Pronunciation and Phonetics

Learning proper pronunciation can be done without much knowledge of phonetics, actually. A basic knowledge, however, helps to make pronunciation clearer and thus facilitates the process of learning how to speak a foreign language properly.

eAmbalam introduces a phonetic chart which is based on Dhevanagari script. The sounds of vowels and consonants and other speech sounds in Sanskrit and the languages which have completely or mostly borrowed from it can be covered with the help of the chart. A few other sounds common to some languages in this group and outside are also put in. Unique sounds of some languages are specified too.

Diacritical marks are used to aid perfect pronunciation. World over, these marks have been created and propagated by scholars to make understanding of the differences in speech sounds in different languages better. Team eAmbalam also has created a phonetic chart which helps even first timers to pronounce words accurately.

Our Phonetic chart is unique, comprehensive, learner friendly and is divided into four columns wherein:
  • In the first column, the letter is written with the associated diacritical mark.
  • In the second column, an example is given in Dhevanagari language containing the letter.
  • In the third column, an example is given in English, which contains the sound closes to the letter or instructions in few cases, to facilitate better understanding.
  • In the fourth column, an audio button is placed with the help of which you can hear the actual pronunciation of the letter.
An open minded approach with the above introduction and guidelines will definitely enable the user to understand the speech sounds of any language and pronounce it like a native, which is eAmbalam’s aim in this exercise.

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
A or a Aḍavu Arise
Ā or ā Ānanda Vast
I or i Indhira Sing
Ī or ī Īśha Meal
U or u U ṣhā Good
Ū or ū Ū rdhhva Boost
R or r Riṣh i Try
Ṛ or ṛ Ni ṛ uti Grr!
Lr or lr   Pronounce L and R together.
E or e Eka Ate
AI or ai Aikya Sight
O or o Ojas Robe
AU or au Audh ā rya Now
A M or am Śhiva m Drum
A HA or aha R ā ma ha Aha!
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
KA or ka Kavi Car
KHA or kha Khalu Mark -Him
GA or ga Gamana Gut
GHA or gha Ghata Ugh!
Ṅ A or ṅa Tura ṅ ga Ring
CHA or ca Chakra Chart
CHHA or cha Chhandas Branch
JA or ja Jagath Jug
JHA or jha Jhallari Fudge
NYA or nya Gnyana Knew
Ṭ A or ṭ Ṭ anka Top
ṬHA or ṭha Pāṭha Pothole
ḌA or da Ḍ amaruka Dog
Ḍ HA or ḍ ha Mūḍ ha Madhouse
Ṇ A or ṇ a Ga ṇ a Wander
THA or tha Thanu Health
THHA or thha Athha Theater
DHA or dha Dha śha This
DHHA or dhha Dhhana m Dha with an additional H sound
NA or na Namask ā raha Nut
PA or pa   Path ā ka Past
PHA or pha Phala m P with a H sound
BA or ba Bandhhu Ball
BHA or bha Bhadra Abhor
MA or ma Manas Money
YA or ya Yama Yummy
RA or ra Rajas Rub
LA or la Lath ā Lust
VA or WA, va /wa A śh va or A śhwa Water/Valour
ŚHA or śha Śhakthi Shutter
ṢHA or ṣ ha Ṣh a ṇ mukha Shunt
SA or sa Sarasvatī Sun
HA or ha Hari Hum
Ḷ A or ḷ a Ar āḷ a Bold
KṢHA or k ṣ ha Ak ṣh i Try to pronounce Ka, Sa & Ha – all at one time.
Extra Vowels in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada & Malayalam Scripts    
É or é Éṇi Angel
Ō or ō Ō m Ō M
ZHA Exclusive to Tamil & Malayalam Fold the tip of your tongue backwards and try to pronounce it with the aid of the audio button.
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English

