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Sanskrit is regarded as the ancient language in Hinduism, where it was used as a means of communication and dialogue by the Hindu Celestial Gods, and then by the Indo-Aryans. Sanskrit is also widely used in Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. The term 'Sanskrit' is derived from the conjoining of the prefix 'Sam' meaning 'samyak' which indicates 'entirely', and 'krit' that indicates 'done'. Thus, the name indicates perfectly or entirely done in terms of communication, reading, hearing, and the use of vocabulary to transcend and express an emotion. An extraordinarily complex language with a vast vocabulary, it is still widely used today in the reading of sacred texts and hymns.

Origin & purity of Sanskrit

The Sanskrit language was termed as Deva-Vani ('Deva' Gods - 'Vani' language) as it was believed to have been generated by the god Brahma who passed it to the Rishis (sages) living in celestial abodes, who then communicated the same to their earthly disciples from where it spread on earth. The origin of the language in written form is traced back to the 2nd millennium BCE when the Rig Veda, a collection of sacred hymns, is assumed to have been written after being continued for centuries through oral tradition and preservation of verbal knowledge in the Guru-Disciple relationship. The purity of this version (Vedic period, 1500 – 500 BCE) of Sanskrit is doubtlessly reflected in the flamboyance of the perfect description of the forces of nature in the Rig Veda.

Vedic Sanskrit

Sanskrit in terms of its literary association is classified into two different periods, the Vedic and Classical. Vedic Sanskrit is found in the Vedas sacred texts, especially the Rig Veda, the Puranas, and the Upanishads, where the most original form of the language was used. The composition of the Vedas is traced to the period of 1000 to 500 BCE, until when Sanskrit had a vigorous tradition of being used consistently through oral communication. This early Sanskrit is rich in vocabulary, phonology, grammar, and syntax, which remains undiluted in its purity to this day. It consists of 52 letters in total, 16 vowels and 36 consonants. These 52 letters have never been tweaked or altered and are believed to have been constant since the beginning, thus making it the most perfect language for word formation and pronunciation.

'To acquire the mastery of this language is almost a labour of a life; its literature seems exhaustless' W.C.Taylor

The Sanskrit language has been the traditional means of communication in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Sanskrit literature holds the privilege of being used in ancient poetry, drama, and sciences, as well as religious and philosophical texts. The language is believed to have been generated by observing the natural progression of sounds created in the human mouth, thus considering sound as an important element of language formation. This is one of the prime reasons why Sanskrit has been rich in poetry and its expressive quality of bringing out the best meaning through perfect sounds that are soothing to the human ear. Vedic Sanskrit also contains abstract nouns and philosophical terms which are not to be found in any other language. The consonants and vowels are flexible enough to be grouped together to express nuanced ideas. In all, the language is like an endless ocean without a base due to its reach, complexity, and hundreds of words to express a single meaning or object.

Classical Sanskrit - AshtadhYayi

Classical Sanskrit has its origin in the end of the Vedic period when the Upanishads were the last sacred texts to be written down, after which Panini, a descendant of Pani and a grammar and linguistic researcher, introduced the refined version of the language. Panini's timeline is assumed to be around the 4th century BCE, when he introduced his work 'Ashtadhyayi', which means eight chapters, forming the only available foundational and analytical text of Sanskrit grammar. It is considered to be the only source of Sanskrit grammar and vocabulary today, because everything that existed before had never been recorded except via their mention in Panini's Ashtadhyayi.

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The Ashtadhyayi contains 3959 systematised rules that are undiluted in brevity, full of wonderful analysis, explanation, and preferential usage of the language and word formation. The language is so vast that it has more than 250 words to describe rainfall, 67 words to describe water, and 65 words to describe earth, among other descriptions. This proves the magnanimity of Sanskrit when compared with current modern languages. However, different the sub-castes of Hinduism may be in their dialect, race, creed and rank, Sanskrit is considered and accepted as the only sacred language giving rise to the only available sacred literature by all, even though India has a repository of 5000 spoken languages. Panini was responsible for the standardisation of the language, which to this day remains in use in multiple forms. Sanskrit as a spoken language is rare and is spoken in some regions in India, some even claiming it as their first language, but it is proudly mentioned as one of the 14 original languages of India in its Constitution. It is largely used in Carnatic music in the form of bhajans, shlokas, stotras, and kirtanas, all indicating various hymns to the Gods, and songs and mantras of God worship.

Impact on other languages

Sanskrit has had a major impact on other Indian languages, such as Hindi, which is presently one of the official languages of India, and Indo-Aryan languages such as Kannada and Malayalam. It has impacted the Sino-Tibetan languages with the influence of Buddhist texts in Sanskrit and their translation and spread. Telugu as a language is considered to be highly lexically Sanskrit, from which it has borrowed many words. It has impacted Chinese language as China has picked up multiple but specific words from Sanskrit. In addition, Thailand and Sri Lanka has been enormously influenced by Sanskrit and have many similarly sounding words. The Javanese language is another which has been influenced by Sanskrit, along with the modern language of Indonesia and traditional language of malay spoken in Malaysia. Philippines has a minor influence from Sanskrit, but less than that from Spanish, for example. Above all, English, the current modern international language has also been influenced by Sanskrit and has picked up many loanwords from the ancient language (for example 'primitive' from 'prachin', meaning historical, 'ambrosia' from 'amaruta' meaning food of the Gods, 'attack' from 'akramana' meaning taking aggressive action, 'path' from 'patha' meaning road or way, 'man' from 'manu' meaning a male human, 'nirvana' from 'nirvan' meaning divine liberation or transcendence, 'door' from 'dwar' meaning a doorway connecting two spaces, ''serpent' from 'sarpa' meaning snake, etc.) since both are considered as Indo-European languages.

Sanskrit has a long and sacred history often traced back to the Gods and their worship. Starting as a spoken language of the Gods, it has come down to earth and has been diluted of its purity because variable interpretations, precise grammar, and complexity of its use have been accepted by few and avoided by many for its invincibility in vastness and understanding. In spite of its large vocabulary and richness of grammar and prose, many ancient scriptures and texts today are translated from Sanskrit, for none better than Sanskrit can offer such a luxurious literary understanding of the past as it serves as a tool for perfect human expression. Rightfully admired, renowned historian and author William Cooke Taylor acknowledges that “To acquire the mastery of this language is almost a labour of a life; its literature seems exhaustless”.

Ancient World History

Sanskrit is an ancient Indo-Aryan language that has for thousands of years become associated with religious teachings and beliefs, notably Hindu and Buddhist forms of thought. Its earliest use is associated with the migrating Aryan peoples who settled in north India and Iran and from whom several families of languages descended in various forms. Aryan means "noble" in Sanskrit.

The long history of its use and the fact that so many religious and philosophical concepts are expressed in the language means it has become almost impossible to separate consideration of the language from the content it has most commonly been used to convey.

Sanskrit remains an important language in religious expression in the modern world, although it is not spoken widely otherwise. Some religious experts and scholars are able to communicate in Sanskrit.

Vedic and Classical Sanskrit

Vedic Sanskrit is the oldest form of the language and was used to explain the Vedas (knowledge) that framed the first known forms of Indian religious expression. Vedic literature includes the Samhitas, which are four collections of texts: the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, the Atharva-Veda, and the Rig-Veda. The last three of these consist of verse forms used by priests in ritual chants.

However, the Yajur-Veda may be divided into two parts, one of which—the Black, or Krishna, Yajur-Veda—contains both ritual verses (mantras) associated with sacrifice, as well as explanatory Brahmana, which detail meanings for mythological terms and concepts and also the derivations of some words. These works predate Buddhism and have been dated to c. 1000 b.c.e.

As the Vedic age continued, more literature was written in Sanskrit that was of a nonsacred nature. Panini, the earliest known writer about Sanskrit and its structure, considered the nonsacred forms of communication to be bhasa.

Meanwhile, sacred texts included a growing number of sutras, or apophthegms. The Chanda texts and particularly the Brahmanas represent the foundations of the Brahmanical practices that spread across India and later Southeast Asia.

The sacred Vedic Sanskrit texts were considered by Hindu believers to be in a mystical way at one with the universe and uncreated even by the divine gods. Since the language was universal and immortal, it follows that words expressed by it should be treated with respect, and it was particularly fitting for certain types of thoughts and concepts.

Nevertheless, the language was also used for mundane and even profane communication. The fact that no definitive single script has been used for the language is an indication that meaning drift between different groups of Sanskrit speakers took place.

Subsequent development of the language meant that it became polished or crafted—more versatile for literary expression. Two of the great literary epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, were created in this phase of epic or classical Sanskrit.

The Mahabharata details at some length the struggle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, together with a large amount of additional religiomythical material. Contained within the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad Gita, which is an extended treatise on religious and human duties and forms a central strand of Hindu thought.

The Ramayana concerns the romance of Rama and was compiled according to tradition by the poet Valmiki c. 300 b.c.e. In the Ramayana, Prince Rama and his companions are instructed in virtue and duty and then suffer the loss of the prince’s wife, Sita, to the demon king of Lanka. Sita is ultimately recovered with the assistance of the monkey god Hanuman, but her trials continue, as Sita is made to demonstrate her fidelity to Rama, which she resents.

