Vowel signs (matras)

Vowels in the Their Full Form

As covered earlier, there are a number of vowels in Hindi: अ, आ, इ, ई, उ, ऊ, ऋ, ए, ऐ, ओ, and  औ.  These are the "full form" of the vowels when they 1) occur at the start of the word or 2) follow after another vowel.

Example 1. A vowel at the start of a word occurs for example in the word अब (ab) "now":

Example 2. A vowel following another vowel occurs in the word आओ (āo) "come":

Vowel Signs

However, when the vowels follow a consonant or any of the non-vowel letters they will take assume a different shape.  This shape is called a mātrā (मात्र).

The Exception: अ

However, there is one exception, the vowel अ (a), which does not have a matra.  If अ follows a consonant, it does not get its own shape, and the consonant is just written in its normal form.  For example, the word तब (tab) "then":

Here the sounds are equivalent to त + अ + ब.

Note that the final "अ"  is not pronounced.  There are a number of situations where that occurs in Hindi, such as at the end of word, before certain verb suffixes (-ना, -ता/ते/ती) and other situations.  For a thorough discussion, see xxxx.

The remaining vowels all have vowel signs that are added either before, after, above, or below individual letters.  Here they are on the letter क:

आ is represented by the sign ा written AFTER the consonant(s):

का = क + आ


इ /i/ when it is pronounced after a consonant is actually written BEFORE it as the sign ि  .  It joins to the stem--usually the vertical line--of the consonant:

कि = क + इ

ई /ī/, the long vowel, is written AFTER the consonant with the sign ी.  It also joins at the the top to the stem (vertical line) of the consonant:

की = क + ई

उ /u/, a short vowel, is usually written BELOW the consonant using the sign ु:

कु = क + उ

There is one exception when उ  follows the letter र (r) it is written as रु:

रु = र + उ

ऊ  /ū/, a long vowel, is usually written BELOW the consonant as the sign ू:

कू = क + ऊ

There is one exception here as well when ऊ follows the letter र  (र) it is written as रू:

The vowel  ऋ /ri/ usually attaches BELOW a consonant as the sign ृ:

कृ = क + ऋ

The vowel ए /e/ attaches the consonant at its stem (vertical line) from ABOVE in the form े  (note, one line):

के = क + ए

The vowel ऐ /ai/ also attaches from ABOVE to a consonant at its stem (vertical line) in the form ै (note, two lines):

कै = क + कै

The vowel  ओ /o/ is added AFTER a consonant in the form ो:

को = क + ओ

The vowel  औ /au/ is added AFTER a consonant in the form ौ:

कौ = क + औ