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:
We include the long vowel ॡ 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 अ and आ, इ and ई, उ and ऊ, ऋ and ॠ, and ऌ and ॡ. This pattern also applies to ए and ऐ, as well as ओ and औ. 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 क is always pronounced as ka, never as k.
Some of these consonants are difficult to tell apart at first. Here are the consonants that are most easily confused:
ट ठ ढ द
ṭa ṭha ḍha da
प फ य ष
pa pha ya ṣa
As you learn these symbols, it may help to make mnemonics to keep them distinct in your head. For example:
घ is a “g” sound, and it looks like a gut full of gas.
ङ is a nasal sound, and its dot looks like a nose ring.
च is a “c” sound and looks like a chewing mouth.
ज is a “j” sound and looks like a sharp javelin.
ब and भ are “b” sounds, and they look broken.
Of course, the mnemonics that stick best are the ones you think of yourself.