How to punctuate a Sanskrit text?
If you use an Indian script, such as devanāgarī, you can stick to the conventions of this script.
If you have to transliterate into Roman alphabet, then, these are my rules of thumb:
- 1. You need to distinguish between what is typical of devanāgarī (or other Indian scripts) and what is typical of Sanskrit as a language. Skip the first and keep the second. E.g., writing sambandhaśca instead of sambandhaś ca does not make sense in Roman alphabet (although it makes much sense in devanāgarī, where a beautiful grapheme for श्च is available). By contrast, writing ceti instead of ca iti makes sense, insofar as it corresponds to a feature of Sanskrit as a language, namely the use of sandhi.
- 2. For the same reason, before using daṇḍas in your transliterated text, ask yourself what they should mean. If they indicate a pause, use full stops (and commas, if you like), which have in fact the purpose of indicating a pause in Roman alphabet. There is no point in using a devanāgarī punctuation within a Romanised text. If, by contrast, you are using daṇḍas to indicate a metrical structure, then you could consider using slashes (//) which are commonly used in English (etc.) texts to indicate verses. However, a strong convention among Indologists suggests the use of daṇḍas for indicating verses (| at the end of the first hemistich and || at the end of a verse).
- 3. Remember that Sanskrit texts as we received them usually express through words what we would express through punctuation. This makes the use of additional punctuation redundant. For instance, if a sentence begins with kaḥ, kadā, kutra, kim, etc., there is no need to add a question mark at the end (unless you are preparing a text for beginners, who might need additional help).
- 4. More important: be consistent. Don't use first full stops in verses, then slashes and last daṇḍas.
What are your rules of thumb? Do you transliterate Sanskrit? Do readers expert in Pāli (or other classical Indian languages) have something to add?
On a related topic (translation of Sanskrit texts), see this post.