Grantha – 2 – Ayogavaha



 | ॐ नमः सुगताय  | ஓம்ʼ நம: ஸுக³தாய |




|| अयं हि बोधिसत्त्वानाम् अद्वयप्रवेशः |  तस्मिन् अक्षरवचनविज्ञप्तिप्रचारो नास्ति ||

     ||அயம்ʼ ஹி போ³தி⁴ஸத்த்வாநாம் அத்³வயப்ரவேஸ²​: ||

  || தஸ்மிந் அக்ஷரவசநவிஜ்ஞப்திப்ரசாரோ நாஸ்தி ||

    || This is indeed the entrance into the non-duality (Advaya) of the Bodhisattvas. || 

                     || In that there is no use for syllables, sounds, and ideas  ||


Yet another lesson on Grantha Lipi. I ain’t gonna teach Advaya, so bear with my discourse on syllables & sounds 🙂


This wil be a short lesson. We’ll be seeing 2 new characters called Anusvāra & Visarga. They come under a class of characters called Ayogavāha [Previously, I mentioned them as Ubhayākshara-s. However, the correct grammatical term for them is this].


The Ayogavāha  ayogavaha_grantha class of characters do not exist independently, but rely on the vowel preceeding them (An Analogy would be the Saarbezhuththu of Tamil). The other two characters that come under Ayogavāha are Jihvāmūlīya & Upadhmānīya. [We will discuss them along with the consonants, for orthographic reasons]


As Ayogavāha are not independent, usually Anusvāra & Visarga are shown in combination with ‘a’. However, they can combine with all the vowel signs.


Also in this lesson we will also learn two additional orthographic devices called Avagraha & Candrabindu .



aṁ अं அம்ʼ




Anusvāra anusvara_granthais a character that denotes the pure nasal.  It is not the same as the pure consonant  [ m ம் म् ] as many commonly tend to mispronounce. It has unique sound different from that of [m ம் म्]. There are some intricate differences between the pronunciation of both the letters.


Anusvāra should be pronounced as follows: With the mouth closed in the natural position, the nasal sound must be released. I know its difficult to replicate this, but at least give it a try :-). For ordinary consonantal [m ம் म्], the lips press against each other hard, and the sound is produced. This doesn’t happen during the pronunciation of the Anusvāra.


Also, later in this series, we will discuss about the *approximate* pronunciation of the Anusvāra when a consonant follows it. [Do note, the Anusvara is always pronounced as a pure nasal whatever position it may appear. We are just approximating the sound to get a better grasp of it]


Try writing all the vowels in the previous lesson along with the Anusvara. No big deal, its just a small circle ! But just make sure, the circle is half the height of the preceding character. If a full height circle is drawn , it will become another character [which again we will see it later]



अः அ: aḥ


Visarga visarga_grantha is another interesting character in Sanskrit. It echoes the [h] sound in accordance with the vowel that precedes it.  The echoing sound has half-the length of the corresponding vowel.


namaḥ नम: நம: namah_grantha– This must be pronounced as nama(ha) : (ha) has a vowel length of half-mātra  [The preceding vowel ‘a’ is of one Mātra]

sattvāḥ सत्त्वा: ஸத்த்வா: sattva_grantha – Pronounced as sattvaa(ha) : (ha) having one-mātra [Since ā has two Matra]

viṣṇuḥ विष्णुः விஷ்ணு: vishnu_grantha– Realized as vishnu(hu) : (hu) having half-mātra


(Below – the characters are entirely in Grantha. Since, by now you must be able to recognize Grantha Vowels.  Else, refer to the previous lesson )


Now, how do you pronounce  aiH_grantha &  auH_grantha ?


Certainly not as ai(hai) & au(hau) :-).  Let me brief


There are four Sandhyakṣara-s  सन्ध्यक्षर ஸந்த்⁴யக்ஷர sandhyakshara_granthaamong the Sanskrit vowels. They are formed by the union of two vowels.


Their formation is as follows:


a-grantha + i_grantha = e_grantha 

a-granthau_grantha = o_grantha



aa-grantha + u_granthaau_grantha


Though e_grantha & o_grantha are Sandhyaksharas technically, they have a homogenous sound – hence retain their complete sound.


However, ai_grantha & au_grantha have a heterogenously composite sound, hence their last part must be echoed in the Visarga


bodhisattvaiḥ बोधिसत्त्वैः போ³தி⁴ஸத்த்வை​: bodhisattvaih_grantha – bodhisattvai(hi) [ (hi) carrying half the Mātra as usual ]


As with the Anusvara, try practicing the Visarga with all the vowel signs.


Now, for the orthographic devices:



ऽ ‘ (அ)

grantha_avagraha_1or   grantha_avagraha_2


 The Avagraha avagraha_gratha has two alternate characters in Grantha . You are free to choose any one of them 🙂


This is a silent character that mustn’t be pronounced. This just indicates the elision [disappearance] of a-grantha or aa-grantha  in Sandhi between words. For indicating the elision of aa-grantha  double Avagraha is used.



 नमः + अमिताभाय = नमोऽमिताभाय

 நம​: + அமிதாபா⁴ய = நமோ(அ)மிதாபா⁴ய  


நம​: + அமிதாபா⁴ய = நமோ’மிதபா⁴ய


तदा + आत्मानम् = तदात्मानाम् 

ததா³ + ஆத்மாநம் = ததா³(அ)(அ)த்மாநாம் 


It is just an indicator to show that a-grantha or aa-grantha previously existed, at that position originally, but was lost due to Sandhi. Avagraha is used to clarify the meaning. The presence or absence of  a-grantha or aa-grantha  before Sandhi, may totally alter the meaning of the word. It is used as a hinting character, to assist in word-splitting.


Consider the following compound word: somapo’mṛtapaḥ सोमपोऽमृतपः ஸோமபோ’ம்ருʼதப​:  

The Avagraha hints that the word must be split into सोमप: ஸோமப:  + अमृतपः அம்ருʼதப:  – [ मृतपः  – One who drinks Amrita.]


If the Avagraha is not present, one may be inclined to split it as सोमप: ஸோமப:  + मृतपः ம்ருʼதப:  – [  मृतपः  – One who drinks something dead (Mrita)]


But strictly being an just an Orthographic convention to disambiguate the meaning of the words, it is sometimes missed out in printings and manuscripts.



am̐ अँ அம் ̐



Chandrabindu candabindu_grantha indicates that the Vowel is to be pronounced as Nasalized.  Similar to that of हूँ in Modern Hindi, or the அவ(ன்) in colloquial Tamil.


It can also indicate the Nasalization of a Consonant. 


This completes our second lesson on Grantha Lipi. 


Starting from Next week, we’ll start to learn the Consonants i.e

Vyanjana-s  व्यञ्जनानि வ்யஞ்ஜநாநி vyanjanani_grantha


Download the lesson as PDF



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