[INDOLOGY] Anusvāra / class nasal with prefixes and compounds

Buchholz, Jonas jonas.buchholz at hadw-bw.de
Fri Nov 24 15:55:09 UTC 2023

Dear colleagues,

I have a question about the usage of the anusvāra and class nasals in Sanskrit, which I hope the members of this list can help answer. As we all know, while in manuscripts and older editions, the spelling of class nasals and anusvāras can be quite erratic, the practice in scholarly editions is to write combinations of class nasal and stop with the class nasal (e.g. कान्त kānta rather than कांत kāṃta, अङ्कित aṅkita rather than अंकित aṅkita, etc.).

However, there is also the practice to deviate from this general rule in the case of verbal prefixes ending in m and compounds whose first element ends in m: in these cases, anusvāra is employed instead of the class nasal (e.g. संदेश saṃdeśa rather than सन्देश sandeśa, अस्तंगमित astaṃgamita rather than अस्तङ्गमित astaṅgamita, etc.). My impression is that this practice is mostly followed by Western Sanskritists or Western-educated Indian scholars, whereas many Indian Sanskritist seem to be unaware of this convention (although I might be wrong on this).

My questions are:

  *   What is the justification for this practice (using anusvāra instead of class nasal in the case of verbal prefixes and conjuncts)?
  *   Is this practice sanctioned by the Sanskrit grammatical tradition?
  *   Is my impression about the different conventions followed by Western and Indian Sanskritists correct?
  *   What is the best practice for scholarly editions of Sanskrit texts? Is it imperative to use anusvāra in such cases, or would use of class nasal also be considered acceptable?

Please forgive my possibly naïve questions! Any insights would be appreciated.

Best regards,
Jonas Buchholz
                                                           ____                _____
Dr. Jonas Buchholz
Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities
Project “Hindu Temple Legends in South India”

Karl Jaspers Centre
Voßstr. 2 | Building 4400 | Room 004
69115 Heidelberg, Germany

P:  +49 (0)6221 54 4095
E:  jonas.buchholz at hadw-bw.de<mailto:jonas.buchholz at hadw-bw.de>
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