Sandhi Rules     

 

In this article, some basic sandhi-rules concerning ‘’ and ‘’ are given.

 

Simple answers to simple questions

Question 1: The prayer gaṇapati prārthanā begins with ‘gaṇānā tvā’. Why should we chant it gaṇānān tvā?

Answer 1: ‘’ is basically a nasal sound. When ‘gaṇānāṁ’ and ‘tvā’ are chanted in the same breath, as tvābegins with the dental ‘t’, ‘is changed inton’, the nasal sound of the dental series [t, th, d, dh, n].
(Please refer to the section Sounds > Main Sounds from the menu ‘Learning Method’).

So, to sum up:     gaṇānāṁ tvā    is chanted   gaṇānān tvā

[ In this article, it will be written:    gaṇānāṁ tvā    gaṇānān tvā ]

 

Question 2: In the 8th anuvāka of Namakam, we find the famous mantra to Lord Ṡhiva. During the chanting of Sri Rudram, how should it be uttered?

Answer 2: In the usual IAST transliteration (International Alphabet for Sanskrit Transliteration), this mantra is written ‘namaḥ śivāya’. The words are ‘namaḥ’ and ‘śivāya’. According to the RCCS transliteration (Roman Coloured Coding Script) used in the learning documents of this website, the words considered separately are written ‘namaḥa’ and ‘śhivāya’. When these two words are uttered in the same breath, the ‘ḥa’ becomes ‘śh’ due to the following ‘śh’ of ‘śhivāya’. Hence, the ‘śh’ is doubled and the mantra must be uttered as ‘namaśh śhivāya’.

So, to sum up:    namaḥa śhivāya    namaśh śhivāya

The foregoing suggests that, as far as ‘’ and ‘’ are concerned, words may undergo some modifications (form, pronunciation) when they are associated with other words and uttered in the same breath. The involved rules are called sandhi-rules (sandhi is a Sanskrit word which refers to a point of junction). In a sandhi, when two sounds join together, the latter sound retains its character (in majority of cases), while the preceding sound adopts the characteristic of the succeeding sound.

 

Question 3: What are the most important sandhi-rules that we should know to chant the Vēdas properly?

Answer 3:     In the usual IAST transliteration, some basic sandhi-rules are not written. Hence, the chanter has to know and apply them during his/her chanting. However, these rules are very simple and are presented in the next two paragraphs: Basic Rules about ‘’ & Basic Rules about ‘’.
                      The transliteration RCCS used in the materials of this website implements all the sandhi-rules. Hence, the chanter does not need to know them: he/she has only to know how to utter each letter.

 

e.g.:

IAST
(characters only)

gaṇānā tvā gaṇapatigm havāmahe kavi kavīnām

RCCS
(characters only)

gaṇānān tvā gaṇapatigm havāmahē kavi kavīnām

 

 

IAST
(intonations)

ga̱ṇānā̎ṁ tvā ga̱ṇapa̍tigm havāmahe ka̱viṁ ka̍vī̱nām

RCCS
(intonations)

gaṇānāān tvā gaṇapatigm havāmahē kaviṅ kanām

 

IAST
(characters only)

nama pāgmsavyāya ca rajasyāya ca nama śuṣkyāya ca…

RCCS
(characters only)

nama[fp] pāgmsavyāya cha rajasyāya cha namaśh śhuṣhkyāya cha…

 

 

IAST
(intonations)

nama̍ḥ pāgmsa̱vyā̍ya ca raja̱syā̍ya ca̱ nama̱ḥ śuṣkyā̍ya ca…

RCCS
(intonations)

nama[fp] pāgmsavya cha rajasya cha namaśh śhuṣhkyāya cha

 

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Basic Rules about ‘ṁ’

  Rule M1:   When ‘’ is followed by a consonant (except the sibilant consonants ‘śh’, ‘ṣh’, ‘s’ and the aspirated consonant ‘h’) or by ‘y’, it is uttered as the nasal sound which belongs to the series of the following consonant.

Here is the recap chart concerning the consonants, with the palatal semi-consonant ‘y’ in addition:

 

guttural series

palatal series

cerebral series

dental series

labial series

 

k

ch

t

p

 

kh

chh

ṭh

th

ph

 

g

j

d

b

 

gh

jh

ḍh

dh

bh

nasal

ñ

n

m

 

 

y

 

 

 

 

