Vowels that follow consonants are written as small “marks” around the consonant they follow:
क + आ → का
ka + ā → kā
क + उ → कू
ka + u → kū
Here are the marks that we use when writing Sanskrit:
Again, we include the long vowel कॣ (kḹ) for the sake of being complete, but it is never used in real Sanskrit.
The important point to remember here is that the vowel a has no special mark. a is present by default. If needed, we can block that default a sound with a mark called the virāma, which we discuss further below.
Most consonants use these marks in a regular way. But perhaps the combinations below will be surprising:
anusvāra, visarga, candrabindu, and virāma
The anusvāra and visarga are written as follows:
The candrabindu (“moon dot”) shows that a sound is pronounced nasally. It is usually used for nasal vowels:
Finally, the virāma (“cessation”) blocks the default a sound that a consonant has otherwise: