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Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way - Workbook 1


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"Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way - Workbook 1 (Single Letters)" is now available to order at

The main goal of the workbooks is to help beginners pick up reading and writing of the Devanagari script (for Sanskrit). It teaches the strokes to write every letter, some mantra-s, tips and tricks to understand the script.

For example, why are vowels never written out within a word?
What is so scientific about the Sanskrit language?
What is so divine about the Sanskrit language?

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Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way - Workbook 1

  1. 1. ॐLearning Sanskrit The Easy and Practical Way Workbook 1 – Simple LettersThis is a SAMPLE PDF. by Shashikant Joshi
  2. 2. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way svāgatam स्वागतम् WelcomeW elcome to a simple, intuitive and easy way to learn Sanskrit in context. In this workbook, you will learn all the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, with direction on the strokes. You will also learn some beautiful sentences, phrases, shloka-s and mantra-s along the way.Workbook 2 will cover conjugates, ligatures and complex constructs. Workbook 3 will cover sandhi& samāsa – the two powerful pillars of Sanskrit language, which form new words by changing thesounds or contracting phrases.Shashikant Joshi is a Sanskrit enthusiast for over twenty-five years, and inherited love for languagesfrom his father. With Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science, he brings in logical,intuitive ways to learn the language and script. Having stayed in US for over two decades, heunderstands the difficulties a non-native speaker faces when learning a new language and a newscript.He is also author of the popular book Attitude Shift – Sanskrit Maxims for Contemporary Life andLeadership in which he explains and interprets over 130 Sanskrit maxims for modern times insimple English and interesting stories from today and past. While knowledge of Sanskrit is not atneed to benefit from the book, Sanskrit enthusiasts will find enough to keep them happy inLanguage foot-notes. He is working on his next projects including Understanding Devotion –Sanskrit prayers - shlokas, mantras, stutis, apart from subsequent workbooks in this series.Feel free to send your suggestions, feedback, questions. There are no silly questions, only sillyanswers :)Facebook page: online: (Click on Books link)© 2012 Shashikant JoshiEmail: Shashi@PracticalSanskrit.comOriginal content, style and presentation. No part of this workbook may be reproduced in any form.Please support Sanskrit efforts by purchasing only an original copy from 2012, First Edition. Learning Sanskrit - Workbook 1 Price: US$ Page 2 by Shashikant Joshi
  3. 3. Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way Workbook 1 ॐ ववघ्नेश्वराय नमः om vighnéshvarāya namaḥ Salutations to the Lord of Obstacles (Gaṇésha); may he make all efforts Shashikant Joshi Page 3
  4. 4. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way Let us begin with a salutation to Sarasvatī, the divinity of learning, - observation, memory, intelligence and speech! Without whom, the world will be dumb and insane, unable to communicate. सरस्ववत नमस्तुभ्यं वरदे कामरूविवि । sarasvati namas_tubhyam varadé kāma-rūpiṇi O Sarasvatī salutation to you O Boon-Giver O Wish-Fulfiller ववद्यारम्भं कररष्यावम वसविभभवतु मे सदा ॥ vidyā_rambham kariṣhyāmi siddhir_bhavatu mé sadā start of studies I will do success may be mine alwaysस र स्व वत न म स्तु भ्यं व र दे का म रू वि विsa ra sva ti na ma stu bhyam va ra dé kā ma rū pi ṇiवव द्या र म्भं क रर ष्या वम वस वि भभ व तु मे स दाvi dyā ra mbham ka ri ṣhyā mi si ddhi rbha va tu mé sa dā O Sarasvatī, salutations for you. O Giver of boons, O Beautiful (or O Giver of form to desires), I am going to start studies, let success be mine always.Why is the Divinity of learning called the giver of form to desire? Isn’t it money that makes yourdreams come true? If you think carefully, it is ultimately the knowledge that makes things happen.We had enough resources on the earth even 500 years back, but we could only go to the moon whenwe could develop the knowledge and technology for it. First knowledge; then resources!Kāmarūpiṇī also means one with beautiful (desirable) form, and as one of the three forms of Devī,Sarasvatī is very beautiful. Kāmarūpiṇī also means One who takes [various] forms as per [her] Page 4 by Shashikant Joshi
