Who founded the Sanskrit language


What is sanskrit Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas. Most of the philosophical and scientific texts of the Vedic scriptures of India are written in this language. Though thousands of years old, Sanskrit retains its topicality and vitality to this day. Mantras and yantras make use of their powerful sound system and today's Indian vocabulary is mainly based on Sanskrit. It is also the root of our Indo-European language area. Sanskrit has survived unchanged over the millennia and is still used by the Hindi language today.

Sanskrit is derived from the word "samskritam" (saṃskṛtam संस्कृतम्). This means "laid out" or "decked out". So Sanskrit is a formed language. It is based on a clear, systematically structured grammar. The beauty and harmony of this language finds its perfect expression in the verses of the Bhagavadgītā, which can be used as teaching material for every student.

The word "Sanskrit" means "refined" or "adorned". Sanskrit is a formed language. The name is to be understood in such a way that Sanskrit is a refined form of language that primarily does not describe the material conditions, but rather provides insight into the secrets of the Vedic spiritual world.

According to the Vedas, sound is the origin of the creation of this universe. The original sound in the form of a single syllable, which in its simplicity carries the power of the entire creation. This syllable is called Pranava, the life force of the universe and consists of the three letters a, u and m.

Sound and meaning

Sound and meaning are much more closely related in Sanskrit than in other languages, so that every word - even without understanding it - has an immediate effect on the listener's consciousness. This unity of meaning and sound is called shabda in Sanskrit.

Sanskrit pronunciationand study

To learn to read, write, and pronounce Sanskrit, one must understand the basics of grammar.

Just as an Ayurveda doctor will devote part of his study time to the basics of human anatomy and Western medicine, the Vasati specialist to architecture, and the astrologer to psychology and astronomy, so the Sanskrit student of Vedic sciences should not be afraid to to get an insight into the magic of the Sanskrit language.

The basic Sanskrit course consists of six subject areas:

Lesson 1: writing and sound elements

  • Basic and ligature characters of the Devanagari script
  • The sound apparatus

Lesson 2: Pronunciation and Sandhi

  • Sound and rhythm rules
  • Special characters and digits
  • The merging of successive words (sandhi)

Lesson 3: Declination

  • The main declination forms
  • Nouns and adjectives
  • Case and numbers

Lesson 4: sentence formation; the verb

  • Formation of simple sentences
  • Important structural words
  • The principle of the verb root
  • The elementary verb forms

Lesson 5: pronouns and clauses

  • The different pronouns
  • question words
  • numbers

Lesson 6: Compounds; Application practice

  • Samsas (compound word constructions)
  • Important terms from the Vedic professional world
  • Recite mantras and slokas


The most important rules for Vedic Chanting

There are six main rules, the Samanya Niyamas. These general Niyamas are described in the Taittiriya Upanisad in the Siksavalli chapter:

siksam vyakhyasyamah - varna svarah
matra balam - sama santanaa

Varna is the pronunciation, Svara the note, Matra the duration, Balam the power, Sama the connecting notes and Santana the continuity in the recitation.

Varna, the pronunciation
Varna refers to the rules of pronouncing the Sanskrit letters. The Sanskrit alphabet consists of 48 to 51 letters, depending on whether you take special vowels into account and whether you include connected consonants at the end. Each consonant contains a vowel that can be modified using different vowel symbols. Consonants can change their shape in conjunction with vowels, while vowels keep their original shape (see also: Varnamala - Garland of Letters).

The letters in the Sanskrit alphabet are arranged so that they are easy to remember. Letters that are spoken in the same place in the mouth are grouped. The different sounds come from the different regions in the mouth where the letters are pronounced.

  • Guturals are formed in the throat and are called kantha
  • Palatals are formed on the soft palate, you need the cheeks for this and they are called talu.
  • Retroflexes are formed with the tip of the tongue on the hard palate and are called Murdha.
  • Dentals are formed with the tongue on the teeth and are called danta.
  • Labials are formed with the lips and are called oshtha.
  • Nasals are spoken with a nasal tone and are called nasika.
  • Gutrale and palatale are formed by the throat and the soft palate and are called Kanthatalu (e, ai).
  • Guturals and labials are formed with the throat and lips and are called Kanthoshtha (o, au).
  • Dentals and labials are formed with the teeth and lips and are called Dantoshtha (va)
  • Aspirate (breath sound): if a visarga (final sound or h) precedes a consonant, the sound must be formed at the root of the tongue (hka, hkha).
  • Nasal: the anusvara (aftermath) sounds nasal. The pronunciation of the anusvara changes depending on what letters are in front of it. It depends on the group of the alphabet, e.g. B. Guturals, Palatals, etc.

