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Conventions | Transliteration of Devanagari | Transliteration of Classical Greek


Our New Transliteration Standard

At the time of this writing, we have not yet seen any completely satisfactory, or even acceptable, method of simulating standard, printed Roman transliteration of Devanagari with HTML-based internet browsers such as Netscape and Internet Explorer. The two most popular metods—the "alternating small/CAPS" system ("kRSNa", "rAm") and the "periods in-between letters" system ("kr.s.n.a", "raam")—are both too clumsy and unrefined for our taste.

And even though some versions of the most popular web-browsers may soon use Unicode, we are not willing to accept that standard right now. First of all because we feel that there is a huge number of persons that, for many years, will continue using older browsers; and secondly, because the new technology is not yet really proven.

In order to serve our well-versed Sanskrit readers better, we therefore found it necessary to develop a new system of how to simulate, as closely as possible, modern, printed transliteration of Devanagari. By using the capability of standard HTML to underline text, as well as using a certain subset of special characters that all HTML browsers can display, we have been able to define a better, more consistent transliteration typography than in any of the two above mentioned methods (see Table 1, below).

Our system is better for two reasons. First, because it does not add any extra characters to simulate the original transliteration characters. For example, Devanagari's long a is transliterated in modern printed works as an "a" with a horizontal line above it. But in the "periods in-between letters" system this sound is represented with the characters "aa", thus adding another "a" to denote that the sound should be long instead of short. In our solution, however, we avoid adding extra characters, and instead use an "a" with a circumflex, an "". This is not only closer to modern standards, but is also how older transliterations of Sanskrit material sometimes were done.

Another reason why our solution is better is that we are consistently using small letters for transliteration. Thus, instead of the curious "kRSNa" (as in the "alternating small/CAPS" system), we use "krsna". This is much closer to how modern transliterations are done, and also typographically less clumsy.


Transliteration Example

With our new transliteration standard, verse 66 in Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad-gita will be rendered as:

sarva-dharmn parityajya
        mm ekam aranam vraja
aham tvm sarva-ppebhyo
        moksayisymi m ucah



HOW WE TRANSLITERATE DEVANAGARI

Unicode name Transl. Pronounciation

Vowels:    
Letter A a as in cup
Letter AA twice as long as in car
Letter I i as in sin
Letter II twice as long as in pique
Letter U u as in bush
Letter UU twice as long as in rule
Letter Vocalic R r as in river
Letter Vocalic RR ree twice as long as in reel
Letter Vocalic L l as lree
Letter E e as in they
Letter AI ai as in aisle
Letter O o as in no
Letter AU au as in cow

Gutturals:    
Letter KA + virama k as in kane
Letter KHA + virama kh as in ink-horn
Letter GA + virama g as in get
Letter GHA + virama   gh as in loghouse
Letter NGA + virama ng as in bring

Palatals:    
Letter CA + virama c as in chair
Letter CHA + virama   ch as in staunch-heart
Letter JA + virama j as in jam
Letter JHA + virama jh as in hedgehog
Letter NYA + virama as in canyon

Cerebrals:    
Letter TTA + virama t as in stop
Letter TTHA + virama th as in boathouse
Letter DDA + virama d as in bird
Letter DDHA + virama   dh as in cardhouse
Letter NNA + virama n as in long

Dentals:    
Letter TA + virama t as in tame
Letter THA + virama th as in pot-house
Letter DA + virama d as in desk
Letter DHA + virama   dh as in madhouse
Letter NA + virama n as in no

Labials:    
Letter PA + virama p as in spin
Letter PHA + virama   ph as in topheavy
Letter BA + virama b as in bind
Letter BHA + virama bh as in rub-hard
Letter MA + virama m as in man

Semivowels:    
Letter YA + virama y as in yes
Letter RA + virama r as in rain
Letter LA + virama l as in lion
Letter VA + virama   v as in voice

Sibilants:    
Letter SHA + virama   as in session
Letter SSA + virama s as in shine
Letter SA + virama s as in son

Aspirate:    
Letter HA + virama   h as in house

Other symbols:    
Sign ANUSVARA   m as in French bon
Sign VISARGA h final h-sound, with a slight echo of the preceding vowel; i.e. rmah is pronounced as "raamaha"
Sign AVAGRAHA ' not pronounced.

Table 1. Eyes of Scripture's new Roman transliteration method of Devanagari.


NOTES

1. "Abandon all varities of religion and just surrender unto Me [Krsna]. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear." A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupda 1994, p. 850.
 
2. These letters are not mentioned in Unicode's tables. Our nomenclature, however, seems to be consistent with how they have constructed the other names. See http://www.unicode.org for more details.
 
3. The sounds of these letters do not exist in the English language; to pronounce them correctly, place the tip of your tounge against the roof of your mouth, instead of against your teeth.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

- Aklujkar, Ashok (1992) Sanskrit: An Easy Introduction to an Enchanting Language. Richmond, B.C.: Svadhyaya Publications.
 
- Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupda, A. C. (1994) Bhagavad-gt As It Is, Complete Edition, Revised and Enlarged. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
 
- Macdonell, Arthur A. (1927) A Sanskrit Grammar for Students. Third edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 
- Wilson, H. H. (1847) An Introduction to the Grammar of the Sanskrit Language for the Use of Early Students. London: J. Madden and Co.


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