Best Book to Learn Sanskrit

Best Book to Learn Sanskrit

People often ask me what is the best book to learn Sanskrit. So I tell them, there is no single best book to learn Sanskrit. Because each book has its own purpose - each book is good to learn Sanskrit from some specific perspective.

Some Sanskrit books are for beginners whereas others are for advanced readers. Some Sanskrit books are good for Indians whereas some are good for foreigners. even among Indians, few people in Tamil Nadu and Kerala do not know how to speak Hindi - for them an English language Sanskrit book is useful.

The Sanskrit dialect which is studied today in India is based on the grammar treatise of Panini, which was later enlarged by Katyayana and commented upon by Patanjali. 

Sanskrit Grammar is ancient,more than 2000 years old and has helped to give shape to the grammars of most latter Indian languages. Sanskrit is a very precise language and Sanskrit encapsulates many principles of discrete mathematics such as the Backus Normal Form.

Below I have down a review and analysis of some very good books to learn Sanskrit from different perspectives..

1. Best Book to Learn Sanskrit through Hindi - Sanskrit Swayam Shikshak

Sanskrit Swyam Shikshak by Shripad Damodar Satvlekar

Short Review of Sanskrit Swayam Shikshak
  • Sanskrit Swayam Shikshak teaches Sanskrit through Hindi. If you do not know Hindi and still want to learn Sanskrit then this is not the book for you.
  • It is a very good book to learn Sanskrit from scratch.
  • Sanskrit Swyam Shikshak is written in such a way that one would feel as if they are learning their mother tongue.
  • As per a reviewer in Flipkart, this book is quite similar to Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis in terms of structuring.
  • The book is divided into 2 parts. The first part deals with Conversation Sanskrit and has 50 Chapters. The second part deal with Sanskrit grammar and has 59 Chapters.
  • Very easy to navigate from lesson to lesson.
  • Chapter practice examples are very good.
  • Very affordable book.
  • Good Print.
  • Cons: The book does not have a table of content.

As per the author Shripad Damodar Satavlekar himself,  anyone who reads Sanskrit Swyam Shikshak book regularly 1 hour per day will learn conversational Sanskrit in 1 year's time.

2. Best Book to Learn Sanskrit in Traditional Panini Style - First Book of Sanskrit

First Book of Sanskrit by Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandrakar

Short Review of First Book of Sanskrit
  • Follows traditional Hindu Grammar style.
  • Very methodical.
  • Step by step covers topics.
  • Examples are very good.
  • Exercises are very good.
  • But little to no explanation.
  • Tone is quite dry.
  • Sometimes example are too much. Quite overwhelming.
First Book of Sanskrit is not for beginners. Below I am presenting the general content of the First Book of Sanskrit grouped by subjects/ topics.

Chapter 1 through 4 -  Singular, Dual, Plural Terminations and Parasmaipada Present Tense.
Chapter 5 - Nominative Case
Chapter 6 - Accusative Case
Chapter 7 - Instrumental Case
Chapter 8 - Dative and Ablative Case
Chapter 9 - Genitive Locative and Vocative Case / Adverbs
Chapter 10 and 11 - Singular, Dual and Plural Numbers
Chapter 12 - Passive and Impersonal Forms
Chapter 13 through 15 - Feminine Nouns Regular
Chapter 16 through 21 - Past tense (imperfect), irregular forms in feminine
Chapter 22 through 24 - Imperative Mood, Verbal Derivatives
Chapter 25 through 27 - Nouns Ending in Consonants
Chapter 28 - Potential Mood
Chapter 29 through 31 - Pronouns
Chapter 32 - Selected Text

3. Best Book to Learn Conversational Sanskrit - Learn Sanskrit in 30 Days

Learn Sanskrit in 30 Days by Vidyavisharada K. Srinivasachari

Short Review of Learn Sanskrit in 30 Days
  • Very easy read.
  • Very detailed in the initial part.
  • Examples are thorough in the first half.
  • Second half is not very detailed.
  • Second half suddenly becomes intermediate level.
Learn Sanskrit in 30 Days is available in almost any store in India except probably in Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur and Nagaland. The books is part of the popular “National Integration” series of language learning books in India published by Balaji Publications, Chennai, The book was compiled by Vidyavisarada K. Srinivasachari, who wass a Professor of Language at the Samskrita Bhasha Pracharini Sabha, Chitoor.

Content of Learn Sanskrit in 30 Days
  1. The book consists of 5 parts.
  2. FIRST PART (Part 1) of the book deals with alphabets
  3. SECOND PART (Part 2) of the Sanskrit text deals with nouns and verbs in their various forms
  4. THIRD PART (Part 3) talks about Sanskrit Pronouns and ineclinables.
  5. FOURTH PART (Part 4) - Stories, Essays, Conversations, Moral Passages
  6. FIFTH PART (Part 5) - Roots of Sanskrit verbs and Sanskrit verbal derivative

4. Best Book to Learn Sanskrit at an Intermediate to Advanced Level based on Panini Style - A Higher Sanskrit Grammar

A Higher Sanskrit Grammar by M R Kale

Short Review of A Higher Sanskrit Grammar
  • Intended for serious students of Sanskrit grammar.
  • Very detailed.
  • Very thorough.
  • Follows traditional Hindu Grammar Style.
  • Based on Bhattoji Dikishatar's Siddhanta Kaumudi.
  • Very good examples.
  • Rules and exceptions are covered in detail.
  • Good for folks who enjoy grammar as a subject.

