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Sanskrit as a link language for imparting scientific knowledge

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By Nithin Sridhar

A language is the backbone of a nation, its identity, heritage, and culture. This is so because, a language acts as a medium to sustain, express, and transmit the knowledge and wisdom of the particular society. Thus, languages are not only tools for communication, but are also abodes of knowledge systems developed by a society. They act as carriers that keep the knowledge systems alive and transmit them to future generation.

India has been made rich in its culture and heritage by numerous languages that have taken birth in this land. But, among all the Indian languages, there is one language- Sanskrit that has historically played a unique role of being a mother, a link between various regional language speakers, and an abode of scientific knowledge.

The role of Sanskrit as a mother is well recognized. She has been a nourishing mother who has always assisted various regional languages in evolving themselves. The role of Sanskrit in the past as a link language is also well recognized. But, it is often ignored that Sanskrit was not only the repository to religious and philosophical knowledge, but also to Math, Science, Astronomy, and other secular subjects.

In a 2009 lecture delivered at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Markandey Katju says: “There is a misconception about the Sanskrit language that it is only a language for chanting mantras in temples or religious ceremonies. However, that is less than 5% of the Sanskrit literature. More than 95% of the Sanskrit literature have nothing to do with religion, and instead it deals with philosophy, law, science, literature, grammar, phonetics, interpretation, etc. In fact, Sanskrit was the language of free thinkers, who questioned everything, and expressed the widest spectrum of thoughts on various subjects. In particular, Sanskrit was the language of our scientists in ancient India

The astronomical and mathematical achievements of Aryabhata, Bhaskaracharya, etc., the medical discoveries of Charaka, Sushruta, etc., the philosophical world-views of Darshanas, were all expressed and transmitted through Sanskrit. Despite having diverse regional languages, India of the past was well connected in terms of communication and there was a free flow of knowledge- religious, secular, and scientific, thanks to Sanskrit.

With the advent of the British, Sanskrit was slowly, but in a planned manner, rooted out of Indian education and academia and was replaced by English. The traditional gurukulas which were repositories of Indian knowledge systems were replaced by English schools and hence, through thorough planning and meticulous implementation, the Indian education system was completely colonized and westernized.

This colonization of education has today resulted in generations after generations of Indians who are not only disconnected to indigenous heritage, culture, and philosophy but are also largely unaware of Indian scientific traditions and knowledge systems.

The present education system and academia entertain a study, research, and imparting of scientific knowledge only in English. This has helped Indians to connect with the global scientific community and build upon western scientific research, but at the same time Indians have become alien to their own indigenous scientific knowledge.

There have been many calls for imparting education in schools in vernacular languages. There is a great merit in this as children who are largely taught in English, are imbibing values that are alien to India. The English education has further impressed upon youths that everything Indian is superstition and regressive and everything western is liberal and modern.

The result has been disastrous politically, socially, ecologically, spiritually, and even scientifically. Thus, in order to reclaim the Indian identity and create Indian narrative, many spiritualists, scholars, and nationalists have time and again given a call for imparting primary and secondary education in mother tongues.

There is a great merit in imparting education in native languages. But, using native languages to impart primary education in math and science is accompanied by various issues and complications for the students.

First, the education at graduate and post-graduate levels are imparted in English alone. Hence, a person who has studied in the regional language medium will find it very difficult to study during graduation. Thus, students who studied in regional language mediums will be at a great disadvantage.

Second, if regional languages are introduced as a medium to teach in graduation and post-graduation level, that will again give rise to a few complications. The regional languages are largely devoid of means for imparting higher scientific subjects, be it math, physics, medicine, or engineering subjects. Further, if people in different states study and do research in different languages, then there will no free flow of scientific knowledge within India. That will be a huge obstacle to scientific advancement.

Thus, imparting primary and secondary education in mother tongues has serious practical issues and may curtail scientific research and advancement. These practical issues can be easily overcome by introducing a link language that is not only suitable for scientific purposes, but also has a harmonious relationship with the regional languages. And among all Indian languages, only Sanskrit fits the requirement.

Sanskrit had successfully nourished various regional languages, preserved Indian world-views, and had ensured a free flow of scientific knowledge in the past. And Sanskrit alone is equipped to accomplish it again in the present.

Thus, the Sanskrit Commission set up by the Government of India in 1956 observes: “in course of time, the prospective All-India Language — Bharati Bhasa — at least in its written norm, which would be acceptable to all regions of India, especially in the higher reaches of education and literary activity, will be a form of simple and modernized Sanskrit.”

