Friday October 19, 2018

Deven S Khatri: Meet the man who is on a quest to revive Sanskrit readership in India

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By Nithin SridharSajal Sandesh Sushma Swaraj

While Sanskrit is considered a ‘dead language’, a group of people in Delhi have taken it upon themselves to revive and restore Sanskrit to its ancient glory. After successfully running Sajal Sandesh– one of the few weeklies published in Sanskrit, they are gearing up to start a multi-page daily newspaper in Sanskrit.

In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, Deven S Khatri, co-editor and one of the founding members of Sajal Sandesh, shared his experiences in running Sajal Sandesh.

Excerpts:

Nithin Sridhar: Sajal Sandesh is one of the few weeklies published in Sanskrit in India. Can you tell us more about it? When was it started? Who are the people behind it?

Deven S Khatri: Sajal Sandesh was started on Vaishaka Sukla Akshaya Tritiya, i.e. on 13th May 2013 by a group of Sanskrit enthusiasts with an intention to spread the language worldwide. Many people from very diverse backgrounds have contributed to this initiative. Apart from myself, we have Pandit Rakesh Kumar Mishra, our editor who has done MA-Sanskrit from Delhi University, and Mr. Manishi Kumar Sinha who is a Senior Advocate in the Delhi High Court. We also have a group of volunteers who are working in various states.

NS: How are the weekly’s finances managed? Any support from the government?

DK: It is largely funded by individual donations. I and other founding members also invest our funds in the weekly. We have received no government assistance till now. Though we have been awarded DAVP (Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity) status from the government, we are yet to receive any paid advertisements from them.

NS: What was the inspiration behind this initiative? Any incident or situation that resulted in this initiative being started?

DK: Two years ago, when Kendriya Vidyalaya decided to drop Sanskrit as an optional subject, I and other members of Sanskrit Lovers Group decided to start our own initiative to promote Sanskrit.

During the same period, when we visited the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) campus in Varanasi, we noticed that many foreign students were speaking fluently in Sanskrit. They were even chanting various Vedic Suktas (Vedic Hymns). After witnessing this, we decided to start the weekly so that Sanskrit could be popularized among Indians as a common man’s language.

NS: How was the experience of running a Sanskrit weekly in India? What challenges did you face?

DK: Well, the experience has been amazing, but we did face many challenges in the beginning. Initially, we found it hard to acquire the news and get it translated into Sanskrit. We also faced some issues while printing the news in Sanskrit, as certain letters are absent in Hindi fonts. But the biggest challenge was in tackling the apathy shown towards the idea of  Sanskrit weekly by certain government bodies, organizations, and people who were otherwise advocates of Sanskrit. One by one we have successfully overcome these challenges.

NS: How much circulation do you have on average? Who is the targeted audience?

DK: At present we publish around 25,000 copies every week. We regularly keep getting emails, phone calls, and references for new subscriptions. Though we intend to take the weekly to every home, as of now our main target groups are universities, various government bodies, Sanskrit organizations, temples and gurukulams (traditional Sanskrit schools). We also have a small number of individual subscribers.

NS: What is the response from the readers?

DK: We have had a tremendous response from the people. Common people have welcomed this initiative. I have witnessed many people treating the weekly as a holy book. The response from the students in the universities has been very encouraging as well.

Many people realize the importance of Sanskrit and treat it as a mother to Indian culture and humanity. They have subscribed to our newspaper with this sentiment and respect, though they are not able to read Sanskrit.

Sajal Sandesh Maheish Girri

NS: Can you tell us about the name Sajal Sandesh? Any special reason for choosing that name?

DK: Sajal Sandesh means “pure message”. Along with the news, we want to impart pure values, hence the name Sajal Sandesh.

NS: After launching a successful Sanskrit weekly, now you are about to launch a multi-page daily. So what comes after this? Any long term vision?

DK: Well, our intention is to spread Sanskrit and make it a common man’s language in India. So, we do have plans to upgrade and expand our current operations over next few years, and we also plan to explore other initiatives that can be taken up to spread Sanskrit.

NS: When was the idea to start multi-page daily conceived? When will the daily be launched? Have you finalized its name?

DK: Well, the desire to start a Sanskrit daily was present from the beginning itself. But, back then, we were not sure whether we would be able to manage it or not. But, now, with two years of experience in running a weekly, we are confident enough to take up this challenge. We have submitted our application to the RNI (Registrar of Newspapers for India) and hopefully we will be able to start the daily in the month of October, during the Navaraatri festival. We have thought of a few names, but it is for the RNI to finalize the name.

NS: Today, Sanskrit is largely perceived as a dead language. What is the role of Sanskrit in modern life? Do you see Sanskrit reviving and re-emerging in the coming future?

DK: I completely disagree with the tag “dead language” that is attached to Sanskrit. Although Sanskrit has been downgraded in India, in many countries like Germany, China, and USA, it is being taught at various universities. Even in India, it is still alive, though its presence is limited.

Sanskrit denotes the richest culture of India and has solutions to many modern day problems. It is a very ancient language, it is a Deva-Bhasha (language of the Gods), and it is like a mother who can impart knowledge about various aspects of life.

