Saint Ved Vyas relating the Bhagwatam to Shukdeo (3100 B.C.)

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Transliteration of the Hindi words

Hindi and Sanskrit alphabet is the same and its every consonant and vowel has very precise pronunciation (Article 30) which is not found in the English language (or any other language of the world). This is the reason that the exact pronunciation of Hindi or Sanskrit words cannot be transliterated into English.

In the English language all the words (even the very simple words like, a, an, the, one and two) have a history of how they originated from proto-Germanic, Latin, Greek, Romance languages or Old English, and then how they took the modern shape. During that period their spelling and pronunciation and also their meaning were changed a number of times (pp. 184-192). Every letter of English language has a sound which further changes according to the style of the pronunciation of a particular word. Thus, sometimes a letter has more than one sound, and sometimes more than one letter has the same sound. For example: In the words cat and kitten, c and k both have the same sound; in the word apart, a has both sounds, short and long ; in the words finish, finite and liter, i is pronounced differently ; in the words center and sentence, c and s both have the same sound; and in the words free, freak and frequency, long e is written in three styles, ee, ea, and e; and so on. Thus, the English letters do not have a fixed, precise sound that could be used in all the situations, whereas the Hindi and Sanskrit letters have a definite and precise sound.

For these reasons the exact pronunciation of a Hindi or Sanskrit word cannot be correctly transliterated. People have tried to do some modifications in their style of transliteration, but sometimes it worsened the situation. For example: “The Oxford Hindi - English Dictionary” and also the “Sanskrit - English Dictionary” by Sir Monier Monier-Williams suggest ‘c’ for (ch) like church, which is very unusual for an English knowing person to pronounce ch for c in transliteration. “Practical Sanskrit Dictionary” by Arthur A. Macdonell fully worsens the situation when it suggests to pronounce as k, and kh, g and gh, which resembles It is certain that nobody would pronounce ch for k. It transliterates as ta, tha, da, dha, and also as ta, tha, da, dha without giving any example or explanation. Apart from them, some prominent Hindu scholars and writers in past started using their self-preferred transliteration of certain words like: atman for atma , brahman for brahm , jnana for gyan and samsara for sansar , and others followed that wrong trend without any consideration. It is definite that no Hindi or Sanskrit scholar would ever pronounce brahman jnana for brahm gyan . These writers also started using ‘a’ at the end of a noun, excessively; just like, Arjuna for Arjun, Ashoka for Ashok, and so on.

Considering these difficulties and misinformations, to give a general idea of the pronunciation of a Hindi word for a English knowing person, who doesn’t know the Hindi alphabet, we have transliterated Hindi (and Sanskrit) words in a very simple way that follows the general pronunciation of the English letters; and, for a Hindi knowing person, as he already knows the pronunciation of the Hindi words, he can easily and correctly pronounce the transliterated words.


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