The Mahabharata and the Ramayana constitute a basis of poetic expression and intellectual exploration that greatly expanded the mental vocabulary and reference material of all those people able to understand and converse in Sanskrit.

To these were added a variety of dramatic and poetical works (nataka and kavya), together with narrative works. The language evolved considerably over the centuries, and this is evident in changes to pronunciation, word choice, and grammar.

Sanskrit was also used to create technical, philosophical, grammatical, and other scientific texts that were widely used throughout ancient and medieval Asia. It was used for Buddhist works in India and Sri Lanka, and these spread to mainland Southeast Asia where the language is known as Pali and formed the basis for educated discourse, as well as influencing the development of local languages.

Chinese monks and pilgrims traveled to India in search of Buddhist texts to translate into Chinese, and they formed an important medium through which Sanskrit-expressed ideas entered into the Chinese world and its intellectual tradition. Sanskrit is also the language through which early Jainist thought is expressed.

Sanskrit in the Common Era

Sanskrit moved from being a spoken language to one that was better known for its use in sacred rituals and written literature. The great Buddhist king Ashoka, for example, followed Gautama Buddha’s teaching to use vernacular languages to spread religious teachings.

Although religious and philosophical texts used Sanskrit, government-produced monuments and pronouncements employed other languages (Indo-Aryan) until the early centuries of the Common Era. A parallel development was for commentators to insist that only correct pronunciation in Sanskrit should be permitted and that this could only be achieved by studying the methods of the past.

Sanskrit became separated from the masses, who were excluded from learning and mastering the language. Grammarians distinguished between words of Sanskrit origin and words influenced by Sanskrit. Sanskrit witnessed the importation of words from other languages, especially those necessary to describe new concepts or proper nouns.

Sanskrit also spread as a result of political and military change. The expansion of first the Persian Empire and subsequently the entry into northern India of Alexander the Great provided conduits through which the language could spread to the West. Contact with the Arab world in later centuries was also important in the transmission of cosmology and mathematics.

Sanskrit epics had tremendous influence on cultural and artistic production throughout India and Indian-influenced societies. Some works, including the retelling of part of the Mahabharata by Nannaya Bhatta (1100󈞨 c.e.), took as their subject well-known tales of the past and brought them into contemporary focus both through the contrast between the heroic milieu and that familiar with the audience, and also by presenting existing characters with new encounters and events to face.

This has begun a tradition of inventive mixing of the past and present that has led to a burgeoning form of popular culture in both oral and written forms. Some critics maintain that the use of Sanskrit has been a tool by which the central Indian state has sought to oppress local traditions and cultures.

Sanskrit studies became popular in Europe in the early modern period both as a subject of scholarly inquiry and also as a source of spiritual sustenance. Its popularity has waxed and waned with interest in Eastern philosophies.

Structure of The Language

Sanskrit has come most commonly to be expressed through the Devanagri script, although this is a comparatively modern invention. Sanskrit has a complex and highly mannerized structure, resulting from its origins as a deliberately created language.

There are three genders and three numbers, with 10 types of verbs, eight cases, and 10 noun declensions. There are a variety of voiced and unvoiced aspirated sounds in the language and the retroflex sound that has been introduced and distinguishes Indian languages from the Indo-European family.

The language is highly inflected and numerous suffixes, for example, govern different shades of meaning and emphasis. Expressions of time in verb tenses are also complex and contain various types of meaning embedded within them.

About Me

Dr. Clyde Winters Dr. Clyde Winters, has taught in the Chicago Public Schools for 36 years. He has taught Education and Linguistic Courses at Saint Xavier University-Chicago. As a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools Dr. Winters wrote State Standards in the 1990's for the Chicago Public School system and Common Core State Standards for Social Studies. He also wrote the 6th Grade World History Lesson Plans used in the CPS in 2000. View my complete profile

Verbs and Adverbs

  • Tenses: present, perfect, aorist and future. Perfect refers to an action completed. The aorist includes past indicative, such as "you were," and injunctive prohibitions, such "do not be ____."
  • Mood: indicative, subjunctive, optative, imperative. The indicative mood is how factual statements or opinions are expressed. In contrast the subjunctive mood is the way wishes, doubt or something contrary to fact is expressed. The optative mood is for the expression of a wish or hope. The imperative mood is the form of a request or command.
  • Voice: active and middle. The active voice is the form in sentence in which the subject is the agent of the action expressed by the the main verb. In contrast the passive voice is the form used in sentences in which the subject of the sentence is the undergoer of the action expressed by the verb of the sentence. The term middle voice is used for sentences that have elements of both active and passive voice.
  • Number: singular, dual and plural.
  • Person: First (Speaker), Second (the one spoken to) or Third (the one spoken of).

Adverbs are inflected to agree with their associated verb.


Mahabharat is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of Ancient India, the second being Ramayana. It describes the conflict between the two groups of cousins in Kurukshetra war and the fate of Kauravas and Puja princes and their succession. With Ramayana, it forms the Hindu Itihasa.

Bhagavad Gita


Ramayana is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the second is going to Mahabradha. With majesty, it forms the Hindu Itihasa.

Vedas are a large body of religious texts starting in ancient India. Vedic compositions in Sanskrit, texts form the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest texts of Hindu religion. Hindus consider the Vedas as Apure-e-Aya, which means "No human being, supernatural and personal, unrecorded.

  1. Rig-Veda “Knowledge of the Hymns of Praise”, for recitation.
  2. Sama-Veda “Knowledge of the Melodies”, for chanting.
  3. Yajur-Veda “Knowledge of the Sacrificial formulas”, for liturgy.
  4. Atharva-Veda “Knowledge of the Magic formulas”, named after a kind of group of priests.


The word Puranas literally means "ancient, old", and it is a vast genre of Indian literature about a wide range of topics, particularly myths, legends and other traditional lore. Composed primarily in Sanskrit, but also in Tamil and other Indian languages, several of these texts are named after major Hindu deities such as Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. The Puranas genre of literature is found in both Hinduism and Jainism.


English to Sanskrit Dictionary: history

Meaning and definitions of history, translation of history in Sanskrit language with similar and opposite words. Spoken pronunciation of history in English and in Sanskrit.

Tags for the entry "history"

What history means in Sanskrit, history meaning in Sanskrit, history definition, explanation, pronunciations and examples of history in Sanskrit.

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Ancient Sanskrit Online

Please pardon our dust: This lesson series is currently under construction as we seek to remove errors and update the series. Karen Thomson contributed significantly to an earlier version of this lesson series. To see the original version of this series introduction, please click here.

By Ancient Sanskrit we mean the oldest known form of Sanskrit. The simple name 'Sanskrit' generally refers to Classical Sanskrit, which is a later, fixed form that follows rules laid down by a grammarian around 400 BC. Like Latin in the Middle Ages, Classical Sanskrit was a scholarly lingua franca which had to be studied and mastered. Ancient Sanskrit was very different. It was a natural, vernacular language, and has come down to us in a remarkable and extensive body of poetry. (We have intentionally avoided the use of the traditional word "Vedic" to describe the language of these poems for reasons which are described below see Karen Thomson's other publications for the detailed arguments.)

Note: this page is for systems/browsers with Unicode ® support and fonts spanning the Unicode 3 character set relevant to (Romanized) Sanskrit. Versions of this page rendered in alternate character sets are available via links (Romanized and Unicode 2) in the left margin, and at the bottom of this page.

1. The earliest Indo-European poems.

The earliest surviving anthology of poems in any of the Indo-European languages is in Ancient Sanskrit. Composed long before Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, it consists of over a thousand songs of considerable merit celebrating the riches of nature, whose forces are frequently deified. The relationship that the poets describe with their environment is a sophisticated one. Their hymns serve as talismans, ensuring that the natural world will continue to provide welfare and shelter for man. The power of poetry and song is their primary theme.

They indeed were comrades of the gods,
Possessed of Truth, the poets of old:
The fathers found the hidden light
And with true prayer brought forth the dawn. (VII, 76, 4)

The circumstances of the original composition of these poems remain unknown. Believed to be of divine origin, this large body of material, in an archaic and unfamiliar language, was handed down orally, from generation to generation, by priests in ancient India. The highly metrical form of the poems, together with their incomprehensibility, made them ideally suited to ritual recitation by a religious elite. Faithfully preserved through the centuries as a sacred mystery, the text has come down to us in a state of considerable accuracy.

2. 'The Veda'.

Over time a body of dependent and scholastic material grew up around the poems, known loosely as 'the Veda'. Perhaps around 1000 BC (all dating in prehistoric India is only approximate), editors gathered the ancient poems together and arranged them, together with some more modern material, into ten books according to rules that were largely artificial (see section 4 below). They gave the collection the name by which it continues to be known, 'Rig-veda', or 'praise-knowledge'. Other collections came into being, based on this sacred material, and they were given parallel names. The editors of the ' Sāma-veda ' arranged the poems differently, for the purpose of chanting, and introduced numerous alternative readings to the text. The sacrificial formulae used by the priests during their recitations, together with descriptions of their ritual practices, were incorporated into collections to which the general name 'Yajur-veda' was given. Later still, a body of popular spells was combined with passages from the Rigveda, again with variant readings, and was given the name 'Atharva-veda'. A continuously-growing mass of prose commentary, called the Brāhmaṇas , also came into being, devoted to the attempt to explain the meaning of the ancient poems. To the later Brāhmaṇas belongs the profusion of texts known as the Upanishads, which are of particular interest to Indologists, as Sanskrit scholars today often describe themselves, because of their important role in the development of early Indian religious thought.

