Sanskrit is the oldest and the living language on our planet. We see its wonderful history passing through many millennia. It is the language of the most ancient Indian scriptures belonging to various faiths and it is the language of divinity.
Sanskrit was introduced on the earth, by the eternal sages along with Vedas, Upanishads, Yogashastras and Puranas. A plethora of such ancient texts mostly in verses represent highly civilised life, creativity of the Indian mind and spiritual tradition which is unique in its scope, depth and vitality. It has provided the basis of India’s civilisation unity.
About 2,600 years ago, the sage Panini had re-established the science of Sanskrit grammar in his Ashtadhayi and even today it is considered as the standard authority. Westerners describe Sanskrit as one of the greatest productions of the human mind. The philologists term it as an ideal scientific work; the grammarians have identified it to be the mother of most Indo-European languages, and also of Persian, Kurdish or Armenian.
Research scholars have identified around 90 languages of the world, especially English, Greek, Latin and Arabic to have either directly or indirectly derived words from Sanskrit; it has been noticed by Dr Varhadpande that about 25 per cent of the words in English have emerged from Sanskrit.
Sanskrit and related languages have influenced Sino-Tibetan-speaking neighbours through the spread of translated Buddhist texts. Buddhism has also spread to China and thereafter to Japan and Korea by the missionaries mostly through translations of Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit and classical Sanskrit texts and was directly added to the Chinese vocabulary. The Thai language contains many loan words from Sanskrit. Many such loan words are also found in traditional Malay, modern Indonesian, numerous Philippine languages, Javanese language (nearly half) and to a lesser extent, Vietnamese, through hybrid Sanskrit.
It has abundant literature of poetry, drama and philosophy and has produced outstanding personalities such as Kalidasa, Banabhatt, Bharavi, Bhaskaracharya, Chanakya, and Adishankaracharya etc, equivalent to great lives in the world. It is a misconception that Sanskrit is concerned only with spiritual wisdom. Its texts cover the entire gamut of human activity including fine arts, branches of science, and literature. Hence it is a foundation for a global language of consciousness, any modern science and spiritual science.
The two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were originally written in Sanskrit have influenced many people for a long time. The famous German poet Goethe was very much impressed about them. Regarding the play Mrichchakatikam enacted in New York with English rendering in 1924, the dramatic critic JW Crutch says, “Such a play could be produced only by a civilisation which has reached stability.” The famous Indologist Max Muller said, “Sanskrit is the greatest language of the world. Many world personalities love Bhagawat Gita for its teachings on liberation through renunciation.”
There are many mottos in Sanskrit which have been readily adopted, like: Republic of India, Satyameva Jayate “Truth alone triumphs”; LIC of India Yogakshemam Vahâmyaham “I shall take care of welfare”; Indian Navy Shanno Varuna “May the ocean be peaceful to us”; Mumbai Police Sadrakshanaaya Khlaha Nigrahanayah “For protection of the good and control of the wicked”; All India Radio Bahujan Hitay Bahujan Sukhay “For the benefit of all, for the comfort of all”; Indonesian Navy Jalesvava Jayamahe “On the sea, we are glorious”. The first two stanzas of our national song Vande Mataram are in Sanskrit.
The Vedanta philosophy enshrined in our Constitution, needs to be fully understood, a process in which Sanskrit has a crucial role to play. Today there is tremendous international interest in the science of yoga, meditation, eastern philosophy, stress management and holistic medicine. All of them have roots in Sanskrit literature. The language has many koshas (lexicons). Amarsinh’s Amarkosha (600 AD) has around 3,000 thesaurus shlokas (entries); later on many more koshas were added like Ekakshar (single letter words), Dwarthkosha (double meaning words), etc.
Sanskrit is the only language available that has the letters and sounds to make up the powerful mantra. No other language can meet the power and energy of the true divine sound. Chanting mantras means that you and others around will always be protected. Other languages may have rhythm, harmony and poetic sounds but Sanskrit has all of that plus more.
Sanskrit has direct link between sound and signs; it has sandhi (coalescence) and samas (compound word) that will facilitate flow of the language. It has unique pronunciation of its alphabets. The chanting of Sanskrit text makes anybody achieve clear-cut voice. Its sentence structure is flexible as order of the words does not matter. It is systematised and perfect and its alphabets are impeccably arranged. It has written rules of grammar, phonetics, etymology and epistemology; it has power of forming infinite number of words and many are used in computers; in the language both, brevity and elaboration are possible. Because of its relatively high regular structure, it is claimed to be applicable in the modern computers for the machine translation and other areas of natural language processing.
Aligarh Muslim University, Kashmir University and madarsas of Delhi, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal have Sanskrit teaching section. Our past leaders Lokmanya Tilak, Swatantryavir Savarkar and famous economist CD Deshmukh used to correspond in Sanskrit among their colleagues.
There have been numerous attempts at reviving Sanskrit in terms of preservation of its literature and making it popular. Since 1981 Sanskrit Bharati, have been conducting Sanskrit camps and their efforts met with huge success. It claims that now there are over four million people around the world who can speak the language.
Even in the last two centuries, due to the rapid advances in technology and science, Sanskrit abundant with new and improvised vocabulary has come into existence. Furthermore, there are at least a dozen periodicals published in Sanskrit, all-India news broadcast in Sanskrit. Television shows and feature movies are produced in Sanskrit. A village Ziri of 3,000 inhabitants in Madhya Pradesh and Mattur village in central Karnataka communicate through Sanskrit alone. There are countless smaller intellectual communities and many schools and universities where Sanskrit is fostered throughout India. “Contemporary Sanskrit” is hence alive.
The former President Dr Abdul Kalam was greeted in Sanskrit when he had been to Athens (Greece) in 2007. 2,300 students of MIT in US received their degrees amid chants of Sanskrit prayers in 2005. A British school in the heart of London has made Sanskrit a compulsory subject for its junior division because it helps students grasp mathematics, science and other languages better. The Indian guided missile programme commenced in 1983 by DRDO has named the five missiles as Prithvi, Agni, Akash, Nag and Trishul. India’s first modern fighter aircraft is named Hal Tejas (spirited instrument) and the first satellite over the moon as Chandrayan I. Recently, Sanskrit also made a brief appearance in western pop music especially for devotion to a higher power and a wish for peace on earth.
Sanskrit lovers from various countries met and agreed to form the International Association of Sanskrit Studies (IASS). They have Vedanta guided motto Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam meaning the whole planet is one family. They held the first world Sanskrit conference at New Delhi in March 1972. Fourteenth world conference is proposed to be held this year during 1st to 5th September, 2009 at Kyoto (Japan).
Sanskrit is the heart of India and mind for the globe. It is a ‘world language’ in the real sense of the term. But for the access to India’s pristine glory, rich tradition and a vast literature of science and philosophy, one has to learn Sanskrit with dedication. It has inspired many Indian and global personalities. What needs to be done is to promote Sanskrit education at elementary level and link it to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. There are enough universities for Sanskrit but root is needed to be strengthened.
(The author is a former ‘Project Management Consultant’ for local and abroad civil construction activities. He can be contacted at E-mail: [email protected])