Lesson 2    Aham vs Aham

To answer those riddles, we must first get familiar with the स्वर s (vowels) and the व्यञ्जन s (consonants).
अ आ इ ई उ ऊ ऋ ॠ लृ ॡ ए ऐ ओ औ अं अः are the स्वर s. They are complete in themselves and do not require the help of another letter to be pronounced. स्वर s are sixteen in number.

The व्यञ्जन s are

क् ख् ग् घ् ङ्
च् छ् ज् झ् ञ्
ट् ठ् ड् ढ् ण्
त् थ् द् ध् न्
प् फ् ब् भ् म्
य् र् ल् व् श्
ष् स् ह् ळ् क्ष्

Thirty five of them. The व्यञ्जन s highlighted in the table are called अनुनासिक व्यञ्जन s.


A व्यञ्जन,if not combined with a स्वर, is written with an oblique line underneath it which is called a हलन्त (halanta) or a विराम (virāma). This halanta also tells you that the pronunciation of that व्यञ्जन is clipped.

A small example - कप् is pronounced as the English word 'cup'


and कप is cuppa  (as in I wanna cuppa tea...gottit? )
The व्यञ्जन s written without the halanta such as or say प्ल actually end in an
So क = क् +अ , प्ल= प्+ ल् +अ
And of course का = क्+ आ

Sixteen स्वरs plus thirty five व्यञ्जन s make up the वर्णमाला । Add to it , three s - so that gives us fifty four. Fifty four plus fifty four, add up to a hundred and eight. We go over the entire वर्णमाला twice, forwards and backwards, when we do one माला of जप ।

In a sentence like अहम् अनामिका (I am Anāmikā) the म् is written as म् to enable it to join with the swara in अनामिका , to form the complete letter म। The sentence then becomes अहमनामिका ।
So if a word ends in म् and the word following it begins with a swara, the म् is either written as म्, or it is combined with the swara following it to become a म , मा , मि and so on and so forth.

So म् is written as म्, in two cases -

  1. when म् is the last letter in a word and when the first letter of the word following it is a swara and
  2. when it is at the end of a sentence...eg. तारा अहम् |
    (Why does म् remain a म् at the end of a sentence? Beats me. Some rules are just stated and we, poor things, just accept them.)

In a sentence like अहं तारा, the म् of the अहं is followed by the consonant त।
When the म् - the last letter in a word- is followed by another word whose first letter is a consonant, the म् converts itself into a dot and places itself above the previous letter. Maintaining an identity of its own, it now calls itself an अनुस्वार।
The correct form of the sentence then becomes अहं तारा।

Only म् has the authority to be used as an अनुस्वार ।. This changes the entire concept on how to write and pronounce a word correctly.

We present some terms in Sanskrit Grammar  which we will come across during our study. Pl go to Supplement 2 for these.

                                   Details in Lesson No. Three. Answers to riddle two in Lesson Three too.


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