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 Learning Sanskrit - Transliterating (1) (English)

Learning the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration


 Introduction

You learnt in the sections First Steps and Writing many important things about Sanskrit. And now you will learn a little International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST). Throughout this document we will analyze the IAST scheme. Since IAST is utilized very often, not only on this website obviously, it is very important for you to learn how to read and write in this alphabet. Have at hand the Sanskrit Alphabet.

Let us get down to work!

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 Guidelines

In this simple table you will be able to understand how IAST works to create special additional characters.

Transliteration Chart
International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST)
Ā ā
Ī ī
Ū ū
"a", "i" and "u" with a hyphen above are protracted doubly
Ṛ ṛ "r" with a dot below (vowel)
Ṝ ṝ "r" with a dot below and a hyphen above (vowel)
Ḷ ḷ "l" with a dot below (vowel)
Ḹ ḹ "l" with a dot below and a hyphen above (vowel)
--rarely used, hence I generally do not include it in the Sanskrit alphabet--
Ṁ ṁ
Ṅ ṅ
The dot above a letter indicates nasalization ("m" and "n" with a dot above them)
Ḥ ḥ "h" with a dot below indicates the vowel named Visarga
Ṭ ṭ Ṭh ṭh
Ḍ ḍ Ḍh ḍh
Ṇ ṇ Ṣ ṣ
Consonants pronounced by slightly rolling the tongue back are written with a dot below them ("t", "th", "d", "dh", "n" and "s", all of them with a dot below)
Ś ś "s" with a written accent above is just like English "sh"

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 Analyzing vowels

After the Guidelines, we are going to study deeply the subject. You will be able to see the original characters in Devanāgarī, then in IAST. Vowels come first:

Devanāgarī IAST
A a
Ā ā
I i
Ī ī
U u
Ū ū
Ṛ ṛ
Ṝ ṝ
Ḷ ḷ
Ḹ ḹ
E e
Ai ai
O o
Au au
Anusvāra
(Anusvāra)
Ṁ ṁ
:
(Visarga)
Ḥ ḥ

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 Analyzing consonants: Part 1

And now, let us glance at the consonants. Let us start with the first 25 (Gutturals, Palatals, Cerebrals, Dentals and Labials):

Devanāgarī IAST
Ka ka
Kha kha
Ga ga
Gha gha
Ṅa ṅa
Ca ca
Cha cha
Ja ja
Jha jha
Ña ña
Ṭa ṭa
Ṭha ṭha
Ḍa ḍa
Ḍha ḍha
Ṇa ṇa
Ta ta
Tha tha
Da da
Dha dha
Na na
Pa pa
Pha pha
Ba ba
Bha bha
Ma ma

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 Analyzing consonants: Part 2

And the Semivowels undergo no changes. Look:

Devanāgarī IAST
Ya ya
Ra ra
La la
Va va

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 Analyzing consonants: Part 3

And two Sibilants undergo some change. Look:

Devanāgarī IAST
Śa śa
Ṣa ṣa
Sa sa
Ha ha

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 Concluding remarks

It has been a real effort to publish this document. I hope my effort helps you to understand the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST). The ideal situation would be that people knew Sanskrit characters and read everything as it is originally written, but this is generally not possible. For those people that cannot read original Sanskrit yet, IAST is very useful. Best wishes to you and keep studying Sanskrit.

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 Further Information

Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

For further information about Sanskrit, Yoga and Indian Philosophy; or if you simply want to comment, ask a question or correct a mistake, feel free to contact us: This is our e-mail address.