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 Feb 8 '16 at 18:13

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.

Sources: 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 Feb 9 '16 at 17:49
  • You are always welcome my friend :-) I also thanks to the people who all are unknowingly helped me. – Ponmari Subramanian Feb 10 '16 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. – user3344236 Feb 11 '16 at 18:36

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