Pronunciation and transliteration guide

This information and the two tables should help you understand how to pronounce the words from various Indian languages that are used in JAINpedia.

Pronouncing Sanskrit and modern Indian languages

Note that the pronunciation of Sanskrit and modern languages such as Hindi or Gujarati may slightly differ from each other. For instance, ai is like bite in Sanskrit, but rather like cat in Hindi.

Transliteration and pronunciation table

Note that each consonant is pronounced with a vowel sound following. This vowel sound is always a if not specified otherwise. This is why in this chart there is pa, ma and so on.

Devanāgarī with English transliterations and pronunciation

Letter in Devanāgarī script

Transliteration, in Latin alphabetical order

Examples of an Indian word (mainly Sanskrit)

International Phonetic Alphabet

Examples of approximate equivalent sounds in English

Note

a

  • Digambara
  • Baladeva

[ɐ]

  • but
  • Roman

ā

 

  • dāna
  • āgama
  • vihāra
  • Sulasā

[ɑː]

 

  • father
  • arm
  • seesaw
  • held twice as long as A

ai

  • jain
  • ailaka
  • vaimānika

[aːi]

  • bite
  • light

au

 

  • Aupapātika
  • Saudharma

[aːu]

  • sound
  • now

ba

  • bandha

[b]

 

  • before
  • about

bha

  • bhakti
  • bhaya

[bʱ]

  • abhorrent

ca

  • cakravartin
  • Hemacandra

[c]

 

  • chill
  • catch

cha

  • gaccha
  • chadmastha

[cʰ]

  • match-head

da

  • Digambara
  • deva

[d̪]

 

  • dinner
  • adorn

dha

  • dharma
  • dhyāna

[d̪ʱ]

  • guildhall

ḍa

 

  • kamaṇḍalu
  • daṇa

[ɖ]

  • bird
  • odd
  • dove
  • retroflex D

ḍha

  • Vaitāḍhya

[ɖʱ]

  • madhouse
  • roadhouse
  • red-hot
  • retroflex and aspirated D

e

  • Nemi
  • deva

[eː]

  • made
  • cake

ga

  • Digambara
  • gaccha

[ɡ]

 

  • go
  • anger

gha

  • ghātiya
  • saṅgha

[ɡʱ]

  • bighead
  • doghouse

ha

 

  • Mavīra
  • Hanumān

[ɦ]

  • him
  • hope
  • ahead

अः

  • dukha

[h]

  • aha
  • hue
  • huh
  • visarga

 

i

 

  • gati
  • siddha

[i]

 

  • sit
  • outfit

ī

 

  • dvīpa
  • satī

[iː]

  • week
  • see
  • evil
  • held twice as long as I

ja

  • Jambū-dvīpa

 

[ɟ]

  • jam
  • ajar

jha

  • uvajjhāya

[ɟʱ]

  • hedgehog

ka

  • karma
  • Kundakunda

[k]

  • sky
  • kettle

kha

  • sukha
  • Kharatara-gaccha

[kʰ]

  • blockhead

la

  • loka
  • kalpa

[l]

 

  • lion
  • failed

 

  • Begoa
  • oī
  • list
  • flimsy
  • retroflex L
  • found chiefly in South Indian languages

अं

  • ahi
  • sasāra

[ⁿ]

  • anusvāra

ma

  • muni
  • āyambil

[m]

  • man
  • hammock

na

  • yojana
  • Jina
  • Namaskāra-mantra

[n]

  • now
  • can
  • panting

ङ्

  • aga
  • magala

[ŋ]

  • anger
  • tangled

ञ्

ñ

  • vijñapti
  • jñāna

[ɲ]

  • onion
  • canyon
  • sometimes pronounced as [gya]

ṇa

  • guṇa
  • au-vrata

[ɳ]

  • land
  • phoned
  • cone
  • retroflex N

o

 

  • loka
  • Gosāla

[oː]

  • rope
  • soap
  • hero

pa

  • pada

[p]

  • pill
  • up

pha

  • phala

[pʰ]

