Devanagari Transliteration

From The Sannyas Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

A glance at the Wikipedia article on Devanagari transliteration shows that there are many different systems. Beyond this, in common usage there is a great deal of looseness and plain old inconsistency, which all leads to a fairly large number of somewhat interchangeable letters and combinations. Alternative/interchangeables include i/ee, u/oo, s/sh, ai/ay/ei, a/aa, v/w/b, j/z, t/th, ch/chh, jn/gy, 'n' used or omitted for nasalized vowels, 'a' in or out from un/pronounced syllables like Ram(a), words separated or run together, and other less common ones. How is one to know the "correct" way to render Osho's Hindi titles, names and terminology in order to search for them?

The good news is that G**gle and its ilk have become fairly sophisticated in recognising common formulations and the common "errors" that people make. They will either suggest "improvements" or just go about your search and include common alternatives in search results.

Thus, the scheme of Devanagari transliteration used in Sannyas Wiki has no need to be utterly correct and is first and most importantly practical. Correctness is only of value inasmuch as it is also practical. And so it is also informal, not entirely consistent, not concerned mainly with rules, but with search engine recognition. To that end, rendering of Osho's titles here attempts to reflect commonest usage, ie what spelling will lead to best results on a search, without sacrificing too much correctness. Examples follow below.

And fwiw, going the other way, a Roman letter might represent more than one Devanagari letter, since there are too many sounds in Hindi/Sanskrit to map one-to-one onto our little western alphabet. Thus, for example, n might be न, ण, or a nasalization of the previous vowel (and that too can be done in more than one way). Since it may on occasion be useful to search using the Devanagari version, starting with a decent transliteration can be helpful. Then, a translation utility can put it back into Devanagari, and since their whole business depends on knowing vocabulary, their results are usually pretty good, even if the translations are terrible. A recent example of this was trying to render "kranti" in Devanagari. They got it right, क्रांति, even though it didn't align with the book cover's version, क्रान्ति.

A good example of the varieties of usage "out there" vs wiki usage might be हृदय, meaning "spiritual heart." Transliterated, it comes in many forms: hridaya, hridya, hriday, hṛdaya, hridy, and probably more. Most of the variations have to do with whether and where to leave in the "short 'a's". In many cases, it might not make a difference but in an Osho title looked at recently, it did. The story is this:

The most "correct" form, fairly old-style and not user-friendly, is hṛdaya. The most common form is hridaya, as in the classic of Buddhist literature, the Heart Sutra, which Osho has spoken on in English. But the most common rendering of the title we are considering here is Hridya Sutra, a new title of an Osho tantra volume which has nothing to do with Buddha's sutra . A search for "osho hridaya sutra" brings lots of hits relating to Osho's English book on the Heart Sutra, and very little to do with the Hindi tantra book. A search for "osho hridya sutra" gets the "helpful" suggestion, "Do you mean 'osho hridaya sutra'?" followed by results from that search and only on page two -- ie, "No, I didn't mean that" -- is the proper book found. So in the wiki, Hridya it is.

Another fine example of correctness vs findability can be found at Sabai Sayane Ekmat / Ek Mat, ie whether to render the last bit as one or two words. Correct according to both G**gle and the Devanagari version (एकमत) would be one word, Ekmat. But findable? No, no, no. Gotta be two words. So two words it is.

Another example, this time choosing correctness over ubiquity, because findability trumps all: For Kahai Kabir Main Pura Paya (कहै कबीर मैं पूरा पाया), the correct "Kahai" was chosen over the much commoner "Kahe" because search engines find Kahe when looking for Kahai but not Kahai when looking for Kahe.

See also
Devanagari Ligatures for a look at how methods of joining letters are evolving.