The sandhi system

When Sanskrit is pronounced quickly, its sounds affect each other and may cause each other to change. Collectively, these sound changes are called sandhi.

Vowel, visarga, and consonant sandhi

There are many different kinds of sandhi changes. So it is useful to sort them into categories. One way to sort sandhi changes is by which sound comes first in the change. So, we have:

  • vowel sandhi if a vowel comes first

  • visarga sandhi if a visarga comes first

  • consonant sandhi if a consonant comes first

The next three lessons will look at each of these in turn.

Within a word and between words

Another way to sort sandhi changes is by where whey occur. First, we can have sandhi 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

This kind of sandhi, which is sometimes called internal sandhi, always occurs. It is not optional.

Second, we can have sandhi between two words:

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

This kind of sandhi, which is sometimes called external sandhi, occurs only in fast, continuous speech (saṃhitā, “connected or continuous (speech)”). But although these changes are optional, most Sanskrit texts will use them.