SOAS University of London

SOAS Language Centre

Sanskrit Beginners Course

Duration: 3 terms, 10 weeks per term, 20 hours blended learning. Each term courses are subject to quorum requirements.

  • Overview
  • Structure


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Mode of Attendance: Part-time

Fees: Course fees quoted are per term of 10 weeks.

Course aim:

This course aims to provide you with an introduction to Sanskrit, using the scholarly transliteration designed specifically for Sanskrit (the IAST) alongside the Devanāgarī script. It is designed to allow you to read and understand simple sentences with confidence. In all three terms, examples of authentic Sanskrit are explored, helping you gradually to make the transition from simplified, abridged Sanskrit to actual Sanskrit texts. As a learner, you would be expected to attend regularly, participate in class and complete homework regularly to ensure that learning objectives are met. You will receive regular feedback from your tutor.


The below will be achieved through 20 hours of blended learning: this is composed of 15 hours of online structured lessons with the teacher. This is supplemented by a minimum of 5 hours of guided independent learning supported by complementary material and regular feedback from the tutor. The course objective will be achieved within the 10-week course.

Sanskrit Beginners 1 introduces the learner to Sanskrit as a linguistic system, by putting it in its appropriate linguistic context and looking carefully at how it is structured both in terms of its sound system and its grammar. The course presupposes no knowledge of an Indian language or of Latin or Greek. Sanskrit Beginners 1 first establishes a familiarity with the pronunciation of Sanskrit and the association between sounds, the transliteration system (the IAST) and the Devanāgarī. Grammatical terminology is gradually incorporated, giving the student confidence in identifying parts of speech in Sanskrit before tackling grammar. There is a mid-term session, consolidating the first half, and an end-of-term consolidation session, concentrating on the material covered in the second half of the term. At the end of the term, the student is able to read and understand basic sentences in the present tense (and the active voice), can read Sanskrit script, albeit with some difficulty and with frequent recourse to transliteration, and will have acquired a vocabulary of around 150 words.

Sanskrit Beginners 2 builds directly on Beginners 1, expanding the student’s ability to read and write the Devanāgarī script and to understand basic sentence construction. New declensional types are explored and pronouns (demonstrative and relative) are introduced. There is an emphasis on reading and understanding short, graded texts that are abridged versions of the Hitopadeśa (a collection of fables belonging to the large body of ‘wisdom literature’ in Sanskrit). Two reading passages within the term are abridged versions of fables from the Hitopadeśa. By the end of this term of study, students will have a vocabulary range of around 300 words. As with Sanskrit Beginners 1, there is a mid-way consolidation point, allowing for revision on areas that students have identified as difficult or problematic. There is also a consolidation session at the end of the term taking the form of a quiz concentrating on the material covered in Sanskrit Beginners 1 and 2.

Sanskrit Beginners 3 is a natural continuation of Sanskrit Beginners 1 and 2, devoted to building familiarity with basic Sanskrit constructions. The working vocabulary is extended to around 450 words, allowing access to short texts of greater linguistic sophistication than in previous terms. There is a strong emphasis on developing learning strategies in terms of being able to grasp declensional patterns and also the theoretical bases of conjugation. The reading of texts continues to serve as the means by which vocabulary and grammatical usage are explored. Important and widely used constructions are investigated (such as the locative absolute) and there is, as in Sanskrit Beginners 1 and 2, time factored in for consolidation. Students are given revision tips and reading materials for the summer period, in order to practise what they have learned, and the next level of study (Sanskrit Elementary 1) is discussed.

Online Course Requirements

Please ensure you have checked the Learner Support page for the Collaborate Session Preparation and Checklist, Required Equipment & Software.


The course will be based on the textbook: Maurer, W. H. (2009) The Sanskrit Language: An Introductory Grammar and Reader (Revised Ed.) London: Routledge.

The tutor will also provide students with supplementary digital materials throughout the year. These materials both complement the textbook and facilitate the reading of text passages. Links to online dictionaries will be provided, as well as links to documentaries, scholarly publications and website articles relating to the Sanskrit language, its history, literature and culture.

Entry requirements and progression route:

No knowledge of any language other than English is presupposed. To join Beginners 2 or 3 you should have completed Beginners 1 and 2 respectively at SOAS Language Centre or have an equivalent knowledge of guided learning hours (20 hours blended learning per each sub-level). The progression route from Sanskrit Beginners 1 is to Sanskrit Beginners 2; from Beginners 2 to Beginners 3.

Timetable information:
Related Information

See more information on the Sanskrit language and courses in Sanskrit offered at SOAS Language Centre on the Sanskrit Language Homepage.

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Sanskrit Beginners 1 
  • Historical and linguistic background
  • The sound system: consonants
  • The sound system: semi-vowels and sibilants
  • The sound system: vowels
  • Reading, writing and pronunciation practice
  • Word order and parts of speech
  • First sentences in Sanskrit
  • Mid-term consolidation
  • Introduction to the Devanāgarī writing system
  • Practice in writing the Devanāgarī
  • The conjunct consonant
  • The noun: gender, number and case
  • Introduction to the verbal system
  • From sentence to text: ‘Our Town’ (Maurer, p. 62)
  • Overview and consolidation
Sanskrit Beginners 2 
  • Revision of topics from Sanskrit Beginners 1
  • ‘A Heavenly Retreat’ (Maurer, p. 70)
  • Gerunds: verbal information without the fuss
  • Introduction to sandhi: visarga sandhi
  • Orthographic conventions
  • The usefulness of tad: a key to many doors
  • The philosophical aspects of tad
  • Declension: stems in –ā
  • Mid-way consolidation for term and year
  • ‘The Ways to Heaven’ (Maurer, p. 85)
  • The past passive participle
  • Hitopadeśa readings:
    - ‘The Brahman and the Mongoose’ (Maurer, p. 94)
    - ‘The Lion and the Mouse’ (Maurer, p. 99)
  • End of term quiz
  • Overview and consolidation
Sanskrit Beginners 3
  • Revision of topics from Sanskrit Beginners 2
  • ‘The Brahman and the Three Rogues (Maurer, p. 103)
  • Declension: stems in –ī (feminine)
  • ‘The Twice-born and His Plate of Barley’ (Maurer, p. 109)
  • Active voice and middle voice
  • ‘The Lion, the Old Hare and the Well’ (Maurer p. 119)
  • Mid-term consolidation
  • Declension: stems in –i and –u (masc. and fem.)
  • The locative absolute
  • ‘The Blind Vulture and the Cat’ (Maurer, pp. 128-9)
  • Revisiting sandhi
  • Applying sandhi to a familiar text
  • Conversational Sanskrit
  • End of term/year overview
  • Identifying areas for revision and consolidation

The above is an indication of content that may be covered over the duration of the course but it could vary depending on the level and progress of students in the class.