Sanskrit : Consonant vowel combinations



Consonant vowel combinations

Sanskrit is a phonetic language.  Any of the consonants can form a syllable with any of the vowels.  Such combinations are written using special ligatures (specific shapes different from those of the normal vowels).  The Devanagari script follows fairly consistent rules to write a consonant vowel combination.  In standard literature, the term medial vowel is sometimes used to refer to vowels seen inside a word.  Hence some scholars in the past have referred to the ligatures as medial vowels.  We will see that while this is reasonable, exceptions do occur.

Each vowel has a special shape associated with it for use with a combining consonant.  This is known as a 'matra' or simply vowel extension.  A matra, when added to the basic shape of a consonant, results in a syllable consisting of the consonant and the vowel.

Some matras are added to the right of the consonant, some above or below the consonant and one specific matra in Sanskrit is added to the left of the consonant, i.e. before drawing the consonant.

The matras associated with the vowels are shown below.

vowel











matra

ि








example

का
कि
की
कु
कू
कृ
के
कै
को
कौ

No matra is used for the combination अ since this is considered the basic syllable for a consonant.

In consonants having a vertical stroke in their shapes, the matras that get added above and below are drawn coinciding the vertical stroke.
For consonants not having a vertical stroke, the matras are usually added centred with respect to the horizontal span of the consonant.
Take द for example.


दा
दि
दी
दु
दू
दृ
दे
दै
दो
दौ


All the thirty-three consonants strictly follow the above convention with very few exceptions.  The consonant र has an exception for combinations with उ and ऊ.

The forms for र with उ and ऊ are रु and रू respectively.

The combination of ह and ऋ is written as हृ.
As seen above द and ऋ will be दृ.


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