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Lesson 7: Consonant Clusters (Special Exceptions)




The last lesson covered a general scope of consonant clusters. Even though a good handful was covered, there are many clusters that have not been discussed yet. There are clusters that do not follow the rules shown by Lesson 5 or 6. Some clusters form letters that does not resemble the two original letters remotely. Other clusters can show the origin, but the way of adding or binding the letters are different. After this lesson, 90% of any Sanskrit literature will be readable.



Traditionally, when Hindi or other Indian languages are taught, the letter “kṣa” was treated as an independent letter. Many teachers, in order to be technically correct when teaching, emphasize that “kṣa” is a consonant cluster of ka and ṣa. The letter for kṣa is one that neither resembles ka or ṣa.

Figure 7.1


Another very popular cluster which some people consider an independent letter is “jña.” It is pronounced as “gya” in most Indian languages.  While its pronunciation is quite unusual, the form of this letter is quite unique.

Figure 7.2


As briefly mentioned in Lesson 6, the letter “ra” has not been mentioned in detail. That is because some vowel markings, first letter clusters, and even last letter clusters are exception to the rules. In fact, Lesson 8 is devoted to it. However, there is one consonant cluster that would violate the rules presented in the next lesson. The letter is “tra” (t + ra).

Figure 7.3


Here is another “ra” example with the letter ka. Notice how the letter “ka” looks very different. It can almost be confused with the letter “tra” or even the barely discussed letter “ṛ” or “ṛ ́”.

Figure 7.4


Here is a consonant cluster involving a mix between two “ta” letters to form “tta.”

Figure 7.5


After teaching this, it probably might be confusing to look at the mix of “ka” and “ta forming “kta.” Once can clearly see the “tta” and the right half of “ka.” One might assume it was “ktta (ka and tta)”. However, it is “kta” found in words like “bhakta (devotion)” and “śakti (power).”

Figure 7.6


Another strange one involving dentals is the mix between “na and na” forming “nna”. It almost looks like “tra.” Note the end of the arms of the “nna.” Compare that to tra’s arms.

Figure 7.7

A good mix of a dental and a semi-vowel is the mix between “da” and “ya” to form “dya.” Notice the appearance of “dya.” One must very careful in differentiating dya with gha or dha. The letter “dha” breaks the upper line. The letter “gha” touches the line. The letter “dya” starts with primer that has majority of the letter beginning below the line.

Figure 7.8


The letter śa has three exception to its normal method of being mixed with other consonants. Three examples of śa binding with ca, ra, and va are shown in Figure 7.9


Figure 7.9

Last, but not the least, there is a cluster that does not involve consonants, but vowels. Traditionally, vowels cannot form clusters, but this is the only exception. This has two vowels and an anusvāra that forms a very famous letter and sound recognized all over the world. It is the mix between ā, ū, and ḿ.

Figure 7.10



Try spelling these words using Devanagari Script:

1. kṣatriya (administrative class of the varna system in Sanskrit)

2. viśvāsa (trust/faith in Sanskrit)

3. jagannāthāṣṭakam (the eight prayers to Lord Jagannatha)

4. bhaktivedānta

5. padmāvatī

Transliterate the following Devanagari words.

ANSWERS for Lesson 7

UPDATED: June 16, 2009