  5. 5. Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way Workbook 1L etters in Sanskrit do not have special names, like ay, bee, see, dee; they are said with a short vowel ‘–uh’. For example, k is not kay but like k-uh, j is not jay, but j-uh. a is pronounced as the short vowel ‘cut’, and not long as in ‘father’. For the long vowel aa, the letter ā is used.You do not have to make extra effort to say the pure consonant without the ‘a’ vowel like astaccato, like some non-native instructors make you do! Just say the consonant with the shortvowel ‘a’ easily, comfortably.QUICK TIP: In IAST Roman characters, all long vowels have a horizontal bar on top of them;otherwise, they are short vowels.Let us look at the sounds, letters in the first shloka that we just read.Base consonants in the above shloka with short a (as in but, cut) vowel are as follows:Déva-nāgarī Roman As in Notes sa sum, sirस ra rub, runर va / wa wonder, worth labial (round lips) not fricative (not like vase)व ta pasta Soft t as in French or Italianत na nut, numberन ma mug, mudम bha rub-head, abhor say them together and fastभ ya yesय da thus, thisद ka cutक pa punि ṇa band The sound of n in bank, bunch, band and nut areि all different, even when speaking English! ṣha should See full table later on.षWhen doing the writing exercise on the following pages, do as much as you can do, happily andwithout any pressure. Remember, if you enjoy it, you will remember it and absorb it more. But,having fun should not mean not paying full attention!Let us practice writing the letters for above sounds. Do not worry if you do not remember them all.The individual strokes are shown slightly separated for clarity, but you should write them Shashikant Joshi Page 5
  6. 6. Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way Workbook 1 भ य द क ि ि ष bha ya (yes) da (this) ka (key) pa (pun) ṇa (hunt) ṣha (should) भ य द क ि ि ष भ य द क ि ि ष भ य द क ि ि ष भ य द क ि ि ष भ य द क ि ि ष भ य द क ि ि ष I will do it, yes I will!by Shashikant Joshi Page 7
  7. 7. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical WayLet us see two famous yet very simple sentences from the Holy Upaniṣhad-s. अवतवि देवो भव atithi devo (dévaḥ) bhava Guest [is] divine you be [of such thinking] अ वत वि दे वो भ व a ti thi dé vo bha vatithi is a calendar date, but not exactly midnight to midnight.a-tithi is one who comes without prior appointment, without a ‘date’ so to speak.Someone who comes without prior intimation, you do not know them and still you treat them as ifthey are divine. Treating your family, friends, boss, employees etc. is mere selfishness, notgreatness. The greatness lies in treating even strangers with utmost respect. Of course, you have to bepractical and safe, but you get the idea. The great 16th-century poet-philosopher, Rāma-devoteeTulasī-dāsa says – “Rush to meet everyone, you never know in what form you may find the Divine!” तत्त्वमवस = तत् त्वम् अवस tat tvam asi That you areNotice that it does not say ‘He or She you are’. Because at the root of all the formful images ofdivine forms is the un-manifest divine, the energy, Life Force if you will, from which all springs forth.Hinduism recognizes this unifying concept yet allows many formful gods. Just like Life has so manyforms. Ignorant people have labeled it as polytheism. त त् त्वम् अ वस ta t tvam a siWhen denoting a half consonant, one way is to put a diagonal stroke under it. This is especially true if itis the last consonant of the word or sentence. If