More stories on Sanskrit:

Only through Sanskrit, can India make a credible narrative about its Sanskriti

If you look carefully at English you will see Sanskrit hidden everywhere: Jeffrey Armstrong

Let’s revive Sanskrit in correct manner

All hail Sanskrit – the most perfect language ever

Why Sanskrit Channel is a good idea for the language as well as for the country

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  • govikannan

    //The traditional gurukulas which were repositories of Indian knowledge systems were replaced by English schools //
    only male higher cast people studied in those gurukulas, what about woman, poor lower cast and dalits ? is there any school for them before Christian machineries ?

  • govikannan

    //The traditional gurukulas which were repositories of Indian knowledge systems were replaced by English schools //
    only male higher cast people studied in those gurukulas, what about woman, poor lower cast and dalits ? is there any school for them before Christian machineries ?

Next Story

Search for alien life got exciting new leads this year

In yet another first for the year, scientists spotted an "interstellar object" entering our solar system.

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Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered. Wikimedia Commons
Telescope can view stars at ultraviolet wavelengths unhindered. Wikimedia Commons
  • First observations of a merger between two faraway neutron stars
  • Discovery of the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star outside our solar system
  • A Chinese satellite detected mysterious signals in its measurement of high-energy cosmic rays, bringing scientists closer to proving the existence of dark matter.

NEW DELHI: One year passes in the blink of an eye in terms of the age of our universe, but 2017 has made significant contributions towards unravelling the deep mysteries hidden in its vast expanse, giving the search for alien life a big boost.

From the first observations of a merger between two faraway neutron stars to stunning discoveries of a number of exoplanets in the habitable zone of a nearby star and the continued march of China as a serious space player, this year has had plenty of memorable developments to excite scientists and the public at large.

Marked as the “breakthrough of the year” by the journal Science, the merger of the two neutron stars 130 million light years away generated tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves.

The first detection of gravitational waves two years ago has already brought scientists the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, but sensing the space-time ripples after the merger of the neutron stars marked the first-ever detection of gravitational waves as well as light produced and emitted during the same cosmic event, a phenomenon that scientists like to describe as hearing and seeing the violent universe.

While the observation of this collision provides scientists clues on how heavy elements like gold and platinum are produced in our cosmos, and advances understanding of the universe in myriad other ways, the discovery of several Earth-sized planets orbiting stars outside our solar system has whetted the thirst for finding signs of life in worlds other than our home planet.

This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons
This year NASA discovered few earth like planets. Wikimedia Commons

In February, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the first known system of seven Earth-sized planets around a single star — the TRAPPIST-1 star — an ultra-cool dwarf located at about 40 light-years from Earth.

The researchers determined that three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery set a new record for maximum number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.

In yet another first for the year, scientists spotted an “interstellar object” entering our solar system.

The discovery was made on October 19 by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS 1 telescope during the course of its nightly search for near-Earth objects for NASA.

The discovery, termed “historic” by the US space agency, revealed the interstellar interloper to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a ratio of length to width unlike any asteroid or comet observed in our solar system.

The team from the Pan-STARRS observatory has chosen the name “Oumuamua” for their discovery. Of Hawaiian origin, the name means a messenger from afar arriving first.

By exploring deep into space, scientists are looking for any signs of alien life. Wikimedia Commons
By exploring deep into space, scientists are looking for any signs of alien life. Wikimedia Commons

In 2017, NASA made progress in the preparations to send astronauts to Mars and it became clear that the agency would have to make plans for returning astronauts to the Moon in preparation for human missions to the Red Planet and other destinations of our solar system.

The year also marks the end of Cassini’s 13-year tour of Saturn as the spacecraft made a fateful plunge into the atmosphere of the ringed planet on September 15. The mission is often credited for transforming our understanding of ocean worlds, where life may potentially exist beyond Earth.

In April, NASA said that its Cassini spacecraft discovered hydrogen in the plume of gas and icy particles spraying from Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The discovery means the small, icy moon — which has a global ocean under its surface — has a source of chemical energy that life can feed on.

And even as the spacecraft is gone, scientists hope that its enormous collection of data about Saturn — the giant planet, its magnetosphere, rings and moons — will continue to yield new discoveries for decades to come.

The year also marks some giant strides taken by China to emerge as a formidable space power. One of its satellites, which was sent to the skies to look for evidence of the annihilation or decay of dark matter particles in space, detected for the first time unexpected and mysterious signals in its measurement of high-energy cosmic rays, bringing scientists closer to proving the existence of the invisible matter.