Svara, aka: Svarā, Śvara, Shvara; 22 Definition(s)


Svara means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit, the history of ancient India, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit term Śvara can be transliterated into English as Svara or Shvara, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism

Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

Svarā (स्वरा, “Sound, Speech”):—One of the female offspring from Mahākālī (tamas-form of Mahādevī). Mahākālī is one of the three primary forms of Devī, the other two being Mahālakṣmī and Mahāsarasvatī. Not to be confused with Kālī, she is a more powerful cosmic aspect (vyaṣṭi) of Devi and represents the guṇa (universal energy) named tamas. Also see the Devī Māhātmya, a Sanskrit work from the 5th century, incorporated into the Mārkaṇḍeya-Purāṇa.

Source: Wisdom Library: Śāktism
Shaktism book cover
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Shakta (शाक्त, śākta) or Shaktism (śāktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devi) is revered and worshipped. Shakta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Agamas and Tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

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Dharmashastra (religious law)

Svara (स्वर) refers to “voice”, as in, a visible trait or charecteristic of a human being. When a King (rājan) is investigating a suit in the court, he is to closely watch the variations (ākāra) of the subject. For the voice (svara) of a person, this means monitoring for faltering (of the voice), being choked with tears etc. The term is used throughout Dharmaśāstra literature such as the Manusmṛti.

Source: Wisdom Library: Dharma-śāstra
Dharmashastra book cover
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Dharmashastra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharmaśāstra) contains the instructions (shastra) regarding religious conduct of livelihood (dharma), ceremonies, jurisprudence (study of law) and more. It is categorized as smriti, an important and authoritative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

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Natyashastra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

Svara (स्वर) refers to the “notes” in musical performance. The notes (svara) have two bases: the human throat (lit. body) and the Vīṇā, according to the Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 28. It is part of the ‘vocal representation’ (vācika), which is used in communicating the meaning of the drama and calling forth the sentiment (rasa).

According to the Nāṭyaśāstra 6.10, chapter 19 and chapter 28, there are seven notes (svara), to be used in different sentiments:

  1. ṣaḍja (sa),
  2. ṛṣabha (ri),
  3. gāndhāra (ga),
  4. madhyama (ma),
  5. pañcama (pa),
  6. dhaivata (dha),
  7. niṣāda (ni).

According as they relate to an interval of more or less śrutis, they are of four classes, such as

  1. Sonant (vādin),
  2. Consonant (saṃvādin)
  3. Assonant (anuvādin),
  4. Dissonant (vivādin)

Accordingly, “as a note prominently sounds it is called sonant (vādin); as it sounds in cosonance with another it is consonant (saṃvādin); as it sounds discordantly to another it is dissonant (vivādin), and as it follows another note it is called assonant (anuvādin). These notes become low or high according to the adjustment of the strings, and the varying condition (lit. diversity) of the beam of the vīṇā and of the sense-organs”.

Source: Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra

Svara (स्वर, “notes”).—The Indian scale has seven notes, namely, ṣaḍja, ṛṣabha, gāndhāra, madhyama, pañcama, dhaivat, niṣāda. Now-a-days these are generally abbreviated to sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha and ni. Svaras are of four kinds namely, vādī, saṃvādī, anuvādī and vivādī. (cf. Tilaka-mañjarī by Dhanapāla)

Source: Google Books: Dhanapāla and His Times (arts and learning)

Svara (स्वर, “interval”).—According to the Saṅgīta-makaranda, “The seven notes, ṣaḍja, ṛṣabha, gāndhāra, madhyama, pañcama, dhaivata and niṣāda, are said to dwell respectively in the navel, the heart, the throat, the palate, the nose, the teeth and the lips”. (Cf. Saṃgītarāja of Kumbhā)

Source: Google Books: Dattilam: A Compendium of Ancient Indian Music

Svara (स्वर, “vowels”).—Vowels are fourteen in number: a, ā, i, ī, u, ū, ṛ, ḹ (long) ḷ, ḹ (long) e, ai, o and au are to be known as vowels.

Source: Natya Shastra

Svara (स्वर, “notes”).—The svara is defined by Mataṅga as that which shines by itself. The names of the notes have been explained by different writers old and modern. (cf Mataṅga’s 9th century Bṛhaddeśī)

Source: The Ragas Of Karnatic Music

The seven basic musical notes (svara), coincided with the seven diatonic intervals of the Indian scale.