you were to break the word down to each letter as in Englishit would be: त् अ त् त् व् अ म् अ स् इ t a t t v a m a s iWhen within a word, there are other ways to denote a half consonant. Most common is to remove thevertical line if there is no stroke after the line. There is also a way to combine them, if anythingfollows the letter. This is called ligature or saṃyukta-akṣhara = joined-letter and will be covered inlater workbooks. The above sentence would actually be written as one word – तत्त्वमवस – but itis a complete grammatical sentence with subject, verb and object – and a grand idea – Youare That! Page 8 by Shashikant Joshi
  8. 8. Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way Workbook 1Now let us look at the entire alphabet. Go slowly, but fearlessly. It is not all that difficult. Most of thesounds are already in English. We will learn how to write later on.संस्कृ त = saṃskṛita = The name of the language. (Literally, perfected, refined, well-done)देव-नागरी = déva-nāgarī = Name of the script for Sanskrit. (Literally, of the urban and divine)अक्षर = akṣhara = basic sound and its letter (Literally, that which does not break any further).विभ = varṇa = various sounds, letters includes complex conjugates as well (Literally, quality, color)विभ-माला = varṇa-mālā = alphabet. (Literally, varṇa-garland, garland of letters)स्वर = svara = vowel (Literally, by itself, independent)व्यञ्जन = vyañjana = consonant (Literally, various, variety) SIMPLE VOWELSSanskrit IAST Examplesअ/ Ô a alone, another, but, up, cupआ / Ôa ā ask, part, fatherइ i India inkई ī eel, east, feedउ u putऊ ū boonऋ ṛi / ṛu (ṛ) 1 It is a vowel sound, close to ‘r’ sound (ṛi + a = ra)Í ṝī / ṝū (ṝ) 1 Very rarely used.Î lṛi / lṛu (lṛ) 1 jewelry. (lṛi + a = la). Very rarely used. COMPOUND VOWELSए / Ae e/é ate, baseऐ / AE ai eye, aisleओ o old, soleऔ au august, bawl, drawlअं aṃ saṃskṛitaअः aḥ huhby Shashikant Joshi Page 9
  9. 9. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way व्यञ्जन (vyañjana) consonant (1) ka-varga (Group of ka) or kaṇṭha (guttaral)क ka king, bookख kha mikhail, book-house (say it fast and together)ग ga girl, dogघ gha aghast , dog-house (say it fast and together)ङ ṅa sing, bank, bang, sang (2) cha-varga (Group of cha) or tālavya (palatal)च cha (ca) 1 churn, bunchछ chha (cha) 1 bunch-hop (say it fast and together)ज ja jump, jungleझ/å jha page-her (say it fast and together)ञ ña bunch, lunge (3) ṭa-varga (Group of ṭa) or mūrdhanya (cerebral)ट ṭa tub, but, bootठ ṭha boot-houseड ḍa dust, goodढ ḍha good-houseि / äa ṇa fund, hunt (4) ta-varga (Group of ta) or danta (dental)त ta like soft french t, pastaि tha thermos, thank, throughद da the, this, thereध dha with his (say it together and fast)न na number, Page 10 by Shashikant Joshi
  10. 10. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way NotesT here are two types of transliteration schemes. Transliteration means just changing the script, but not the sound. The first one is IAST developed by early Indologists in 1894, which has special marks on the normal Roman letters, e.g. ā, ī, ṇ, ḥ. These characters do not show up onmodern smart phones or on old computers and are not easy to type for everyone. Around 1994,with the spread of computers, some of the earliest online discussion on Sanskrit started and a needwas quickly felt for using the existing letters on a normal keyboard. The new method was calledITRANS for Indic TRANSliteration (http:// IAST is stillpreferred for printing.1. IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration) is used for writing or typing with special fonts with accents and is seen in printed books. The standard IAST roman transliteration uses śa, ṣa, ṛ, ca, cha for श, ष, ऋ, च, छ respectively. This has caused considerable confusion. The s with accent is available in special fonts only. When people see śrī they write it as sri and then pronounce it as sri (स्री) instead of shrī (श्री). There is no need to drop the h after the śh and ṣh sounds. It is used for all the aspirants like kh, gh, jh etc. So dropping the h after śh and ṣh merely