Sanskrit Alphabet

Sanskrit is a classical South Asian language and the liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is one of the 22 official languages of India. The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration is the most commonly used system and has been the standard for academic work since 1912.

Vedic Sanskrit is the pre-classical form of Sanskrit and is one of the oldest attested members of the Indo-European family. The oldest known Sanskrit text is the Rigveda, which was composed during the 2nd millennium BC.

Since the late 19th century, Sanskrit has been written using the Devanāgarī alphabet.

There are 48 Sanskrit letters, as seen in the table below.

Sign
Translit.
Description
aOf course, it should not be pronounced just as in English at all. Listen to the sound carefully. Your mouth should not be widely open, but it should be open just as if you were to pronounce 'o'. This vowel sound is felt in the throat, therefore it is Guttural.
āThe last vowel doubled (twice).
iIt should be pronounced just as 'i' in 'bit'. The sound is felt in the palate, therefore this vowel is Palatal.
īThe last vowel doubled (twice).
uIt should be pronounced just as 'u' in 'put'. The sound is felt in the lips, therefore this vowel is Labial.
ūThe last vowel doubled (twice).
The tongue is rolled slightly backward, pressing against the roof. After that, 'ri' sound is to be pronounced. The 'r' is stronger than English 'r'. I could not find any exact example in English. So, listen to it. The sound is felt in the roof of the mouth, therefore this vowel is Cerebral (or Cacuminal).
The last vowel doubled (twice).
The 'ṛ' with a 'l' in the beginning. This 'l' is to be pronounced with the tongue pressing the back of the teeth. Since the sound is felt in the back of the teeth first and then in the roof, this vowel is Cerebral-Dental.
eIt is a diphthong (a + i). For that reason, it begins just as the 'e' in 'bed', but in the end a little 'i' (as in 'bit') appears. This vowel is a long one (2 mātrā-s). It is Guttural-Palatal.
aiIt is a special diphthong (a + e). The stress is on 'i' not 'a'. It is a long vowel (2 mātrā-s). This vowel is Guttural-Palatal.
oIt is a diphthong (a + u). For that reason, it begins just as 'o' in 'pot', but in the end a little 'u' (as in 'put') appears. This vowel is a long one (2 mātrā-s). It is Guttural-Labial.
auIt is a special diphthong (a + o). The stress is on 'u' not 'a'. It is a long vowel (2 mātrā-s). This vowel is Guttural-Labial.
अंaṁIt is called Anusvāra, because it always comes after a vowel. It is a nasal lengthening of a vowel, just as 'm' but pronounced through the nose (the mouth is shut). It lasts 1/2 mātrā. Here we can see it united with 'a'.
अःaḥIt is called Visarga (emission), because it is pronounced through an emission of air. This vowel sounds just as 'h' en 'home'. Sometimes, an echo of the preceding vowel is to be pronounced too. This echo is used if the Visarga (in the end of the word, obviously) belongs to a word placed at the end of a sentence. In turn, if the word is placed somewhere else, the echo is not pronounced. This vowel lasts 1/2 mātrā. Here we can see it united with 'a'.
kaIt is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 'k' in 'kick'.
khaIt is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'k' but with an exhalation of air.
gaIt is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 'g' in 'game'.
ghaIt is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'g' but with an exhalation of air.
ṅaIt is a nasal soft letter. It sounds just as 'n' in 'bang'. All nasal letters are soft.
caIt is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 'ch' in 'champion', but it is written 'c' not 'ch'. Careful!
chaIt is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'c' but with an exhalation of air. It does not sound like English 'ch'. Careful!
jaIt is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 'j' in 'Jane'.
jhaIt is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'j' but with an exhalation of air.
ñaIt is a nasal soft letter. It sounds like 'nya'. All nasal letters are soft.
ṭaIt is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 'ta' but with the tongue rolled slightly backward (pressing against the roof).
ṭhaIt is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'ṭa' but with an exhalation of air.
ḍaIt is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 'da' but with a slight rolling back of the tongue.
ḍhaIt is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'ḍa' but with an exhalation of air.
ṇaIt is a nasal soft letter. It sounds like 'n' but with a slight rolling back of the tongue (as in 'turn'). All nasal letters are soft.
taIt is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 't' in 'time', with the tongue pressing the back of the teeth.
thaIt is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'ta' but with an exhalation of air.
daIt is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 'd' in 'doubt'.
dhaIt is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'da' but with an exhalation of air.
naIt is a nasal soft letter. It sounds like 'n' in 'name'. All nasal letters are soft.
paIt is a unaspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), and it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 'p' in 'pink'.
phaIt is an aspirate hard letter. In short, this letter does not reverberate (hard), but it does need an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'pa' but with an exhalation of air.
baIt is a unaspirate soft letter. In short, this letter does reverberate (soft), but it does not need any exhalation (unaspirate) to be pronounced. It is just as 'b' in 'boat'.
bhaIt is an aspirate soft letter. In short, this letter reverberates (soft), and it needs an exhalation (aspirate) to be pronounced. Just as 'ba' but with an exhalation of air.
maIt is a nasal soft letter. It sounds like 'm' in 'make'. All nasal letters are soft.
yaIt is a palatal soft letter. The sound is just as 'y' in 'yet'. All Semivowels are soft, that is to say, they reverberate.
raIt is a cerebral soft letter. The 'r' is not just as the English 'r' at all. The tongue rolls slightly backward till it presses against the roof, but not the soft palate. And the sound is slightly stronger than English 'r' sound. Listen to it carefully.
laIt is a dental soft letter. The sound is just as 'l' in 'land', but with the tongue fully pressing the back of the teeth.
vaIt is a labial soft letter. The sound is just as 'v' in 'vain', but sometimes, when it comes after a consonant it is usually pronounced as 'u' (Sanskrit 'u', not English 'u'). For example: 'svāmī' (master) is generally articulated as 'suāmī. However, you can also pronounce 'svāmī', and it is correct too.
śaIt is a palatal hard letter. The sound is just as 'sh' in 'show'. All Sibilants are hard, that is to say, they do not reverberate.
ṣaIt is a cerebral hard letter. The sound is just as 'śa', but with a slight rolling back of the tongue.
saIt is a dental hard letter. The sound is just as 's' in 'surf'.
haIt is a guttural soft letter. The sound is just as 'h' in 'hello'.