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Accuracy when writing Sanskrit in English

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Tue Mar 07 2000 - 18:48:27 PST

Dear Members,

A few months ago, one of our members, Sri Lakshmi Srinivas,
wrote about the importance of writing Tamil and Sanskrit
words accurately when writing in English.

Those of us who are of pure Tamil background perhaps should
take extra care, since the Tamil alphabet does not distinguish
maha-prANas (aspirated syllables such as 'pha', 'bha', etc.),
nor does it distinguish voiced syllables from unvoiced
syllables ('da' vs 'ta', for example).  Pure Tamil has no need
to make this distinction, so its alphabet serves it just
fine.

When carrying this uniquely Tamil paradigm over to Sanskrit,
however, there often are unintended casualties of expression.

Let me cite an example from a recent post which conveys
the wrong message. It was written:

> SrimathE nigamAndha mahADesikAya Namah 
                  ^^^
This is a salutation to Sri Vedanta Desika. The second word 
in the salutation above should actually be "nigamAnta", 
                                                   ^^
meaning the end or crown ("anta") of the Veda ("nigama"). 
Our acharya was renowned as a teacher ("desika") of the Vedanta 
and hence earned this title.

When written as "nigamAndha", however, it means one who is 
blind ("andha") to the Veda ("nigama").  So "nigamAndha desika" 
means a teacher who is blind with respect to the Vedas, i.e.,
one who has no clue about the Vedas. Obviously this is not
the intended meaning.

Fortunately or unfortunately in Sanskrit, one syllable can make 
a big difference.

So please, dear members, be very careful when writing Sanskrit and
Tamil words so you convey the appropriate meaning. (By the way,
same rule goes for pronounciation as well. The rules are very
basic, yet so often we hear people make elementary mistakes in
pronounciation).

My two cents,
Mani

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