Sanskrit Alphabet Shiva Sutras (Maheshvara Sutrani)

Part of the Matheson Trust Sacred Audio Collection

These fourteen verses are a recitation of the Sanskrit alphabet (47 letters: 14 vowels and 33 consonants). It is known as the Akshara-samamnaya, “recitation of phonemes”, and popularly as the Shiva Sutras, because they are said to have been revealed to Panini by Shiva. Maheshvara, “the Great Lord”, is an epithet of Shiva.

The Sanskrit alphabet sequence of akshara, the “imperishable atoms” of speech, is also known as Varna-mala, “garland” or “rosary of letters”. The word varna means a “syllable” and all the energies related to that syllable — colour, presiding force, the mouth part used to pronounce each syllable, the related body part etc. Each of the fourteen verses consists of a group of basic Sanskrit phonemes.

Maheshvara Sutrani, the Garland of Letters (18x)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Right-click here to download – 8:42 (8.4MB)

• Here is another version, unaccompanied at first, then (0:54) to the rhythm of the damaru (Shiva’s cosmogonic drum), which makes strikingly clear the intimate relation between music and sacred language.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Right-click here to download – 1:41 (1.6MB)

The 14 verses of the Shiva Sutras


This kind of alphabetic recitation is closely paralleled by the Manjusri Mantra and the Japanese Iroha poem, also in our collection.

With warm thanks to Satya Sarada Kandula for Sri Karve’s recording of the Sutras.