2.1. The continuing influence of 'the Veda'.

This vast body of derivative material remains the subject of extensive study by Indologists. However, from the point of view of understanding the earliest Sanskrit text -- the Rigveda itself -- it has always been, and continues to be, crucially misleading.

Because the poems were put to ritual use by the ancient priests, much of their vocabulary was assumed by the authors of the later texts to refer in some way to ritual activity. The word paśú 'beast, cattle' came to designate a sacrificial victim in texts of the Brāhmaṇas , for example, and juhū́ 'tongue' was thought to mean 'butter ladle'. Abstract words of sophisticated meaning particularly suffered. The compound puro-ḷā́ś 'fore-worship' (from purás 'in front' and √dāś 'worship') acquired the specific sense 'sacrificial rice cake', despite the fact that the word vrīhí 'rice', found in later texts, does not occur in the poems of the Rigveda. The complex noun krátu 'power, intellectual ability', discussed in the introduction to Lesson 7, was misunderstood to mean 'sacrifice' by the authors of the commentaries. Similarly, a number of important verbs of abstract meaning were thought by the editors of the Sāmaveda to be related solely to the production of milk, and to refer to cows (see section 50 of Lesson 10). Indology has always used the word 'Vedic', 'of the Veda', to describe pre-Classical Sanskrit, and the poems to which the name 'Rig-veda' had been given are studied in the context of 'the Veda'. Many ancient mistranslations continue to be maintained with unshakeable conviction by Vedic scholars.

With major pieces of the jigsaw firmly in the wrong place, the rest, inevitably, refuses to fit, and the comparison of passages in the attempt to establish word meanings appears to be a fruitless exercise. Indology has concluded that the Rigveda is not only uninteresting, "describing fussy and technical ritual procedures" (Stephanie Jamison On translating the Rig Veda: Three Questions, 1999, p. 3), but that it is also intentionally indecipherable. "One feels that the hymns themselves are mischievous translations into a 'foreign' language" (Wendy O'Flaherty The Rig Veda. An Anthology, Penguin, 1981, p. 16). Stephanie Jamison vividly portrays the frustrations inherent in the indological approach for a conscientious scholar. "The more I read the Rig Veda, the harder it becomes for me -- and much of the difficulty arises from taking seriously the aberrancies and deviations in the language" (op. cit. p. 9). Viewed through the eyes of Vedic scholars, this most ancient of Sanskrit texts is by turns tedious, and unintelligible: "One can be blissfully reading the most banal hymn, whose form and message offers no surprises -- and suddenly trip over a verse, to which one's only response can be 'What. '" (Jamison, op. cit. p. 10). The sophistication of the earliest Indo-European poetry lies buried beneath a mass of inherited misunderstandings that overlay the text like later strata at an archaeological site. Not surprisingly, few Sanskrit scholars today are interested in studying the Rigveda.

2.2. Existing translations.

The poems of the Rigveda are nonetheless of considerable interest to scholars in other fields, in particular linguists, archaeologists, and historians. Linguists regularly refer to Karl Geldner's translation into German made in the 1920s, which is the current scholarly standard it was reprinted by Harvard University Press in 2003. Geldner's attempt to translate all the poems was however in his own view far from definitive, and it remained unpublished during his lifetime. As he wrote in the introduction to a selection of passages published in 1923, his versions are 'only a renewed attempt to make sense of it, nothing conclusive. where the translation appears dark to the reader, at that point the meaning of the original has also remained more or less dark to me'.

Geldner's struggle to make inherited mistranslations fit necessitates a considerable body of commentary. He notes, for example, to the third line of I, 162, 3, in which the word puroḷā́ś , mentioned above, appears to refer to a goat, that the line is "elliptical. puroḷā́ś (the appetizer consisting of a flat cake of rice in the ritual, see Atharvaveda 9, 6, 12) is used here metaphorically to describe the first-offered goat." His unshakeable conviction that the word has the later specialisation of sense in the context may seem strange, but the translation 'sacrificial rice cake' is hallowed by centuries of later use. To a scholar at home in the later literature the word can have no other meaning.

Geldner's complete translation, and, more particularly, the passages where 'the translation appears dark', forms the basis for much of the selection into English for Penguin Classics by the religious historian Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, continuously reprinted since its first appearance in 1981. The Penguin selection has been the only version generally available in English for the past quarter of a century, and has introduced a generation of readers to the Rigveda. It perpetuates the belief that these ancient poems are full of arcane references to sacrificial practice, and that they are deliberately obscure.

The distance of O'Flaherty's interpretations from the text itself can be simply illustrated by her version of part of the opening verse of V, 85, "[the god spread the earth beneath the sun] as the priest who performs the slaughter spreads out the victim's skin" (op. cit. p. 211). These twelve words, "as the priest who performs the slaughter spreads out the victim's skin," translate śamitéva cárma 'like a worker a skin'. The word 'victim', together with others, is supplied to give the passage a 'sacrificial' interpretation (the text of V, 85, 1 is example 277 in Lesson 9 of this course). Despite the fact that there is no word for "victim" in the text, her index entry "victim, sacrificial ( paśu )" cross-refers to this passage (she omits the accent throughout in conformity with the later language). The word paśú is not present and what is more, the interpretation that she gives for paśú , "sacrificial victim," is the later, ritual sense used by the texts of the Veda. The word paśú is cognate with Latin pecus (Umbrian pequo, Gothic faihu 'money, moveable goods', Old High German fihu 'cattle', 'Vieh'). See the third verse of the Lesson 5 text, and examples 318 and 357, for passages where the word paśú 'beast, cattle' does appear in the poems.

Tradition colours translations in a number of ways that can be misleading for scholars in other fields. The archaeologist Colin Renfrew, in his stimulating and controversial book Archaeology and Language, chooses Rigveda I, 130, which he quotes in its entirety in Ralph Griffith's nineteenth-century translation, as typical of the whole "in its reference to Soma juice, and in its association of horses and chariots with the heroic practice of war." Leaving 'Soma juice' aside for the moment, is the second part of this conclusion valid? The only reference to human strife in the poem has svàr 'sunlight' as its prize (verse 8) 'chariots' only appear in similes describing streams running down to the sea (verse 5), and wise men fashioning a speech (verse 6) and the Sanskrit word áśva , related by linguists to other words for horse in the Indo-European language family, is absent from the poem. The three adjectives interpreted as 'horse' by the English translator could all have an entirely different meaning. The problem does not lie in the choice of a nineteenth-century translation Geldner's version of I, 130 is similar, and Louis Renou, working in the 1960s, supplies a word for 'horse' to his French translation of this poem in two additional places.

What of Renfrew's other conclusion, about the typical reference to 'Soma juice'? Four pages on he quotes the first verse of Rigveda I, 102, again using Griffith's translation:

"To thee the Mighty One I bring this mighty Hymn, for thy
desire hath been gratified by my praise.
In Indra, yea in him victorious through his strength,
the Gods have joyed at feast, and when the Soma flowed."

The picture conjured up is pleasing, calling to mind Greek gods supping nectar on Mount Olympus, or Anglo-Saxon heroes feasting in the mead-hall. But "when the Soma flowed" translates a single word only, the abstract noun prasavé (for which see the Lesson 3 text). This same locative form, prasavé , is repeated eight verses later in the poem, where Griffith interprets it entirely differently, as 'in attack': may Indra make us prasavé puráḥ ( purás 'in front' again) "foremost in attack." So is the Rigveda typically about the drinking of an intoxicating juice whose identity remains unidentified, or about warfare? Or is it about neither?

3. The decipherable Rigveda.

As this course is designed as an introduction to Ancient Sanskrit I have tried to avoid controversy in my translations, but the misinterpretations permeate the text, and it has not always been possible. In listing the nouns in -van I have included the word grā́van , as it is used by Arthur Macdonell in his Vedic Grammar for Students to illustrate the declension. But I do not believe, as Vedic scholars do, that it means 'ritual stone for pressing out the Soma juice', but that it describes a man who sings (see section 22 in Lesson 5). The traditional interpretation 'ritual pressing stone' produces translations throughout the Rigveda that are puzzling in the extreme. The translation in the first verse of the Lesson 8 text, V, 42, 13, of the feminine plural noun vakṣáṇā also differs significantly from that of Indology. My suggestion 'fertile places' is based on a survey of the contexts in which the word vakṣáṇā occurs. Antiquity understood the word differently, and as referring to part of the body, perhaps as a result of V, 42, 13 where it is traditionally translated 'womb'. But 'womb' fails to fit the other contexts in which vakṣáṇā occurs in the Rigveda, leading to a broad range of interpretations, and ingenious attempts by modern translators to explain them. The most recent dictionary by Manfred Mayrhofer suggests "belly, hollow, entrails probably also 'bend of a river' and similar." Translators add 'udders' (Geldner and Renou, explaining that the rivers in one passage (my example 76) and the goddess of dawn in another (III, 30, 14) are pictured as cows), 'breasts' (Stephanie Jamison at X, 27, 16) and 'wagon-interiors' (Geldner at X, 28, 8, again citing the authority of a later text). Wendy O'Flaherty offers 'boxes' at X, 28, 8: "[the gods] laid the good wood in the boxes," but her note shows that she is following Geldner: "they take [it] home in boxes on wagons." For another occurrence of vakṣáṇā see example 151 in Lesson 6 and see also section 45.1 for the misreading by the Atharvaveda, in perplexity at a context that is clearly terrestrial, of the noun here as a participle.