Source: The Nāṭyaśāstra: the Origin of the Ancient Indian Poetics

Svara is a Sanskrit word that connotes a note in the successive steps of the octave. The svara differs from the sruti concept in Indian music. A sruti is the smallest gradation of pitch available, while a svara is the selected pitches from which the musician constructs the scales, melodies and ragas. The seven notes of the musical scale in Indian classical music are ṣaḍja (षड्ज), ṛṣabha (ऋषभ), gandhāra (गान्धार), madhyama (मध्यम), pañchama (पञ्चम), dhaivata (धैवत) and niāṣda (निषाद).

Source: WikiPedia: Natyashastra

1a) Svara (स्वर).—“tone in recitation etc.” (either high or low),

1b) “accent” (of which there are three kinds, udātta-, anudātta-, and svarita- svaras),

1c) “note of the musical scale” (of which seven rarely six or eight are enumerated, 1. niṣāda-;2. ṛṣabha-;3. gāndhāra-;4. ṣaḍja-;5. madhyama-;6. dhaivata-;7. pañcama- svaras; of which niṣāda- and gāndhāra- are referred to the udātta-, ṛṣabha- and dhaivata- to the an-udātta-, while ṣaḍja- and the other two are referred to the svarita- accent; described as resembling respectively the notes of an elephant, bull, goat, peacock, curlew or heron, horse, and Koil)

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams (natyashastra)
Natyashastra book cover
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Natyashastra (नाट्यशास्त्र, nāṭyaśāstra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition (śāstra) of performing arts, (nāṭya, e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nataka) and poetic works (kavya).

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Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

1) Śvara (श्वर).—A son of Dadhīci.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 21. 42.

2a) Svara (स्वर).—A son of Gāyatrī and Prajāpati.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 21. 42.

2b) Seven (music);1 sixteen of the Vedas.2

  • 1) Vāyu-purāṇa 86. 36.
  • 2) Ib. 65. 28; 104. 71.

3a) Svarā (स्वरा).—A daughter of Uttānapāda.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 36. 90; Vāyu-purāṇa 62. 77.

3b) A daughter of Kardama and one of the wives of Atharva Angiras; son Gautama.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 1. 102; Vāyu-purāṇa 65. 98.

3c) A daughter of Krodhā.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 69. 205.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Vedanta (school of philosophy)

Svara (स्वर).—Svara is life (uyir) and vyañjana is the body (mey) of Devi of language and music. The svara gives life to the music/language/devi. The singer evoking the svara gives life to Devi.

According to Chāndogya khāṇḍa 3 (adhidaivata) śloka 2: “This and that are samāna (equalizers). Both are heat and energy. This is svara and that is svara and pratyasvara. This and that are the udgāthas (singers). Prāṇa of singer and sūrya are samam in quality and in name (guṇa and nāma) both move (svarati-verb) by waves of light and sound. Therefore, they are called svara/sūrya. Without the sūrya (sun and the prāṇa), there is no life or art or science possible on earth. Therefore, svara is the life (uyir). We see both the life and the sun coming back cyclically, and so is prāṇa as inhalation and exhalation, and hence both are svara and pratyasvara. But we don’t see the life of a particular individual coming back after it leaves a body, therefore, it is just called svara and not pratyasvara.”

Source: Google Books: Music Therapy (upainishads)
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Vedanta (वेदान्त, vedānta) refers to a school of orthodox Hindu philosophy (astika), drawing its subject-matter from the Upanishads. There are a number of sub-schools of Vedanta, however all of them expound on the basic teaching of the ultimate reality (brahman) and liberation (moksha) of the individual soul (atman).

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Ayurveda (science of life)

Svara (स्वर).—Svara refers to the “voice”, and Āyurvedic literature enumerates various voice-enhancing rejuvenating recipes, for example: 1) the juice of maṇḍūkaparṇī; 2) powder of yaṣṭimadhu mixed with honey; juice of guḍūcī along wih its root and flowers; 4) paste of śaṅkhapuṣpī. (See Caraka-saṃhitā, cikitsā-sthāna 1.30-31)

Source: Wisdom Library: Āyurveda and botany
Ayurveda book cover
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

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Shiksha (linguistics: phonetics, phonology etc.)

