By Harshmeet Singh
In 2011, Kendriya Vidyalaya Schools (KVS) introduced foreign languages such as Spanish and German in classes 6th to 8th as the third language, replacing Sanskrit. This move was challenged in the Delhi High Court by Sanskrit Shikshak Sangh, which argued that “The action of the respondents (KVS and CBSE) would cause irreparable damage to Sanskrit language and Indian culture and as a result, the next generation would not learn Sanskrit and hardly have any knowledge of Sanskrit and the rich ancient Indian culture.”
While the Delhi HC asked KVS to file a response to the PIL in July 2014, the Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani declared that “teaching of German language as an option to Sanskrit will be discontinued herewith”. However, she didn’t make Sanskrit a compulsory language in schools and stated that German would still be a part of the curriculum as a foreign language. Most of Irani’s critics slammed her for forcing the students to learn Sanskrit which, according to them, is a dead language and doesn’t serve any purpose.
The idea of making it a Sanskrit v/s German affair is flawed in itself when there is enough space to accommodate both the languages. And if there is actually a battle among languages, Sanskrit indeed stands out among the crowd. Our habit of slamming Sanskrit as ‘useless’ and replacing it with something European is in line with our typical affinity towards anything ‘foreign’ at the cost of our own traditions. German was introduced in KVS in 2011 after a MoU was signed with the Goethe Institute of the Max Mueller Bhavan. While many ‘critics’ questioned the Government’s decision to abruptly introduce Sanskrit in place of German in 2014, no on raised an eye brow when the students of Sanskrit were suddenly forced to take up German in 2011 and the Sanskrit teachers were overnight asked to turn into German teachers!
For a language to be taught to the students, it must jell well with the national culture and history. On this ground, German is an outcast in our schools. In comparison, no language played a bigger role in shaping up the Indian history and culture than Sanskrit. Sanskrit’s status as ‘India’s greatest literary language’ is undisputed. Contrary to the popular belief, Sanskrit was much more than a Hindu language. Ancient Indian works in the field of Music, Science and Arts have been discovered written in Sanskrit.
Experts regard Sanskrit as the ‘most scientific human language ever’. Sanskrit is probably the only known language in the world boasting of a context free grammar, which makes sentence formation utterly precise, based on set rules. Panini’s attempt at bringing together all the set rules of Classical Sanskrit is still regarded as one of the most thorough researches undertaken on any language. Many experts have also drawn parallels between the present day computer coding and Panini’s attempt at deriving set rules for classical Sanskrit’s grammar. Our attempts at discarding the ‘most perfect language ever invented’ are a true reflection of our disregard towards Indian traditions.