देवनागरी (devanāgarī) literally means the city of the devatā. The concept of devatā comes from deva which has its roots in div meaning heavenly, divine and can mean any of the following –
- a deity or gods as the heavenly or shining ones
- these are principally one as white light and also thirty-three devas as the ‘principle source of all light and illumination. These are seen either as
- ekādaśa (11) for each of the 3 worlds RV. I.139-11 [11 x 3 =33] or
- aṣṭa vasava (8), ekādaśa rudra (11), dvādaśa āditya (12) and two markers of either two Aśvinī Kumāra or the pair of Indra and Prajāpati [8 + 11 + 12 + 2 = 33]
Accordingly, in gaṇita (mathematics) this word refers to the number 33.
Devanāgarī (Sanskrit) is expressed as 32 (mind) + 42 (soul) = 52 (body).
The sixteen vowels that manifest all the sounds. These are ruled by the Sun and are called the ‘soul alphabets’ i.e. Sūrya akṣara. Just as nothing can manifest without the light of the sun, so also none of the words and sounds can manifest without the vowels.
The twenty-five consonants and in groups of five each and are ruled by the five tārā-graha Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn, in that order. These constitute the pañca tattva that make up the body. Each graha represents a tattva whereas the five akṣara within the tattva represent the tanmātrā.
Nine semi-vowels are ruled by the Moon and are the principal sounds that guide the mind. These nine relate to the manifested being. Yet there are two more akṣara, more precisely yukta-akṣara (conjoined sounds) that also represent important functions of the mind.
The devanāgarī akṣara are studied in three major groups
Śabda-Vāra: 49 syllables being the square of seven days of the Sun. These include 16 vowels, 25 consonants and 8 semi-vowels that start from अ (a) and end with ह (ha).
Akṣara: 50 syllables that include 16 vowels, 25 consonants and 8 semi-vowels that start from अ (a) and end with क्ष (kṣa). This indicates the life process ending with laya (death) symbolised by क्ष (kṣa) as in the word kṣaya.
Śabda-Total: 52 syllables that include 16 vowels, 25 consonants and 8 semi-vowels that start from अ (a) and end with ळ (ḻa). Hindi does not recognize this last syllable ळ (ḻa) and ends the total number at 51 with ज्ञ (jña). It is feared that in due course of time, these akṣara shall be forgotten and the roots of the vedic civilization shall be lost.
- Learn all the 52 akṣara and pronounce them correctly
- Learn how the vowels are written when they conjoin consonants. Why are some vowels written on top of the letters while others are written after or below the letters? Can you identify these.
- Learn how these conjoin to form words. You can do this by taking any word and trying to identify the syllables it contains