My translation 'fertile places', however, is at variance with a strong tradition that explains the first verse of the Lesson 8 text as a description of primeval incest. This is an idea that Wendy O'Flaherty enthusiastically embraces elsewhere: she offers, for example, as an explanation of her perplexing translation of III, 31, 1 the note, "the priest pours butter into the spoon, and the father pours seed into his daughter" (p. 155). Not only is there no word for 'seed' in the passage glossed here, there is none for 'priest', 'spoon', or 'butter' either.

The Rigveda remains open to imaginative exegesis because Indologists continue to believe that its poems are deliberately obscure. "As the Brāhmaṇas tell us so often, 'the gods love the obscure'. and in investigating Vedic matters, we must learn to cultivate at least that divine taste" (Jamison The Ravenous Hyenas and the Wounded Sun. Myth and Ritual in Ancient India, 1991, p. 41). But the Brāhmaṇas came into existence because the meaning of the poems had become lost. The ancient commentators didn't understand the Rigveda, and they were trying to work out what the poems were about. The American linguist William Dwight Whitney, writing over a century ago, had little time for "their misapprehensions and deliberate perversions of their text, their ready invention of tasteless and absurd legends to explain the allusions, real or fancied, which it contains, their often atrocious etymologies" (Oriental and Linguistic Studies, 1873, p. 110), but to be fair to the authors of the Brāhmaṇas , they lacked modern resources: a written text and a concordance, for example. Without the ability to compare contexts decipherment is extremely difficult, and "ready invention" is a tempting alternative. Indology today, which has these resources, nonetheless adheres to the ancient methods of investigation. In her paper quoted at the beginning of this introduction, Stephanie Jamison propounds the thesis that "many of the most obscure images and turns of phrase in the Rig Veda make sense as poetic realisations of specific ritual activities, and whole hymns and hymn complexes can poetically encode the sequences and procedures of a particular ritual," citing as an example "Joel Brereton's recent brilliant explanation of the fiendishly opaque mythology of the divine figures, the R̥bhus , as reflecting in remarkable detail the Third Pressing of the Soma Sacrifice" (p. 7). This is the approach that first buried the Rigveda from view in ancient times, and in continuing to apply it modern Indology is simply throwing earth onto the mound.

As an editorial postscript to an article published in 1965 on the word vidátha , the Iranian scholar H.W. Bailey commented, "It should not pass unnoticed that the most recent translation of the Rigveda by L. Renou. knows nothing of vidátha- as 'congregation'. Each translator tends to read into the obscure texts his own theories." Only attention to the text itself, which has been out of print for much of the past century, will lift the mists that have always enveloped the Rigveda. Study of the earliest Indo-European poetry may have languished in recent times, but the parallel discipline of Old English studies has notably flourished as a result of the application of rigorous scholarship, deriving from the 'new philology' introduced into England from Germany in the 1830s. "The greatest strength of Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Studies in general, I believe, is that by and large we have never lost our devotion to the text and to interpreting texts. We have not let theory estrange us from the life's blood of our enterprise, the texts and artifacts at the center of our study." (Fred C. Robinson, in the introduction to The Preservation and Transmission of Anglo-Saxon Culture, 1997). The Rigveda stands alone unlike Old English it has not come down to us together with any artifacts that we know to be dateable to the same remote period in time. But it constitutes a considerable body of material, and remarkably, given its antiquity and importance, it remains largely undeciphered. This course has been written primarily to give access to the text to scholars from other disciplines, and to provide the means for a fresh approach to the decipherment of the earliest Indo-European poems.

4. The text, and the editorial tradition.

Until very recently the original poetic form of the Rigveda was also hidden. Luckily for modern students, this is no longer the case (see below). The artificial ordering of the poems by their ancient editors however remains in use today.

Books II to VII (of ten books) are arranged on a uniform pattern. Hymns addressed to Agni 'Fire' (Latin ignis) always come first: a frequent epithet of Agni in the Rigveda is puró-hita 'placed in front'. The Agni hymns are followed by hymns to Indra. Within these two groups the poems are arranged in order of diminishing length. Poems addressed to other gods form the third group of each book. Book VIII follows a more natural arrangement, and contains many poems of early date. The songs of Book IX are a special case, having been put together because of the similarity of their vocabulary, notably the obscure verb √pū, pávate and its derivatives. They contain many refrains (see section 40 in Lesson 8) that help to identify the groups to which they originally belonged. Books I and X appear to have been added later to the core collection. A different numbering system which is popular in India preserves this order but divides the material equally into eighths still another, followed by Grassmann in his concordance (see the reading list in section 9), simply numbers the poems consecutively.

For much of its history this body of poetry was passed down orally. Even following the general introduction of writing, some time before the 3rd century BC, there was a strong reluctance to write down this sacred and cabalistic text, which was the exclusive and secret property of an elite. The date of the earliest written text that has come down to us, from which all others derive, is characteristically unknown. It is a 'continuous' text -- in Sanskrit, saṃ-hitā 'placed-together' -- in which adjacent sounds combine with each other across word boundaries according to strictly applied phonetic rules. This combining of sounds is known as sandhi, from the Sanskrit saṃ-dhi 'placing-together' (see section 7). A second ancient text, the pada or 'word' text, which gives all the words separately in their original form, appears to have been compiled at around the same time. The surviving manuscripts of these two texts in the Devanāgarī script were edited and published in a definitive edition by Max Müller in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was clear to Max Müller that the 'continuous' text obscured the original form of these poems. In 1869 he wrote, "if we try to restore the original form of the Vedic hymns, we shall certainly arrive at some kind of Pada text rather than at a Sanhitā text nay, even in their present form, the original metre and rhythm of the ancient hymns are far more perceptible when the words are divided, than when we join them together throughout according to the rules of Sandhi." But it was not until 1994 that the metrically restored text, in a modern transliterated form, was published by the American scholars Barend van Nooten and Gary Holland. For the first time in its history, the Rigveda was clearly revealed, on the printed page, as poetry.

Van Nooten and Holland's edition has unfortunately been out of print for some years. In order to make the metrically restored text universally available, we have produced an edited online version, The Rigveda: Metrically Restored Text.

The system of modern transliteration used by van Nooten and Holland is also used in the full Unicode 3 versions of these lessons.

5. A note on methodology.

My aim throughout the grammar sections has been to provide a description of the language that is as straightforward as possible. Many factors have traditionally combined to make the Rigveda inaccessible to scholars in other fields, one of which is grammatical complexity. I have opted for the clearest presentation that I could find. As Arthur Macdonell's Vedic Grammar for Students is an excellent summary and remains in general use, I have tended to follow him in the attribution of verbal forms, but I have, for example, categorised the types of the aorist following Whitney, as his description seems more straightforward. Others may disagree with the choices that I have made, and I welcome comments. In addition, as Macdonell wrote in the Preface to his 1917 Vedic Reader (the immediate predecessor of this course), "freedom from serious misprints is a matter of great importance in a work like this." The Vedic Reader never reached a corrected edition, but one of the advantages of online publishing is the relative ease with which mistakes can be put right. I particularly welcome corrections.

Indologists have so far found no common ground for debate with my approach. I am very grateful therefore to Ramesh Krishnamurthy for constructive discussion and advice, and to Alexander Lubotsky for proof-reading the first four lessons and making some necessary corrections. Where however Professor Lubotsky urged the traditional interpretations over my revisions I have stuck to my guns: for example, in my translation of the feminine noun usríyā in the second verse of the Lesson 4 text (surely not 'cow'), and of páyas in a number of the examples (not, in my view, 'milk' see section 50.2). Where my translation of words occurring in the lesson texts differs from the current consensus, the translation appears in italics in the glossaries. (Occasionally translations are in italics because there is no existing consensus.) Some retranslations are minor refinements of sense others, like usríyā , and vakṣáṇā discussed in section 3 above, are more radical. Wherever possible, however, I have chosen passages that are free of problem words, and italicised translations of this kind are relatively few in number.

My greatest due of thanks is to Professor Winfred Lehmann and the Salus Mundi Foundation, for making it possible to put the course online.

