Charles Wikner’s A Practical Sanskrit Introductory is an excellent resource for the aspiring saṃskṛta student. I have personally learned a great deal from this little manual. It has been available online for years as a printable PDF or PostScript file, but has not, as far as I know, been made available as an easy-to-navigate, web-based resource.
Wikner released the guide into the public domain as a gift to mankind. The guide is designed not to be a comprehensive resource to teach the entire language. Rather, as Wikner says in the Preface, it equips the student to “intelligently apply Monier-Williams’s dictionary and the Dhātu-Pāṭha (a compendium of saṃskṛta root words) to the study of the scriptures.”
In 2001, in a letter to a student who was translating the guide into French, Wikner wrote the following:
The Introductory was produced as a service to mankind: so far as I am concerned, it is freely available in the public domain … Furthermore, I would encourage you to translate it and make it publicly available … Having waived all my personal rights, I am in no position to insist that you make your translation public, but can only encourage you to do so. I trust that that makes my position formally and legally clear … I wish you every success in your endeavours. May the Light continue to shine upon your studies!
I have used this guide for some time in my own personal study and translation work, and come back to it often as a reference. But it has always been somewhat inconvenient to use; it was only available as a 156 page PDF file with no clickable links, so there was a lot of scrolling back and forth between the table of contents and the relevant information.
That is why I decided to take up this project of updating Charles Wikner’s beautiful Introductory for the modern web. I retyped the entire guide to make it searchable (and search engine accessible)1. I also recreated all the graphics with new hi-res versions.
I endeavored, for the most part, to keep Wikner’s original text intact, but I have made some changes throughout, mostly for stylistic reasons.
Many of the changes I made were to conform to the conventions of American English, e.g., “practising” to “practicing”. Wikner also uses ‘single quotes’ throughout the text, which I have changed to “double quotes”.
I also changed Wikner’s system of emphasizing text. In the original, Wikner uses bold text for transliterated Sanskrit, e.g., saṃskṛta, and
to emphasize English text. On the web, underlines are never used for emphasis, being reserved for hyperlinks. Therefore, I have opted to use italics for transliterated Sanskrit2, e.g., saṃskṛta, and bold to emphasize English text. In the pronunciation instructions, I use the HTML
<mark> tag to highlight relevant letters, e.g.
Throughout these lessons, I have added annotations to help remind the reader what certain Sanskrit terms mean. These are indicated by a faint, dotted underline under the relevant word, and are accessible by simply hovering your mouse over the word (or tapping the word, if you are on a mobile device). As an example, hover (or tap) the following Sanskrit words:
You should see a faint underline beneath each word, and a small box with explanatory text should appear when you hover or tap the word.
As stated above, this guide is designed to teach you how to teach yourself. It will teach you how to understand the construction of a word, so that you can trace it to its root using the Monier-Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary.
Beginning with Lesson 12, Wikner makes reference to the structure of the printed book and to particular page numbers, assuming that anyone reading these lessons has a copy of the dictionary handy. As part of my effort to make this course entirely available online, rather than assume the reader has a physical copy of the dictionary, I have, wherever possible, linked to the relevant pages of the high-resolution scanned edition on archive.org.
But for practical use, beyond the scope of this course, I highly recommend the Sanskrit-Lexicon online version created by the University of Cologne. It is entirely digital, searchable, and much more convenient than either a physical book or the scanned version.
If you encounter any misspellings, typos, or errors in transliteration, please let me know.
Bringing Charles Wikner’s A Practical Sanskrit Introductory to the web took hundreds of hours of work. This site and all the resources herein will always be free for all to use and enjoy. If you have found this website valuable and would like to help us keep it free, as well as expand our library of Sanskrit resources, your donations are very much appreciated.
My sincere hope is that many new people will find this guide as useful and valuable as I have, and it will be a vital resource for aspiring sādhakas for many years to come.
|ॐ श्री गुरवे नमः|
|oṃ śrī gurave namaḥ|
|“I bow to my revered sadguru.”|
For the technical folks reading this: the original was encoded with LaTeX using a custom font created by Wikner to render devanāgarī text. The underlying text is actually Roman letters, only the display font is devanāgarī. For this project, all the text (Roman and devanāgarī) is UTF-8 encoded, and therefore can be indexed and searched. ↩
One exception to this format: beginning in Lesson 12, I use both bold and italics for transliterated text because these lessons deal with the printed version of the Monier-Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary. The dictionary uses either bold or italics depending on the relative level or sub-level of the entries or sub-entries (or sub-sub-entries!). When a lesson refers to a particular entry in the dictionary, I have formatted the text to match the printed version. ↩