Consonant sandhi between words

Also known as: vyañjana-sandhi, hal-sandhi

Consonant sandhi is the name for sandhi changes between a consonant and some other sound. Here is a simple example of consonant sandhi:

  • सीता वनम् गच्छति → सीता वनं गच्छति
    sītā vanam gacchati → sītā vanaṃ gacchati
    Sita goes to the forest.

Consonant sandhi is complex. In this lesson, we will focus on the common sandhi changes that occur between two words. These changes also apply between the two words in a compound.

Reducing consonants

Sanskrit has many consonants. But Sanskrit words end only in specific consonant sounds. So we must apply a few rules to convert a word's final consonants into a valid ending.

Before we study the specific rules, let's first see some examples of what these rules do. In the examples below, the words on the left don't follow the rules and are not valid words. After applying the rules, we get the correct results:

  • अगच्छन्त् → अगच्छन्
    agacchant → agacchan
    they went

  • वाच् → वाक्
    vāc → vāk
    speech

  • दिश् → दिक्
    diś → dik
    direction

  • राज् → राट्
    rāj → rāṭ
    king

  • समिध् → समित्
    samidh → samit
    (sacred) wood, kindling

  • नरस् → नरः
    naras → naraḥ
    man

Now, here are the changes that we should apply to words ending in consonants. First, a word is not usually allowed to end in multiple consonants. If a word does end in multiple consonants, we keep only the first of those consonants. You can see some examples of this below:

  • अगच्छन्त् → अगच्छन्
    agacchant → agacchan
    they went

  • पश्यन्त् → पश्यन्
    paśyant → paśyan
    while seeing

  • प्राञ्च् → प्राञ्
    prāñc → prāñ
    facing, opposite

There are rare exceptions, usually if the second-to-last consonant is r:

  • ऊर्ज् → ऊर्ज्
    ūrj → ūrj
    strength, vigor (no change)

Second, consonants pronounced at the hard palate generally become k. (ñ becomes .) A very small number of words, such as rāj, use instead:

  • वाच् → वाक्
    vāc → vāk
    speech

  • दिश् → दिक्
    diś → dik
    direction

  • प्राञ् → प्राङ्
    prāñ → prāṅ
    facing, opposite

  • राज् → राट्
    rāj → rāṭ
    king

Third, the remaining consonant becomes unaspirated and unvoiced if it has an unaspirated and unvoiced version. In the first example below, dh has an unvoiced and unaspirated version t, so it becomes t. In the second example, m has no unvoiced or unaspirated version, so it stays the same:

  • समिध् → समित्
    samidh → samit
    (sacred) wood, kindling

  • वनम् → वनम्
    vanam → vanam
    forest (no change)

Finally, -s and -r become the visarga:

  • नरस् → नरः
    naras → naraḥ
    man

  • द्वार् → द्वाः
    dvār → dvāḥ
    door

By the end of this process, we are left with eight final sounds: k, , t, p, , n, m, and the visarga.

Rules for k, , t, and p

k, , t, and p use the same voicing as the following sound:

  • तत् वनम् → तद् वनम्
    tat vanam → tad vanam

  • तत् उदकम् → तद् उदकम्
    tat udakam → tad udakam

  • तत् फलम् → तत् फलम्
    tat phalam → tat phalam

They also become nasal when the following sound is nasal:

  • वाक् न → वाङ्
    vāk na → vāṅ na

  • राट् न → राण्
    rāṭ na → rāṇ na

  • तत् न → तन्
    tat na → tan na

  • ककुप् न → ककुम्
    kakup na → kakum na

If the second sound is h, then we usually get this change:

  • वाक् ह → वाग् घ
    vāk ha → vāg gha

  • राट् ह → राड् ढ
    rāṭ ha → rāḍ ḍha

  • तत् ह → तद् ध
    tat ha → tad dha

  • ककुप् ह → ककुब् भ
    kakup ha → kakub bha

Some learners find it helpful to see these changes in a table:

k p
m nasal sounds
g*ḍ*b* h
gb other voiced sounds
kp unvoiced sounds

In the table above, * means that the following h shifts its point of pronunciation to match the first sound.

Extra rules for -t

-t changes frequently. If the next consonant is pronounced at the hard palate (like ca) or the roof of the mouth (like ṭa), -t changes to a sound with the same point of pronunciation:

  • तत् चित्रम् → तच् चित्रम्
    tat citram → tac citram

  • तत् जलम् → तज् जलम्
    tat jalam → taj jalam

If l is the second sound, it becomes l:

  • तत् लभस्व → तल् लभस्व
    tat labhasva → tal labhasva
    Obtain that.

And if the next sound is ś, we get this change:

  • तत् शोचन्ति → तच् छोचन्ति
    tat śocanti → tac chocanti

As before, some learners find it helpful to see these changes in a table:

t
n nasal sound
c c, ch
j j, jh
ṭ, ṭh
ḍ, ḍh
l l
c (ś becomes ch) ś
d (h becomes dh) h
d other voiced sounds
t other sounds

Rules for -n

Like -t, -n changes often. If the next consonant is a voiced consonant at the hard palate (like ja) or the roof of the mouth (like ṇa), -n changes to the nasal sound with the same point of pronunciation:

  • नरान् जयामि → नराञ् जयामि
    narān jayāmi → narāñ jayāmi

If l is the second sound, it becomes a nasal l:

  • तान् लभन्ते → ताँल् लभन्ते
    tān labhante → tā̐l labhante

In front of c/ch, ṭ/ṭh, or t/th, n becomes ṃś, ṃṣ, and ms respectively:

  • तान् चरन्ति → तांश् चरन्ति
    tān caranti → tāṃś caranti

  • तान् तरन्ति → तांस् तरन्ति
    tān taranti → tāṃs taranti

And if the next sound is ś, two different outcomes are possible:

  • तान् शोचन्ति → ताञ् शोचन्ति
    tān śocanti → tāñ śocanti
    (option 1)

  • तान् शोचन्ति → ताञ् छोचन्ति
    tān śocanti → tāñ chocanti
    (option 2)

Again, some learners find it helpful to see these changes in a table:

n
ṃś c, ch
ñ j, jh
ṃṣ ṭ, ṭh
ḍ, ḍh
ṃs t, th
nasal l l
ñ (ś optionally becomes ch) ś
n other sounds

Rules for -m

-m becomes the anusvāra when consonants follow:

  • सीता वनम् गच्छति → सीता वनं गच्छति
    sītā vanam gacchati → sītā vanaṃ gacchati

And it may optionally become the nasal sound that matches the following consonant:

  • फलम् चरामि → फलञ् चरामि
    phalam carāmi → phalañ carāmi

  • फलम् खादामि → फलङ् खादामि
    phalam khādāmi → phalaṅ khādāmi

In modern times, this change is usually not written down. But, it is often used in spoken Sanskrit.

Rules for the visarga

We learned about visarga sandhi already. Please see the previous lesson for details.

Review

There are many small details to consonant sandhi. But this lesson is a complete summary of its most common patterns.