Suthra 1

Sūthra 1: “athha yogānuśhāsanam

  • Sāmkhhya and Yoga are considered cousins. ‘Khhya’ means to know and Sāmkhhyameans to know very well.
  • Sāmkhhya + Practice = Yoga
  • ‘Athha’ is the very first word in the Yoga sūthra. It has several meanings and connotations viz:
    • ‘Now’
    • ‘Authority of the teacher’
    • ‘Inviting attention’
    • Also a promise or ‘mutual pact’ between the teacher and the student that the former will teach all that he knows without holding anything back and that the student will diligently learn all that has been put forth to him.
    • Implies a ‘prayer’ by invocation of the sound ‘a’, being the first sound among alphabets in Sanskrit (and indeed in all languages). That is, Pathanjali begins by invoking ‘God’ without actually addressing him so by name or depiction. He has in fact refrained from using the expression ‘God’ in his Sūthras and has been secular.
    • However the most significant interpretation of the word would seem to be the ‘vow’ between the teacher and the student as described above.
  • The second word is ‘Yoga’.The aim of most philosophies is how to make life comfortable!
  • Śhānthi can be disturbed by 3 sources viz, the self, others and natural causes.
  • Others can be priya viyogam (i.e. being not in the presence those we like) or apriya yogam (being in the presence of those we don’t like).
  • We say Śhānthi in our prayers thrice to avert disturbances form these three sources.
  • Another way of classifying theses three disturbing sources are as from the body, speech and mind. Indeed, if we can take care of body, speech and mind, then, we are ok and we can have Śhānthi.
  • Speech encompasses ‘me’ and ‘others’ and should not bring pressure to ‘me’ or ‘others’.
  • Yoga thus aims at harmony given the world as it is (and not as we would want it or as we would have changed).
  • The third word is ‘anu’ meaning ‘to follow’.
  • Śhāsanam means statement of fact, the undisputed word or the axiomatic truth. Anuśhāsanam means practice as opposed to ‘jignyasa’ or theory. Anuśhāsanam also means to ‘pass on’ to succeeding generations from guru to śhiṣhya, where every śhiṣhya assumes the role of a guru to a next generation śhiṣhya.
  • Yoga is for practice and not just theory! The knowledge of yoga is attributed to different sources:
  • Pathanjali makes no claim that it his own original knowledge. He merely claims to be an exponent.
  • In the Gīthā, Lord Kriṣhṇa claims that he is the author of Yoga, which he initiated Brahma into.
  • In certain other literature, Śhiva and Brahma are said to be the originators of Yoga.
  • But the point is that it truly comes from high sources (joke!).
  • The word ‘anu’ prefixed in Anuśhāsanam implies that some changes willfollow from the transmission of knowledge. Hopefully, this change is for the better. In other words, Anuśhāsanam implies that the instruction of the knowledge of yoga will lead to a transformation.
    • So, Pathanjali warns the reader ‘beware you will be a changed person after you go through these instructions from me’!
  • Some studies lead to a person becoming a ‘vidhyā snātha’ i.e. one who can use knowledge effectively whilst some to a person becoming a ‘vrttha snātha’ or one enabled to use his hands effectively. Yoga leads one becoming a ‘vidhyā vrttha snātha’ i.e. one who is an effective user of knowledge and also has practical ability.
  • The word ‘athha’ means ‘now’ and therefore implies prior instructions or apriori qualifications or a prior state of preparedness. That is, yoga instructions are meant for someone who has already qualified in some way.
    • Commentators other than Pathanjali, held yoga as a supremely secret subject that could be unfolded only to the most deserving. They believed that initiating the deserving would lead to great benefits whilst the opposite would invite ruin.
    • But according to Pathanjali, ‘Śhraddhā’ (meaning a combination of interest, inclination, motivation, regard and respect) was adequate qualification.
  • Yoga has meaning as a word and as a subject. Will deal with the first below.
  • A book titled ‘Amarakośha’ complied by a Jain king called Amara has five meanings for yoga. But, first a few words about the book itself.
      • The great Śhankara was concerned about two developments that were gaining momentum in his times.
      • The first was Buddhism that was encouraging people to beg and thus become a society of beggars.
      • The second was the supremacy of ritualism in Hinduism that relegated even ‘God’ to the rituals. He therefore went about the country inviting people to debate on the proviso that the loser be executed.
      • King Amara engaged in such debate and lost. But since he was then engaged in writing a treatise on the meaning of individual words in the Vedas (or a thesaurus) called Amarakośha, Śhankara agreed to spare his life so that he could continue with his good work!
  • Amarkośha’s 5 meanings for yoga are given below with rough English translations:
    • ‘Sannahanam’ literally means metal armour used in war or in the context here it means ‘preparation’ or protection.
    • ‘Dhhyānam’ or meditation
    • ‘Upāyam’ or strategy
    • ‘Sangathi” meaning to join or to unite
    • ‘Yukthi’ meaning using cleverness or being innovative and imaginative in doing things
    • The following story illustrates yukthi.
      • An old money lender had lent to someone who could not repay. The money lender demanded that the borrower either repay at once or make over his house or give his young daughter of 18 in marriage to him.
      • Given the intractable nature of the situation, there were endless arguments and finally the money lender suggested a way out. He said that they should let God decide on whether he should marry the young maiden and to do so, he suggested that the maiden pull out one of two stones in bag, a black one and a white one, and that if she pulled out a white one, she would have to marry him. But that if she pulled out a black one, she would be free and the loan would be considered repaid.
      • While the borrower agreed, the maiden noticed the money lender putting in two white stones into the bag! How was she to deal with the situation? What she did is the essence of yukthi.
      • Consider her options. She could have called the bluff but then the matter would again not have been resolved and perhaps led to another scheme which was again loaded against her. Or, she could have replaced the white stones with black ones but then she could well have been discovered. So, what did she do?
      • Well… she put her hand into the bag and quickly withdrew one stone and threw it far away saying that she was throwing it away for good luck. And so what remained was the other white stone implying that the stone she had thrown away was a black one! Obviously, the money lender could not object as that would have given his game away!


Contact Us