Simple Sanskrit – Lesson 20

Simple Sanskrit – Lesson 20

सरलं संस्कृतम् – विंशतितमः पाठः |

It should be appropriate at this point, to appraise of some technical aspects of the process of संधि-s.

  1. संधि is also called as संहिता. Interestingly, in श्रीगणपत्यथर्वशीर्षम् there is a मन्त्र “संहिता सन्धिः” I am left wondering of the significance of this मन्त्र in श्रीगणपत्यथर्वशीर्षम्, because, for a student of grammar, these two words of the मन्त्र are just synonyms. But what is the spiritual significance for it to be a मन्त्र in a स्तोत्रम्, an ode to the  deity गणपति / गणेश ?

  2. संधि is a coalescence of two sound-elements,

    1. The sound-element वर्ण at the previous position is called as पूर्ववर्णः

    2. The sound-element वर्ण at the following position is परवर्णः

    3. Coalescence i.e. संधि or संहिता often brings forth a Resultant sound, which is often a change आदेशः

    4. When the resultant sound is only a single sound, it is एकादेशः Most संधि-s result in एकादेश. But there are instances that it would not be so.

    5. The change आदेशः may happen by addition आगम omission लोप or mutation विकार.

  3. Segregating components of a coalesced word is called as पदच्छेद. It is the first step, very much essential, to be able to understand any Sanskrit text. If two elemental sounds would get coalesced in the natural process of pronouncing them, they would get so pronounced very naturally, right ? संधि is a natural process of pronouncing or speaking Sanskrit. Rather, rules of संधि are not really rules, but they are grammatical summary of, what the natural process of coalescence happens during pronunciation.

  4. Since संधि-rules are grammatical summary of, what the natural process of coalescence happens during pronunciation, all the detailing of संधि-rules, becomes a strong evidence to establish that Sanskrit has essentially been a spoken language. This evidence stands to nullify all argument about Sanskrit ever having been a spoken language.

  5. One may ask, “If पदच्छेद is the first step, so very essential, to be able to understand any Sanskrit text, why have I taken it so late in these lessons in “Simple Sanskrit” ? The answer is in the question itself ! Before indulging in पदच्छेद, one needs to know पद-s and how they are formed / obtained. It needed all those 16/17 lessons to discuss that, the पद-s. That discussion is far from complete. But I thought, it is not wiser to postpone discussing संधि-s.

    1. In treatises on grammar, especially in सिद्धान्तकौमुदी by भट्टोजी दीक्षित discussion on संधि-s starts right from chapter 2.

    2. For my lessons of “Simple Sanskrit”,  I have kept the focus to be simple and step by step. Every step is not necessarily a small step. If one can compose 240 sentences from lesson 1 itself, it is not a small step. But it is not a big step either, because all those sentences are just two-word sentences.  Often enthusiasm of people wanting to learn a new language is high-pitched.

      1. Some want to be able to read and understand such philosophical / spiritual text as गीता,

      2. Some want to start conversing, right from word ‘go’.

        1. It is my firm conviction, that wrong or incorrect Sanskrit is not Sanskrit at all.

        2. I keep listening to conversational Sanskrit, only with a pinch of salt. It becomes uncourteous to correct the person at every error, right ?

        3. But if errors are not corrected, whatever Sanskrit is spoken may sound Sanskrit-like, but it would not be Sanskrit.

        4. I for one would never like to be a party to promoting Sanskrit-like Sanskrit.

  6. To start speaking in a new language, the language should be able to tolerate lot of colloquialism. In fact if the language is tolerant of this, it is quite efficient to learn such language, say, in the market-place or in a family. Essentially there should be an overwhelming environment, maybe 24×7, of that language falling on your ears. That is how child learns its mother-tongue. That is how I had learnt Kannada at the place where I did my schooling. That is also how I dare to speak Gujarati and some little bit of Tamil. But I would not dare do that with Sanskrit. I also learnt somewhat German. But I am at quite some unease in conversing in German. I have studied different languages, you see. So, my opinions are from such self-study, deliberations and experience. Protagonists of “Spoken Sanskrit” seem to be going by the argument about how a child learns its mother-tongue, without any bother about the nuances of grammar. To my mind they miss two points –

    1. The language should be tolerant to lot of colloquialism

    2. There should be an overwhelming environment, maybe 24×7, of that language falling on your ears.

    3. Both these aspects do not apply to Sanskrit.

  7. Language-skills are of three types – speak, read, write. By writing skill, I do not mean just the skill of being able to write the script. Writing skill is the flair to express one’s thoughts powerfully. This, generally, is the sequence, in which we learn our mother-tongue. By the way, I know a boy, Raghu, whose mother-tongue was Tamil. After I had attended a few classes to learn Tamil, I had become acquainted with the Tamil script and wrote a short greetings message. I showed it to Raghu and asked him, “Is it correct ?” He surprised me by his reply, “Uncle, I can’t read Tamil !”