Svara (स्वर, “interval”), also “note”.—The Indian system is based on a series of seven intervals (svara), called saptaka. Nāradīyā-śikṣā 1.5.1 compares the notes (svara) used by the singers of sāmas (i.e. religious songs of the Sāmaveda), with the notes of the flute, which may represent here secular (laukika) music:

  1. prathama (i.e. the first) is the note madhyama of the flute;
  2. dvitīya (i.e. the second) is gāndhāra,
  3. tṛtīya (i.e. the third) is traditionally ṛṣabha.
  4. caturtha (i.e. the fourth) is said to be ṣaḍja;
  5. pañcama (i.e. the fifth) is dhaivata;
  6. ṣaṣṭha (i.e. the sixth) is considered to be niṣāda;
  7. saptama (i.e. the seventh) is traditionally pañcama.

The fifth, sixth and seventh note of religious (vaidika) music are commonly indicated by the names mandra, atisvārya and kruṣṭa.

Source: Google Books: Dattilam: A Compendium of Ancient Indian Music [shiksha]
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Shiksha (शिक्षा, śikṣā) deals with Sanskrit linguistics and represents a branch of vedanga (vedic ancillary science). Shiksha deals with subjects such as phonetics, phonology, study of sound, letters of the Sanskrit alphabet and related topics. Much attention is also given to the study of recitation (patha) of Vedic verses.

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Shilpashastra (iconography)

Svara (स्वर).—The svaras originate fro mthe twenty-two Śrutis.

They are seven:

  1. Ṣaḍja,
  2. Ṛṣabha,
  3. Gāndhāra,
  4. Madhyama,
  5. Pañcama,
  6. Dhaivata,
  7. Niṣāsa.

Sā is produced from the first four śrutis, Ri from the next three and so on. Their names are accepted as Sā, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni what results after a śruti, is soft and resonant. Svara results in aesthatic joy to the mind of the listner. Now in this way, the cause of the svara is the fourth śruti, etc.

The illustrations of these svaras are found scattered throughout ancient Jain manuscripts from Gujarat. The descriptions of these illustrations of this citrāvalī are based on the ślokas of Vācanācārya Gaṇi Sudhākalaśa’s Saṅgītopaniṣatsāroddhāra (14th century) and Śārṅgadeva’s Saṅgītaratnākara (13th century).

Source: Illustrations of Indian Music and Dance in Western Indian Style
Shilpashastra book cover
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Shilpashastra (शिल्पशास्त्र, śilpaśāstra) represents the ancient Indian science (shastra) of creative arts (shilpa) such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vastushastra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

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Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar)

1) Svara (स्वर).—Vowel, as contrasted with a consonant which never stands by itself independently. The word स्वर (svara) is defined generally as स्वयं राजन्ते ते स्वराः (svayaṃ rājante te svarāḥ) (M. Bh. on pan. The word स्वर (svara) is always used in the sense of a vowel in the Pratisakhya works; Panini however has got the word अच् (ac) (short term or Pratyahara formed of अ (a) in 'अइउण् (aiuṇ)' and च् (c) at the end of एऔच् (eauc) Mahesvara sutra 4) always used for vowels, the term स्वर (svara) being relegated by him to denote accents which are also termed स्वर (svara) in the ancient Pratisakhyas and grammars. The number of vowels, although shown differently in diferent ancient works, is the same, viz. five simple vowels अ,इ,उ, ऋ, लृ (a, i, u, , lṛ), and four diphthongs ए, ऐ, ओ (e, ai, o), and औ. These nine, by the addition of the long varieties of the first four such as आ, ई, ऊ (ā, ī, ū), and ऋ (), are increased to thirteen and further to twenty two by adding the pluta forms, there being no long variety for लृ (lṛ) and short on for the diphthongs. All these twenty two varieties have further subdivisions, made on the criterion of each of them being further characterized by the properties उदात्त, अनुद (udātta, anuda)Iत्त (tta) and स्वरित (svarita) and निरनुनासिक (niranunāsika) and सानुनासिक (sānunāsika).