6. The sounds of Sanskrit and the Sanskrit alphabet.

The 'dictionary' order of Sanskrit follows phonetic rules. The vowels come first.

a , ā , i , ī , u , ū , r̥ , r̥̄ , l̥

The short vowel a is pronounced approximately as the a of English about, and i and u as in bit and put (in Classical Sanskrit the short a sound became even shorter, and is transliterated as a u sound). These vowels each have a long equivalent, ā , ī , ū , pronounced as in English bar, beat and boot. In addition Sanskrit has a vocalic r sound, r̥ , which occurs frequently and is pronounced like the r in British English interesting with accent on the first syllable, ' íntr̥sting '. The word Rigveda itself in Sanskrit begins with this vocalic r, which is why it is sometimes transliterated without the i, Rgveda. (In this course r̥ is transliterated both as ri and as ar.) There is also a longer r̥ sound, r̥̄ , and a vocalic l sound, l̥ , which is very rare and is pronounced something like the l (with silent e) in table.

Four long vocalic sounds classified as diphthongs follow:

The equivalent English sounds are e (bait), ai (bite), o (boat), and au (bout).

The consonants are also arranged phonetically.

k , kh , g , gh , ṅ , c , ch , j , jh , ñ , ṭ , ṭh , ḍ , ḍh , ṇ , t , th , d , dh , n , p , ph , b , bh , m

These are ordered according to their physical production in speech. The sounds produced at the back of the mouth, k , kh , g , gh are listed first, and are described as 'velar' because they are made with the tongue touching the soft palate (velum in Latin). 'Palatal' consonants, c , ch , j , jh , are made slightly farther forward in the mouth, with the tongue touching the hard palate 'dentals', t , th , d , dh , with the tongue touching the teeth and 'labials', p , ph , b , bh , with the lips. This is given in tabular form below. Each sequence or class comprises a 'voiceless' sound, pronounced without the vibration of the vocal cords, like k the same sound aspirated, kh , pronounced with a following h sound a 'voiced' sound, g the same sound aspirated, gh and a nasal.

Between the palatal and dental classes appears another sequence. The dental t sound is in fact like a French t (tout), made with the tongue touching the teeth. The Indian retroflex sounds are made with the tip of the tongue curved backwards (hence the name) behind the upper teeth, and then flicked forward. To Indian ears the t of try is more like a retroflex than a dental sound.

The nasals belonging to each class simply represent the sounds produced in each part of the mouth. English also has a range of nasal sounds, but they are not generally reflected in writing. Compare, for example, the sound of the nasal in these five words, which changes because of the different adjacent consonants: hunger (velar), punch (palatal), unreal (retroflex), hunter (dental), and, with a written change, lumber (labial).

Voiceless Voiced
Velar k kh g gh
Palatal c ch j jh ñ
Retroflex ṭh ḍ / ḷ ḍh / ḷh
Dental t th d dh n
Labial p ph b bh m

Note: ḍ becomes ḷ (and ḍh ḷh ) between vowels, as in the word puroḷā́ś mentioned in the first section of the introduction.

At the end of the alphabet come semivowels and sibilants, and h :

The semivowels and sibilants are again in phonetic order:

Semivowel Sibilant
Palatal y ś
Retroflex r
Dental l s
Labial v

The semivowels are closely related to vowels: y corresponds to i / ī , r to r̥ / r̥̄ , l to l̥ , and v (pronounced like English w when preceded by a consonant) to u / ū . The same close vowel/semivowel relationship is reflected in the eighteenth-century spelling of persuade, 'perswade'. In the earliest 'continuous' text the written semivowel often represents an original vowel. Palatal ś and retroflex ṣ are both pronounced something like English sh, the second again with the tongue slightly curved backwards.

In addition there are two sounds that occur very frequently, ṃ and ḥ , which are not original but represent other sounds under the influence of sandhi (see below). In most dictionaries, that by Monier-Williams for example, ṃ is positioned alphabetically according to the original nasal that it represents, which can be confusing. In the course glossaries these two sounds have been arranged to follow the diphthongs and precede the consonants.***Since the 2016 software change this is no longer the case see note at the beginning of Lesson 1.*** ṃ (sometimes written m̐ ) is a pure nasal: táṃ is pronounced something like French teint. ḥ is an unvoiced breathing sound.

7. Sound changes, combination of sounds, or sandhi.

The word sandhi is used to describe the way in which sounds change as a result of adjacent sounds, both within words and across word boundaries, and it is a natural phenomenon in speech. Consider the English nasal sounds described in the previous section, for example. Because the extensiveness of its occurrence in Sanskrit is unparalleled in any other language, the Sanskrit name saṃ-dhi 'putting-together' has come to be used to describe this phenomenon in other languages.

The evidence of the Rigveda with respect to vowel sandhi (see section 45.1 of Lesson 9) suggests that many of the sandhi changes made by the later editors were in fact artificial, and the result of the imposition of fixed rules onto a language that was more naturally flexible. In English most sandhi changes are not written, but in Sanskrit they are extensively reproduced in writing. This, as Michael Coulson mildly expresses it in his guide to the Classical language, Teach Yourself Sanskrit, is "not necessarily a good thing." The complexity of the written sandhi system is potentially alienating for a beginner. This section therefore provides only a brief sketch of the principles involved to prepare the reader for the kinds of change that he will encounter in the lessons. Appendix 1 at the end of this course presents, in tabular form, the changes that occur.

7.1. Sandhi of vowels.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the form in which these poems were first written applied later rules of vowel sandhi which the metre indicates were inappropriate. Final i / ī and u / ū , for example, when followed by another vowel were systematically turned into the related semivowels y and v in order to avoid hiatus, that is, to give a smooth, continuous sound. But the syllabic loss that this change entails destroys the rhythm of the poems and the vowels must nearly always be restored. A language of a different character emerges. "The text of the Rigveda, when metrically restored, shows us a dialect in which the vowels are relatively more frequent, and the syllables therefore lighter and more musical, than is the case in classical Sanskrit. The Homeric dialect differs just in the same way from classical Greek" (Arnold, Vedic Metre p. 106).

Certain vowels when juxtaposed nonetheless do change in the Rigveda. Two short vowels that are the same, for example, -i at the end of a word followed by i- at the beginning of a word, usually combine to give the long vowel, here -ī- . Long vowels, or a mixture of long and short vowels, combine in the same way. In example 225, aśvinā́ in fact represents two words, aśvinā ā́ , and in example 234 ā́gāt represents ā́ ágāt . This does not always happen: in example 334, for instance, the two adjacent a sounds in evá agníḥ have not combined, nor in example 136, stotā́ amatīvā́ . Sometimes at the end of a line ā́ is written ā́m̐ to make clear that it does not combine with the initial vowel at the beginning of the next line. There are examples of this in the Lesson 4, 5, and 10 texts.

Some combinations of dissimilar vowels also regularly occur, particularly with final a / ā , which may combine with initial i / ī to give e , and with initial u / ū to give o . In example 26, for example, aśvinoṣásam = aśvinā uṣásam , and in example 277 śamitéva = śamitā́ iva . Again these rules are not invariably applied: see aśvinā ūháthuḥ in example 224.

7.2. Sandhi of consonants.

In the written system consonants are also regularly subject to change. s and m are frequently found at the end of words: nominative singular devás 'god', accusative singular devám . Final m , the labial nasal, under the rules of sandhi becomes the pure nasal ṃ if followed by anything other than a vowel, or another labial sound. Final s is regularly given as the unvoiced breathing sound ḥ by the editors -- this is the form it always takes at the end of a phrase or line. It is changed to r before a 'soft' sound like a vowel or a voiced consonant. With an immediately preceding a , however, it is treated differently: -as becomes -o before soft sounds. Examples of these changes in simple compound words have already been given: the word saṃ-dhi itself, saṃ-hitā 'placed-together', and Rigvedic puró-hita 'placed in front'.

Final t also occurs frequently, as in tát 'that, it'. When followed by a soft sound it becomes d , but before n or m it becomes n . This sounds complicated, but such changes soon become familiar. They occur naturally when a language is spoken at speed, and are a good source of the punning jokes beloved of children (as in "say iced ink very quickly").

The first line quoted in the introduction to the first lesson, agníṃ dūtám puró dadhe , shows sandhi effects at the end of the first and the third word. A word for word version would read agním dūtám purás dadhe (the m of dūtám was unchanged as it was followed by a labial consonant, p ). The last two lines of the first lesson text,

tán no mitró váruṇo māmahantām
áditiḥ síndhuḥ pr̥thivī́ utá dyaúḥ

with sandhi removed and final s restored, read

tát nas mitrás váruṇas māmahantām
áditis síndhus pr̥thivī́ utá dyaús

All the lesson texts are glossed word for word with the sandhi changes removed, and sandhi changes are also regularly explained in square brackets when they occur in the examples.

7.3. Retroflexion.

Included within the scope of sandhi are changes known as retroflexion. The sounds r̥ , r̥̄ , r and ṣ under certain circumstances make n retroflex, ṇ , even across word boundaries: see example 325, prá ṇaḥ for prá nas . Similarly, vowels other than a or ā , and k , r and ṣ , can change s to ṣ . See example 81, abhí ṣyāma [abhí syāma] , and example 296, nū́ ṣṭutáḥ [ nū́ stutáḥ ], where the ṣ in turn has made the following t retroflex. This occurs very frequently within words: arká 'song', arkéṇa 'with song', arkéṣu 'in songs'.

