suffixes, J. Wackernagel and Albert Debrunner (1954)
- vol. III. nominal inflection, numerals, pronouns, Wackernagel and Debrunner (1930)
- Delbrück, B. Altindische Tempuslehre (1876) Dictionaries
- Otto Böhtlingk, Rudolph Roth, Petersburger Wörterbuch, 7 vols., 1855-75
- Otto Böhtlingk, Sanskrit Wörterbuch in kürzerer Fassung 1883–86 (1998 reprint, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi)
- Manfred Mayrhofer, Kurzgefasstes etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindischen, 1956-76
- Manfred Mayrhofer, Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen, 3 vols., 2742 pages, 2001, ISBN 3-8253-1477-4
- Samskrita Bharati
- Transliterator from romanized to Unicode Sanskrit
- Sanskrit Voice: Learn, read and promote Sanskrit
- Sanskrit transliterator with font conversion to Latin and other Indian Languages
- Sanskrit Alphabet in Devanagari, Gujarati, Bengali, and Thai scripts with an extensive list of Devanagari, Gujarati, and Bengali conjuncts
- Academic Courses on Sanskrit Around The WorldSanskrit Documents
- Sanskrit Documents: Documents in ITX format of Upanishads, Stotras etc. and a metasite with links to translations, dictionaries, tutorials, tools and other Sanskrit resources.
- Read online Sanskrit text (PDF) of Mahabharata, Upanishada, Bhagavad-Gita, Yoga-Sutra etc. as well as Sanskrit-English spiritual Dictionary
- Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon
- GRETIL: Göttingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages, a cumulative register of the numerous download sites for electronic texts in Indian languages.
- Gaudiya Grantha Mandira - A Sanskrit Text Repository. This site also provides encoding converter.
- Sanskrit texts at Sacred Text Archive
- Clay Sanskrit Library publishes Sanskrit literature with facing-page text and translation.
- for texts and word-to-word translations
- for ageold publications
- for similar old publicationsPrimers
- Sanskrit Self Study by Chitrapur Math
- Discover Sanskrit A concise study of the Sanskrit language
- A Practical Sanskrit Introductory by Charles Wikner
- A Sanskrit Tutor
- Ancient Sanskrit Online from the University of Texas at AustinGrammars
- An Analytical Cross Referenced Sanskrit Grammar By Lennart Warnemyr.