Living With Sanskrit

This rich, scientifically developed language can address modern needs.

Written by Taradatt | Updated: April 11, 2017 7:03 am
Sanskrit, sanskrit language, CBSE, CBSE curriculum, compulsory subject, sanskrit subject, Central Board of Secondary Education, India education, indian express columns, indian express Sanskrit is considered the most refined among languages. Representational Image.

The debate in relation to the inclusion of Sanskrit as a compulsory subject in the CBSE curriculum underlines the most obvious and egregious paradox, that an unusually rich and scientifically developed language has not able to retain its acceptance in the land of its origin. Another paradox, which has a more recent origin, is that its richness, importance and usability are better appreciated abroad than in India. It is an oxymoron that this language, commonly used by social elites and educated people in the past, has lost its relevance among educated persons today. Doubtless, multitudinous foreign invasions, coupled with the ignorance and vested interests of foreign rulers and westernised minds, ensured that the Sanskrit language got confined to an exclusive set of followers with the passage of time.

It’s time to allow the spirit of the Sanskrit language — the mother of many other languages which have found common usage — to soar once again and let the inherent strength and merits of the language in the communication of thoughts and ideas to gain its proper place in the family of languages worldwide. This may, perhaps, not happen unless in India, its place of birth, Sanskrit undergoes a cataclysmic change in how it is viewed and used in matters of human living, notably through gainful employment and careers rich with options. It’s time to recognise the users of this language in the proper context of merit and science rather than as something regressive and non-modern.

Sanskrit is considered the most refined among languages. Its usability, as in its heyday, would span the vast arena of academic disciplines — math, physical, natural and material sciences, astronomy, medicine, astrology, philosophy, political science, literature and arts, aside from serving as the philosophical language of religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc., and even the liturgical language of Hinduism, enabling interpretations of ceremonies and rituals.

Many in India reject references to academic works in Sanskrit due to their uneducated perception that these are merely antiquated, unscientific academic concepts; they associate these with religious rituals. It is tragic that with time, treatises on astronomy and mathematical sciences written by luminaries like Varahmihir, Aryabhatt, Bhaskaracharya, etc., became simply instruments for making astrological predictions.

The most scientific language of all times in the world started becoming merely a means of livelihood through its use in religious purposes to propitiate gods and goddesses for material prosperity. With the increasing influence of Western thought, Sanskrit became obsolete, in fact virtually dead for many.

However, the paradigms of human development in society have changed. In a market-driven economy, “greed” is no dirty term. The saying, “knowledge for liberation” appears no more a valid motto; it has been overtaken in the ratings by “knowledge is power”. However, what is good or bad is a matter of debate as development itself remains a normative concept.

In the given circumstances, it is important to assess the relevance, versatility and usability of Sanskrit as a career option for aspiring generations. A scholar of Sanskrit, with an open and inquisitive mind, in addition to teaching Sanskrit, should be able to teach any other Indian or foreign language. This is because the literatures of almost all Indian languages borrow from the vast pool of Sanskrit; the influence of Sanskrit can be seen on major European languages too.

The ancient history, sociology, politics, culture, philosophy, etc., of India can be understood with some degree of authenticity only with the knowledge of Sanskrit. A misinterpretation of Indian history by scholars devoid of a knowledge of Sanskrit gets

compounded due to ideological biases. It is also easier for a Sanskrit scholar to migrate to related and relatable disciplines, whereas the converse is not so.

In the fields of musicology and other performing arts, a knowledge of Sanskrit is essential. Sanskrit grammar is mathematical, which makes this language scientific and computer-friendly. It is said reputed scientific organisations in both rich and emerging economies are working towards developing an artificial language and find Sanskrit immensely suitable for their work. For a student with a knowledge of Sanskrit grammar, mathematics and English, a good IT career can never be a problem.

The inherent strength of our country is that most of our people are multi-lingual. Including Sanskrit among their bouquet of learnt languages can exponentially enhance their degree of competence because it would make their understanding of so many other languages, rooted in Sanskrit, easier.

The ongoing efforts to encourage the learning of Sanskrit therefore need to be welcomed.

The author has been a member of the Indian Administrative Service and holds a PhD in Sanskrit

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