visarga sandhi

visarga sandhi is the name for sandhi changes where the first sound is the visarga. Here is a simple example of visarga sandhi:

  • रामः योद्धुम् इच्छति → रामो योद्धुम् इच्छति।
    rāmaḥ yoddhum icchati → rāmo yoddhum icchati.
    Rama wants to fight.

Many Sanskrit words end in the visarga, so visarga sandhi is very common.

Where does the visarga come from?

The visarga itself comes from a sandhi change. s and r become the visarga when they appear at the end of a word:

  • रामस् → रामः
    rāmas → rāmaḥ
    Rama

  • मातर् → मातः
    mātar → mātaḥ
    mother!

Most of the visargas you see will come from s. A very small number will come from r. But it is important to know where the visarga comes from since this difference will affect which sandhi rules can apply.

Common changes

These common changes apply to all visarga sounds. If the second sound is unvoiced, the visarga will match its point of pronunciation, if possible:

  • बालः चरति → बालश् चरति
    bālaḥ carati → bālaś carati
    The boy walks.

  • बालः तिष्ठति → बालस् तिष्ठति
    bālaḥ tiṣṭhati → bālas tiṣṭhati
    The boy stands.

These changes may even occur in front of śa, ṣa, and sa, though they are not usually written down:

  • नरः शिलां गच्छति (नरश्शिलां गच्छति)
    naraḥ śilāṃ gacchati (naraśśilāṃ gacchati)
    The man goes to the rock.

  • नरः षण्डं गच्छति (नरष्षण्डं गच्छति)
    naraḥ ṣaṇḍaṃ gacchati (naraṣṣaṇḍaṃ gacchati)
    The man goes to the thicket.

  • नरः सागरं गच्छति (नरस्सागरं गच्छति)
    naraḥ sāgaraṃ gacchati (narassāgaraṃ gacchati)
    The man goes to the ocean.

-ās sandhi

The rules here are about words that originally end in -ās. In this context, the visarga disappears before any voiced sound:

  • नराः उदकम् पिबन्ति → नरा उदकं पिबन्ति
    narāḥ udakam pibanti → narā udakaṃ pibanti
    The men drink water.

  • नराः मद्यम् पिबन्ति → नरा मद्यं पिबन्ति
    narāḥ madyam pibanti → narā madyaṃ pibanti
    The men drink wine.

  • नराः वमन्ति → नरा वमन्ति।
    narāḥ vamanti → narā vamanti.
    The men vomit.

-as sandhi

The rules here are about words that originally end in -as. In this context, -aḥ becomes -o in front of voiced consonants:

  • नरः मद्यं पिबति → नरो मद्यं पिबति
    naraḥ madyaṃ pibati → naro madyaṃ pibati
    The man drinks wine.

And if the second sound is a, then the -aḥ becomes -o and the following a disappears:

  • नरः अमृतं पिबति → नरो ऽमृतं पिबति
    naraḥ amṛtaṃ pibati → naro 'mṛtaṃ pibati
    The man drinks nectar.

The ' symbol, which is called the avagraha, is often used to show that a vowel was removed due to sandhi.

Otherwise, the visarga disappears before other vowels, just as we saw with -ās above:

  • नरः उदकम् पिबति → नर उदकं पिबति
    naraḥ udakam pibati → nara udakaṃ pibati
    The man drinks water.

  • नरः ओदनम् इच्छति → नर ओदनम् इच्छति
    naraḥ odanam icchati → nara odanam icchati
    The man wants rice.

Other changes

Otherwise, the visarga becomes r in front of any voiced sound:

  • अग्निः अस्ति → अग्निर् अस्ति
    agniḥ asti → agnir asti
    There is a fire.

  • वायुः अस्ति → वायुर् अस्ति
    vāyuḥ asti → vāyur asti
    There is wind.

  • द्वाः (द्वार्) अस्ति → द्वार् अस्ति
    dvāḥ (dvār) asti → dvār asti
    There is a door.

But if the second sound is r, the visarga disappears and the vowel before it becomes long:

  • अग्निः रोचते → अग्नी रोचते
    agniḥ rocate → agnī rocate
    The fire is pleasing.

  • वायुः रोचते → वायू रोचते
    vāyuḥ rocate → vāyū rocate
    The wind is pleasing.

  • द्वाः (द्वार्) रोचते → द्वा रोचते
    dvāḥ (dvār) rocate → dvā rocate
    The door is pleasing.

sa and eṣa

The words saḥ (“he,” “that one”) and eṣaḥ (“he,” “this”) are very common in Sanskrit. They have their own unique visarga changes. But thankfully, those changes are simple. In front of a, they behave as you would expect:

  • सः अचिन्तयत् → सो ऽचिन्तयत्
    saḥ acintayat → so 'cintayat
    He thought.

  • एषः अपश्यत् → एषो ऽपश्यत्
    eṣaḥ apaśyat → eṣo 'paśyat
    He saw.

But in front of all other sounds, the visarga disappears:

  • सः इच्छति → इच्छति
    saḥ icchati → sa icchati
    He wants.

  • सः चिन्तयति → चिन्तयति
    saḥ cintayati → sa cintayati
    He thinks.

  • एषः पश्यति → एष पश्यति
    eṣaḥ paśyati → eṣa paśyati
    He sees.

Review

Many Sanskrit words end with a visarga, and the visarga changes often due to sandhi. You do not need to memorize the rules above, but it is important to recognize them so that you can tell where one word ends and another begins.

As you read more Sanskrit, you will eventually understand visarga sandhi instinctively. But if you would like to practice, you can try applying the correct visarga sandhi changes to the examples below:

  • रामः गच्छति।
    rāmaḥ gacchati.

  • नराः गच्छन्ति।
    narāḥ gacchanti.

  • नरः अश्वम् पश्यति।
    naraḥ aśvam paśyati.

  • सः रामं पश्यति।
    saḥ rāmaṃ paśyati.

  • गुरुः अस्ति।
    guruḥ asti.