8. Vowel gradation, or ablaut.

A characteristic feature of Indo-European languages is the variation of vowels in derivatives from a root. Found regularly in the verbal system, it also occurs in nouns, as in sing, sang, sung, and also song. This vowel variation is known as ablaut. Its occurrence in Sanskrit was recognised by the ancient grammarians, who described it as 'strengthening' of the vowel. The table shows how the simple vowel is strengthened.

Simple vowel a ā i ī u ū
First grade a ā e o ar
Second grade ā ai au ār

Vowel strengthening is found in nominal derivatives, like the element vaiśvā- in the first word of the first lesson text, which is a derivative of víśva 'all', and pā́rthiva 'earthly' in the third verse of the Lesson 3 text, which is a derivative of pr̥thivī́ 'earth'. It is a feature of many parts of the verb, like the causative, viśáti 'he enters', veśáyati 'he causes to enter' (see section 33.1), and the aorist passive: ámoci 'it has been released' from √muc 'release' (see section 48.1).

9. Reading List.
  • Rig Veda. A Metrically Restored Text with an Introduction and Notes. Edited by Barend A. van Nooten and Gary B. Holland. Harvard University Press, 1994.
  • The Rigveda: Metrically Restored Text. Online version edited by Karen Thomson and Jonathan Slocum. University of Texas, 2006.
  • Arnold, E.V. Vedic Metre. Cambridge University Press, 1905.

The most important resource for studying the Rigveda is the text itself, and the metrically restored text is the first to show its original poetic form. Previous editions are misleading in masking both form and meaning, as explained in section 45 of Lesson 9.

Arnold's 1905 study goes well beyond its modest title, not only in disentangling the original metrical form but also in using the metre, together with vocabulary and grammatical forms, to attempt a chronological arrangement of the poems.

  • Grassmann, Hermann. Wörterbuch zum Rig-Veda. Leipzig, Brockhaus 1873.
  • Lubotsky, Alexander. A R̥gvedic Word Concordance. New Haven, CT, American Oriental Society 1997.

Grassmann's dictionary and analytical concordance remains invaluable the recent concordance by Lubotsky is useful in listing all the word forms, without translation, in the context of the line in which they occur. Though deriving from van Nooten and Holland's metrical edition, the text in Lubotsky's concordance is quoted in unrestored form.

  • Macdonell, Arthur. Vedic Grammar for Students. Oxford, Clarendon Press 1916.
  • Macdonell, Arthur. Vedic Grammar. Strassburg, Trübner 1910.
  • Whitney, William D. Sanskrit Grammar. Second Edition. Harvard University Press 1889.
  • Whitney, William D. The Roots, Verb-forms and Primary Derivatives of the Sanskrit Language. Leipzig, Breitkopf und Härtel 1885.
  • Arnold, E.V. Historical Vedic Grammar. [in] Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 18, 1897, pp. 203-353.

As a compendium of Rigvedic grammar, Macdonell's Vedic Grammar for Students remains extremely useful. The same author's earlier and fuller Vedic Grammar is an outstanding work of scholarship, and is currently available from India as a reprint (Munshiram Manoharal, 2000 the reprint however lacks the last gathering and therefore much of the index).

In addition to the works by Macdonell, Whitney's nineteenth-century Sanskrit Grammar, which includes the early language, is useful in regularly clarifying what may seem unduly complex. His supplementary volume, The Roots, Verb-forms and Primary Derivatives of the Sanskrit Language, arranges nominal forms under the verbal roots to which they belong, and is a guide to the regularly transparent word formation of Sanskrit (see section 49 in Lesson 10).

Arnold's Historical Vedic Grammar, while not for the beginner, is a rich statistical resource for the historical study of pre-Classical Sanskrit.

Dictionaries and semantic studies.
  • Monier-Williams, Monier. Sanskrit-English Dictionary. New Edition, Oxford University Press 1899.
  • Mayrhofer, Manfred. Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen. [Part I. Ältere Sprache]. Heidelberg, Carl Winter 1992-1996.

All dictionaries contain translations that are misleading for the Rigveda. With this caveat, the Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Monier Monier-Williams, based on the seven-volume Sanskrit-Wörterbuch by Otto Böhtlingk and Rudolph Roth, is a work of great erudition. The most recent dictionary of early Sanskrit, by the eminent linguist Manfred Mayrhofer, is useful for presenting the Rigveda in its Indo-European context, and is distinguished by the regular unwillingness of its author to accept traditional interpretations without question.

Those interested in the reconsideration of inherited interpretations may wish to look at my studies of some of the words mentioned in this introduction. Thomson, Karen, "The meaning and language of the Rigveda: Rigvedic grā́van as a test case," Journal of Indo-European Studies 29, 3 & 4, 2001, 295-349 "The decipherable Rigveda: a reconsideration of vakṣáṇā ," Indogermanische Forschungen 109, 2004, 112-139 "Why the Rigveda remains undeciphered: the example of puroḷā́ś ," General Linguistics 43, 2005 [2003], 39-59 and, a sister paper to the last, "The decipherable Rigveda: tiróahnyam as an example," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 15, 1, 2005, 63-70 (the words puroḷā́ś and the temporal adverb tiróahnyam , misunderstood by the authors of later Vedic texts as an adjective, frequently occur together).

Related Language Courses at UT

Most but not all language courses taught at The University of Texas concern modern languages sometimes courses are offered in ancient languages, though more often at the graduate level. Indic language courses, including Sanskrit, are taught in the Department of Asian Studies (link opens in a new browser window). Other online language courses for college credit are offered through the University Extension (new window).


Some scholars believed that Sanskrit was a pre-cursor to European languages while others disagree quite heatedly. Sanskrit appears on the Bible World History Timeline around 1000 BC with a note that it is possibly related to European languages.

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The Indian people believe that Sanskrit was a spiritual language that has been passed down to man through their people. This language was supposed to have originated with the Vedas or large body of text that has been given to the Hindu people well over 5000 years ago. The texts were supposed to be given to the Indians in the form of “what is heard” and not “what is remembered”. According to Hindu legend, mankind was able to retain knowledge when something was spoken to them one time. As time progressed, people became more evil and corrupted and, as a result, they lost their ability to comprehend information without the use of written language. Since then this language has been known to have a spiritual and religious connection associated with it since its origins are supposedly supernatural. Sanskrit appears on the Bible World History Timeline around 1000 BC.

Three major religions in Asia use Sanskrit as a part of their religious services. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism have made this language their official dialect. The Indian state of Uttarakhand uses Sanskrit as their official language. Sanskrit is also a highly regarded language in Indo-European studies, culture, and history.

Sanskrit was about to die out at one point in the history of India since the institutions that supported it had become irrelevant. This had occurred around the 18th century before the British had dominated India. Once the British took over the language was preserved, and it was used for scholarly purposes and the educated classes. The average person in India during that time did not speak Sanskrit. In modern times, Sanskrit has become a common language in some parts of India. As much as half of the words used in modern India are supposed to be influenced by Sanskrit.

Sanskrit doesn’t have an original unified script because the early scripts were influenced by the region of the scribe. This means that all of the writing systems in southern Asia have been used to produce Sanskrit manuscripts. The Brahmi scripts were the earliest known for his language, and it was created in the 1st century B.C. The Brahmic scripts were also important since they had evolved into a variety of different Sanskrit scripts. The Northwest part of the subcontinent of India used the Kharosthi script. Gupta evolved from the Brahmi scripts.

Initially, many British scholars and linguists thought that Sanskrit was an inferior language since they thought that the Indian people were underneath them. However, their attitudes changed with time and English-speaking linguists and scholars have taken steps to preserve this language. They have transliterated Sanskrit with Latin and other Romanized languages.

The language has also been revived in the country of India since the latter half of the 20th century. Many different social and educational institutions have been trying to make Sanskrit an accepted part of the culture. Some political organizations have also tried to promote Hinduism in commercialized slogans to help spread the use of the language. Their efforts have been well received but competing with Hindi and English (India’s two primary languages) is proving difficult for supporters of Sanskrit.