Every syllable must be pronounced correctly when reciting, otherwise there is a fear in India that the meaning will turn into the opposite and thus into the negative. The letters in Sanskrit are pronounced only slightly differently. The word phala means fruit and pala, which sounds very similar, is a unit of measurement.

Svara, the note
Svara is that which brings everything into its own form, but remains unchanged and without transformation even in its own form. While there are seven svaras or notes in Indian music, there are only three notes for reciting the Vedas plus the delayed udatta note. These three notes are called Udatta, Anudatta and Svarita. The wise Panini in his sutras defined the meaning of these three notes as follows:

  • Udatta is the high grade. It is indicated with a vertical line above the syllable. The syllable must be recited higher than the previous one.
  • Anudatta is the low note. It is indicated by a horizontal line under the syllable. This syllable must be recited more deeply than the following.
  • Svarita is the neutral note. It has no horizontal or vertical line.
  • Nigadha is the delayed Udatta note. It rises one matra later and Svarita is retained before that. It is indicated by two parallel vertical lines above the syllable.

Usually nigadha occurs in the following situations:

  • If the mantra ends with a long udatta, the last syllable is recited as a nigadha note.
  • When the mantra ends with a nasal udatta.
  • When a samyuktaksara (compound consonant) precedes an udatta.

The three notes Udatta, Anudatta and Svraita have their correspondence in the human body. Urdhva bhagha is the upper part of the body from the neck up and corresponds to Udatta. The high notes help straighten the body. Madhya is the middle part of the body and corresponds to Svarita. Adhobhaghas is the lower part of the body and corresponds to Anudatta.

Matra, the speed
Matra defines how to recite a mantra. There are four types: Hrasvam, Dirgham, Plutam and Ardha Matra.

  1. Hrasvam is the short form of the recitation of a vowel, i.e. a unit (hrasva).
  2. Dirgham is the long form of the recitation of a vowel, i.e. two units of dirgha). Dirgha is sometimes shown with an extra symbol after the syllable. If the syllable o is to be recited twice as long in relation to the other syllables, you write as in this example:
    ahamannado 2 'hamannado 2' hamannadah |

  3. Plutam is an elongated long form of a vowel. The recitation is three units long. The recitation of the syllable is accordingly long and noted after the syllable with a 3 as in the example. There are also cases where four units are recited.

    ahamasmi prathamaja rta 3 sya |

  4. In Vyanjana (consonants), Ardha Matra, i.e. with half a unit, is recited. The consonants are k, kh, g, gh etc. In the following example, t is the consonant and is only recited in half a unit:

Balam, the force
Balam refers to the strength or power of the voice in reciting the syllables. Balam is a mixture of Manas, the Indriyas and Atma. The two qualities of balam are alpa prana and maha prana.

  • Alpa Prana is needed for the letters that are pronounced gently, without aspirance.
  • Maha Prana is needed for the letters that are pronounced aspirated. The following example shows where more needs to be aspirated on Maha prana while the others are recited more gently:

    sahana vavatu | sahanau bhunaktu |

Sama, the continuity
The syllables that make up the various passages of a mantra are tied to the svaras (notes); they cannot be separated at will. Sama is the rule for joining syllables. The svaras must be connected in such a way that the recitation sounds continuously, even when e.g. B. Anudatta (low note) comes just after Udatta (high note). For example, in "Om tad puror namah |" the u Udatta and ror is Anudatta. In order not to interrupt the continuity of the recitation, the voice first goes high enough that it is possible to recite the lower note without interruption. . If the different pitches are well connected, the Svarita at the end of a recitation is the same as at the beginning of the recitation.

Santam, the joining
Santam means gathering and joining together. It refers to how different words are combined together. In Vedic Chanting you have to take breaks to take a breath. These pauses are between the words and must be kept as the teacher instructs them to be. If the pauses were made differently, the meaning of the text could change.

  • A pause must be taken when the following word starts with a specific letter: "san na indro brhaspatih |" to n / A a small pause can be left because the next word starts with a vowel.
  • After OM there is always a little pause.
  • If there is a ksa after a Visarga (h), a small pause must be inserted.
  • A short pause must also be inserted between two lines of a mantra.

