And not as Namah as in, say,Namah Sivaya?

Few examples: Om Gum Gurobhyo Namaha Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha.

Which rule regarding the pronunciation of visarga(:) is applicable in this case?

Can someone please post a citation?

  • Or another way of putting the question is :Should nama: be pronounced as namaha if it appears at the end of a mantra?
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


A good query you have raised; it took me some good digging up, and let me learn something in the process.

First let us take the visarga, denoted by ':' and transliterated as 'H'.

• The term 'visarga' means 'sending forth, letting go, letting out'.

‣ If you listen to the chanting of the Vedas, you would notice that in the Sanskrit language the words and phrases united by saMdhi--conjunction/transition, are meant to flow from the beginning to the end of a line, where normally a pause occurs (denoted by '|').

‣ Unlike most Western languages, the scheme of alphabets in Sanskrit is scientifically designed and defined by their points of articulation--sthAna, that range from the back to the front of the vocal apparatus.

‣ The points of contact of the five series of Sanskrit alphabets are:

Series ........... Name ................. Point of contact

  1. ka-series ..... kaNThya--velar ........ kaNTha--velum
  2. cha-series .... tAlavya--palatal ...... tAlu--soft palate
  3. Ta-series ..... mUrdhanya--retroflex .. mUrdhan--hard palate
  4. ta-series ..... dantya--dental ........ danta--teeth
  5. pa-series ..... oShThya--labial ....... oSTha--lips

Each series end with a corresponding nasal consonant: gna, jna, Na, na, ma.

The series 'ya, ra, la, va' are called antaHstha--in-between, as they are semivowels. The series 'sha, Sha, sa, ha' are called UShman--sibilants, which are frictional when pronounced, generating heat.

There are two additional sounds, which are actually consonants, but usually have the role of modifying their preceding vowel.

‣ The anusvara, denoted by a single dot '.' and transliterated as 'M', permits the air used in the articulation of the preceding vowel to escape through the nose.

When the anusvara is followed by a consonant, it takes the form of the nasal of the same varga--series: For example, 'vanaM gachchati' becomes 'vanang gachchati' (ng replacing M).

‣ The visarga, denoted by ':' and transliterated as 'H', echoes the preceding vowel by combining its sound with 'H'.

As examples, we have, devaH--devaha, devAH--devAhA, muniH--munihi, dhIH--dhIhI, viShNuH--viShNuhu, muneH--munehE, and devaiH--devaihi.

Thus visarga is fully aspirated (as ha, hA, hi, etc). when it occurs at the end of a line.

However, when it occurs in the middle, followed by a hard/soft consonant, certain rules apply:

‣ The visarga remains unchanged before ka, kha, pa, pha, sha, Sha and sa. Examples: putraH khanati | janAH patanti | bAlaH sarati |

‣ It becomes sh before ch and Ch: janAH + chalanti = janAshchalanti |

‣ It becomes Sh before Ta and Tha: paThaataH + TIkAm = paThaShTIkAm |

‣ It becomes s before ta and tha: putraH + tarati = putrastarati |

‣ When preceded by A and followed by a soft consonant or a vowel, it is dropped: bAlAH + dhAvanti = bAlA dhAvanti | janAH + aTanti = janA aTanti |

‣ When preceded by a and followed by a soft consonant, it is changed to O: putraH + dhAvanti = putrO dhAvanti |

‣ When preceded by a and followed by any vowel except a, it is dropped: dhAvataH + AkulO = dhAvata AkulO |

‣ When preceded by a and followed by a, it is changed to O, while the following a is elided: dhAvataH + ashvau = dhAvatO&shvau |

‣ When the final visarga is followed by a sibilant (sha, Sha, sa), it is optionally changed to the sibilant: namaH shivAya or namashshivAya, rAmaH sharaNam or rAmashsharaNam | bAlaH sarati or bAlassarati |

Thus, in the mantra aum namaH shivAya, because of the following sibilant 'sh', the visarga in namaH is shortened and optionally mingled with the sh to give the pronunciation namashshivAya.

1. 'DevavANipraveshika' by RP and SJS Goldman
2. 'A Sanskrit Manual for High Schools' by R.Antoine

  • Thanks a lot Ponmari Subramanian for the research you did on my behalf.
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 17:49
  • You are always welcome my friend :-) I also thanks to the people who all are unknowingly helped me. Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 8:09
  • A little case comes in mind. If we have one single word ending in : and the last consonant is 'u' before : , no other word after, as in bija mantras, how this : shall be told?:) "The visarga, denoted by ':' and transliterated as 'H', echoes the preceding vowel by combining its sound with 'H'." Not really, I think we have some bija mantra which override that rule.
    – ares777
    Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 18:36

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