By Nithin Sridhar
India is about to get its first Sanskrit channel if the efforts of Uttrakhand fructifies. According to a report in The Times of India, the Uttrakhand University which is under the jurisdiction of the Uttrakhand state government, is getting ready to launch the first ever Sanskrit TV channel.
The channel will include news as well as programs based on Sanskrit literature. The report quotes Harish Gururani, research officer at Sanskrit Academy as saying: “There are channels beaming Urdu-only and Bhojpuri-only content, but there was not one channel airing Sanskrit programs. That is why we felt the need to start one. Once a Sanskrit channel starts functioning, Sanskrit will have its lost glory restored and will be popularized all over the world.”
Today, when Sanskrit is largely perceived as a dead language especially in the media and the academia, this move by the government will give big a boost to the propagation and revival of Sanskrit.
Is Sanskrit Dead?
According to Oxford dictionary a dead language is one which is no longer in everyday spoken use. But a language is truly dead only when there is none to use the language in any manner- spoken, written or liturgical.
There are numerous villages and many other families in urban centers who use Sanskrit as an everyday language. The villages like Matthur in Karnataka, Jhiri in Madhya Pradesh and few other villages still retain native speakers of the language. Following massive efforts by organizations like Samskrita Bharati, Sanskrit is becoming widespread in urban centers as well. Hundreds of people are at varying stages of learning Sanskrit. So, Sanskrit as a language is not dead even by the definition of Oxford.
Apart from this, there are people who learn Vedas and Sanskrit in traditional gurukulams (schools) and lead a Vedic lifestyle. Sanskrit as a language of Hindu philosophy and practices will never cease to exist. The rituals and practices of temples, marriages or puja’s (worship) conducted at home are all in Sanskrit.
Sanskrit in writing is not dead either. In 2009, Satyavati Shastri, a Sanskrit writer was awarded with Jnanapitha award. According to “Post-Independence Sanskrit Literature: A Critical Survey”, more than 3000 Sanskrit works have been composed after India’s Independence.
Therefore, Sanskrit fails to meet the criteria of a dead language on any of the counts verbal usage, written usage or liturgical usage.
The consequence of the decline of Sanskrit
But it is undeniable that Sanskrit as a language has declined enormously compared to its past glory and usage. But with this, the access to Indian knowledge systems and Indian world views have reduced as well.
People who are trained in current academics are completely unaware of Indian perspective of science, arts, music, or religion. Even the analysis of Indian scriptures and traditions are being produced from western perspectives using western methodologies.
The Indian system of nyaya (logic), rasa (Aesthetics), kala (art), shilpa (architecture), music, dance, polity, economics or sciences like astronomy and mathematics have completely declined. And what is surviving is fast declining as well.
Further, the masses are increasingly becoming disconnected from their roots and root values and these have in turn led to various problems related to human behavior and society. The corruptions and many other social evils can be directly linked to the decline of sense of dharma (righteousness) among people which can be in turn linked to disconnect between Indian values and everyday Indian life. Sanskrit can serve as a solution that addresses many of these issues.
Sanskrit TV will prove beneficial to the language as well as the nation
It may be argued that even if Sanskrit is accepted as not-dead, yet people who understand Sanskrit are very minuscule and hence a Sanskrit TV is a wastage of tax payers money. If Israel had thought along the same lines, they would never have achieved a revival of Hebrew language. According to this paper by Avigdor Ben-Asher, revival of Hebrew was preferred due to various factors, chief among them were: It was found necessary to have a common language as Jews from all over the world speaking different languages came and settled in Israel and Hebrew was a common liturgical language used during Jewish prayers; Hebrew was the language of Bible and Bible was the main historical and geographical reference to Jewish presence in Middle East as the life story of ancient Israelis, their struggles, their fights, their misgivings and their hopes have all been described in the Bible.
Therefore, a need for a common language, and a language that is associated with history, culture, and philosophical identity of a nation made Israel to revive Hebrew language. Similar arguments can be made regarding Sanskrit language as well.
Sanskrit language is related to almost all of Indian languages in one way or the other. Many languages have borrowed words from Sanskrit and many other have derived aspects of its grammar. But the reason Sanskrit is called the mother of other Indian languages is because it has nurtured other languages the way a mother nurtures her children. Sanskrit existed as a mainstream language for last many millenniums, but it never hindered the rise and progress of other languages. Instead it supplied into them whatever they were missing, enriched them with whatever was needed, and nursed them by being a foundation of Indian life and culture. On the other hand, few hundred years of being exposed to a language like English, the vernacular languages have been completely replaced in certain quarters of society.
Sanskrit has not only nurtured other Indian languages but also nurtured Indian people, their life, philosophy, and world-view. It is Sanskrit that has upheld the Sanskriti (culture and way of life) of Indian people. It was in Sanskrit that the Rishis (seer’s) of the old transmitted the Vedic knowledge, it was in Sanskrit that the Rishis of the Smritis imparted the knowledge of polity, law, duty and righteousness. It was in Sanskrit that the philosophers and scientists of yore discovered inner and the outer universe and it was in Sanskrit that the knowledge of all kind of arts be it painting, or dance or music was propagated from generation to generation.
Thus, Sanskrit forms a common denominator of not only all Indian languages but also of ideas, scientific or artistic, philosophical or mundane, expressed in all those Indian languages. Sanskrit is the very breath of Indian way of life, hence only by returning to it, people can discover their true self and their purpose in life.
Further, Sanskrit has served as a vehicle for imparting human values. The tenets of truth, righteousness, non-injury, charity, cleanliness are stressed again and again in Sanskrit literature. The value of spiritual values like faith, worship, and meditation have been stressed as well. It is these that had taken Indian society to zenith in terms of morality and spirituality. But, a slow decline of the language resulting in the decline of these values have created monstrous social evils that caused due to human weakness. A revival of Sanskrit with its lessons in overcoming these human weaknesses will put an end to various ethical and spiritual corruptions that has crept into the society.
Therefore a revival of Sanskrit is the need of the hour and this initiative of Sanskrit TV will add to the efforts that is already being made in promoting and reviving Sanskrit. The TV will serve as a medium to encourage and promote the efforts of scholars, pandits (traditional scholars) and academicians who have dedicated their lives to Sanskrit. It will further promote dissemination of knowledge and wisdom regarding various subjects present in Sanskrit literature to common people.
Sanskrit TV will also promote Sanskrit as a common man’s everyday language. It will help Sanskrit enthusiasts who are at various states of learning Sanskrit. By watching Sanskrit programs, one can familiarize with Sanskrit words and usage which will go a long way in learning Sanskrit.
Further, some of these Sanskrit programs are telecast along with English or other language subtitles, even non-Sanskrit people will slowly start understanding Sanskrit. Most importantly, this initiative by the government will give a big boost and confidence to people who are already working day and night towards propagating Sanskrit and TV will take their efforts to a next level.
Therefore, any effort in reviving Sanskrit, be it a TV channel or a Sanskrit newspaper or something else, however small it may appear, must be welcomed and appreciated.