The true power of the ancient saṃskṛta language lies in the proper pronunciation of each letter and word. Every letter, syllable, word and phrase has a precise calculated effect on the spiritual body, which in turn directly affects the physical body and the mind. Pronouncing these words correctly, or even simply hearing them pronounced, even without knowing what the words mean, has a powerful and beneficial effect on the nervous system. This is because every letter of the saṃskṛta alphabet corresponds to, and vibrates in harmony with, an energy center in our body.

Ṛṣi sages and yogis of ancient India, while in deep meditation, heard subtle sound vibrations emanating from within. They found that the sounds were originating from the various astral energy centers in the spine. These centers were perceived to be rotating due to the alternating flow of prāṇa (प्राण) and apāna (अपान) energy currents in the spine, and thus each center was named cakraḥ (चक्रः), meaning “wheel.”

A cakraḥ is a confluence of conduits called nadī (नदी, “river” in saṃskṛta) that distribute life force energy throughout the entire body. These nadyaḥ (नद्यः, plural of nadī) correspond to ganglia and nerves in the physical body, and the cakrāḥ (चक्राः, plural of cakraḥ) in turn correspond to the plexuses controlling the various systems of the body. A cakraḥ can also be referred to as padmaḥ (पद्मः, “lotus”) because it said to resemble a lotus flower. Each cakraḥ is comprised of a certain number of nadyaḥ. These nadyaḥ are the “petals” of the lotus, and each one has a particular vibratory frequency. It is these frequencies that the ancient ṛṣi sages were hearing in their deepest meditations.

There are five main cakrāḥ in the spine and one in the forehead, corresponding to various major plexuses of the sympathetic nervous system. The five spinal cakrāḥ each relate to one of the five elements that comprise creation: earth, water, fire, air and ether.

At the base of the spine is the mūlādhāra cakraḥ (मूलाधार चक्रः), physically manifested as the coccygeal plexus. Mūla means “root”, and ādhāra means “foundation” or “support.” This cakraḥ is associated with the sense of smell and with the earth element (पृथ्वी तत्त्व, pṛthvī tattva). It is called the root cakraḥ because it rules our primal nature, our survival instinct. When our consciousness is fixed in this cakraḥ, we are little different than animals. Mūlādhāra cakraḥ is the seat of kuṇḍalinī śakti (कुण्डलिनी शक्ति), which is the source of all energy in man, whether physical, emotional, mental, psychic or spiritual. The goal of the yogi is to awaken the dormant kuṇḍalinī śakti in mūlādhāra cakraḥ through self-purification and meditation, and to bring that energy up through the various cakrāḥ to sahasrāra (सहस्रार), the thousand-petaled lotus at the top of the head. There, this pure energy, or Śakti, unites with pure consciousness, Śiva.

The next cakraḥ in the spine is svādhiṣṭhāna cakraḥ (स्वाधिष्ठान चक्रः), the sacral plexus. The name of this cakraḥ means “one’s own abode.” Sva means “self”, adhi means “of” or “concerning”, and sthāna means “dwelling place.” This cakraḥ is associated with the sense of taste and with the water element (अपस् तत्त्व, apas tattva). This cakraḥ controls the reproductive organs, and is associated with pleasure-seeking through the tongue and the genital organs. This is, for most of humankind, where the consciousness rests (hence the name). The main concerns for most people are acting on their sexual impulses and planning their next meal.

Third is maṇipūra cakraḥ (मणिपूर चक्रः), the solar plexus. This cakraḥ is associated with self-discipline, dynamic will power, self-assertion and dominance. The solar plexus governs the digestion and metabolism. It is related to the element of fire (अग्नि तत्त्व, agni tattva). As our consciousness rises to this cakraḥ, we become very charismatic. This can be a razor’s edge for the yogi, because when consciousness rests in this cakraḥ worldly success comes more easily, and the temptations of māyā become much stronger.

The fourth cakraḥ is anāhata cakraḥ (अनाहत चक्रः), the heart cakraḥ. Anāhata literally means “unstruck,” which alludes to the fact that when fixed in anāhata cakraḥ, our consciousness is no longer tied completely to the physical world, but can begin to perceive the spiritual realm from which we came, and to which we are striving to return. All sounds in the physical world are created by objects colliding with one another, creating vibrations. But the primordial sound from which creation was made manifest requires no such physical action. Hence the name “unstruck.” Anāhata cakraḥ is where the yogi first begins to perceive that Cosmic Sound, nādabrahma (नादब्रह्मम), the holy OṂ vibration. This cakraḥ corresponds in the physical body to the cardiac plexus, and governs the heart and lungs, i.e. the circulatory and respiratory systems. It truly is the “heart center”, the seat of unconditional love which is the first expression of the presence of God. When we bring our consciousness to this center, we develop tolerance and compassion, and all beings are accepted and loved just as they are. This cakraḥ is associated with the air element (वायु तत्त्व, vāyu tattva).

