Suggestions for Further Study


There are many reasons for studying Sanskrit, from comparative liguitics to liberation, from poetry to philosophy, from simple chanting to mythology. Whatever the reason, the next obvious step is further study of the grammar.

A personal bias needs to be declared here: my interest in Sanskrit lies in studying the scriptures, therefore translating from English into Sanskrit is irrelevant, and the building of a vocabulary detracts from the penetration of the scriptures (because of the limited worldly associations with familiar words). Furthermore, the range of grammar needs to be very wide: from the full etymology of each word (including the significance of each affix) to the figurative use in the most sublime writings.

There are a wide range of books on Sanskrit grammar available, ranging from the introductory level to academic tomes: the majority of these approach the subject as they would any other foreign language, i.e. with a view to translation, rather than treating the study as a means to penetrate writings which express ideas and concepts foreign to the Western mind-set.

Despite the above qualifications, the general reader will find the first five books in the list useful to further study of the grammar:

The Bhagavad Gita
Winthrop Sargeant
State University of New York Press, 1984
The Gītā is written with simple and straightforward grammar, which, together with its magnificent philosophy and wealth of practical advice, makes it an ideal work with which to begin. This translation is especially suited to the Sanskrit student, as it expresses the grammar of the text as well as giving a word-by-word translation.
Sanskrit Manual: a Quick-Reference Guide to the Phonology and Grammar of Classical Sanskrit
Roderick S. Bucknell
Motilal Banarsidass, 2006
As the title implies, it is a reference work containing many tables of noun declension and verb conjugation, with indices linking noun- and verb-endings and verb stems to the paradigm tables. A useful tool to determine the prātipadika forms of nouns, tense, etc. of verbs, from inflected word.
Teach Yourself Sanskrit
Michael Coulson
McGraw-Hill, 2006
This covers the grammar of Classical Sanskrit in some detail. Each chapter has translation exercises into and out of Sanskrit, with answers given at the back of the book. As a “part-time” student studying alone, this is a “hard” book because of its style, depth, and large vocabulary. It is useful as a semi-reference book when examining a particular concept in depth: the next two books are a lot easier for general study.
Devavāṇīpraveśikā: An Introduction to the Sanskrit Language
Robert P. Goldman and Sally J. Sutherland Goldman
Center for South Asia Studies, University of California, 2004
Divided into twenty-two lessons, each subdivided into several topics, this university entry-level textbook gives a broad understanding of the language without getting bogged down in details and exceptions. Each lesson has trnlation exercises, in bot directions, but answers are not provided.
Saṃskṛtasubodhinī: A Sanskrit Primer
Madhav M. Deshpande
University of Michigan Center for South Asian Studies
A university textbook similar in level and structure to the previous one; while neither of these books are designed for self-study, to the self-motivated student they can provide a wide grasp of Sanskrit as a lnguage.
Laghukaumudī: A Sanskrit Grammar
Translated by James Robert Ballantyne
Motilal Banarsidass, 2001
This contains approximately ne thrd of the sūtras of Pāṇini’s Aṣṭadhyāyī gahered together thematically to exhautively explain word formations in Classical Sanskrit; the text and commentary are in devanāgarī with English translation. This is an exacting work and not to be tackled lightly, but is essential study to penetrate the full spiritual significance of words.

For further scriptural study, the Bhagavad Gītā with Śaṃkara’s commentary in translation by A.M. Sastry is published by Samata Books; the major Upaniṣads are published with word-by-word translations of Swāmī Śarvānanda, etc., by Sri Ramakrishna Math; or with Śaṃkara’s commentary by Advaita Ashrama (Eight Principal Upaniṣads, and Chhāndogya, by Swāmī Gambhīrānanda; Bṛhadāraṇyaka by Swāmī Mādhavānanda).