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Move to Make Sanskrit Classes Mandatory Raises Ruckus in Assam

Lawmakers decided to make Sanskrit a compulsory subject until the eighth standard in Assam as a move towards popularizing the language

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Sanskrit Language
Mahabharata Text in Sanskrit Language: Image source: sanskrit.org
  • Lawmakers decided Wednesday to make Sanskrit a compulsory subject until the eighth standard in Assam
  • Within months of sweeping to power in May 2014, the BJP spoke of popularizing Sanskrit
  • Sanskrit, mostly relegated to religious ceremonies, is used by less than 1 percent of Indians

Guwahati, June 25, 2017: A move to make Sanskrit – a language considered holy in Hinduism – a mandatory subject in schools in northeastern Assam state has provoked controversy with critics calling it a “conspiracy” by India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to advance its right-wing ideology.

Lawmakers decided Wednesday to make Sanskrit a compulsory subject until the eighth standard in Assam, which has a population of more than 10 million Muslims or more than 34 percent of the state’s population.

And it is not just Muslim groups protesting this move.

“It is a well-orchestrated conspiracy to micro manage and monitor the education system,” Biraj Talukdar, of the influential Asom Jatiyatabadu Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) Hindu student body, told BenarNews.

ALSO READ: The Need to Introduce Music Education in our Schools: Why is it Underfunded?

Within months of sweeping to power in May 2014, the BJP spoke of popularizing Sanskrit. It also mandated a Sanskrit week to celebrate the ancient language in thousands of government-run schools nationwide. The move brought about sharp reactions from the Muslim community, which makes up more than 14 percent of the country’s 1.2 billion people.

Sanskrit, mostly relegated to religious ceremonies, is used by less than 1 percent of Indians, according to official figures.

“The decision was taken in haste. The BJP is trying to impose its ideologies, obviously for its own vested interests,” Aminul Islam of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), a minority party, told BenarNews.

According to the government, Sanskrit is the “mother of all languages” that encapsulates history, mythology, and science.

“Sanskrit is a powerful Indian language. We want Sanskrit to regain its glory,” BJP lawmaker Keshab Mahanta told BenarNews.

Sanskrit is one of 22 languages that the Constitution mandates the government to preserve out of more than 1,500 languages spoken in India.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), BJP’s ideological mentor, said it backed the government’s decision.

“Even in London, they are teaching Sanskrit, in Germany there is a school for Sanskrit. In India, the problem is that a few people are trying to destroy the culture and ethos of Indian civilization. So, they are opposing development of the most scientifically advanced language of the world,” Rakesh Sinha, spokesman for the RSS, told BenarNews.

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

“Language Politics” has been one of BJP’s main thrusts to advance its right-wing ideologies, according to analysts.

“The politics of thrusting Hindi or Sanskrit on a majority of the population with such a diverse nature and language is a pointer toward the fact that BJP wants to create its ideological political hegemony and indoctrinate young minds,” Monirul Hussain, a Guwahati-based political observer told BenarNews.

The most recent 2011 census shows 14,000 people in India responded that Sanskrit is their primary language. Of those, nearly none came from northeast India, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat. (Benar News)

 

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TRIBILS students organize fest to promote Pali Language among Youngsters

The festival 'Vishwa Pali Gaurav Diwas' is celebrated in the honour of Anagarika Dharmapala whose birth anniversary, which was on September 17

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Alphabet in Pali. Wikimedia
  • Researchers and students of Pali celebrated the ‘Vishwa Pali Gaurav Diwas’ in honour of the ancient language on September 17
  • TRIBILS had earlier created a world record by training over 2,500 students in the basics of Brahmi Lipi
  • The festival aims to inspire and encourage more youngsters and provide free training to those interested

NASHIK, Sept 22, 2016: The city-based Trirashmi Research institute of Buddhism and Indic Languages (TRIBILS) organised a fest in September to spread awareness and encourage youngsters to read the ‘Pali’ language.

The festival ‘Vishwa Pali Gaurav Diwas’ is celebrated in the honour of Anagarika Dharmapala whose birth anniversary, which was on September 17. He was a Sri Lankan Buddhist writer known for the revival of Buddhism in India after it was nearly extinct for several centuries, reported a news portal.

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TRIBILS is associated with central government’s archaeology department and is involved in decoding and representing the stone edicts of the pre-historic era. Atul Bhosekar, TRIBILS President said to TOI that proper awareness and technical knowledge of the Pali language and scriptures will add many unknown chapters in the Indian history.

“According to central government’s department of archaeology, there are over 1.5 lakh stone edicts across the country. Of this, only 50,000 have been read and translated at the present. Many historic documents remain undiscovered because of lack of awareness. We are on a mission to decode these records, but we need more youngsters to learn Pali and join the movement,” Bosekar said to TOI.

He added, Nashik and its neighbouring areas have an ample number of stone edicts dating back to the reign of Ashoka. Earlier, Bhosekar’s students had presented a simplified form of the emperor’s declarations to Thailand’s princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol. The relics were discovered in Girnar in Gujarat.

Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol. Wikimedia
Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol. Wikimedia

“After this project, we had taken it on as a mission to decode all 14 rock edicts available in the Girnar area. But, this is just a fraction of a large number of stone edicts available in India. We need more youngsters to join in and learn Pali to bring reveal new chapters of history,” he said.

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According to TOI, TRIBILS had earlier created a world record by training over 2,500 students in the basics of Brahmi Lipi. Apart from this, 250 students are completing graduate and postgraduate education in Pali through the organisation.

In all, 15 students have completed their masters, while 8 have completed MPhil in this language.”The Pali Gaurav Diwas is to remember that the study of this language has great potential. Pali will tell us about India’s real history,” Bhosekar said.

TRIBILS celebrated the Pali Gaurav Diwas with a demonstration of Pali research at B D Bhalekar School on September 18 to inspire and encourage more youngsters to learn this language and provide free coaching to those interested.

– prepared by Anubhuti Gupta of Newsgram. Twitter: @anuB_11

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Nepal schools gearing up to promote Sanskrit education

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Nepal

Kathmandu: Sanskrit, which is considered as the mother of Nepali language, was once a highly flourishing language in Nepal. It was given the status of an official language by a Lichhavi ruler during the medieval times.

But, Sanskrit language has been reduced to a state of endangered language in the last few centuries. In 1986, The Nepal Sanskrit University was established with an aim to develop Nepal into a center of learning Sanskrit language and literature.

Now, private boarding schools in the city and other regions of the country are making preparations to teach Sanskrit. The Jayatu Sanskritam, Satmarga Aviyan and Jeeyar Educational Trust Nepal, Nepal Bikas Tarangini are making arrangements for publishing text books for the school level.

Many institutions like The Rupak Memorial Kupondol, Bagmati Boarding School Sukedhara, DAV School Jawalakhel, Neighbourhood Secondary School Mandikhatar, GEMS School Dhapakhel, Little Angels School, Hattiban, Marvel English Boarding School Maitidevi, Apex College Baneshwor, Brihaspati Siksha Sadan Naxal, Apple International School Battisputali, and Sakura Memorial Higher Secondary School, Nawalparasihave come forward to start teaching Sanskrit from this session.

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All hail Sanskrit – the most perfect language ever

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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.