संस्कृत का इतिहास बहुत पुराना है। वर्तमान समय में प्राप्त सबसे प्राचीन संस्कृत ग्रन्थ ॠग्वेद है जो कम से कम ढाई हजार ईसापूर्व की रचना है।

संस्कृत भाषा का व्याकरण अत्यन्त परिमार्जित एवं वैज्ञानिक है। बहुत प्राचीन काल से ही अनेक व्याकरणाचार्यों ने संस्कृत व्याकरण पर बहुत कुछ लिखा है। किन्तु पाणिनि का संस्कृत व्याकरण पर किया गया कार्य सबसे प्रसिद्ध है। उनका अष्टाध्यायी किसी भी भाषा के व्याकरण का सबसे प्राचीन ग्रन्थ है।

संस्कृत में संज्ञा, सर्वनाम, विशेषण और क्रिया के कई तरह से शब्द-रूप बनाये जाते हैं, जो व्याकरणिक अर्थ प्रदान करते हैं। अधिकांश शब्द-रूप मूलशब्द के अन्त में प्रत्यय लगाकर बनाये जाते हैं। इस तरह ये कहा जा सकता है कि संस्कृत एक बहिर्मुखी-अन्त-श्लिष्टयोगात्मक भाषा है। संस्कृत के व्याकरण को वागीश शास्त्री ने वैज्ञानिक स्वरूप प्रदान किया है।

संस्कृत भारत की कई लिपियों में लिखी जाती रही है, लेकिन आधुनिक युग में देवनागरी लिपि के साथ इसका विशेष संबंध है। देवनागरी लिपि वास्तव में संस्कृत के लिए ही बनी है, इसलिए इसमें हर एक चिह्न के लिए एक और केवल एक ही ध्वनि है। देवनागरी में १३ स्वर और ३३ व्यंजन हैं। देवनागरी से रोमन लिपि में लिप्यन्तरण के लिए दो पद्धतियाँ अधिक प्रचलित हैं : IAST और ITRANS. शून्य, एक या अधिक व्यंजनों और एक स्वर के मेल से एक अक्षर बनता है।

स्वर संपादित करें

ये स्वर संस्कृत के लिए दिए गए हैं। हिन्दी में इनके उच्चारण थोड़े भिन्न होते हैं।

वर्णाक्षर “प” के साथ मात्रा IPA उच्चारण "प्" के साथ उच्चारण IAST समतुल्य अंग्रेज़ी समतुल्य हिन्दी में वर्णन
/ ə / / pə / a लघु या दीर्घ Schwa: जैसे a, above या ago में मध्य प्रसृत स्वर
पा / α: / / pα: / ā दीर्घ Open back unrounded vowel: जैसे a, father में दीर्घ विवृत पश्व प्रसृत स्वर
पि / i / / pi / i लघु close front unrounded vowel: जैसे i, bit में ह्रस्व संवृत अग्र प्रसृत स्वर
पी / i: / / pi: / ī दीर्घ close front unrounded vowel: जैसे i, machine में दीर्घ संवृत अग्र प्रसृत स्वर
पु / u / / pu / u लघु close back rounded vowel: जैसे u, put में ह्रस्व संवृत पश्व वर्तुल स्वर
पू / u: / / pu: / ū दीर्घ close back rounded vowel: जैसे oo, school में दीर्घ संवृत पश्व वर्तुल स्वर
पे / e: / / pe: / e दीर्घ close-mid front unrounded vowel: जैसे a in game (संयुक्त स्वर नहीं) में दीर्घ अर्धसंवृत अग्र प्रसृत स्वर
पै / ai / / pai / ai दीर्घ diphthong: जैसे ei, height में दीर्घ द्विमात्रिक स्वर
पो / ο: / / pο: / o दीर्घ close-mid back rounded vowel: जैसे o, tone (संयुक्त स्वर नहीं) में दीर्घ अर्धसंवृत पश्व वर्तुल स्वर
पौ / au / / pau / au दीर्घ diphthong: जैसे ou, house में दीर्घ द्विमात्रिक स्वर

संस्कृत में दो स्वरों का युग्म होता है और "अ-इ" या "आ-इ" की तरह बोला जाता है। इसी तरह "अ-उ" या "आ-उ" की तरह बोला जाता है।

इसके अलावा निम्नलिखित वर्ण भी स्वर माने जाते हैं :

  • -- वर्तमान में, स्थानीय भाषाओं के प्रभाव से इसका अशुद्ध उच्चारण किया जाता है। आधुनिक हिन्दी में "रि" की तरह तथा मराठी में "रु" की तरह किया जाता है ।
  • -- केवल संस्कृत में (दीर्घ ऋ)
  • -- केवल संस्कृत में (syllabic retroflex l)
  • अं -- न् , म् , ङ् , ञ् , ण् और ं के लिए या स्वर का नासिकीकरण करने के लिए
  • अँ -- स्वर का नासिकीकरण करने के लिए (संस्कृत में नहीं उपयुक्त होता)
  • अः -- अघोष "ह्" (निःश्वास) के लिए

व्यंजन संपादित करें

जब कोई स्वर प्रयोग नहीं हो, तो वहाँ पर 'अ' माना जाता है। स्वर के न होने को हलन्त्‌ अथवा विराम से दर्शाया जाता है। जैसे कि क्‌ ख्‌ ग्‌ घ्‌।

  • इनमें से (मूर्धन्य पार्विक अन्तस्थ) एक अतिरिक्त व्यंजन है जिसका प्रयोग हिन्दी में नहीं होता है। मराठी और वैदिक संस्कृत में इसका प्रयोग किया जाता है।
  • संस्कृत में का उच्चारण ऐसे होता था : जीभ की नोंक को मूर्धा (मुँह की छत) की ओर उठाकर जैसी ध्वनि करना। शुक्ल यजुर्वेद की माध्यंदिनि शाखा में कुछ वाक्यों में का उच्चारण की तरह करना मान्य था।
  • (१) संस्कृत, विश्व की सबसे पुरानी पुस्तक (वेद) की भाषा है। इसलिए इसे विश्व की प्रथम भाषा मानने में कहीं किसी संशय की संभावना नहीं है। [5][6]
  • (२) इसकी सुस्पष्ट व्याकरण और वर्णमाला की वैज्ञानिकता के कारण सर्वश्रेष्ठता भी स्वयं सिद्ध है।
  • (३) सर्वाधिक महत्वपूर्ण साहित्य की धनी होने से इसकी महत्ता भी निर्विवाद है।
  • (४) इसे देवभाषा माना जाता है।
  • (५) संस्कृत केवल स्वविकसित भाषा नहीं बल्कि संस्कारित भाषा भी है, अतः इसका नाम संस्कृत है। केवल संस्कृत ही एकमात्र भाषा है जिसका नामकरण उसके बोलने वालों के नाम पर नहीं किया गया है।
  • संस्कृत > सम् + सुट् + 'कृ करणे' + क्त, ('सम्पर्युपेभ्यः करोतौ भूषणे' इस सूत्र से 'भूषण' अर्थ में 'सुट्' या सकार का आगम/ 'भूते' इस सूत्र से भूतकाल(past) को द्योतित करने के लिए संज्ञा अर्थ में क्त-प्रत्यय /कृ-धातु 'करणे' या 'Doing' अर्थ में) अर्थात् विभूूूूषित, समलंकृत(well-decorated) या संस्कारयुक्त (well-cutured)।
  • संस्कृत को संस्कारित करने वाले भी कोई साधारण भाषाविद् नहीं बल्कि महर्षि पाणिनि, महर्षि कात्यायन और योगशास्त्र के प्रणेता महर्षि पतंजलि हैं। इन तीनों महर्षियों ने बड़ी ही कुशलता से योग की क्रियाओं को भाषा में समाविष्ट किया है। यही इस भाषा का रहस्य है।
  • (६) शब्द-रूप - विश्व की सभी भाषाओं में एक शब्द का एक या कुछ ही रूप होते हैं, जबकि संस्कृत में प्रत्येक शब्द के 27 रूप होते हैं।
  • (७) द्विवचन - सभी भाषाओं में एकवचन और बहुवचन होते हैं जबकि संस्कृत में द्विवचन अतिरिक्त होता है।
  • (८) सन्धि - संस्कृत भाषा की सबसे महत्वपूर्ण विशेषता है सन्धि। संस्कृत में जब दो अक्षर निकट आते हैं तो वहाँ सन्धि होने से स्वरूप और उच्चारण बदल जा है ।
  • (९) इसे कम्प्यूटर और कृत्रिम बुद्धि के लिए सबसे उपयुक्त भाषा माना जाता है।
  • (१०) शोध से ऐसा पाया गया है कि संस्कृत पढ़ने से स्मरण शक्ति बढ़ती है। [7]
  • (११) संस्कृत वाक्यों में शब्दों को किसी भी क्रम में रखा जा सकता है। इससे अर्थ का अनर्थ होने की बहुत कम या कोई भी सम्भावना नहीं होती। ऐसा इसलिये होता है क्योंकि सभी शब्द विभक्ति और वचन के अनुसार होते हैं और क्रम बदलने पर भी सही अर्थ सुरक्षित रहता है। जैसे - अहं गृहं गच्छामि या गच्छामि गृहं अहम् दोनो ही ठीक हैं।
  • (१२) संस्कृत विश्व की सर्वाधिक 'पूर्ण' (perfect) एवं तर्कसम्मत भाषा है। [8]
  • (१३) संस्कृत ही एक मात्र साधन हैं जो क्रमश: अंगुलियों एवं जीभ को लचीला बनाते हैं। इसके अध्ययन करने वाले छात्रों को गणित, विज्ञान एवं अन्य भाषाएँ ग्रहण करने में सहायता मिलती है।
  • (१४) संस्कृत भाषा में साहित्य की रचना कम से कम छह हजार वर्षों से निरन्तर होती आ रही है। इसके कई लाख ग्रन्थों के पठन-पाठन और चिन्तन में भारतवर्ष के हजारों पुश्त तक के करोड़ों सर्वोत्तम मस्तिष्क दिन-रात लगे रहे हैं और आज भी लगे हुए हैं। पता नहीं कि संसार के किसी देश में इतने काल तक, इतनी दूरी तक व्याप्त, इतने उत्तम मस्तिष्क में विचरण करने वाली कोई भाषा है या नहीं। शायद नहीं है। दीर्घ कालखण्ड के बाद भी असंख्य प्राकृतिक तथा मानवीय आपदाओं (वैदेशिक आक्रमणों) को झेलते हुए आज भी ३ करोड़ से अधिक संस्कृत पाण्डुलिपियाँ विद्यमान हैं। यह संख्या ग्रीक और लैटिन की पाण्डुलिपियों की सम्मिलित संख्या से भी १०० गुना अधिक है। निःसंदेह ही यह सम्पदा छापाखाने के आविष्कार के पहले किसी भी संस्कृति द्वारा सृजित सबसे बड़ी सांस्कृतिक विरासत है। [9]
  • (१५) संस्कृत केवल एक मात्र भाषा नहीं है अपितु संस्कृत एक विचार है। संस्कृत एक संस्कृति है एक संस्कार है संस्कृत में विश्व का कल्याण है, शांति है, सहयोग है, वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् की भावना है।
  • संस्कृत कई भारतीय भाषाओं की जननी है। इनकी अधिकांश शब्दावली या तो संस्कृत से ली गई है या संस्कृत से प्रभावित है। पूरे भारत में संस्कृत के अध्ययन-अध्यापन से भारतीय भाषाओं में अधिकाधिक एकरूपता आएगी जिससे भारतीय एकता बलवती होगी। यदि इच्छा-शक्ति हो तो संस्कृत को हिब्रू की भाँति पुनः प्रचलित भाषा भी बनाया जा सकता है।
  • हिन्दू, बौद्ध, जैन आदि धर्मों के प्राचीन धार्मिक ग्रन्थ संस्कृत में हैं।
  • हिन्दुओं के सभी पूजा-पाठ और धार्मिक संस्कार की भाषा संस्कृत ही है।
  • हिन्दुओं, बौद्धों और जैनों के नाम भी संस्कृत पर आधारित होते हैं।
  • भारतीय भाषाओं की तकनीकी शब्दावली भी संस्कृत से ही व्युत्पन्न की जाती है। भारतीय संविधान की धारा 343, धारा 348 (2) तथा 351 का सारांश यह है कि देवनागरी लिपि में लिखी और मूलत: संस्कृत से अपनी पारिभाषिक शब्दावली को लेने वाली हिन्दी राजभाषा है।
  • संस्कृत, भारत को एकता के सूत्र में बाँधती है।
  • संस्कृत का साहित्य अत्यन्त प्राचीन, विशाल और विविधतापूर्ण है। इसमें अध्यात्म, दर्शन, ज्ञान-विज्ञान और साहित्य का खजाना है। इसके अध्ययन से ज्ञान-विज्ञान के क्षेत्र में प्रगति को बढ़ावा मिलेगा।
  • संस्कृत को कम्प्यूटर के लिए (कृत्रिम बुद्धि के लिए) सबसे उपयुक्त भाषा माना जाता है।