A Higher Sanskrit Grammar is a very detail-oriented Sanskrit study book. Most of the rules given in the book are translations of Panini's sutras. Some of the special features of the book are:
  • original Panini Sutras are given in footnotes
  • Sandhis and declensions are fully treated
  • compounds have received special attention
  • formation of feminine bases have been illustrated
  • Taddhita affixes have been arranged in an alphabetical order.

5. Best Book to Learn Sanskrit for non-Indian graduates - Devavanipravesika

Devavanipravesika: An Introduction to the Sanskrit Language by Robert P. Goldman

Short Review of Devavanipravesika

The purpose of the book Devavani praveshika is to "provide a self-contained primer, workbook and reader for teaching first year Sanskrit students with no previous linguistic training. The author has tried throughout the work to introduce, explain and illustrate the most significant features of the language and through verses, quotations, and readings."

Measurable outcome of the book: "Upon completion of this course, students should have a real working knowledge of the major outlines of Sanskrit sentences with some facility and read, with the help of dictionary, approximately five to ten verses of the Valmiki Ramayana or a similar text in an hour."
  • Advanced text book.
  • Content is quite good. Breadth and coverage is very good.
  • Dense with grammar, and very organized and thorough.
  • As a resource Devavaipravesika is very good as it puts everything related to the topic under one heading. For example, all the sandhis are available in one place.
  • Uses traditional examples from Ramayana.
  • Transliteration instruction is very good, especially useful for Americans and other non-native Indic speaker
  • Examples are not very detailed. Here is what an Amazon Customer says " For instance, chapter 3 gives present tense (active and middle), the "a" declension (masc. and neuter), the irregular verb "as" (to be), a look at the use of "sma" (a particle), and about 60 vocab words. Then, after all that, you are given about 15 practice exercises and a 7 1/2 lined paragraph to translate.This just isn't enough."
  • Progresses very fast from topic to topic.
The biggest advantage of the book also becomes its biggest disadvantage. The author Robert P. Goldman tries to introduce too many things at once in a chapter. At times the writing is very tedious and monotonous.

This book is very popular among non-Indians, especially at a Graduate level, who want to learn Sanskrit from the grounds-up, in the Western style.

6. Best Book to Learn Sanskrit Grammar

Sanskrit Grammar by R. G. Bhandarkar

Short Review of Sanskrit Grammar
  • Published by Bharatiya Kala Prakashan.
  • It is a very good book to learn Sanskrit Grammar.
  • Grammar Rules are presented in an easy manner.
  • Sanskrit tenses are explained in detail.
  • Gender is covered in a thorough manner.
  • Very easy to navigate from lesson to lesson.
  • Lucid and easy to read.

7. Best Book to Learn Sanskrit at an Intermediate Level - Second Book of Sanskrit

Second Book of Sanskrit by Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandrakar

Short Review of Second Book of Sanskrit
  • Follows traditional Hindu Grammar style as adopted by Bhattoji Dikshita in Siddhantakaumudi.
  • Very methodical. Step by step coverage of topics.
  • Examples & exercises are very good, but little to no explanation.
  • Tone is however quite dry.
  • Covers irregularities belonging to 1st, 4th, 6th and 10th conjugations.
  • Second, third, fifth, seventh, eight and ninth conjugation is discussed in details.
  • First and second future is covered in details.
  • Discussion of comparative and superlative.
  • Discusses Sanskrit compounds - Dvandva, tatpurusha, bahuvrihi and avyayibhava
Apart from this there are some other books which people recommend. I have not read them, but I am mentioning them for the sake of completeness.

8. Geeta Sopanam

Geeta Sopanam is published by Samskritbharti. The books motto is: "Learning Samskrit using Geeta and learning Geeta using Samskrit".

  • First level course out of series of four courses.
  • No prior Samskrit knowledge is required.
  • Spoken Samskrit along with written exercises.
  • Example Context from Bhagavad Geeta and Mahabharat.
 The syllabus includes some inspirational incidents, some day to day life event like planning an event, some funny story like a story about Albert Einstein, some humor, some puzzles and some wisdom. Source.

10. Introduction to Sanskrit ( Pt. 1) (English) - Thomas Egenes
11. Introduction To Sanskrit (Part-2) - Thomas Egenes
12. Samskrta-Subodhini: A Sanskrit Primer ( Series - Michigan Papers on South and Southeast Asia Studies, No. 47 )
13. Ramopakhyana - The Story of Rama in the Mahabharata: An Independent Study Reader in Sanskrit (English)

Further Reads
Good books to learn Sanskrit Samskritam 
What is the best way to learn sanskrit? Any sources?

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  1. Thanks a lot for listing out books for learning Samskrutham. The review helps us to choose and select the book as per our requirement. Thanks again!

  2. I have seen several books on sanskrit. But i felt than some topics are left in sanskrit swayam shikshak like tavatu pratyaya, lyap pratyaya etc.

  3. I have seen several books on sanskrit. But i felt than some topics are left in sanskrit swayam shikshak like tavatu pratyaya, lyap pratyaya etc.

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