Vowels and consonants

In this lesson, we will learn how to write vowels and consonants in Devanagari.


When vowels do not follow consonants, they are written like this:

  • a

  • ā

  • i

  • ī

  • u

  • ū

  • e

  • ai

  • o

  • au

We include the long vowel here for the sake of being complete, but it is never used in real Sanskrit.

In general, short and long vowels are written in a similar way. Notice the similarities between and , and , and , and , and and . This pattern also applies to and , as well as and . In each pair, notice that the second symbol adds some mark or extra feature to the first.


When we write Sanskrit in Devanagari, all consonants are pronounced with the vowel a by default. So, the symbol is always pronounced as ka, never as k.

  • ka

  • kha

  • ga

  • gha

  • ṅa

  • ca

  • cha

  • ja

  • jha

  • ña

  • ṭa

  • ṭha

  • ḍa

  • ḍha

  • ṇa

  • ta

  • tha

  • da

  • dha

  • na

  • pa

  • pha

  • ba

  • bha

  • ma

  • ya

  • ra

  • la

  • va

  • śa

  • ṣa

  • sa

  • ha

Some of these consonants are difficult to tell apart at first. Here are the consonants that are most easily confused:

  • ख रव
    kha rava

  • घ ध
    gha dha

  • ङ ड
    ṅa ḍa

  • च ज
    ca ja

  • ट ठ ढ द
    ṭa ṭha ḍha da

  • प फ य ष
    pa pha ya ṣa

  • भ म
    bha ma

  • व ब
    va ba

As you learn these symbols, it may help to make mnemonics to keep them distinct in your head. For example:

  • is a “g” sound, and it looks like a gut full of gas.

  • is a nasal sound, and its dot looks like a nose ring.

  • is a “c” sound and looks like a chewing mouth.

  • is a “j” sound and looks like a sharp javelin.

  • and are “b” sounds, and they look broken.

Of course, the mnemonics that stick best are the ones you think of yourself.