The sandhi system

When we speak quickly, we make many kinds of small and subconscious changes to the way we speak. In Sanskrit, these sound changes are called sandhi, which means “joining” or “junction.” In this topic, we will study the different types of sandhi in more detail.

There are many different kinds of sandhi changes. If a vowel comes first, it is called vowel sandhi:

  • सीता उदकम् इच्छति → सीतोदकम् इच्छति
    sītā udakam icchati → sītodakam icchati
    Sita wants water.

If a visarga comes first, it is called visarga sandhi:

  • रामः उदकम् इच्छति → राम उदकम् इच्छति
    rāmaḥ udakam icchati → rāma udakam icchati
    Rama wants water.

And if a consonant comes first, it is called consonant sandhi:

  • हनुमान् जलम् इच्छति → हनुमाञ् जलम् इच्छति
    hanumān jalam icchati → hanumāñ jalam icchati
    Hanuman wants water.

When we learn about sandhi changes, we should also know where they occur. Some sandhi changes occur between the different parts of a single word:

  • ने + अ + न्ति → नयन्ति
    ne + a + nti → nayanti
    They lead.

  • गज + इन → गजेन
    gaja + ina → gajena
    by the elephant

Others occur between two different words:

  • सीता उदकम् इच्छति। → सीतोदकम् इच्छति।
    sītā udakam icchati. → sītodakam icchati.
    Sita wants water.

Sandhi changes within a single word must always be followed, and sandhi changes between words occur optionally. But although these changes are optional, most Sanskrit texts will use them.