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Lesson 5: Consonant Clusters 2 (General Forms)
This is the heart of the Bengali Reading Guide. After completing this chapter, nearly 70% of Bengali words will be readable. Before entering deep into this chapter, it is advisable to review the Devanagari concepts of mixing consonants. For most Devanagari letters that had the stick form, compounding was quite simple. One would remove the stick off the first letter, thus producing the half-letter form. Then, one mixes the half-letter form with the full form of the next letter to form the cluster.
In Bengali, there are a few letters which do follow this Devanagari form. For example, the letters ba and ja in Figure 5.1 forms a cluster which has a half-form of ba with the full form of ja.
MOST COMMON CLUSTER-FORM
Most consonant clusters are formed by placing the first letter above the second letter. For example, sa + ba can form sba for words like svāmī (remember, in Bengali, there is no v letter, so b will replace all v letters in Bengali). Pay attention to the red letter sa and green letter ba and see how they snap together in Figure 5.2
Remember from Lesson 4, the nasal form for the mix between na and ta to form nta. The concept is verily the same.
Here is a mix of two ka letters.
Two da mixes like this in Figure 5.5
SECOND LETTER FORMS
As this process is quite straightforward, there is a catch to this process. With the exception of the letter ra and clusters that took different forms in Devanagari, the second letter had always retained its form. In Bengali, that is not the case. In Bengali, there are many letters which are second-letter forms. The most common ones will be studied here.
The mix between ma and ya is an example of a letter that uses a second letter form. Since ya is the second letter, by the nature of the letter ya uses the second letter form. Figure 5.6 shows this. It almost seems like the second-letter form of ya is like a vowel marking. For one who can only read Devanagari, no one would have guessed that the marking to the right of ma (which is really an m) was a full ya. When pronunciation is studied later on, one will see that the mix of any letter with ya produced an unusual sound in Bengali.
The letter dha also has a second-letter form. In the mix of ga and dha, the letter dha adopts a special form that remotely looks like dha. For the most part, anytime dha is a second letter, itll adopt this form. Itll cling onto stick or the tail of the first letter. Recall from Lesson 4 on writing the letter ndha. Note how na retained it full letter form (even though it is theoretically a n), but adopted the second-letter form of dha.
Letter ma has a special second-letter form. Unlike dha and ya, the second letter form has a look which one can easily tell that it came from the letter ma. For example, sa + ma is sma is shown in Figure 5.8. Also, notice the half-form of sa on top.
To conclude this lesson, it is quite useful to talk about the letter ra. The letter ra has a different half-form and different second-letter form, just like Devanagari. Before discussing it in detail, it is important to look at Figure 5.9.
The half-form of ra (which looks like an accent mark) is placed on top of the second letter. This is just like the half-form of ra rule shown in Devanagari. Note the difference between in the Bengali spelling and transliteration of the word ācārya. In Bengali spelling, it is spelled ācārjya. Usually, the consonant following half-letter ra ends up being doubled. For example, kirtana becomes kirttana, dharma becomes dharmma", karma becomes karmma" and so on. The detail on why this happens is described in the pronunciation chapter of this guide.
The second-letter form of ra is attached to the bottom of the letter, whether it is a letter with a stick or not. Since ra is really the full letter, ru and rū exceptions mentioned in Lesson 3 apply here. In Figure 5.9, the word dhruba has the letter dha (technically dh) mixed with the second letter form of ra to form dhra. Since the vowel u applied to the dhra (with the ra), the special form of ru is used.
There are more consonant clusters to discuss, which incredible exceptions that will perplex the inexperienced reader. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative to study this chapter and practice on these exercises.
Try spelling these words using Bengali Script:
1. nitya (eternal in Bengali)
2. tṛpti (satisfaction in Bengali)
3. prabhupāda (lit. Lords feet, or name for a spiritual master, or Srila Prabhupada)
4. dugdha (milk in Bengali)
5. śyāmasundara (name for Lord Krsna)
6. viśvambhara (another name of Lord Caitanya)
Try reading the words from Bengali script.
UPDATED: June 16, 2009