 

  • upheaval
  • uphill

ra

  • ratna

[r]

  • run
  • rather
  • drama
  • like the Italian pronunciation of R

  • ṣabha

[ɹ̩]

  • pretty
  • rich
  • sometimes pronounced ‘ru’, especially in Western India [= Ruṣabha]

[ɹ̩ː]

 

  • lengthened form of
  • very rarely used, even in Sanskrit

  • used in modern Hindi and Gujarati

ṛh

sa

  • satya
  • sa

[s]

  • lesson
  • so

śa

 

  • Śvetāmbara
  • Pārśva

[ɕ]

 

  • shall
  • sheep

ṣa

  • dīkṣā
  • yakṣa

[ʂ]

  • crashed
  • shirt
  • retroflex SH

ta

 

  • tapas
  • tattva

[t̪]

  • French table

tha

  • Neminātha
  • kathā

[t̪ʰ]

  • tenthook

ṭa

  • ṭī
  • bhaṭṭāraka

[ʈ]

  • try
  • tub
  • attack
  • retroflex T

ṭha

  • Kamaṭha

[ʈʰ]

  • boathouse
  • light-hearted
  • retroflex T

u

  • muni
  • puṇya

[u]

  • put
  • foot

ū

 

  • sūtra
  • pū

[uː]

  • boo
  • fool
  • rule
  • held twice as long as U

va

  • vrata
  • svastika
  • vālī

[ʋ]

  • ever
  • vine
  • sometimes pronounced like a W e.g. word

ya

  • yoga
  • dravya

[j]

  • yes
  • player

Note that the Devanāgarī letters in the left column are the standard modern forms of the letters. Some of those on the manuscript pages digitised on JAINpedia may be variant forms of these. See How to read a Jain manuscript.

Two ways of writing vowels

There are two different ways of writing vowels, according to where they come in the word. In the left column of the main chart, above, are the signs used for writing a vowel at the beginning of a word. But when a vowel is associated with a consonant it is written with a different sign. An example is given in the following table. This system applies to all consonants.

Written vowels in Devanāgarī

Consonant and vowel

Latin transliteration

p

पा

पि

pi

पी

पु

pu

पू

पृ

pṛ

पॄ

pṝ

पे

pe

पै

pai

पो

po

पौ

pau

पं

paṃ

पः

paḥ

Sanskrit and other Indian languages

The main Indian language used throughout the website is Sanskrit, because it was the literary language common in the ancient Indian civilisations, as Latin was in Europe for centuries after the Roman Empire. Sanskrit is still used for holy rituals and religious concepts in faiths that originated in India, including Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

In the main chart Sanskrit is used as the basis for transliteration. But it also contains a few sounds and signs specific to forms of other languages used in JAINpedia, such as Hindi and Gujarati, and to a few proper names from South Indian languages, such as Kannada and Tamil. Jains also used various forms of Prakrit to write holy texts. For example the main written language of the Jain canon is Ardhamāgadhī Prakrit. The chart above applies to the forms of Prakrit as well.

Transliterating Sanskrit

Since it is an alphabetical language, Sanskrit can be transliterated quite straightforwardly into the Latin letters used in English and other Western European languages. However, Sanskrit and other Indian languages use sounds that are not found in English. There are two main methods to show these different sounds when a word is transliterated into the Latin alphabet, namely:

  1. combinations of Latin letters are used to indicate pronunciation of certain sounds in the original language, for example dha, tha and va
  2. using diacritics, which are small signs added to certain letters in the Latin alphabet to indicate pronunciation of sounds without an exact correspondence in Western European languages, for example, ā, ū, ś and .

Sometimes it is impossible to make out all the letters on a manuscript because of damage to the material or illegibility. In these cases, the symbol + has been used to indicate an unreadable letter or syllable in the transliterations and transliterations.

JAINpedia and Indian languages

Indian languages are not difficult to pronounce once you know the rules. You can find more information about how JAINpedia treats Indian words in the article about our editorial approach.

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