Is the sacred Hindu syllable a diphthong or a single vowel sound? It is rendered in the Roman alphabet sometimes as "AUM" and sometimes as "OM". The standard calligraphic form in the devanagari script suggests that is the diphthong - "a" "u" nasalised and not "o" nasalised.When the sound is voiced, however, it is more often heard as the single nasalised syllable "om".

  • Om is used for vedic mantras mainly and aum is used more in tantric mantras – Rakesh Joshi Feb 5 at 0:31

According to the traditional belief, only initiated trivarnas can utter OM. AUM is for female and sudras. Some tantrik scriptures give permission to chant OM to all, but not all the tantras.

Ref: a)Saktasadhana o Saktasahitya, Upendrakumar Das, RMIC, vol 1 b) old copies of Nitya karma paddhati--- dont know whether they have changed now.

  • I think you mean only "AM" is for females and shudras. – Ikshvaku Feb 4 at 15:49
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    in Bengal its ouum to be precise – user17294 Feb 4 at 15:50
  • Oh ok, it's slightly different in South India. – Ikshvaku Feb 4 at 15:52

In my personal experience, the "Om"s I have heard from Indian priests and chanters is almost monophthongal. They say that Sara Palin has monophthongal "o" (like in her "also"). It is written aum because in sanskrit Sandhi a+u becomes o (any textbook on Sanskrit Sandhi rules would show this.


Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    You should cite some reliable sources. Personal Experience and blogs are not considered acceptable source. – Paṇḍyā Feb 8 at 5:33

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