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

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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.

Photo Credit: http://anudinam.org
Photo Credit: http://anudinam.org

 

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.

Photo Credit: http://anudinam.org
Photo Credit: http://anudinam.org

 

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

Photo Credit: http://anudinam.org
Photo Credit: http://anudinam.org

 

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.

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  • Vishvaksenah

    This is an awesome idea.
    Hope the channel becomes a reality

  • Narasimhan, New Delhi

    Sanskrit is not a dead language, but it is the tool which will facilitate Bharat to acquire the position of Vishwaguru. Sanskrit is the Amrita which can revive the qualities which are dead in Indian psyche to lead the world. Thanks to Nitin Shridhar for his efforts to bring this piece.

  • T.S.RANGARAJAN

    The write up is well meaning and will serve the cause of
    Samskritam. Best wishes.

  • Mahadevan

    I fully endorse this idea:
    “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”.
    Because I know how kids take to Sanskrit as fish to water in a domestic ambience wherein the mom and dad converse in Sanskrit. Let Sanskrit enter every living room through the planned Sanskrit TV! Mahadevan, Chennai

  • sunil

    I used to listen to the radio news in Samskrit eagerly. I would similarly be waiting for Samskrit news if and programs if available.

  • Vishvaksenah

    This is an awesome idea.
    Hope the channel becomes a reality

  • Narasimhan, New Delhi

    Sanskrit is not a dead language, but it is the tool which will facilitate Bharat to acquire the position of Vishwaguru. Sanskrit is the Amrita which can revive the qualities which are dead in Indian psyche to lead the world. Thanks to Nitin Shridhar for his efforts to bring this piece.

  • T.S.RANGARAJAN

    The write up is well meaning and will serve the cause of
    Samskritam. Best wishes.

  • Mahadevan

    I fully endorse this idea:
    “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”.
    Because I know how kids take to Sanskrit as fish to water in a domestic ambience wherein the mom and dad converse in Sanskrit. Let Sanskrit enter every living room through the planned Sanskrit TV! Mahadevan, Chennai

  • sunil

    I used to listen to the radio news in Samskrit eagerly. I would similarly be waiting for Samskrit news if and programs if available.

Next Story

Western intellectuals’ overwhelming love for Sanskrit literature

Many famous scholars and scientists learnt Sanskrit or studied Sanskrit literature to strengthen their intellectual prowess and acknowledged the need to develop the Sanskrit language.

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Sean O’Callaghan, a westerner, is seen doing a play
Sean O’Callaghan, a westerner, is seen doing a play "Battlefield" in Sanskrit in the western world. VOA

-By Salil Gewali

 It is for the astounding richness of the Sanskrit language a renowned linguist Sir William Jones first translated Kalidasa’s Shakuntala from the original Sanskrit into English in 1789. This stirred the minds and hearts of the top European intellectuals that include Johann Goethe, Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Schiller, August Schlegel, Wilhelm von Humboldt, et al. Very impressed by the language and its philosophical plot the father of the German literature (J. Goethe) learnt Sanskrit on his own. And, he plunged into this ancient play Shakuntala for the whole thirty years. He even wrote an insightful poem eulogizing this play. Again, George Forster translated this Kalidas’s work into German in 1791. In a span of some decades sprouted 46 translations into fourteen European languages.  On the other hand, the translation of the Bhagavad Gita by Charles Wilkin in 1784 and Upanishads by Anquetil Duperron in 1801 opened up unprecedented vistas for the philosophical regeneration hitherto unknown in the European literature. The doctrines of Vedanta such as ‘Oneness of the universe’, interdependence and interconnection of all entities and all particles seemed very plausible to the philosophically rational psyche of the western scholars.

Robert O. Johann was a western scholar.
Robert O. Johann was a western scholar. wikipedia

Again, one of the fathers of Modern linguistic Franz Bopp and a great philosopher Friedrich Schlegel, both from Germany, laid the revolutionary foundation of the comparative linguistic by freely borrowing from Panini’s “Ashtadhyayi ” which was later further developed by the language giants like Ferdinand de Saussure, Leonard Bloomfield, and Noam Chomsky. Panini, who was an enlightened sage of 4th BC India, was the first to systematically put down the comprehensive Grammar of Sanskrit language. This treatise consists of about 3959 sutras which can handle the nuances and intricacies of any languages in the universe, empirically and anatomically.

Having been too bewitched by the Sanskrit language a most renowned American linguist Leonard Bloomfield exclaims — “It was in India, however, that there arose a body of knowledge which was destined to revolutionize European ideas about language. Panini Grammar taught Europeans to analyze speech forms; when one compared the constituent parts, the resemblances, which hitherto had been vaguely recognized, could be set forth with certainty and precision.”  Yes, here at home we prefer to call Sanskrit a dead language, and instead, with enthusiasm and hubris choose to learn German.

Erwin Wilhelm Müller, a western scholar who acknowledged Sanskrit.
Erwin Wilhelm Müller, a western scholar who acknowledged Sanskrit. wikipedia

There are countless western scholars and scientists who have overwhelmingly acknowledged the exceptional richness of Sanskrit language wherein they saw an immense scope in the development of any area of studies. Voltaire, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, TS Eliot, Neils Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Oppenheimer, Mark Twain, Car Jung, J. D. Salinger and others learnt Sanskrit or studied Sanskrit literature to strengthen their intellectual prowess.

John Archibald Wheeler –a famous modern physicist who first coined Black Hole and Warm Hole and occupied the chair that had previously been held by Albert Einstein, enthuses –‘One has the feeling that the thinkers of the East (INDIA) knew it all, and if we could only translate their answers into our language we would have the answers to all our questions.’  With the same vigor bursts out another physicist Erwin Schrodinger, known as the father of Quantum Mechanics — “Some blood transfusion from INDIA to the West is a must to save Western science from spiritual anemia.”

Here are my few earnest questions — had all these rational thinkers, scientists, writers — whose theories, whose principles, whose literature, whose formulae and equations we study in schools and colleges and thus claim ourselves as academically qualified, gone crazy to heap high praise on Sanskrit and its literary treasure troves?  How can we claim to be INDIAN when we joyfully belittle and undermine our own heritage?  What is it that makes us to see only flaws in our Mother even without ever making a bit of genuine effort to know and realize her uncanny virtues?

François-Marie Arouet is a French writer who was also known as Voltaire.
François-Marie Arouet is a French writer who was also known as Voltaire. wikipedia

I don’t think we have ever seen any country in the world that its citizens speak ill of their heritage, their tradition and values — however archaic, rustic and crude they may be. Why does it touch our raw nerves when someone appreciates the values and culture of the native land? Sanskrit and the myriad scriptures produced in this grand language is as resplendent as the Sun ball over our head. Can you ignore the Sun? I don’t think François Voltaire was a big fool to announce with vehemence about 300 years ago  —- ‘Everything has come down to us from the bank of GANGA’ , ‘The first Greeks traveled to India to instruct themselves’, ‘India, whom whole Earth needs, who needs no one, must by that very fact the most civilized land’.  Should it not call for a dispassionate introspection and thus our self-correction and reawakening?

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.