With the aim to articulate that Sanskrit is neither “the property of the RSS” nor is it “attached to Hindutva”, the Delhi government will begin 70 Sanskrit centres in each of Delhi’s Assembly segments by April. The government will also organise a Sanskrit festival in October.
Last December, the Delhi government had reconstituted the general body of the Sanskrit Academy while underscoring that the aim of the committee was to propagate interest in the language and expand it to a wider audience.
Deputy Chief Minister, and Art, Culture and Language Minister Manish Sisodia told The Indian Express, “It is critical to detach languages and culture from religious identity. Sanskrit is not the property of the RSS just like Urdu does not belong to the Muslim community. Attaching Sanskrit to Hindutva will only cause it harm.”
He added that the “literary, scientific and philosophical knowledge” which had been “produced and stored” in the language was invaluable. “Its evolution, however, is difficult because of the disconnect with present times. The young generation can certainly benefit from learning Sanskrit because its content may still be relevant. But there is a need to contemporise it. Our goal is beyond the tokenism of preservation. We want to create and enable support for the growth of Sanskrit, both linguistically and intellectually. We do not want to feed on the insecurity by creating an imaginary threat for any culture,” Sisodia said.
The course, Art, Culture and Language (ACL) department officials said, would begin by May and the plan is to initiate 70 Sanskrit centres across the city.
“School premises will be used to conduct the classes. The course is being designed at three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. For the first stage, we are creating booklets which will contain shlokas — from Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions — that will serve as an entry point to the language,” said an ACL official.
The bid to “contemporise” Sanskrit began with an event at Central Park in Connaught Place last month. “We organised an event where Punjabi gidha songs were performed in Sanskrit. Around 2,000 people showed up and the reaction was very encouraging,” added the official.
Dr Balram Shukla, who is also a Persian scholar, explained that the initial “common syllabus” will be tailored to ensure that students find it relevant in their lives. “This is not just for people of a single community. So in areas with a large Jain population, we will tailor the course to include the essentials from the massive body of Jain literature and philosophy in the language… In the areas with a large Bengali population, we will include the grammar, meaning and philosophy of Chandi Path. Sanskrit can be a medium to bridge differences,” he said.