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Sanskrit as a link language for imparting scientific knowledge

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Photo: @PratyashaNithin

By Nithin Sridhar

A language is the backbone of a nation, its identity, heritage, and culture. This is so because, a language acts as a medium to sustain, express, and transmit the knowledge and wisdom of the particular society. Thus, languages are not only tools for communication, but are also abodes of knowledge systems developed by a society. They act as carriers that keep the knowledge systems alive and transmit them to future generation.

India has been made rich in its culture and heritage by numerous languages that have taken birth in this land. But, among all the Indian languages, there is one language- Sanskrit that has historically played a unique role of being a mother, a link between various regional language speakers, and an abode of scientific knowledge.

The role of Sanskrit as a mother is well recognized. She has been a nourishing mother who has always assisted various regional languages in evolving themselves. The role of Sanskrit in the past as a link language is also well recognized. But, it is often ignored that Sanskrit was not only the repository to religious and philosophical knowledge, but also to Math, Science, Astronomy, and other secular subjects.

In a 2009 lecture delivered at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Markandey Katju says: “There is a misconception about the Sanskrit language that it is only a language for chanting mantras in temples or religious ceremonies. However, that is less than 5% of the Sanskrit literature. More than 95% of the Sanskrit literature have nothing to do with religion, and instead it deals with philosophy, law, science, literature, grammar, phonetics, interpretation, etc. In fact, Sanskrit was the language of free thinkers, who questioned everything, and expressed the widest spectrum of thoughts on various subjects. In particular, Sanskrit was the language of our scientists in ancient India

The astronomical and mathematical achievements of Aryabhata, Bhaskaracharya, etc., the medical discoveries of Charaka, Sushruta, etc., the philosophical world-views of Darshanas, were all expressed and transmitted through Sanskrit. Despite having diverse regional languages, India of the past was well connected in terms of communication and there was a free flow of knowledge- religious, secular, and scientific, thanks to Sanskrit.

With the advent of the British, Sanskrit was slowly, but in a planned manner, rooted out of Indian education and academia and was replaced by English. The traditional gurukulas which were repositories of Indian knowledge systems were replaced by English schools and hence, through thorough planning and meticulous implementation, the Indian education system was completely colonized and westernized.

This colonization of education has today resulted in generations after generations of Indians who are not only disconnected to indigenous heritage, culture, and philosophy but are also largely unaware of Indian scientific traditions and knowledge systems.

The present education system and academia entertain a study, research, and imparting of scientific knowledge only in English. This has helped Indians to connect with the global scientific community and build upon western scientific research, but at the same time Indians have become alien to their own indigenous scientific knowledge.

There have been many calls for imparting education in schools in vernacular languages. There is a great merit in this as children who are largely taught in English, are imbibing values that are alien to India. The English education has further impressed upon youths that everything Indian is superstition and regressive and everything western is liberal and modern.

The result has been disastrous politically, socially, ecologically, spiritually, and even scientifically. Thus, in order to reclaim the Indian identity and create Indian narrative, many spiritualists, scholars, and nationalists have time and again given a call for imparting primary and secondary education in mother tongues.

There is a great merit in imparting education in native languages. But, using native languages to impart primary education in math and science is accompanied by various issues and complications for the students.

First, the education at graduate and post-graduate levels are imparted in English alone. Hence, a person who has studied in the regional language medium will find it very difficult to study during graduation. Thus, students who studied in regional language mediums will be at a great disadvantage.

Second, if regional languages are introduced as a medium to teach in graduation and post-graduation level, that will again give rise to a few complications. The regional languages are largely devoid of means for imparting higher scientific subjects, be it math, physics, medicine, or engineering subjects. Further, if people in different states study and do research in different languages, then there will no free flow of scientific knowledge within India. That will be a huge obstacle to scientific advancement.

Thus, imparting primary and secondary education in mother tongues has serious practical issues and may curtail scientific research and advancement. These practical issues can be easily overcome by introducing a link language that is not only suitable for scientific purposes, but also has a harmonious relationship with the regional languages. And among all Indian languages, only Sanskrit fits the requirement.

Sanskrit had successfully nourished various regional languages, preserved Indian world-views, and had ensured a free flow of scientific knowledge in the past. And Sanskrit alone is equipped to accomplish it again in the present.

Thus, the Sanskrit Commission set up by the Government of India in 1956 observes: “in course of time, the prospective All-India Language — Bharati Bhasa — at least in its written norm, which would be acceptable to all regions of India, especially in the higher reaches of education and literary activity, will be a form of simple and modernized Sanskrit.”

More stories on Sanskrit:

Only through Sanskrit, can India make a credible narrative about its Sanskriti

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

Let’s revive Sanskrit in correct manner

All hail Sanskrit – the most perfect language ever

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

  • govikannan

    //The traditional gurukulas which were repositories of Indian knowledge systems were replaced by English schools //
    only male higher cast people studied in those gurukulas, what about woman, poor lower cast and dalits ? is there any school for them before Christian machineries ?

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  • govikannan

    //The traditional gurukulas which were repositories of Indian knowledge systems were replaced by English schools //
    only male higher cast people studied in those gurukulas, what about woman, poor lower cast and dalits ? is there any school for them before Christian machineries ?

