Pronunciation of Brahma

zydenbos at zydenbos at
Thu Apr 24 01:03:56 UTC 1997

Replies to msg 22 Apr 97: indology at (mgansten at

 ms> From: mgansten at (Martin Gansten)
 ms> Subject: Pronunciation of Brahma

 ms> On another list, I noticed this posting:

>I would very much appreciate your advice on how the word=20
>Brahma is to be pronounced.  Is it pronounced as Bramma=20
>(with no h sound), Bramha (with the h coming after the m),=20
>or is it pronounced as Brahma (with the m coming after the h)? =20
>The way it is written in Sanskrit and in English is with the m=20
>coming after the h.  However, in many vedic chanting recordings=20
>and in recordings of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam, I notice that people=20
>are pronouncing the word with the h coming after the m, or as=20
>Bramma. =20

 ms> Here in Sweden, I often hear the -h- pronounced more or less like a
 ms> German Ach-Laut,
 ms> which to my ears at least is an abomination (not in itself!
 ms> -- only in Sanskrit words). But I suspect some would frown at my own
 ms> pronunciation as
 ms> well=82 as it tends towards the "bramha" variety so often
 ms> heard among panditas.

 ms> Any comments?

It should be obvious that the ancient Indians would not write "hm" when they
meant "mh" -- only to discover, when they write in Prakrit, that "mh" can be
written: and so 'brahma' becomes Prakrit 'bamha'. The "mh" pronunciation is
clearly later.

This inversion of h and something else also occurs elsewhere in the
pronunciation of pundits: cf. the name 'Prahlaada' / 'Pralhaada'. And (perhaps
we may say "of course") this also occurs in several modern languages. I
overheard a discussion of precisely this topic of "hm" and "hl" once among
pundits in Mysore, and their conclusion was that although the pronunciation
"mh" and "lh" was historically wrong, it had become extremely common, and
misunderstandings would not occur anyway, so it did not matter much how one
pronounced these combinations.

- RZ

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