Sanskrit for beginners

How to get started and where to go next

On this page

  1. What is Sanskrit?
  2. How can I learn Sanskrit?
  3. How do I read and pronounce Sanskrit?
  4. How can I use a different script?
  5. How do I choose what to read?
  6. How can I get help?
  7. What do I do now?

What is Sanskrit?

Sanskrit is an ancient Indian language that was the language of Indian high culture for thousands of years. In addition to its ocean of stories, plays, songs, poems, and technical works, Sanskrit is also a critical religious language for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains worldwide.

Everyone has their own reason for learning Sanskrit. Depending on whom you ask, Sanskrit and Sanskrit literature might be rich, intricate, sacred, beautiful, profound, vital, nourishing, fascinating, and timeless. And of course, there are also people who feel the opposite!

The only way to know how you feel is to try it out for yourself.

How can I learn Sanskrit?

The essential ingredient for learning a new language is input. Input is any language that you read or listen to for its meaning. As long as you keep receiving input that you enjoy and understand, you will acquire Sanskrit unconsciously and effortlessly.

Our free online library of short Sanskrit books is especially designed to provide input for beginners and learners. Just keep reading books that look interesting. All of our books have word-for-word translations, so you can always click on a word to get help.

How do I read and pronounce Sanskrit?

Sanskrit is written in many different scripts, but for English speakers, the easiest to learn is romanized Sanskrit, which you can learn here:

Learn how to read romanized Sanskrit.

Sanskrit contains many sounds that aren't used in English. You can learn how to pronounce them through this web page from the University of British Columbia:

Learn how to pronounce Sanskrit sounds.

How can I use a different script?

If you can read another Indian script already, you can choose whatever script you like instead. You can change the script you use with this menu:

saṃskṛtam

How do I choose what to read?

Books with fewer unique words are usually easier, so we recommend that you start with those and work your way up. If a certain book feels difficult or painful, we recommend setting that book aside and picking an easier one instead.

Otherwise, what you read is entirely your choice. If you don't see something that you want to read, write to us and we'll be happy to write something just for you.

How can I get help?

All of the books in our library have word-for-word translations. For those interested, we also explain the grammar of each word.

You can click on any word in a book to see what it means. Here's an example:

saṃskṛtaṃ bhāṣā.
saṃskṛtaṃ sundaram.
saṃskṛtaṃ sundarī bhāṣā.

Try clicking on the word sundarī three times:

  1. The first time, a pop-up will appear and show you the meaning of the word you clicked on.

  2. The second time, the pop-up will show you the meaning of a phrase within the sentence.

  3. The third time, the pop-up will show you the meaning of the entire sentence.

All books have word-for-word translations. Beginner books also have sentence translations. And phrase translations are provided as needed.

If you want to know more about a word, click the Explain link within the pop-up. When you click Explain, you will see some basic information about the word and how it works.

What do I do now?

You're ready to explore our library and start reading.

If you can't find anything you want to read in our library, you may be interested in our Sanskrit resources for all levels.

And if you have any questions or comments (or if you just want to say hello), please write to us and we'll do whatever we can to help. We're always very happy to hear from you!