There is no need to invoke higher spiritual incentives in order to justify learning Sanskrit as the language makes a case for itself, Vice President Hamid Ansari on Monday said. He said the transition from an oral to a written form saw the rapid spread of Sanskrit across southern and eastern Asia and added that Thai and other Southeast Asian languages have strong roots in Sanskrit. Underscoring its importance , Ansari said the corpus of scientific, philosophical, sacral and poetic texts produced in Sanskrit is one of the richest contributions to global textual culture.
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“Its grammar offers a clear structure as was recognised by Indian grammarians over 2,500 years ago. The script it is written in was designed especially for it and allows us to know with great certainty how it is pronounced,” he said.
The Vice President was addressing a gathering after giving away the World Sanskrit Award 2015 and 2016, instituted by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). He also conferred the awards to Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand and George Cardona, an American linguist and Indologist.
Union Minister M J Akbar, who was also present at the event, said a mistake is often made by confusing language with religion.
He said today Sanskrit is the part of the culture of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists and even Chinese owe something to the language.
“Much of Indian cultural landscape has been formed by Sanskrit and the modern Indian languages bear the impact of its magnificence and richness. It encompasses one of the largest literatures of any language and incorporates the sacred literature of three of the world’s major religions.
“The case for studying Sanskrit makes itself, and there is no need at all to invoke higher spiritual incentives in order to justify this,” Ansari said.
Ansari said the upper castes had restricted Sanskrit exclusively to themselves but social reformers such as Guru Gobind Singh and Swami Vivekananda understood that exclusivity of the language had to end for the society to become more egalitarian.
He asserted that shaping of Indian genius owes much to the language not only in the fields of spirituality and religion but also in art, poetry, literature, science, ethics, and systems of philosophy and knowledge.
Stressing that Sanskrit is not just an Indian heritage, Ansari said, “Within three centuries Sanskrit became the sole medium by which ruling elites expressed their power from as far west as Purusùapura in Gandhara to Pândurãnga in Champa of central Vietnam and Prambanan on the plains of Java.”
“Thai and other Southeast Asian languages have strong roots in Sanskrit which reflect their remote past relationship with the language. It also has a deep influence on Thai literature and culture,” he said.
Leading institutions like Silpakorn University, Chulalongkorn University have included Sanskrit in their study programmes, he added.
Ansari said since the discovery of the Indo-European language connection in the late 18th century, Sanskrit played an important role in European comparative linguistics and was taught in major European universities and remains academically alive in Europe and increasingly in the United States.