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CES Tech Show Proves Technology Puts Our Privacy At a Major Risk

To protect privacy, the company recommends that users turn their phones to airplane mode when using the test.

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Technology, Privacy
A model wears the Owlet Band pregnancy monitor at the Owlet booth at CES International, Jan. 9, 2019, in Las Vegas. The device can track fetal heart rate, kicks and contractions. VOA

The latest gadgets want even greater access to your lives.

This week’s CES tech show in Las Vegas was a showcase for cameras that can livestream the living room, a bathroom mirror that captures your face to offer beauty tips and a gizmo that tracks the heartbeat of an unborn child.

These features can be useful — or at least fun — but they all open the door for companies and people working for them to peek into your private lives. Just this week, The Intercept reported that Ring, a security-camera company owned by Amazon, gave employees access to some customer video footage.

You’ll have to weigh whether the gadgets are useful enough to give up some privacy. First, you have to trust that companies making these devices are protecting your information and aren’t doing more than what they say they’re doing with data. Even if a company has your privacy in mind, things can go wrong: Hackers can break in and access sensitive data. Or an ex might retain access to a video feed long after a breakup.

“It’s not like all these technologies are inherently bad,” says Franziska Roesner, a University of Washington professor who researches computer security and privacy.

But she said the industry is still trying to figure out the right balance between providing useful services and protecting people’s privacy in the process

Technology, Privacy
The new Door View Cam is on display at the Ring booth before CES International, Jan. 7, 2019, in Las Vegas. VOA

Amazon’s video feeds

As with other security cameras, Ring’s can be mounted outside the front door or inside the home to give you a peek, through an app, of who’s there. But the Intercept said the Amazon-owned company was also allowing some high-level engineers in the U.S. to view customers’ video feeds, while others in the Ukraine office could view and download any customer video file.

In a statement, Ring said some Amazon employees have access to videos that are publicly shared through the company’s Neighbors app, which aims to create a network of security cameras in an area. Ring also says employees get additional video from users who consent to such sharing.

At CES, Ring announced an internet-connected video doorbell that fits into peepholes for apartment dwellers or college students who can’t install one next to their doors. Though it doesn’t appear Ring uses facial recognition yet, records show that Amazon recently filed a patent application for a facial-recognition system involving home security cameras.

Technology, Privacy
A smart home mockup is on display at the Tuya booth at CES International, Jan. 9, 2019, in Las Vegas. VOA

Living room livestream

It’s one thing to put cameras in our own homes, but Alarm.com wants us to also put them in other people’s houses.

Alarm’s Wellcam is for caretakers to watch from afar and is mostly designed to check in on aging relatives. Someone who lives elsewhere can use a smartphone to “peek in” anytime, says Steve Chazin, vice president of products.

The notion of placing a camera in someone else’s living room might feel icky.

Wellcam says video isn’t recorded until someone activates it from a phone and video is deleted as soon as the stream stops. Chazin says such cameras are “becoming more acceptable because loved ones want to know that the ones they care about are safe.”

Just be sure you trust whom you’re giving access to. You can’t turn off the camera, unless you unplug it or cover it up with something.

Technology, home, Privacy
Yoon Lee, right, senior vice president, Samsung Electronics America, uses the Family Board on a refrigerator during a Samsung news conference at CES International in Las Vegas, Jan. 7, 2019. VOA

Bathroom cameras

French company CareOS showcased a smart mirror that lets you “try on” different hairstyles. Facial recognition helps the mirror’s camera know which person in a household is there, while augmented-reality technology overlays your actual image with animation on how you might look.

CareOS expects hotels and salons to buy the $20,000 Artemis mirror — making it more important that personal data is protected.

“We know we don’t want the whole world to know about what’s going on in the bathroom,” co-founder Chloe Szulzinger said.

The mirror doesn’t need internet to work, she said. Even if it is connected, all data is stored on a local network. The company says it will abide by Europe’s stronger privacy rules, which took effect in May, regardless of where a customer lives. Customers can choose to share their information with CareOS, but only after they’ve explicitly agreed to how it will be used.

The same applies for the businesses that buy and install the mirror. Customers can choose to share some information — such as photos of the hair cut they got last time they visited a salon — but the businesses can’t access anything stored in user profiles unless users specifically allow them to.

Samsung, Home, Privacy
Arvin Baalu, vice president of product management at Harman International, talks about the Samsung Digital Cockpit during a Samsung news conference at the 2019 CES in Las Vegas, Jan. 7, 2019. VOA

Bodily data

Some gadgets, meanwhile, are gathering intimate information.

Yo Sperm sells an iPhone attachment that tests and tracks sperm quality. To protect privacy, the company recommends that users turn their phones to airplane mode when using the test. The company says data stays on the phone, within the app, though there’s a button for sharing details with a doctor.

Also Read: Technology Makes Home Items Smarter But Creepier

Owlet, meanwhile, plans to sell a wearable device that sits over a pregnant belly and tracks the heartbeat. The company’s privacy policy says personal data gets collected. And you can choose to share heartbeat information with researchers studying stillbirths.

Though such data can be useful, Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo warns that these devices aren’t regulated or governed by U.S. privacy law. She warns that companies could potentially sell data to insurance companies who could find, for instance, that someone was drinking caffeine during a pregnancy — potentially raising health risks and hence premiums. (VOA)