Sanskrit : Writing methods for conjuncts



Writing methods for conjuncts

As a general rule, consonants in a conjunct are written in their half form except the final consonant which is written in its full form.  There are exceptions to this rule when the consonants do not have a clear half form.  The consonants which do not have the vertical stroke in their shape come under this category.

The following 22 consonants have a vertical stroke in them.





















 व




The following do not have a vertical stroke in them.












क and फ have a stroke in the middle.

For the twenty-two shown first, the half form is obtained by simply removing the vertical stroke.  For क, the half form is the first section of क्क (not to be confused with व).  The half form of फ is the first section of फ्क, which is very close to that of प itself.

For the nine in the middle rows above, a clear half form is not standardised.  Often the letters are just reduced in size and placed before the succeeding consonant in the conjunct.  Considerable flexibility exists in writing conjuncts with these consonants.  Examples of conjuncts with these nine consonants will be given below.

Identifying conjuncts in written text is important for several reasons. Traditionally, Sanskrit verses were composed to conform to specific metre comprising a fixed number of aksharas. Hence the writing systems also provided some mechanism to form conjuncts from the consonants. The use of the 'half form' introduced earlier is a practice allowed for many conjuncts particularly those which include a vertical stroke in their shapes. Since the half form is not clearly defined for all the consonants, special shapes were introduced for some of the conjuncts. Thus the actual shapes for many conjuncts were altered but in a way allowing enough clues to identify the individual consonants.

In many cases, the individual consonants were written one below the other vertically but with reduced sizes to accommodate writing the conjunct within a vertical span. In some cases, a combination of 'half form' and writing one below the other was adopted. It must be pointed out that considerable flexibility exists in writing the conjuncts, though by convention, some shapes have become the standard.

Here are some examples of the conjuncts.  Please note that there are nearly a thousand of these.  Only some are included here.  
[Note that the display of conjuncts varies based upon your Unicode display implementation - not all conjuncts may be displayed correctly.]


+

=
ञ्च



+

=
प्त



+

=
ट्ट



+

=
द्म



+

=
ड्य



+

=
द्व



+

=
ङ्क



+

=
क्त



+

=
झ्र



+

=
ह्म



+

=
ट्र



+

=
द्ग



+

+

=
न्द्र

+

+

=
स्त्र

+

+

=
ष्ट्व


Samyuktakshar and vowel combinations

The rules for writing syllables with samyuktakshar and vowels are the same as the ones for writing consonant-vowel combinations. The matras are used exactly the same way as before and will apply to the last consonant in the syllable except for "i" where the matra will appear before all the half-forms when half-forms are used. When the shape of the conjunct is very different, its shape may be viewed as that of a consonant itself and the matras added appropriately.

Rarely used Aksharas and notes on similar looking Aksharas

Sanskrit manuscripts may include some special consonant vowel combinations with the vowel 'li', especially the long one. Such aksharas are not found in common literature but have been used in treatises on scientific concepts and medicine. For the beginner, these may not be of much interest but the student must nevertheless remember that such aksharas are used. Also, it is quite likely that the beginner will see quite a bit of similarity between some of the consonants and vowels. Given below are clues to the similar looking aksharas.

Among ऋ, ॠ and ऌ only ऋ is normally used as a vowel with consonants.  The other two are mostly used as independant vowels and in cases where they do combine with consonants, the following consonants are the ones which figure most.

ट, त, द, घ, न and स combine with ऋ.

ऌ is seen mostly with क.

[Source document contains typesetting error whilst discussing the combination of and ॠ ... र्ॠ]


Note on timing

The short vowels are pronounced for one unit of time and the long ones two units.  The unit of time is not an absolute value by itself.


Letters which look similar and thus might confuse the student are shown below.


























ख may be confused with र followed by a व, i.e. रव.
The first part of ख will in general be more curved than र but in the case of the case of the gutteral रव, the bottom stroke will overlap with the round of the व.  The comparison will be effected by writing the two aksharas one below the other.


रव

The student is urged to keep these similar looking shapes in mind when learning the script.


Continue to conjuncts with 'ra'.

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