2) Svara.—The word स्वर (svara) also means accent, a property possessed exclusively by vowels and not by consonants, as they are entirely dependent on vowels and can at the most be said to possess the same accent as the vowel with which they are uttered together. The accents are mentioned to be three; the acute (उदात्त (udātta)), the grave अनुदात्त (anudātta) and the circumflex (स्वरित (svarita)) defined respectively as उच्चैरुदात्तः, नीचैरनुदात्तः (uccairudāttaḥ, nīcairanudāttaḥ) and समाहारः स्वरितः (samāhāraḥ svaritaḥ) by Panini (P. I. 2.29, 30,31). The point whether समाहार (samāhāra) means a combination or coming together one after another of the two, or a commixture or blending of the two is critically discussed in the Mahabhasya. (vide M. Bh. on P. I. 2.31). There are however two kinds of svarita mentioned by Panini and found actually in use : (a) the independent स्वरित (svarita) as possessed by the word स्वर् (svar) (from which possibly the word स्वरित (svarita) was formed) and a few other words as also many times by the resultant vowel out of two vowels (उदात्त (udātta) and अनुदात्त (anudātta)) combined, and (b) the enclitic or secondary svarita by which name, one or more grave vowels occurring after the udatta, in a chain, are called; cf P. VIII. 2.4 VIII. 2.6 and VIII 4.66 and 67. The topic of accents is fully discussed by the authors of the Pratisakhyas as also by Panini. For details, see R. Pr. III. 1.19; T.Pr. 38-47 V. Pr. I. 108 to 132, II. I.65 A. Pr. Adhyaya 1 padas 1, 2, 3 and Rk. Tantra 51-66; see also Kaiyata on P. I. 2.29;

3) Svara.—The word स्वर (svara) is used also in the sense of a musical tone. This meaning arose out of the second meaning ' accent ' which itself arose from the first viz. 'vowel', and it is fully discussed in works explanatory of the chanting of Samas. Patanjali has given Seven subdivisions of accents which may be at the origin of the seven musical notes. See सप्तस्वर (saptasvara) above.

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Svāra (स्वार).—A term used in the Pratisakhya works for स्वरित (svarita) or the circumflex accent; स्वारः स्वरितः (svāraḥ svaritaḥ) (Com. on T.Pr. XVII.6; cf. also T.Pr.XX.20; XXIII.24. There are seven varieties of स्वार (svāra) given in the Pratisakhya works, viz. क्षैप्र, नित्य, प्रातिहत, अभिनिहत, प्रश्लिष्ट, पादवृत्त (kṣaipra, nitya, prātihata, abhinihata, praśliṣṭa, pādavṛtta) and तैरोव्यञ्जन (tairovyañjana), cf. T. Pr. XX.1-7.

Source: Wikisource: A dictionary of Sanskrit grammar
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Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa) refers to Sanskrit grammar and represents one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas. Vyakarana concerns itself with the rules of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic analysis in order to establish the correct context of words and sentences.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

Svara (स्वर) denotes in the Upaniṣads the sound of a vowel: these are described as being ghoṣavant, ‘sonant,’ and also as balavant, ‘uttered with force’. The precise word for a mute is sparśa, ‘contact’, while ūṣman denotes a ‘sibilant’, and svara a ‘vowel’, in the Aitareya and Śāṅkhāyana-āraṇyakas. The semivowels are there denoted by antasthā (‘intermediate’) or akṣara.

Another division in the Aitareya-āraṇyaka is into ghoṣa, ūṣman, and vyañjana, apparently ‘vowels’, ‘sibilants’, and ‘consonants’ respectively.

Source: Vedic index of Names and Subjects

India history and geogprahy

Svara.—(IE 7-1-2), ‘seven’. Note: svara is defined in the “Indian epigraphical glossary” as it can be found on ancient inscriptions commonly written in Sanskrit, Prakrit or Dravidian languages.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Indian Epigraphical Glossary
India history book cover
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The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

svara (स्वर).—n S One of the divisions of the universe,--the space between the sun and polar star and region of the planets and constellations. In this sense the word is one of the three mystical words to be repeated daily at the morning ceremonies &c. with the Gayatri. 2 Sky, the heavens. 3 The residence of Indra and the gods and deified mortals. The same with svarga.

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svara (स्वर).—m (S) A note in music. 2 An accent. 3 A vowel. 4 Air breathed through a nostril. 5 Sound in general. svara dēṇēṃ To join in with one's voice and assist the singer. svara bhajaṇēṃ or svara vāhaṇēṃ g. of s. To incline or lean unto, to flow freely towards--the will or mind.

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svāra (स्वार).—m ( A) A man on horseback, a cavalier or horseman. 2 as a Mounted upon (horse-back, camel-back, bullock-back &c.)

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

svara (स्वर).—m A note in music; an accent; a vowel sound. svara bāhaṇēṃ To incline or lean to.

