Common section

GUIDE TO PRONUNCIATION AND SPELLING
OF WORDS IN SANSKRIT AND OTHER
INDIAN LANGUAGES

Sanskrit vowels are pronounced very much like Italian vowels. The aspirated consonants should be pronounced distinctly: bh as in “cab horse,” dh as in “mad house,” gh as in “dog house,” ph as in “top hat,” and th as in “goat herd.”

Traditionally, scholars have used diacriticals to distinguish between long and short vowels and among three different forms of s in Sanskrit, as well as to mark other nice points of the orthography of Sanskrit and other Indian languages that are essential for the citation of texts. Increasingly, scholars writing for a wider audience that is blissfully ignorant of any Indian language have omitted the diacriticals and changed two of the s’s to sh’s (leaving the third an s tout court), and this book follows that practice. This may result in some confusion for readers contemplating the spellings of certain words in this book, such as the name of the gods Shiva and Vishnu, and noting that they are sometimes spelled elsewhere—in works cited in my text or bibliography—as Siva and Visnu. I hope and trust that readers will be able to deal with this conflict, and also to distinguish the Kali Age (Kali with short a and short i) from the goddess Kali (Kālī with long a and long i).

Many words in modern Indian languages derived from Sanskrit drop the final short a of the Sanskrit, so that Rama sometimes becomes Ram, Lakshmana becomes Lakshman, Hastinapura becomes Hastinapur, and Vijayanagara becomes Vijayanagar. (“Dharma” often becomes “dharam.”) As for the British distortions of words in Sanskrit and other Indian languages (Hindoo, suttee), they are often bizarre but usually recognizable.

ABBREVIATIONS

TEXTS

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POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS

ABVP: Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (All-India Students’ Council)

BJP: Bharatiya Janata Party (Peoples’ Party of India)

RSS: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteers’ Organization)

VHP: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council)

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