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Season 1 - Episode 5

Seeing and Sounding the Vowels

10 min - Tutorial


With great courage we begin to look at the devanagari script, transliteration, and make the sounds together of the 16 sanskrit vowels. Anuradha’s enthusiasm of the practice will hold you close and support you.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Dec 12, 2014
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Namaste dear friends, welcome back again. In our previous session we looked at how the Sanskrit alphabet corresponded to the different parts of the human vocal system. So we had the five places, the throat or the guttural, the palatal, the cerebrals which corresponds to the roof of your mouth, the center of the roof of your mouth, the teeth, the dentals and then the labials. We looked at the vowels that again corresponded to these five places of pronunciations. We sounded the sixteen vowels.

Now let's look at how these letters look and we will also try and correspond them to the different fingers that we sounded them along with. We have the first two vowels, the a and the a. Feel free to make the sounds as often as you can, that helps. I'll also put the English-Roman transcription of it so it's easy to follow. And this can be considered as a couple in a sense.

The second vowels that we had, the primary sounds were ee, ee and they look like this ee, ee, that's it, they look a bit like snakes, ee, ee, ee, ee, ee, ee, ee, ee, ee, ee, ee, ee and the English transliteration is ee, ee, that's the second couple that we have. The next two primary sounds were the oo, oo, let's see what they look like. You can also say it along with me, oo, oo and the vowel in transcript form is oo, oo, that's the third couple that we have. So the first are the ah, ah, ee, ee, oo, oo. So the three primary vowels that we have are the ah, ah, ee, ee, oo, oo and they correspond to the first three fingers, ah, ah, ee, ee, oo, oo.

We have two more sets of primary vowels, they are the rr, rr, lr, lr, the rr, lr corresponds to the cerebral part of our mouth and the rr, rr correspond to the dentals and they look like this, rr, rr. So this is the next one, we have rr, rr and then we have rr, rr, rr, there we go and in transliteration it is rr, rr, rr, rr. So here we have the primary vowels which correspond to these five places of pronunciation. We have the ah, ah, the first finger, the short and the long vowels, ah, ah, then the ee, ee which correspond to your index finger, ee, ee, then the oo, oo which correspond on the third finger, the oo, oo, then you have the rr and rr here corresponding to the cerebral and then you have the rr, rr. These two letters hardly figure in the Sanskrit language, but they exist because of the representation of the perfection of the sounds of the vowels.

We will next look at the combinations, we have the ah and the ee and when you combine them in between you get the ee and we can represent it like this. So we have a, see that again, a and the next one which was a combination of the two is the i and this is how it looks, i. So we have the a, I will show to you in transliteration, it's the a and that is the i. The next two combinations that we had were the oo and the owl. So we had a, i, between the a and the oo we have the oo, oo and owl.

Let's see what they look like, even put an arrow. So we have the, that's the oo and then we have the, that's the owl. So when we combine the a and the oo we get the oo and in transliteration it looks like that and you have the owl which is a and u together. The final two vowels that we have are the anuswara or the am, the nasalized sound and it looks like this. It's a combination of the a with the nasal um or un and it is written as um and the last visarga is the ah.

So you can hear the sound, the vowel a followed by the aspirate ah and it's written as such. The transliteration is ah. So there we have the representation of all the Sanskrit vowels. Now let's see if we can sound them together, so a, a, i, i, u, u, z, z, l, l, e, i, u, a, u, um or un, ah. Now let's see if we can do it on the finger.

The more you repeat the sounds the better it is. In any, any language you learn for that matter, the more you sound it, the more your system gets tuned into that particular sound. So let's see if we can represent this once more on our fingers. So see if you can combine what you see along with the representation on it on your hand. So a, a, i, i, u, u, z, z, l, l, between the ah and the i, i, i, between the ah and the u, u, a, u, um, ah.

I hope you got it, it's not very difficult but yeah, enjoy doing these sounds again. Play with them as much as you can, just try and feel them in your mouth and I bet you're going to get it soon.


Lizzy R
1 person likes this.
Thank you for making something that might seem daunting seem very accessible. I enjoyed this lesson very much. Also, for someone with an interest in Sanskrit but with small children and not much time, breaking it into these bite size lessons is very helpful. Rather than thinking I have to wait until I am in a different life phase, I feel like I can just start in baby steps. Thank you so much.
Anuradha Choudry
Dear Lizzy, Am thrilled that this way of presenting Sanskrit is fitting your requirement perfectly. Thank you very much for your encouraging feedback. Wishing you a lot of fun and depth on this journey into the heart of Sanskrit :)
Lydia Zamorano
Hi Anuradha Choudry . I'm loving this! Can you explain to me if the dot under the l vowel means that it's a cerebral sound? Or is it a dental sound l. That's the only one I can't seem to understand. It's fascinating! Love Lydia
Anuradha Choudry
Dear Lydia, Feels super to share this adventure of Sanskrit with you! The l with a dot below is basically the dental vowel corresponding which sometimes gets a cerebral connotation as well. So you start with the tip of the tongue behind the top front teeth and you roll it lightly back to resemble a lr but without the rolling 'rr' sound. This and its longer version are seldom used vowels but they are included to maintain the perfection of the vowels system corresponding to the different points of pronunciation. Hope this helps. let me know if you still have a doubt. Love and best wishes :)
Lydia Zamorano
OK! Anuradha Choudry The l and r together are very challenging for me. But it certainly feels like I'm getting a cerebral massage and it feels good for the articulation of my skull bones and mouth! Wonderful!
Anuradha Choudry
Dear Lydia Zamorano, Was wondering how the practice was going! Love and happy brain massaging :)
Jennifer Y
1 person likes this.
Thank you, Anuradha Choudry! I was giddy, like a child, as I practiced along with you. I appreciate the way you organized the written forms with the Roman pronunciation symbols. Using the fingers is such a wonderful way to create a joyful practice of creating the vowel sounds. I feel confident that I can incorporate this into my daily practices.
Steve M
I'm still struggling with ऌ ॡ
Steve M
Although I'm starting to get the hang of the cerebral ऋ, I'm going to need a lot more practice on the retroflex trill; you make it seem so simple!
Anuradha Choudry
Dear Jennifer, Sorry missed acknowledging your warm message. Glad the tips made you enjoy the practice, :)
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