International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration

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The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (I.A.S.T.) is a transliteration scheme that allows a lossless romanization of Indic scripts as employed by the Sanskrit language. It is also used to romanize Pāḷi, Prākṛta and Apabhraṁśa. It is based on the notation used by Monier Monier-Williams in his 1899 dictionary.[1]


IAST is commonly used for books dealing with ancient Sanskrit and Pāḷi topics related to Indian religions. The script is, however, insufficient to represent both Sanskrit and Pāḷi on the same page properly because the ḷ (l with underdot), a vowel in Sanskrit (vocalic /l/), is the retroflex consonant in Pāḷi ([ɭ]). It is better to follow Unicode and ISO 15919, which is, in any case, a more comprehensive scheme.

IAST is based on a standard established by the International Congress of Orientalists at Geneva in 1894.[2][3] It allows a lossless transliteration of Devanāgarī (and other Indic scripts, such as Śāradā script); and, as such, it represents the phonemes of Sanskrit and also allows essentially phonetic transcription: visarga is an allophone of word-final r and s.

The National Library at Kolkata romanization, intended for the romanization of all Indic scripts, is an extension of IAST.

Inventory and conventions[edit]

The IAST letters are listed with their Devanāgarī equivalents and phonetic values in IPA, valid for Sanskrit, Hindi and other modern languages that use Devanagari script, but some phonological changes have occurred:

Vowels and codas
Devanāgarī Transcription Category
a A monophthongs
and syllabic liquids
ā Ā
i I
ī Ī
u U
ū Ū
e E diphthongs
ai Ai
o O
au Au
अं anusvara
अः visarga
' avagraha
velars palatals retroflexes dentals labials Category

k  K

c  C

ṭ  Ṭ

t  T

p  P
tenuis stops

kh  Kh

ch  Ch

ṭh  Ṭh

th  Th

ph  Ph
aspirated stops

g  G

j  J

ḍ  Ḍ

d  D

b  B
voiced stops

gh  Gh

jh  Jh

ḍh  Ḍh

dh  Dh

bh  Bh
breathy-voiced stops

ṅ  Ṅ

ñ  Ñ

ṇ  Ṇ

n  N

m  M
nasal stops

h  H

y  Y

r  R

l  L

v  V
ś  Ś

ṣ  Ṣ

s  S

The highlighted letters are those modified with diacritics: long vowels are marked with an overline, vocalic (syallabic) consonants and retroflexes have an underdot.

Unlike ASCII-only romanizations such as ITRANS or Harvard-Kyoto, the diacritics used for IAST allow capitalization of proper names. The capital variants of letters never occurring word-initially (Ṇ Ṅ Ñ Ṝ) are useful only when writing in all-caps and in Pāṇini contexts for which the convention is to typeset the IT sounds as capital letters.

Comparison with ISO 15919[edit]

For the most part, IAST is a subset of ISO 15919 that merges: the retroflex (underdotted) liquids with the vocalic ones (ringed below); and the short close-mid vowels with the long ones. The following seven exceptions are from the ISO standard accommodating an extended repertoire of symbols to allow transliteration of Devanāgarī and other Indic scripts, as used for languages other than Sanskrit.

Devanāgarī IAST ISO 15919 Comment
ए / े e ē ISO e represents ऎ / ॆ.
ओ / ो o ō ISO o represents ऒ / ॆ.
अं / ं ISO represents Gurmukhi tippi .
ऋ / ृ ISO represents ड़ /ɽ/.
ॠ / ॄ r̥̄ for consistency with .
ऌ / ॢ ISO represents ळ /ɭ̆/.
ॡ / ॣ l̥̄ for consistency with .

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marc Csernel & François Patte. "Critical Edition of Sanskrit Texts". In Gérard Huet; Amba Kulkarni & Peter Scharf. Sanskrit Computational Linguistics (PDF). Springer. p. 360. ISBN 9783642001543. 
  2. ^ History of Skt. transcription and 1894, Rapport de la Trans.
  3. ^ Xme Congrès International des Orientalistes, Session de Genève. 1894. Rapport de la Commission de Transcription.

External links[edit]