The last spinal cakraḥ is called viśuddha cakraḥ (विशुद्ध चक्रः). This cakraḥ controls the throat, larynx, vocal cords, and the thyroid and parathyroid glands. Śuddha means “purification”, and the prefix vi adds emphasis. When our consciousness comes to this center, we develop discrimination (विवेक, viveka) between what will lead us to God and what will lead us to māyā. Right understanding leads to acceptance of the dualities of life, accepting whatever comes in our path with no distinction between “good” or “bad.” Viśuddha cakraḥ is associated with the ether element (आकाश तत्त्व, ākāśa tattva).

Ājñā cakraḥ (आज्ञा चक्रः), located mid-brain behind the center point between the eyebrows, is called the third eye. Ājñā means “command”, because the aspirant receives instructions and guidance from the sadguru through this cakraḥ. It is also called the Christ-Consciousness center, because when our consciousness rests here, it is united with the Christ, the Divine Intelligence manifest within creation. This cakraḥ is also called kūṭastha caitanya (कूटस्थ चैतन्य). Kūṭa means “summit”, stha means “located at”, and caitanya means “consciousness.” When our consciousness is raised to this cakraḥ, it cannot be raised further. If we go beyond ājñā cakraḥ, our limited human consciousness ceases to exist, and only our sense-of-self (अहंकार, ahaṃkāra) and the individual soul (आत्मन्, ātman) remain. Ājñā cakraḥ does not relate to any of the five physical elements, but rather to the element of mind (मनस्, manas). Physically it corresponds to the pineal gland, which is thought to modulate our sleep/wake patterns with the production of melatonin.

By now, you may be asking yourself what all of this has to do with proper saṃskṛta pronunciation. When we pronounce a saṃskṛta word correctly, it has a direct physical and spiritual impact on us, and specifically on our various cakrāh. So, a deeper understanding of the cakrāḥ is necessary to illustrate why proper saṃskṛta pronunciation must be emphasized.

The saṃskṛta alphabet is comprised of fifty letters, or akṣarāḥ (अक्षराः). As mentioned earlier, cakrāḥ are said to resemble lotus flowers, and each nadī is one of the “petals” of the lotus. The six main cakrāḥ have a total of fifty petals, and each petal has a unique vibratory frequency. It is these frequencies that comprise the saṃskṛta alphabet.


Cakrāḥ, Nadyaḥ and Akṣarāḥ

The following is a list of the various cakrāḥ, how many nadyaḥ comprise each cakraḥ, and which akṣara corresponds to each nadī. Also listed is the bījākṣara (बीजाक्षर, “seed syllable”) for each cakraḥ.

Ājñā Cakraḥ



2 Petals:

  1.   ha
  2. क्ष   kṣa

Viśuddha Cakraḥ


हं   haṃ

16 Petals

  1.   a
  2.   ā
  3.   i
  4.   ī
  5.   u
  6.   ū
  11.   e
  12.   ai
  13.   o
  14.   au
  15. अं   aṃ
  16. अः   aḥ

Anāhata Cakraḥ


यं   yaṃ

12 Petals

  1.   ka
  2.   kha
  3.   ga
  4.   gha
  5.   ṅa
  6.   ca
  7.   cha
  8.   ja
  9.   jha
  10.   ña
  11.   ṭa
  12.   ṭha

Maṇipūra Cakraḥ


रं   raṃ

10 Petals

  1.   ḍa
  2.   ḍha
  3.   ṇa
  4.   ta
  5.   tha
  6.   da
  7.   dha
  8.   na
  9.   pa
  10.   pha

Svādhiṣṭhāna Cakraḥ


वं   vaṃ

6 Petals

  1.   ba
  2.   bha
  3.   ma
  4.   ya
  5.   ra
  6.   la

Mūlādhāra Cakraḥ


लं   laṃ

4 Petals

  1. वं   va
  2. शं   śa
  3. षं   ṣa
  4. सं   sa