Friday, February 4, 2011




Dr. Narayan R. Joshi
(All rights reserved by the author)

For Part II click on:



Lately interest in Sanskrit language is growing in the western countries. Many US universities offer courses in Sanskrit. Private institutes offering short courses in Sanskrit for the students in western countries are multiplying. One school in the heart of London made a course in Sanskrit compulsory to its students. Sanskrit is praised as exquisitely refined language. Rick Briggs, a NASA engineer from California published two papers in 1985 in Artificial Intelligence Magazine praising Sanskrit suitable for computers. His papers were based on analysis of Sanskrit sentences by the ancient Indian Pundits and search of semantics nets by modern computer engineers interested in teaching natural languages to the computing machine. Sanskrit appears suitable for computers because of her rule based grammar. Computers are machines and they like rule based operations.

Sanskrit grammar

Sanskrit grammar is not simple. Sanskrit is highly inflected language different from English. Students from India as well as from foreign countries experience difficulty in learning Sanskrit grammar. This is especially true for students of modern science accustomed to ask questions like how and why. At the beginning stage of learning Sanskrit, many features of Sanskrit grammar cannot be explained. They have to be memorized. Because of the stress on the memorization, students lose interest quickly. In ancient India due to many reasons, Pundits use to compose, memorize and reproduce orally their compositions in Sanskrit. These ancient Pundits from India were walking libraries. Now the time is changed.

Why Sanskrit?

We have to find new ways to attract students to enjoy Sanskrit. Here somebody may ask the question. Why to study Sanskrit when almost all modern knowledge is available from the medium of English language? Many languages of India are derived from Sanskrit. So knowledge of Sanskrit helps to develop competency in their mother tongue. In addition to that Sanskrit has vast literature on poetry, drama, ancient scientific treatises, Ayurveda, Yoga science and high level religious scriptures. In case of foreign students, they also benefit by learning Sanskrit because Sanskrit is related to their languages through the Indo-European language family. This knowledge may direct them to enter into the research of development of Indo-European language family.

Different Interest

Although I have primary knowledge of Sanskrit from my early education, in recent years my interest shifted to the subject of Technical Sanskrit. The earliest literature on the earth is Hindu Vedas saved orally for thousands of years sound by sound. Vedic language and Sanskrit are very near to each other with small percentage difference. This is expected because linguistic Principle of the Least Efforts works for all languages. That is why in India many languages are born from the Vedic language (Vedic Sanskrit) or Sanskrit. However, because of great efforts of religious scholars and grammarians a large body of Sanskrit words remains intact without undergoing changes in their structure as well in meanings. Among these ancient words there are a large number of words of Technical Sanskrit.

Meanings of Sanskrit words

I think grammar of Sanskrit is external ornaments of Vaak Devataa. Ancient Indian scholars were discussing internal beauty of Sanskrit although they praised her systematic and symmetrical ornaments. The internal beauty was embedded in Sanskrit words and their meanings. A beautiful lady may have different ornaments at different times and they shine on her because she herself is beautiful. Discussions on the internal beauty were focused on Sphota doctrine and VarNavaada (Phonemic Symbolism). Scholars of different sects like Vaidika, Bauddha, and Jain passionately participated in this debate. In modern times scholars have published books on Semantics of Sanskrit (Words and Meanings). All these books offer only review of efforts in the past 2500 years of known history of India. They do not offer conclusions. They even mystify the subject. Dr. Joshi being an acoustic and ultrasonic engineer and Sanskrit scholar used modern computer software of Time-frequency Analysis and prepared sonographs of common Sanskrit words. After many years of their study he discovered that meanings of Sanskrit words are fixed by meanings of individual phonemes (Varnas). Thus Sanskrit has unique internal mechanism to preserve meanings of her words.

Periodic Table of Sanskrit VarNas.

The starting point now is the Sanskit VarNamaalaa. Sanskrit VarNas of the first five rows are arranged according to their origin in human vocal tract. The first column is of unaspirated sounds. The second column is of aspirated sounds. The third column is of voiced sounds. The fourth column is of voiced and aspirated sounds. The last column is of nasal sounds. The last two rows of semivowels and sibilants were rearranged to match above arrangement. Thus we have seven rows and five columns offering 35 phonemes (VarNas). One more letter of (Jnya) is added at the end in the central column of the voiced sounds. This VarNamaala is a periodic table of the articulated sounds. In addition we have sixteen vowels.

Syntax and Semantics of the language

There is the puzzle of the origin of Sanskrit. Although PaNini is celebrated grammarian, there were about 20 grammarians before him. Assuming time of PaNini (500 BCE-date is controversial), we see evidence that Sanskrit (or Bhaas’aa very close to Vedic) was present in the Indian subcontinent at least for 1000 years before him. At present there exist different grammars of Sanskrit although the grammar of PaNini is taken as a standard. A language is endowed with syntax (Anvaya) and semantics (Artha or meaning). Sanskrit scholars say that polysemy (multiple meanings to a single word) is the nature of Sanskrit. They also offer multiple meanings to the verbal roots. This situation creates a lot of problem in the interpretation of the ancient Sanskrit words especially connected with religious rituals and spiritual doctrines. For this reason different sects have different interpretation of the ancient scriptures and they keep arguing with each other for the past 2500 years of the known history of India. Religious words were frequently used by thousands of authors. Gradually they lose initial sharpness in the meaning. On the other hand technical Sanskrit words from the secular sciences of the ancient India suffer little changes because they are not used frequently.

Sanskrit words for modern scientific concepts

Students learning modern sciences and engineering subjects in English come across the terminology derived from the ancient Greek or Latin languages. We come across many words like complex numbers, hysteresis, electricity, atoms and so on. The ancient Indian scientists knew only one language, Sanskrit, their mother tongue. So what was the guiding principle used by them in order to coin new technical Sanskrit terminology?

Very few have thought in this direction. Using physical properties of articulated sounds of Sanskrit, I discovered that Sanskrit VarNas have meanings consistent with their physical properties as described by the periodic table of VarNamaalaa. The concept of phonemes having fixed meanings is denied by the western linguistic scholars. However, nobody investigated this problem in case of Sanskrit although there were discussions and different views. I used my invented meanings of VarNas in order to explain the meanings of the ancient technical Sanskrit words. It also helps in creating new internally consistent Sanskrit terminology (Anvarthaka Sanjnyaa) for the modern technical words like complex number, stochastic probability etc. Examples will be offered in the Part II of this article.




  1. good one, if possible please share documents and materials related to computer technical knowledge through Sanskrit.