SanskritaPradipika (SaṁskṛtaPradīpikā)

A Sanskrit language e-tutor for English-speaking people

About the SanskritaPradipika

The SanskritaPradipika is a gentle introduction to the Sanskrit language, written primarily but by no means exclusively for English-speaking people. Assuming no prior knowledge of the subject at all, the Pradipika begins with the alphabet - more accurately, the character set of Sanskrit - and shows how its vowels, consonants and other "particles" are written in Devanāgarī, which is the name of the script in which the language is written today.

In the Chapters on the vowels, consonants and the compound consonants, each character or combination of characters is drawn slowly upon the screen, with the strokes following the sequence a kindergarten teacher might use in teaching the letters to her pupils. Apart from the ability to reduce the speed of drawing, the sizes of the letters too may be altered from small to large. Countless readers of the Pradipika have learnt to write Devanāgarī letters in this way, and I have no doubt that this single feature of the tutor has contributed immensely to its popularity.

Sanskrit is a perfectly phonetic language. (A phonetic language is one in which words are pronounced exactly as they are spelt.) Therefore the words of Sanskrit may as easily be written in the Latin script, using an extension of the standard character set. This extension is made possible by the use of diacritical marks or diacritics, such as for example the glyphs - special symbols - used in the word Devanāgarī, to indicate the long a and the long i. But though Sanskrit (Saṁskṛta) words may be written using the enhanced Latin alphabet, there is a particular pleasure in being able to write them in Devanāgarī. To this end the Chapter on WordBuilding teaches how Devanāgarī letters combine to form words; it was the most difficult one for us to program, for the shapes of the letters change when they are combined into words; vowels, in particular, have post-consonantal forms which are quite different from their stand-alone forms. But the effort was worth it: I think the Chapter on WordBuilding to be among the most valuable in the tutor.

A quality that Sanskrit shares with languages such as Latin, Polish or Finnish is that it is very highly inflected; in any sentence a noun, pronoun or adjective will modify from its fundamental form (or inflect) in accordance with its role in the sentence, i.e. according to its case. The Chapter on the Declensions of the Nouns and the Pronouns explains the various cases, and leads to an elementary account of the principles of the Sanskrit grammar. A few mouse clicks enable the declension tables for most of the common types of noun, adjective or pronoun to quickly be viewed.

But there is immensely more to the grammar of Sanskrit than the Pradipika was able to cover. My hope is that the pages in the Addenda will take the interested reader a little further along the way.

Enough said! Download the Pradipika now, and write your impressions of it to me.

तेजस्वि भवतः / भवत्याः अधीतमस्तु !

tejasvi bhavataḥ / bhavatyāḥ adhītamastu !

May your studies be intense, bright, radiant, powerful!