Application of the rules
These six rules are there to maintain consistency. Everyone should actually pronounce the words the same way. Realistically speaking, this is difficult today as it was in the past. Each teacher also passes on their own individual pronunciation. We here in the West usually do not learn Vedic Chanting directly from the teacher, but from a cassette or CD. In addition, it is more difficult for us to learn the exact pronunciation and all the rules than a person who grew up in India, who has been practicing since childhood and is deeply connected to the religious worldview.

These rules are difficult for people living in the West to understand, let alone adhere to. One would z. B. Do not sit under a tree and begin to recite. There would certainly be people who get upset because some rule has been violated, or who consider it inappropriate to recite in the open air.

Teaching Vedic Chanting

Siksa, the Indian science of phonetics, combines the three fields of study music, Vedas and grammar. A good knowledge of Siksa is the basis for studying the Vedas. Siksa is one of the six Vedangas. One had to master all six Vedangas in order to study the Vedas properly.

Siksa is about the Sanskrit letters, their grouping, classification and pronunciation, i.e. all the rules for Vedic Chanting.

Before Vedic Chanting was previously taught in India, students had to practice Aksara Samskara (training the alphabet). The correct pronunciation of the Sanskrit letters in the various cases (Vibhakti) was practiced. The basic rules of Sanskrit grammar (Vyakarana) were taught in order to then introduce the students to the Amarakosam. The Amarakosam contains the explanations of the most important words and concepts that appear in the Vedas.

The procedure
The student first had to recite the OM correctly. Then the Gayatri mantra and simple Upanishads like the Taittriya Upaniaad. Some students have been taught rudram and camakam because it is good practice for correct pronunciation. The invocation to Siva is also part of it because he gave the people the Sanskrit language. The four chapters of Taittiriya Aranyakam were taught next, followed by Samhita and Brahmana. Then Pada, Krama Jata and Ghandam of Samhita were introduced.

What was taught one after the other depended primarily on the family from which the student came. If the disciple's family belonged to the tradition of Rg Veda, teaching was mainly from the Rg Veda. The same was true for students from families with the traditions of Yajur Veda, Sama Veda or Atharva Veda. Taittriya Upanisad and Tattriya Aranyakam were always taught in principle.

We start with simple short mantras, e.g. B. ma aham, OM tad bramha and OM. If these mantras are well mastered and the student is interested, one starts with shorter texts and later on longer ones are added.

What to watch out for in Vedic Chanting

The following are the most common mistakes to avoid in Vedic Chanting.

  • The Vedic Chanting of texts does not mean singing, but one reciting texts and mantras. It should not turn into a chant unless it is a Vedic song. The Vedic texts, however, are not sung like a song.
  • When reciting, one adheres exactly to the three notes Udatta, Anudatta and Svarita. There is no fluctuation in the tones, no croak or tendency to split the voice into two different pitches.
  • In Sanskrit there is neither strong emphasis on the syllables nor pauses between words in a line, but rather a flowing short and long syllables. A long syllable is a syllable with a long vowel (ā, ī, ū, e, ai, o, au) or a syllable with a short vowel followed by a consonant (also anusvāra and visarga). Consonants followed by a breath (like kha and gha) are considered short consonants.
  • The texts should be reproduced in a voice that is not too soft, not hesitant (with doubts about the text), indistinct, with a nasal tone, or with a rough and dry pronunciation.
  • The speed of reciting should be maintained from start to finish, not too fast but not too slow either.
  • One should not move one's head during Vedic Chanting.
  • The back must be straightened and the head should be facing forward and held still towards the rib cage.
  • You should know the text you are reciting by heart in order not to have to rely on the written record.
  • One should understand the meaning of what one is reciting. One should roughly know the purpose of the mantras in order to use them at the right time.
  • In a weak, broken voice, e.g. B. If one is sick, one should not recite. If you lack the strength to recite, you can also listen to someone else recite and gain strength from it.
  • Everyone who listens should be able to understand what is being said.
The pitch

The student learning Vedic Chanting from the teacher follows the teacher's pitch. Before reciting the text, the teacher sets the pitch with the OM, which he recites in Svarita (the neutral note). This pitch is thus fixed and is retained throughout the text as a base from which the high and low tones emanate until the teacher changes the pitch. Usually at the end of each chapter the pitch is raised and the following chapter is recited in a higher key. Changing the pitch, i.e. the Svarita, takes the monotony out of the recitation, trains alertness and indicates the end of a chapter.