संस्कृत भाषा के शब्द मूलत रूप से सभी आधुनिक भारतीय भाषाओं में हैं। सभी भारतीय भाषाओं में एकता की रक्षा संस्कृत के माध्यम से ही हो सकती है। मलयालम, कन्नड और तेलुगु आदि दक्षिणात्य भाषाएं संस्कृत से बहुत प्रभावित हैं। यहाँ तक कि तमिल में भी संस्कृत के हजारों शब्द भरे पड़े हैं और मध्यकाल में संस्कृत का तमिल पर गहरा प्रभव पड़ा। [10]

विश्व की अनेकानेक भाषाओं पर संस्कृत ने गहरा प्रभाव डाला है। [11] संस्कृत भारोपीय भाषा परिवर में आती है और इस परिवार की भाषाओं से भी संस्कृत में बहुत सी समानता है। वैदिक संस्कृत और अवेस्ता (प्राचीन इरानी) में बहुत समानता है। भारत के पड़ोसी देशों की भाषाएँ सिंहल, नेपाली, म्यांमार भाषा, थाई भाषा, ख्मेर [12] संस्कृत से प्रभावित हैं। बौद्ध धर्म का चीन ज्यों-ज्यों प्रसार हुआ वैसे वैसे पहली शताब्दी से दसवीं शताब्दी तक सैकड़ों संस्कृत ग्रन्थों का चीनी भाषा में अनुवाद हुआ। इससे संस्कृत के हजरों शब्द चीनी भाषा में गए। [13] उत्तरी-पश्चिमी तिब्बत में तो अज से १००० वर्ष पहले तक संस्कृत की संस्कृति थी और वहाँ गान्धारी भाषा का प्रचलन था। [14]

Ancient Sanskrit Writings Suggest UFO’s Visited Us 6,000 Years Ago

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Did you know that Ancient India has one of the most extensive histories in the world? Their greatest ancient texts are called the “Vedas” and these writings talk about “flying shipsthat visited their continent over 6000 years ago. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.

So, why has mainstream history ignored these ancient texts? Better yet, does this mean that we are not the only intelligent species inhabiting the Universe? It seems that the ancient “Vedas” will raise more questions in time.

The canonical division of the Vedas is fourfold (turīya) viz.,

Yajurveda (YV, with the main division TS vs. VS )

According to experts, the Vedas speak about two categories of flying objects that visited ancient India in the distant past. These mysterious objects are described in Sanskrit writing, where you can find incredible devices and technologies that were not supposed to be present on our planet for thousands of years. In the Mahabharata , the Puranas, and the Ramayana , we find more descriptions of mysterious devices that surpass technological understanding of ancient man.

The descriptions of highly advanced vehicles found in ancient texts are both incredible and confusing. In the ancient book of the Vaimanika Shastra or the Science of Aeronautics, there are texts which speak about crafts that are controlled by our minds, made possible because of extremely advanced technology which has been kept away from society in modern times.

Not only do these ancient texts speak of mind-controlled crafts, but these sacred books talk about levitation and anti-gravity, 6000 years ago.
Many experts believe that the Vaimanika Shastra is a sacred book that talks about “ships” that could travel to different places on our planet, but could also travel into space.

A manuscript illustration of the Sky Battle of Kurukshetra fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, recorded in the Mahabharata Epic

According to Dr. V. Raghavam , a well known a Sanskrit scholar, and musicologist, who authored over 120 books and 1200 articles, ancient Indian texts speak about humans that lived on other planets and alien beings that visited our ancestor’s thousands of years ago. Dr. V. Raghavam won the Sahitya Akademi Award for Sanskrit in 1966.

“Fifty years of researching this ancient work convinces me that there are living beings on other planets, and that they were visiting the earth as far back as 4000 B.C..”

“There is a just a mass of fascinating information about flying machines, even fantastic science fiction weapons, that can be found in translations of the Vedas (scriptures), Indian epics, and other ancient Sanskrit text”.

According to Dr. Raghavan , there are mentions of numerous technologies in the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana: you can find all sort of advanced tech there, some of these ancient technologies were re-developed by the great Nikola Tesla Ray weapons, Lasers, etc…

But Dr. Raghavan isn’t the only one who believed this theory. Another scientist who firmly agrees with Dr.
Raghavan is Dr. A.V. Krishna Murty, professor of aeronautics at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

“It is true,” Dr. Krishna Murty says, “that the ancient Indian Vedas and other text refer to aeronautics, spaceships, flying machines, ancient astronauts.”

“A study of the Sanskrit texts has convinced me that ancient India did know the secret of building flying machines-and that those machines were patterned after spaceships coming from other planets.”

One of the most interesting passages in the Ramayana reads:

“The Puspaka car that resembles the Sun and belongs to my brother was brought by the powerful Ravan that aerial and excellent car going everywhere at will…. that car resembling a bright cloud in the sky.”.. and the King [Rama] got in, and the excellent car at the command of the Raghira, rose up into the higher atmosphere.”

Furthermore, in the Mahabharata we find texts that read the following:

“Gurkha flying in his swift and powerful Vimana hurled against the three cities of the Vrishis and Andhakas a single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and fire, as brilliant as ten thousands suns, rose in all its splendor. It was the unknown weapon, the Iron Thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and Andhakas.”

In the Sanskrit Samaraanganasutraadhaara it is written:

Strong and durable must the body of the Vimana be made, like a great flying bird of light material. Inside one must put the mercury engine with its iron heating apparatus underneath. By means of the power latent in the mercury which sets the driving whirlwind in motion, a man sitting inside may travel a great distance in the sky. The movements of the Vimana are such that it can vertically ascend, vertically descend, move slanting forwards and backwards. With the help of the machines human beings can fly in the air and heavenly beings can come down to earth.

As you can see, there are numerous texts that speak of technologies that were considered as divine in the distant past. These technologies have not been present only in Ancient India.

Record of similar “phenomena” are recorded in ancient cultures around the globe, from the Ancient American natives to people living in Ancient Egypt and even in Asia.

Everywhere you go and look at ancient texts, you will find pieces of a “forgotten history,” of texts that have been tagged as mythological, and avoided by mainstream archaeologists and researchers.