Hence, we have the following examples:

      k and ‘g’ belong to the guttural series, so:

         tāṁ kuru    tāṅ kuru    ;    śhivāṁ giritra    śhivāṅ giritra

      ch, ‘j’ and ‘y’ belong to the palatal series, so:   

         diśhāṁ cha    diśhāñ cha    ;    puruṣhaṁ jagat    puruṣhañ jagat

         śhaṁ yōḥo    śhañ yōḥo

      ṭh and ‘’ belong to the cerebral series, so:

         kaṁ ṭha    kaṇṭha    ;    paṁ ḍita    paṇḍita

      t and ‘dh’ belong to the dental series, so:

         bahubhyāṁ tava    bahubhyān tava    ;    vijyaṁ dhanuḥu    vijyan dhanuḥu

      p and ‘m’ belong to the labial series, so:   

         paśhūnāṁ patayē    paśhūnām patayē    ;    śhalyānāṁ mukhā    śhalyānām mukhā

 

  Rule M2:   In Ṛgvēda, when ‘’ is followed by a vowel, a sibilant consonant ‘śh’, ‘ṣh’, ‘s’ or a ‘h’, it is uttered as a pure ‘m’.

In Ṛgvēda, [10.60.12]:  ayaṁ shivābhimarśhanaḥa    ayam shivābhimarśhanaḥa

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Basic Rules about ‘ḥ’

  Rule H1:   When ‘’ is followed by
         -  k’ or ‘kh’ (but not ‘kṣh’), ‘’ is uttered as the jihvāmūlīyahhhk’, coded ‘[hk]
         -  kṣh’, ‘’ is normally uttered, with the echo sound, followed by a pause (symbolized by a comma) and the next word.

e.g.:   namaḥa kṛtsnavītāya    nama[hk] kṛstnavītāya    ;    duḥu kha    du[hk]kha

                    adhaḥa kṣhamācharāḥa    adhaḥa , kṣhamācharāḥa

 

  Rule H2:   When ‘’ is followed by ‘p’ or ‘ph’, ‘’ is uttered as the upadhmānīyafffp’, coded ‘[fp]’.

e.g.:   iṣhavaḥa parā    iṣhava[fp] parā

          śhunaṁ naḥa phālā    śhunan na[fp] phālā   (using also the basic Rule M1)

 

  Rule H3:   When ‘’ is followed by ‘śh’, ‘ṣh’ or ‘s’, the ‘’ is respectively replaced by ‘śh’, ‘ṣh’ or ‘s’.

e.g.:   śhāntiḥi śhāntiḥi śhāntiḥi       śhāntiśh śhāntiśh śhāntiḥi

          tannaḥa ṣhaṇmukhaḥa prachōdayāt    tannaṣh ṣhaṇmukha[fp] prachōdayāt

          tannaḥa sarvaḥa prachōdayāt    tannas sarva[fp] prachōdayāt

It should be noted that these three rules do not depend on the vowel preceding the ‘’.

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Other Questions/Answers about ‘ḥ’

Question 4: In the prayer sarva dēvatā gāyatrī, the second sentence of each gāyatrī begins with ‘tannas’, ‘tannaṣh’, ‘tannō’, and so on. Are they different forms of the same word? In which cases this word becomes ‘tannō’?

Answer 4: The words ‘tannas’, ‘tannaśh’, ‘tannaṣh’ and ‘tannō’ come from the same word ‘tannaḥa’. The Rule H3 explains the first three forms. Let us see when ‘aḥa’ becomes ‘ō’.

 

  Rule H4:   When ‘aḥa’ is followed by ‘a’, a semi-consonant (‘y’, ‘r’, ‘l’, ‘v’), ‘h’ or any soft consonant (‘g’, ‘gh’, ‘’, ‘j’, ‘jh’, ‘ñ’, ‘’, ‘ḍh’, ‘’, ‘d’, ‘dh’, ‘n’, ‘b’, ‘bh’, ‘m’), ‘aḥa’ becomes ‘ō’.

In the following examples, vertical lines indicate that the words are considered separately.

e.g.:   | tannaḥa | agniḥi | prachōdayāt |   becomes   tannō , agniḥi prachōdayāt   which is chanted   tannō , agni[fp] prachōdayāt   (with the Rule H2)

Hence: 

                    | tannaḥa | agniḥi | prachōdayāt |    tannō , agni[fp] prachōdayāt

Similarly:

                    | tannaḥa | viṣhṇuḥu | prachōdayāt |    tannō viṣhṇu[fp] prachōdayāt

                    | namaḥa | hiraṇyabāhavē |    namō hiraṇyabāhavē

                    | tannaḥa | dantiḥi | prachōdayāt |    tannō danti[fp] prachōdayāt

Note: Semi-consonants, ‘h’ and soft consonants are called ghōṣha-consonants (highlighted in orange in the chart below) and often appear together in the following sandhi-rules.

 

guttural

series

palatal

series

cerebral

series

dental

series

labial

series

Hard consonants

k

ch

t

p

kh

chh

ṭh

th

ph

Soft consonants

g

j

d

b

gh

jh

ḍh

dh

bh

ñ

n

m

Semi-consonants

 

y

r

l

v

Sibilants

 

śh

ṣh

s

 

Aspirated consonant

h

 

 

 

 

 

Question 5: And what about the case where ‘aḥa’ is followed by a hard consonant?