causes confusion and does not save anything. In case of च, in English never does a c make the church sound. ch is used for the church sound, whereas c is used for s or k (as in circus) sound. Hence it is better to write them as sh/śh, ṣh, ṛi (or ṛu), ch, chh respectively to clearly indicate the presence of sh sound, ṛ being a vowel and the sound of ch instead of k.2. In Sanskrit, words combine to make new ones. Sounds undergo changes according to linguistic rules. This can result in huge words that become difficult to pronounce, especially in roman scripts. For example: yā vīṇāvaradaṇḍamaṇḍitakarā yā shvétapadmāsanā | (yā vīṇā-vara-daṇḍa-maṇḍita-karā yā shvéta-padmāsanā) yā brahmāchyutashaṅkaraprabhṛitibhirdévaiḥsadāvanditā | (yā brahmāchyuta-shaṅkara-prabhṛiti_bhir_dévaiḥ-sadā-vanditā ) Only to help pronunciation, such words are broken by a hyphen ‘-’ or an underscore ‘_’ in roman transliteration (sometimes but rarely in Déva-nāgarī). A dash is used when the compound word can be broken into original words, e.g. rāma-bhakta (means devotee of rāma) where the compounding was done by removing the ‘of’, and the original words are indeed rāma + bhakta. On the other hand in the word himā_laya (the Himalaya mountains), the _ is used to aid in pronunciation but the original words are not himā and laya, but rather hima + ālaya and the sandhi (grammar/linguistic rules) caused the adjoining vowels to change.3. Sound variations - Every sound has exactly one letter for it, and every letter has exactly one sound. Hence, Sanskrit alphabet needs no key to pronunciation for those who can read its script. A key to sounds is needed only for those who cannot read Déva-nāgarī. However, there is distinct variation among people in India for two sounds. jña (ज्ञ) pronounced approximately as gya or jña. ṛ (ऋ) is pronounced approximately as ri or ru. This is a result of natural variations in languages over time and not a shortcoming of Page 12 by Shashikant Joshi
  11. 11. Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way Workbook 1 Writing practice In the following pages, you will practice writing all the base letters. When writing, remember -  Write the date in the first cell of each column, when you start practicing. This way you will keep track of your progress.  Try to finish one column in one sitting, without break.  Do as much as you can happily and with full focus. Dhyāna (meditation) is not about closed eyes, but about focused mind.  Quality over quantity, more haste less speed! Your competition is only you, none else.  Follow the strokes in sequence and direction.  When there is a thick blob in the printed letter, it is usually made into a circle, as in na and ma. The thick stylus of yonder years used to make the ‘blobs’.  The strokes are shown separated for clarity only, when writing they must touch each other as in the printed letter.  The basic idea is that in a stroke you mostly move the pen from top to bottom or left to right.  Keep the proportion of each parts of a letter correct, so they look beautiful.  After finishing each page, you can have a cookie, but just one :) At the end, there is a bonus as well. Three letters, a, jha, ṇa are shown in their old style, which is still seen in older books printed even a few decades Shashikant Joshi Page 15
  12. 12. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way SIMPLE VOWELS अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ऋ alone āsk ink ī (eel) u (put) ū (boon) ṛi अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ऋ अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ऋ अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ऋ I can do it, yes I can! Page 16 by Shashikant Joshi
  13. 13. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way (1) ka-varga (Group of ka) or kaṇṭha (guttaral) क ख ग घ ङ ka (king) kha ga (girl) gha ṅa (sing) क ख ग घ ङ क ख ग घ ङ क ख ग घ ङ I can do it, yes I can! Page 18 by Shashikant Joshi
  14. 14. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way Vowel signs (mātrā) on a consonant. क् क का द्दक की कु कू k ka kā ki kī ku kū क् क का द्दक की कु कू क् क का द्दक की कु कू क् क का द्दक की कु कू I can do it, yes I can! Page 28 by Shashikant Joshi