The speed and duration

It shouldn't be recited too quickly or too slowly. The teacher gives the student the speed to which he must adhere. The speed may not be changed within a text. The words should not be distorted by reciting them too quickly, otherwise the pronunciation will be incomprehensible. On the other hand, reciting too slowly would take up too much time, sitting for long periods of time can cause problems and concentration can be lost. The general instructions for Vedic Chanting state that a so-called yamam should not exceed three hours. You shouldn't harm anyone else with it. Usually in India it was recited for about 1.5 hours with the guru and 1.5 hours alone. Sri Krishnamacharya pretended to recite no less than an hour and so students could do three to four yamams over the day, that is, six to seven hours.

For the different texts there are also regulations regarding the speed at which the text is to be recited.

If you recite a text in the Prakrti method, it is recited more slowly because the focus is on varna, the pronunciation. While the Vikrti method focuses on Svara, the exact note.

Traditionally, the last chapter of a Vedic text is recited more slowly and in a higher pitch to emphasize the conclusion of the recitation.

The volume

Mantras can be recited in three different volumes:

  • Uccha - loud
  • Upamsu - with a moderate voice and
  • Manas - with a very soft voice or mentally

Here are a few examples, such as the above. is traditionally used: At the thread ceremony, the boy from the brahmin family has to say a mantra intended for this ritual very loudly. The Gayatri mantra should be recited in a low voice. Some mantras have to be very loud for everyone to hear. Or, if a japa or a pooja is being practiced, one should, until one is practiced, pronounce the mantras in uccha. Later on in Upamsu and for regular practice it has to be Manasika, because repeating it often will damage the vocal cords over time.

The voice

For a weak voice, reciting OM (pranava) is a good treatment method. The voice should not be influenced by kapha (phlegm). The power of language is reflected in Vedic Chanting. The Candogya Upanisad says that ghrtam (ghee) is very good for the voice. Ghee nourishes the voice and gives it energy. Cow's milk is good for controlling the tones. In Ayurveda, it is said that sour foods and cottage cheese are not good for the voice, while milk and saffron are good for them. Anything that damages the voice is bad. By using the voice in a level-headed manner, one will in time come up to the quality of the teacher.

The posture (asana) and the breath (pranayma)

Usually in Vedic Chanting you sit on the floor with your legs crossed. For people who cannot sit on the floor, it is also possible to sit on a chair. The spine should be straightened.

Some teachers say the student should be able to recite in different postures. One can recite in postures like Virabhadrasana, Utkatasana, Kukkutasana, Bhujangsana or of course while sitting.

At the beginning one can recite the OM in simpler vinyasas or, depending on the student's ability, longer texts can be recited during the asanas, either during dynamic or static practice.

In ancient times, asanas and pranayma were taught to promote Vedic Chanting. In the rituals that introduced Vedic Chanting, the first step was to recite Utkatasana and then pranayama is practiced in the same position. If one can recite in this position, it is said that the breath and health are good enough to practice Vedic Chanting in Brahmasana or Sukhasana.

Vedic Chanting has a positive effect on the breath. It can lengthen the breath, calm the mind, and lead into meditation. A mantra can be recited aloud a few times, then quieter and then mentally to get the mind into a meditative mood.

Nada and Vedic Chanting

Old masters observed that a person cannot recite properly if he is short of breath, is not strong, has poor digestion or is fasting, that is, if a person does not have "fire". Therefore, they assumed that the sound came not only from the throat, but also from the conscious effort of man. The fire in the abdomen is related to breathing and the chest area. The old masters felt that fire was one energy and breath was another important energy. When "Na" (represents fire) and "da" (represents breath) meet, the result is Nada, the inner tone. Nada is the basis for Sabda (sound, word), the audible.

So Nada is not something you can do outside hears. Nada is something I can hear when I am am silent and no outside noise is perceived. It is the inner tonewho is called Abhyantara dhvani.

The Vedas teach that Nada, (the inner sound), which is the basis for Sabda (the outer sound), can be heard through Vedic Chanting. Anahata-Nada is the meditation of hearing the inner tone in the heart.

See also: The Devanagari Alphabet