Answer 5: Let us see the following rule:

 

  Rule H5:   When ‘aḥa’ is followed by:
         -  a palatal hard consonant (‘ch’, ‘chh’), it becomes ‘śh  (palatal sibilant).
         -  a cerebral hard consonant (‘’, ‘ṭh’), it becomes ‘ṣh  (cerebral sibilant)
         -  a dental hard consonant (‘t’, ‘th’), it becomes ‘s  (dental sibilant)

e.g.:   | vājaḥa | cha | |    vājaśhcha

                    | namaḥa | |    namastē

 

Question 6: In the Sri Rudram, we often find ‘nama. What is the corresponding rule?

Answer 6: After ‘nama[hk]’, ‘nama[fp]’, ‘namaḥa’, ‘namaśh’, ‘namaṣh’, ‘namas’, ‘namō’, we shall now examine ‘nama’. Let us see the following rule:

 

  Rule H6: When ‘aḥa’ is followed by a vowel except ‘a’(for ‘a’, see Rule H4) , ‘aḥa’ becomes ‘a’:

e.g.:   | namaḥa | iriṇyāya |    nama , iriṇyāya

                    | namaḥa | āṣhavē |    nama , āṣhavē

 

Question 7: The Rules H4 to H6 deal with ‘aḥa’. So…, are there different rules for the cases ‘āḥa’, ‘uḥu’, ‘ūḥu’, and so on?

Answer 7: This question enables us to go deeper into the matter! We saw that the Rules H1 to H3 are the same for all cases (‘aḥa’, ‘āḥa’, ‘iḥi’…). But the other rules depend on the vowel preceding the ‘’. Let us see what happens with ‘āḥa’ (Rule H7) and the remaining cases ‘uḥu’, ūḥu’,… (Rule H8).

 

  Rule H7:   When ‘āḥa’ is followed by a vowel or a ghōṣha-consonant, ‘āḥa’ becomes ‘ā’.

e.g.:   | tēna | dēvāḥa | ayajanta |    tēna dēvā , ayajanta

                    | dēvāḥa | bhāgam |    dēvā bhāgam

 

  Rule H8:   When ‘’ is preceded by any vowel except ‘a’ and ‘ā’, then ‘’ becomes ‘r’ when it is followed  by a vowel or a ghōṣha-consonant.

e.g.:   | svastiḥi | astu |    svastirastu

                    | chatuḥu | hastam |    chaturhastam

                    | bhūḥu | bhuvaḥa |    bhūr bhuvaḥa

 

Question 8: All the cases have been discussed? 

Answer 8: Far from it... This field is very vast and complex, with exceptions and “exceptions to the exceptions”. For example, | saḥa | jātaḥa | shoud become jātaḥa, according to the Rule H4.
Actually, we have: | saḥa | jātaḥa |    sa jātaḥa. So ‘saḥa’ is a special case.

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Explanations about the three ‘gm’-sounds: ‘gm’, ‘ge’, and ‘gge

In Krishna Yajurveda [Sri Rudram, 9th Namakam] as chanted in the TaittirīyaBranch (Taittirīya Ṡhākhā), we find:  | kim| śhilāya |    kigm shilāya.

 

  Rule M3:   In Kṛṣhṇa Yajurvēda Taittirīya Ṡhākhā, when ‘m’ or ‘n’ is followed by a vowel, a sibilant consonant (‘śh’, ‘ṣh’, ‘s’), ‘r’ or ‘h’, it is uttered as ‘gm’, except if ‘śh’, ‘ṣh’, ‘s’, ‘r’ or ‘h’ are followed by another consonant/semi-consonant. In the latter case, it is uttered as ‘ge’ (very brief ‘e’) if the preceding vowel is long, and ‘gge’ if the preceding vowel is short.

e.g.:   | bāṇavān | utā |    bāṇavāgm , utā  

          | tēṣhām | sahasra |    tēṣhāgm sahasra

          | imām | rudrāya |    imāgm rudrāya

          | gaṇapatim | havāmahē |    gaṇapatigm havāmahē   (in Kṛṣhṇa Yajurvēda)

          [Note: This mantra belongs to Ṛgvēda also.
          In
Ṛgvēda:   | gaṇapatim | havāmahē |  becomes  gaṇapatiṁ havāmahē
          and according to Rule M2, ‘’ is uttered as a pure ‘m’]

        | ahīn | cha |    ahīgeśhcha   
(‘ś
his followed by the consonant ‘ch’, and the ‘ī’ of ‘ahīnis long).

        | priyam | śhraddhē |    priyaggeśhraddhē   
(
śhis followed by the semi-consonant ‘r’, and the ‘a’ of ‘priyam’ is short).

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