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svāra (स्वार).—m A man on horseback. a Mounted.

Source: DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
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Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

Svara (स्वर).—a. Going; one who goes (this meaning is given only by Gīrvaṇa.); असौ स्वर इतीममाचक्षते स्वर इति प्रत्या- स्वर इत्यमुं (asau svara itīmamācakṣate svara iti pratyā- svara ityamuṃ) ...... चोद्गीथमुपासीत (codgīthamupāsīta) Ch. Up.1.3.2.

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Svara (स्वर).—[svar-ac, svṛ-ap vā]

1) Sound, noise.

2) Voice; स्वरेण तस्याममृतस्रुतेव प्रजल्पितायामभिजातवाचि (svareṇa tasyāmamṛtasruteva prajalpitāyāmabhijātavāci) Ku.1.45.

3) A note of the musical scale or gamut, a tone, tune; (these are seven:-niṣādarṣabhagāndhāraṣaḍjamadhyamadhaivatāḥ || pañcama- ścetyamī sapta tantrīkaṇṭhotthitāḥ svarāḥ Ak.); सप्त स्वरास्त्रयो ग्रामा मूर्छनाश्चैकविंशतिः (sapta svarāstrayo grāmā mūrchanāścaikaviṃśatiḥ) Pt.5.54.

4) The number 'seven'.

5) A vowel.

6) An accent; (these are three; udātta, anudātta and svarita q. q. v. v.); निहन्त्यरीनेकपदे य उदात्तः स्वरानिव (nihantyarīnekapade ya udāttaḥ svarāniva) Śi.2.95.

7) Air breathed through the nostrils.

8) Snoring.

9) Sweetness of tune or tone; तस्मादार्त्विज्यं करिष्यन् वाचि स्वरमिच्छेत तया वाचा स्वरसंपन्नयार्त्विज्यं कुर्यात् (tasmādārtvijyaṃ kariṣyan vāci svaramiccheta tayā vācā svarasaṃpannayārtvijyaṃ kuryāt) Bṛ. Up.1.3.25.

-rā Name of the chief wife of Brahman.

Derivable forms: svaraḥ (स्वरः).

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Svara (स्वर).—m.

(-raḥ) 1. A Vedic accent, (of which there are three, viz: —udāta, anudātta and svarita.) 2. A vowel. 3. A note of the musical scale or gamut. 4. Air breathed through the nostrils. 5. Snoring. 6. Voice. 7. Sound in general. 8. A symbolical expression for the number “seven.” E. svar to sound, ac aff.; or svṛ to sound, ap aff.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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Relevant definitions

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Susvara (सुस्वर) refers to a “melodious voice” and represents one of the various kinds of ...
Saptasvara (सप्तस्वर).—the seven musical notes (i. e. sā, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha, nī).Derivable fo...
Svaraśāstra (स्वरशास्त्र).—1) the science of the modulation of sounds. 2) the science of the pa...
Svarāṃśa (स्वरांश).—m. (-śaḥ) A half or quarter tone in music. E. svara a note, aṃśa a part.
Kākasvara (काकस्वर) refers to “one who has the voice of a crow”, representing an undesirable ch...
Brahmasvara (ब्रह्मस्वर).—n. of a former Buddha: Mv iii.231.11 f. (v.l. once °śvara; compare Br...
Svarabhaṅga (स्वरभङ्ग).—1) indistinctness of utterance, broken articulation. 2) hoarseness or c...
Svaragrāma (स्वरग्राम).—m. (-maḥ) The musical scale, gamut.
Madhurasvara (मधुरस्वर).—n. of a gandharva: SP 5.1.
Svarabrahman (स्वरब्रह्मन्).—the Brahman as manifested in sound; स्वरब्रह्मणि निर्भातहृषीकेशपदा...
Svaralāsikā (स्वरलासिका).—f. (-kā) A flute, a pipe. E. svara a note, las to be skilled, ṇvul af...
Svaramaṇḍalikā (स्वरमण्डलिका).—f. (-kā) A kind of tringed musical instrument. E. svara a note o...
Bhinnasvara (भिन्नस्वर).—mfn. (-raḥ-rā-raṃ) 1. Hesitating, (in speech.) 2. Hoarse, discordant. ...
Pañcamasvara (पञ्चमस्वर).—Name of a metre; P. R.Derivable forms: pañcamasvaram (पञ्चमस्वरम्).Pa...

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