The Sanskrit Alphabet – an ocean of experience
Posted on: 11/6/2019

Power and purity of sound

The resonating power and the vibrational purity of the sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet make this a special language.

One of the most important features of the Sanskrit alphabet is that vowels and consonants are arranged in an extremely logical fashion into two distinct groups. Sanskrit consonants are arranged in vertical and horizontal groups according to the voicing state, manner of articulation, place of articulation and the intra-oral pressure required to produce them. This unerring logic underlying the arrangement of an alphabet makes it easier for one to memorise. See examples at:

Mouth position

In Sanskrit, all the sounds are articulated through five distinct places of articulation located in the mouth: throat, palate, cerebrum, root of the upper teeth, and lips. On the basis of this the sounds are either guttural or palatal or cerebral or dental or labial.

Use of breath

Though the letters of one group are pronounced from one position yet each sound of that group differs from the other because of its internal efforts. For example: ka, kha, ga, gha and nga belong to the guttural group. Here ka is a hard unvoiced consonant with minimum breath release, kha is also hard and unvoiced but it is pronounced with maximum breath release; ga is soft and voiced with minimum breath but gha is soft and voiced with maximum breath; nga is the last sound in the group which is soft and voiced but nasal. For this sound the breath gets released through nostrils and the mouth. The arrangement of all consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet follows the same order.

Benefits of chanting

Thus the Sanskrit alphabet is more scientific, methodical and comprehensive than any other system of alphabet. However, what I have experienced is not just the scientific nature of the Sanskrit alphabet but an inbuilt system of prāṇāyāma that occurs when one chants the alphabet. The recitation creates a natural regulation of breath and offers the same benefits as prāṇāyāma.

Emotional and physical benefits

The scientific nature of the Sanskrit alphabet is also an immense help for those afflicted with speech-related disorders and disabilities. I have taken up an important project titled Sanskrit and Speech Pathology with the aim of creating a remedial training programme based on Sanskrit sounds that are of immense help for those who stammer and suffer from other speech-related disorders. Thus, I have kept exploring, through my research, many wonders and splendours of this beautiful language, and I joyfully share my discoveries with others through workshops, lectures and writing.

Dr. Sampadananda Mishra

Director, Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, India

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