International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration

The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (I.A.S.T.) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanization of Indic scripts as employed by Sanskrit and related Indic languages. It is based on a scheme that emerged during the nineteenth century from suggestions by Sir Charles Trevelyan, Sir William Jones, Sir Monier Monier-Williams and other scholars, and formalised by the Transliteration Committee of the Geneva Oriental Congress, in September 1894.[1] IAST makes it possible for the reader to read the Indic text unambiguously, exactly as if it were in the original Indic script. It is this faithfulness to the original scripts that accounts for its continuing popularity amongst scholars.


University scholars commonly use IAST in publications that cite textual material in Sanskrit, Pāḷi and other classical Indian languages.

IAST is also used for major e-text repositories such as SARIT, Muktabodha, and GRETIL.

The IAST scheme represents more than a century of scholarly usage in books and journals on classical Indian studies. By contrast, the ISO 15919 standard for transliterating Indic scripts emerged in 2001 from the standards and library worlds and includes solutions to problems such representing Old Indo Aryan and New Indo Aryan languages side-by-side in library catalogues, etc. For the most part, ISO 15919 followed the IAST scheme, and departed from it only in minor ways (e.g., ṃ/ṁ and ṛ/r̥). See comparison below.

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

Inventory and conventions

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


t  T

p  P
tenuis stops

kh  Kh

ch  Ch

ṭh  Ṭh

th  Th

ph  Ph
aspirated stops

g  G

j  J


d  D

b  B
voiced stops

gh  Gh

jh  Jh

ḍh  Ḍh

dh  Dh

bh  Bh
breathy-voiced stops


ñ  Ñ


n  N

m  M
nasal stops

h  H

y  Y

r  R

l  L

v  V
ś  Ś


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

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 (e) ISO e generally represents ऎ / ॆ, but optionally represents long ए / े in Devanagari, Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, and Oriya script.
ओ / ो o ō (o) ISO o generally represents ऒ / ॆ, but optionally represents long ओ / ो in Devanagari, Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, and Oriya script.
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


  1. Monier-Williams, Monier (1899). A Sanskrit-English Dictionary (PDF). Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. xxx.

External links

  1. Reddy, Shashir. "Shashir's Notes: Modern Transcription of Sanskrit". Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  2. Stone, Anthony. "Transliteration of Indic Scripts: How to use ISO 15919". Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  3. Wujastyk, Dominik (1996). "Transliteration of Devanagari". INDOLOGY. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
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