For the sandhi in the Vedas and Aranyakas which of the following is more correct (i.e. ḥ s or ss):

रुद्रः सन्महो rudraḥ sanmaho

रुद्रस्सन्महो rudrassanmaho

This example is from the Mahanarayana Upanishad section 24 (Taittiriya Aranyaka 10.24.1).

I've noticed that some books use the 1st format (Taittiriya-Aranyaka Edited by Subramania Sarma, Chennai) while others use the second (Mantra Pushpam by the Ramakrishna Math, Taittiriya Mantra Koshah by Ramakrishna Math). Do you know which is more correct according to Vedic sandhi?

Apologies if this is not the correct place to ask.


A visarga is replaced by स् whenever a letter from खर् (ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त क प) follows. This is mandated by Panini's rule 8-3-34 विसर्जनीयस्य सः (There is yet another rule that amends/modifies this one, but it is not the topic of discussion here). An amendment to this rule is 8-3-36 वा शरि which says that the replacement स् to visarga occurs optionally as शर् (श ष स) follows.

Some examples from rudram:

या त इषुः शिवतमा

इषुस् शिवतमा । 8-3-36 वा शरि
इषुश् शिवतमा । 8-4-40 स्तोः श्चुना श्चुः

Since 8-3-36 वा शरि is optional, the other form will be

इषुः शिवतमा

In vedic chanting, there former sandhi is always applied, i.e you should only chant it as इषुश्शिवतमा

One more example:

यथा नः सर्वमिज्जगद्

नः सर्वम् 
नस् सर्वम् = नस्सर्वम् । 8-3-36 वा शरि

If these rules appear too complicated to remember and apply, there is a simple rule of thumb to follow during chanting. Whenever one of श् ष् स् follows a visarga, replace the visarga with the corresponding letter.

सन्तः षट् = सन्तष्षट्
इषुः शिवतमा = इषुश्शिवतमा 
नमः सोमाय = नमस्सोमाय
  • 1
    That is really extremely helpful, thank you. I gathered from the other reply here that it was optional but I did not know that in vedic chanting the rule is always applied (which is what I really wanted to know). Unfortunately, mainly because it seemed simpler for a westerner like me, I've always done it the 'easier' way i.e. इषुः शिवतमा and नः सर्वम् (and अस्मात् स्यन्दते for the other question) so I now have about 30 documents to painstakingly correct! At least now I know how it's done for future work.
    – Pand8a
    Apr 28 '15 at 8:17
  • On the off-chance that anyone googles this in the future, the book Mantra Pushpam by Ramakrishna Math (has most of the major suktams/upanishads etc) seems to follow the above rules most of the time while the other books I've worked with do not. I've not found a version of the Rig Veda that follows these rules either.
    – Pand8a
    Apr 28 '15 at 8:21
  • Note that the style of chanting can never been expressed in print. For e.g if a book prints इषुः शिवतमा it is still correct. The chanting, however, should be done as इषुश्शिवतमा If one learns from a good teacher, these points will become clear over time.
    – linuxfan
    Apr 28 '15 at 14:05
  • Some vedic texts explicitly apply the rules that we recently discussed in their printed books. There is one book published by a trust in Chennai (India) that might be of use to you. Here's a sample page from it. I had these books a few years ago but gave them away, so I don't remember the publisher etc. See dropbox.com/s/er1mccjqtnjwuhm/Document.pdf?dl=0
    – linuxfan
    Apr 28 '15 at 17:17

They're both correct. Says Whitney in his Sanskrit Grammar (pp. 58-9):

"Before an initial sibilant -- ç, ṣ, s -- s is either assimilated, becoming the same sibilant, or it is changed into visarga. The native grammarians are in some measure at variance as to which of these changes should be made, and in part they allow either at pleasure. The usage of the manuscripts is also discordant; the conversion to visarga is the prevalent practice, though the sibilant is also not infrequently found written, especially in South-Indian manuscripts. European editors generally write visarga."

  • Sounds right. By the time the Upanishads were written, there were already dialects that would become Prakrits and there were undoubtedly lots of local and scribal variations. Which crept into copyist's hands.
    – jlawler
    Nov 3 '13 at 23:38
  • 1
    Thank you for this, extremely helpful! For fellow googlers the answer can also be found in Monier Williams Practical Grammar of Sanskrit (pp. 42-43) and An Introduction to the Grammar of Sanskrit by H.H. Wilson (pp. 24). They both agree with Whitney that it is optional but the conversion to visarga is the more common.
    – Pand8a
    Nov 4 '13 at 11:32

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