  8. Having had that surprise some 15 years back, it surprises me no more. I realize that my own American grandchildren speak Marathi, quite fluently, I would say. But they are struggling to read and write. That would be so, with many, many, many. many children, who can speak their mother-tongue, but cannot read, much less, write. That has now become a great anxiety weighing heavily on the minds of their parents. But  why should the parents be anxious ? What is wrong with being able to only speak, but not be able to read or write ? To my mind, being able to read what is written in a language, connotes getting acquainted with the culture. Yes, every language connotes a culture. Every language has a rich cultural heritage to be carried forth. That cannot be more true for any other language, other than Sanskrit.

See, what they say at webpage of St. James School, London,


Benefits of Sanskrit

(1) An Education In Beauty – The Sanskrit language is full of beauty: beauty of sound, of structure, of script, of poetry and of prose. Such beauty opens the heart.

(2) A Language Of Impeccable Credentials – Sanskrit is highly respected by the academic community. It often forms a point of interest and admiration when students with Sanskrit qualifications are interviewed for university admission. Sanskrit possesses a remarkably fine grammatical structure giving insights into all language learning;

(3) A New View Of The World – Sanskrit literature expresses a refreshing and expansive view of human nature and its role in creation. In this era of unprecedented change and uncertainty, it can be a valuable tool to assess and look afresh at society.

(4) Sanskrit literature embodies a comprehensive map of the human makeup: spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. It presents a new way of understanding our relationship to the rest of creation and lays out guidelines which, if followed, would lead to a productive and happy life.

(5) A Systematic Grammar – The word ‘Sanskrit’ means ‘perfectly constructed’. Study of its grammar brings order to the mind and clarifies the thinking. Sanskrit has an ordered alphabet and grammar system which makes it easy to learn.

(6) At The Root Of European Languages – Sanskrit stands at the root of many eastern and western languages, including English and most other European languages, classical or modern. Its study illuminates their grammar and etymology. Many English words can be shown to derive from forms still extant in Sanskrit.

(7) A Matchless Literature – Sanskrit has one of the richest and most extensive literature of all languages. It introduces students to vast epics, profound scripture, subtle philosophy, voluminous mythology, exquisite poetry and much else. Sanskrit holds the key to a treasure trove of seminal scriptures, such as the Bhagavad Gita, the depth and quality of which are increasingly being acknowledged around the world. …. “

I came to dwell on all this, as sort of an introduction to the topic of संधि-s and made mention of पदच्छेद. These are important concepts to be able to read and understand Sanskrit.

As an end-note, my recommendation is, “… does not matter, if you are not able to speak Sanskrit and may also not be able to write Sanskrit. But being able to just read Sanskrit and understand it, of course, with whatever effort is required for understanding, becomes such an enriching experience ! ..”

Everything of Sanskrit becomes an enriching experience. Even grammar, especially सूत्राणि in अष्टाध्यायी will astound you by genius of पाणिनि !! When I read and realized, that the verbal root धातु जन् has the sense of passive voice inherent to it, it came to mind, “What a philosophical thought !” Is it not a fact that we do not take birth (active voice), … we are born (passive voice !) If our being born is itself so much of a passive-voice event, how unintelligent it is to have any ego or selfishness or aspirations in any aspect or at any stage of our life !! Isn’t that some grammar and philosophy together ?

In the course of understanding Sanskrit, you can expect to get such revelations ! If such revelations may even differ from conventional interpretations, DO DARE TO DIFFER ! It needs courage to be able to do that. Apart from, rather, more than courage, it needs clarity and correctness in the thought-process. As is said at St. James School’s web-page, you should expect your learning of Sanskrit to get to you that clarity and correctness in the thought-process. Only by such clarity and correctness, you will realize that you will have much better, much more self-satisfying understanding of even scriptures and all that. It is so much more satisfying to read and understand गीता by oneself than by reading commentaries. One should read and study commentaries also. But one must also get understanding by oneself.

That, I think, should be the objective for learning Sanskrit – self-satisfying understanding of Sanskrit texts !

I have been composing my lessons in Simple Sanskrit to serve as a small step towards that.

शुभं भवतु |




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