It is rich in its philosophy and spirituality, and can contribute to various areas of modern society like economics, medicine, etc. Today’s society lacks basic human values like love, faith, kindness, respect, and honesty. And Sanskrit can deliver these values and enrich the society.

Therefore, we have accepted the challenge to revive and rejuvenate Sanskrit, so that it becomes a language of the common man, and we can restore India to its place of Vishwa-Guru (world-teacher).

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Copyright 2015 NewsGram

  • Chandra Shaker

    Sajal Sandesh’s Great Work in revitalizing samskritam. Let us together strive to have samskritam conversation in daily lives. Because the understanding of bhaarat’s greatness is by speaking samskritam, and unity in bhaarat is also foreseen by speaking samskritam. Going to foreign countries we know it is all empty even though riches and wealth is abundant. ‘saare jahaan se acchaa bhaarat’, is all because of our samskruti. Let us revitalize our samskruti, let us unite, let us speak samskritam. Let us bring bhaarat’s past glory. If we get attracted to shining something foreign while forgetting revitalizing bhaarat’s greatness, we might fail together, because many foreign countries rely on bhaarat’s direction e.g., yoga & other shaastras, bhaarat has. Bhaarat’s shaastras are still very modern, state of the art. Please keep up good work by all who are uplifting samskritam. Thanks & Regards, Chandra Shaker, Columbus, Ohio, USA

  • arun@houston

    Abhinandan and shubhechha for bold and noble initiative……arun kankani, Houston, TX, USA

  • Andrea Marcialis

    We need more sanskrit!
    Andrea, Venice, Italy

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  • Chandra Shaker

    Sajal Sandesh’s Great Work in revitalizing samskritam. Let us together strive to have samskritam conversation in daily lives. Because the understanding of bhaarat’s greatness is by speaking samskritam, and unity in bhaarat is also foreseen by speaking samskritam. Going to foreign countries we know it is all empty even though riches and wealth is abundant. ‘saare jahaan se acchaa bhaarat’, is all because of our samskruti. Let us revitalize our samskruti, let us unite, let us speak samskritam. Let us bring bhaarat’s past glory. If we get attracted to shining something foreign while forgetting revitalizing bhaarat’s greatness, we might fail together, because many foreign countries rely on bhaarat’s direction e.g., yoga & other shaastras, bhaarat has. Bhaarat’s shaastras are still very modern, state of the art. Please keep up good work by all who are uplifting samskritam. Thanks & Regards, Chandra Shaker, Columbus, Ohio, USA

  • arun@houston

    Abhinandan and shubhechha for bold and noble initiative……arun kankani, Houston, TX, USA

  • Andrea Marcialis

    We need more sanskrit!
    Andrea, Venice, Italy

Next Story

Jaipur Literature Festival Takes A Questionable Stand On The #MeToo Movement

JLF's fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned.

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#MeToo, women
The hushed whispers are getting louder. Flickr

After several star speakers of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, including C.P. Surendran, Suhel Seth and Chetan Bhagat, among others, have been accused of sexually harassing multiple women, on the sidelines of the popular lit fest, the organisers, in a cautiously worded one-sentence tweet on Thursday, have supported the rising tide of the #MeToo campaign in India — but questions still remain.

“The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival unequivocally stands by the women who have courageously spoken out for equity and dignity and is committed to supporting and amplifying their voices,” the official handle of the JLF said in a tweet on Thursday.

The statement came two days after a petition was started on www.change.org by writer-editor Rajni George, asking its organisers to support the #MeToo India and stand up “against sexual harassment”.

#MeToo
Jaipur Literature Festival

“We write today regarding the serious and credible allegations of sexual harassment made recently against a number of men in and around the literary world, as part of the MeToo movement in India.

“We, the undersigned, are dismayed, saddened and angered by these accounts. We admire the work that the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) undertakes. As India’s largest and most recognised literature festival, we believe JLF is ideally placed to take the lead in addressing this urgent issue,” George’s petition said.

JLF’s response in the one-line tweet is general, and does not specifically mention whether any of the allegations that have now surfaced were earlier brought to the notice of the organisers.

It also does not make it clear whether the doors of the festival will remain closed for the accused in its future editions, or not. It further makes no comment whatsoever on several instances that are said to have taken place on the sidelines of the annual event.

#MeToo
Sanjoy K. Roy, with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore.

Notably, many of the accused have featured in prominent sessions at what is described as the “greatest literary show on Earth”, and, in many instances, the festival has been instrumental in increasing their popularity as well as readership.

On its part, JLF, produced by Teamwork Arts, headed by Sanjoy K. Roy, and with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore. In fact, the 2018 edition of the festival in January this year had come to a close with a hard-hitting debate on #MeToo, long before the campaign gained momentum in India.

Also Read: Watch Jaipur Literature Festival Live On Twitter

Many in the literary circles feel the benchmark that JLF has itself set over the course of its journey, its coming of age and gradual but distinct shift from controversies to substance in the recent years, its fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned. (IANS)