Part-4: Generic form of a consonant
The consonants in Sanskrit are
known as "vyanjanani" and total thirtythree in number, though in recent
times, a few additional ones have been included in the Devanagari script to support some frequently
used syllables from other languages.
The consonants are grouped into six groups.
The first five have five consonants each and the last one has eight. The
grouping is based on the natural ordering of sounds such as gutturals,
palatals etc., depending on the anatomical region involved in the generation of the sound associated with the consonants.
An interesting observation is that the
letters of Sanskrit are given names exactly matching the sound they represent.
A consonant derives its name from the sound when the basic vowel "a" is
sounded with the consonant. In Sanskrit and in other Indian languages,
each consonant has a generic form in which its pronounciation will not
have any vowel sound associated with it.
The generic form applies when
more than one consonant is used in forming syllables and there are many
such combinations in Sanskrit. It was common practice to introduce the
consonants to the children learning the language, not in their generic
form but in the form where they are used with the first vowel "a". The
writing system in Devanagari has a representation for the generic form
of a consonant through the use of a special mark written at the bottom
of the consonant's familiar representation. This mark is known as the "nether
stroke" or the "halanth".