  15. 15. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way shānti-pāṭha / शावन्त-िाठ / Peace Invocation सवे भवन्तु सुवखनः सवे सन्तु वनरामयाः । सवे भद्रावि िश्यन्तु मा कविददुःखभाग्भवेत् ॥ sarvé bhavantu sukhinaḥ, sarvé santu nirāmayāḥ | sarvé bhadrāṇi pashyantu, mā kaṣhchid_duḥkha-bhāg_bhavét || All are hereby ordered to - be happy, be healthy and be positive. May no one have sorrow in his or her share [of fate].The mantra, or shloka has 4 parts or phrases. The first three have the same format – “All a-must-verb an-adjective.”Notice the bhavantu, santu, pashyantu? They are all imperative, ordering you to do the verb.‘sarvé’ means all. So this is about all. bhavantu sukhinaḥ means all must be happy. sukhin meanscomfortable, without sorrow, happy. And bhavantu means ‘they must be [happy]’. Similarly forsantu (must be) and pashyantu (must see).But the last one ‘bhavet’ is a wish – ‘May you.’ Why so? Read on.Be Happy.Y ou choose to be happy. It is a reaction to a situation, but you can make it a state of mind as well. You can be sad, depressed, angry, jealous or just be yourself - happy. The basic states of the divine and all of us are – ‘sat-chit-ānanda’, that is, to be, to be aware and to be blissful.That is our normal state. Children are usually happy, sometimes even for no reason. All they need isfood and sleep and they are happy. Unless, they meet a grumpy grown up! If you are not happy now,just remember your childhood. Most of us have happy memories of our childhood.No one else can make you happy. Even when bad events happen, it is our attachment, our ignoranceof the big play of Time, that we choose not to be happy. Do not say “So and so made me unhappy, orangry.” Say, “I chose to be unhappy or angry in reaction to this or that situation.” If you watch thenature documentaries about the animal kingdom, you find that the same basic tragedies happen tothe animals as to us. We have compounded them by adding abstract pains and worries as well.Birth, death, meeting and separating keeps happening. That is what Kṛiṣhṇa (कृ ष्ि) says in the HolyGītā (गीता) – “Ups and downs come and go, bear them O Arjuna.” Page 30 by Shashikant Joshi
  16. 16. Workbook 1 Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical WayThe shāntiḥ, shāntiḥ, shāntiḥ (शावन्तः शावन्तः शावन्तः) at the end of a shāntiḥ pāṭha is not ‘three is acharm’ but for these three types of sorrows to be calmed.Since there is the other factor here, this is the blessing/good wish, that “let no one have a share insorrow”. duḥkha-bhāg is one who has a share in sorrow, who gets the short end of the stick. So theblessing/wish goes – “May no one be a one-who-gets-a-share-in-sorrow.”Unlike popularly understood or explained, it is not ‘May you be happy, healthy...’. Rather, ‘You arehereby ordered to be happy, healthy...’.You have no choice now!You have been tagged! You are it - the happy, healthy, positive person! Happiness, health and attitude are in our own hands. Get up and be. C ongratulation! For completing Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way - Workbook 1. You have come a long way in reading and writing a new script, for a language that is over 7,000 years old, yes 7,000 years old. You are now part of a wisdom tradition.When you are ready for another doze of reading and writing, more mātrā-s, newer conjugates andligatures, more shloka-s, get Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way - Workbook 2 andstart another journey down what might be humanity’s history lanes.Learning Sanskrit: The Easy and Practical Way - Workbook 3 will cover sandhi (change of twosounds when spoken in flow) and samāsa (contraction of phrases to make single word) withexamples from shloka-s and Page 32 by Shashikant Joshi
  17. 17. Simple, intuitive, practical way to reading and writing Sanskrit Workbook 1 – Simple Letters Workbook 2 – Conjugate Letters Workbook 3 – Sandhi and Samāsa http://PracticalSanskrit.com Price: $9.95