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.
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 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
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.
Consonant and vowel
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.
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:
- combinations of Latin letters are used to indicate pronunciation of certain sounds in the original
language, for example dha, tha and va
- 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 ṣ.
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.