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IAST usage on article pages[edit]

Currently there is no clear official standard for the use of IAST within the Hinduism Project, leading to inconsistent use of IAST across multiple articles. This page reflects my personal opinions only.

The following style recommendations apply to words and text that are written using the Devanagari writing system or in English equivalents based on those words. This will commonly apply to Sanskrit, Hindi, and other words drawn from languages that use the Devanagari writing system.

For my notes on how diacritical marks are handled for various languages on Wikipedia see: User:Buddhipriya/LanguageTransliterationStyleGuides

Basic assumptions[edit]

  • IAST is the academic standard for the romanization of Sanskrit.
  • In at least some cases there is the potential for significant information loss if IAST is not used, and the nature of the loss in meaning may not be obvious.
  • Since Wikipedia is intended for use by English readers, clarity of communication with English readers is of great importance.
  • IAST may be harder to read for a general audience.
  • While use of IAST may reduce readability for some readers, failure to use IAST may reduce credibility of articles among other readers, but the impact of this loss of credibility is not clear.
  • For some editors, use of IAST is a matter of acdemic integrity. Good faith should be assumed when practice varies between editors, e.g.:
  1. when a term is first used anywhere within an article (not just in the lead) if the editor feels that use of IAST is important to preservation of meaning.
  2. when an editor feels that a particular term may lead to confusion with another Sanskrit term unless IAST is used consistently.
  • Editors who do not know IAST or prefer not to use it are not required to add it in order to create new content. Later editors may adjust IAST usage at a later time in such cases.

Recommended practices[edit]

IAST should be specified when:

  • a term is defined in the lead.
  • its etymology is traced.
  • Transliteration should be preserved in any quoted text; i.e. if the original uses IAST, we have to quote correctly.
  • When Sanksrit shlokas/mantras etc are cited, it is ok to use only IAST and leave out standard english transliteration. The reason for this being that it would be too repetitive to provide the (1) standard English transliteration, (2) the IAST transliteration and (3) English translation ... since including the english translation is standard (for English wikipedia), if we need to provide only one transliteration IAST is certainly preferable, since it is richer in information.

Except as noted above, IAST should not be routinely used when:

  • A term has a common English equivalent (e.g., Ganesha for gaņeśa, Krishna for kṛṣṇa).

There is resistance by some editors to use of diacritics in article titles in particular, but many other languages on Wikipedia do it.


There are several different methods for romanizing the Devanagari writing system. See: Devanagari transliteration. IAST is the academic standard for transliteration. Use of the IAST tag defines that the romanization has been performed using the IAST system of romanized glyphs, and not one of the other romanization systems which would produce a different string value.

For example, the word for "self" in Devanagai is आत्मन् which is transliterated into English using IAST as ātman (with a diacritical character ā to indicate the long आ). The Harvard-Kyoto method of transliteration would write "Atman" (with a capital A to indicate the long आ). The ITRANS method of transliteration would write either "Atman" (with a capital A) or "aatman" (with two lower-case a characters). By using the IAST tag the reader can determine which of these variant romanizations is being used.

IAST is a romanization method for a writing system (Devanagari) which is used for multiple languages such as Hindi, Sanskrit, Pali, etc. Sanskrit is a language that can be written using various writing systems, such as Bonji, IAST, Devanagari, etc.

The {{IAST}} template is not just for rendering instructions, but also for article parseability and provision of a tooltip at mouseover. Compare {{PIE}}, {{IPA}}, {{ArabDIN}}.

IAST tag compared with the Unicode tag[edit]

Usage of the IAST tag is often confused with usage of the Unicode tag. The two tags have different purposes. The purpose of the IAST template is to specify which of several different romanization methods is being used for the Devanagari writing system, not to specify a computer format.

Implementations of the IAST glyphs exist in both Unicode and ASCII forms. So the Unicode tag is not interchangeable with the IAST tag.

Historical use of the Unicode tag[edit]

Using the Unicode template to display Devanagari is no longer as much of an issue as it once was due to better support for Unicode on all new computers that have been sold for at least the past two years. On a practical basis the Unicode template is rarely used on the Hinduism pages that use Devanagari. The IAST transliteration method can optionally be shown via the IAST template if IAST is used. But IAST and Unicode address completely different issues.

The template I see most often on the Hinduism pages for Sanskrit is some variant of this: ([[Sanskrit]]:{{lang|sa|गणेश पुराणम्}}; {{IAST|gaṇeśa purāṇam}}) which displays:

(Sanskrit:गणेश पुराणम्; gaṇeśa purāṇam)

Notice that no explicit Unicode tags are used. The LANG tag argument is just the raw Unicode character value.

See also[edit]

External Links[edit]