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Sanskrit is the new craze among Mumbaikars

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Fiona Fernandez

Chandrahas Halai is a man of many pursuits. He is a mechanical engineer, a mathematician, a travel writer and history buff. Tying these varied interests together now is a language that history seems to be in no interest to forget.

Last July, Halai signed up for a certificate course in Sanskrit that would eventually enable him to read the Samarangana Sutradhara. Written in Sanskrit by Raja Bhoja, the 11th-century ruler of Malwa region, this text is a discourse on civil engineering detailing the construction of buildings, forts, temples, idols of deities and mechanical devices. “I am interested in temple architecture.

In our country, temples 210 feet tall have been built in the pre-modern era. What was the sort of machinery that was used? How did the workers carry the stones to that height?” The answers to these questions, says Halai, lie in the 80 chapters of the book. And although translations exist, he fears much of the essence will be lost. Plus, he wants to avoid reading history from a Westerners’ perspective.

An interest in mythology borne out of a need to better a television script and a better left brain-right brain balance are some of many reasons driving Mumbaikars to Sanskrit classes. And, as is the case with Halai, it’s not in order to read religious texts.

Madhavi Narsalay, assistant professor and head of the department of Sanskrit at Mumbai University, says this year has seen 100 students enroll for the certificate course that runs over weekends. It’s full capacity. The numbers, she adds, have been at a high since 2000.

In between, the class average would be 50-60.

In 2013, she was asked to consult on the show by the producers of Mahabharat, 267 episodes of which were aired. “They wanted someone to provide them the exact story by reading the original texts and not translations,” says Narsalay, who has been with the department for 20 years. She would also be required to identify shlokas from the original text that would fit in when a certain character was introduced.

“For instance, for the entry of Draupadi who rose from the fire… I had to go back and read a lot of original texts,” she remembers.

Reading Sanskrit, however, isn’t everyone’s passion. Arjun Vyas, who greets you with a Namo Namah (he will make it a point to tell you that the greeting has nothing to do with the country’s Prime Minister), says he stumbled upon the class on a social messaging group and felt obligated to join. A few classes in, however, the 51-year-old industrial project consultant was hooked. “All my life I though Sanskrit was a difficult language, but it’s so easy,” he exclaims. Vyas attended the free of charge, 10-day, spoken Sanskrit camp conducted by Sanskrit Bharati in Bandra East this February. He recommends the class because it’s all about conversational Sanskrit: “Upanetram kutra aasti?” (where are my spectacles?)”. Which brings us to the tough question. Once they do learn Sanskrit, where do Vyas and his batchmates practise?

It’s a bit of an admission. “We would call each other and speak. Else, there are weekly sessions where people can come and practise,” he adds. Plus, he says, he now converses with his wife Snehal in Sanskrit. Snehal, 51, a breast cancer survivor says someone first asked her to start reciting Sanskrit shlokas in 2013 since it would help her tongue stiff from chemotherapy, recover. But, watching her husband speak the language fluently prompted her to join the class. “Part of the motivation was envy. How could he speak better than me,” laughs the manager at NIIT. Now, the two have found a code language to speak in, she says.

The lure of Sanskrit, says Malhar Kulkarni, who teaches the language at IIT-Powai, is that it’s free in order. “For instance, you can’t change the order of the words ‘tiger eats man’ in the English language without changing its meaning. In Sanskrit, this is possible,” says Kulkarni, who holds weekly classes for advanced-level students at Vile Parle, again free of charge.

Sanskrit, he says, also finds takers among software engineering students who want to use the language — considered to be the root of several Indo-European languages — to develop tools to analyse others languages and train machines to translate them.

Kulkarni emphasizes that the curiosity about the language crosses borders of religion and social strata. “It’s part of our psyche, everyone feels connected with it. Once I was walking in Vile Parle and came across two drunk men fighting outside an illicit bar. One, in a fit of anger, said to the other, ‘I will send you to the yama sadan!’ Not hell. But, yama sadan. That’s how much we’ve grown up with Sanskrit.”

This article was first published at midday.com

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Best Casinos In India

In areas like Goa, there are quite impressive gambling establishments, which can provide a pretty good idea as what the future holds.

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Casino Popular with Indian Gamblers. Pixabay

Gambling is hugely popular all around the world, especially in the form of casinos. People love nothing more than heading down to their favourite land-based casinos to try their luck on slot games, blackjack, poker and roulette. Nowadays, we have all heard and might have visited Las Vegas and Macau; two of the best places to experience the best casinos have to offer. In fact, there is arguably little to choose from between the two renowned places. With regards to India, gambling is currently restricted to certain regions. In spite of this gambling in this part of the world is still is a popular form of entertainment and has a growing following. So much so, that some believe, it won’t be long before we see casinos and gambling being allowed across the country; especially when taking into account revenues that will be realised through taxation and licensing.

Right now, in areas like Goa, there are quite impressive gambling establishments, which can provide a pretty good idea as what the future holds, if indeed gambling is allowed to flourish. We have taken the liberty of highlighting a few of the best that everyone needs to visit in India right now.

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We’re all very familiar with gambling websites and online casinos, where you can do anything from betting on sports events. Pixabay

Deltin Royale

The Deltin Royale is by far and away one of India’s finest, largest and most luxurious casinos. It’s a must visit venue for a reason, with gaming taking place on three levels. Whether slots or table games are your thing, your needs will be catered for, with 850 gaming positions inside the casino. Visitors will also be able to treat themselves to some fine dining, while also being able to enjoy fine wines and single malts. This place is more than just a casino, with plenty of shows, including stand up comedy, taking place on a regular basis.

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This place is more than just a casino. Flickr

Casino Mahjong

Casino Mahjong is a venue with plenty to offer its visitors. It was set up by three entrepreneurs from Gangtok and aims to provide gamblers with that sweet feeling of triumph associated with winning. It’s actually one of the most famous casinos in India, spread across 7,000sqft, with 15 live gaming tables available to play at. They also offer a private poker room which sports 7 tables, with VVIP gaming and state-of-the-art slot games on offer too. Visitors will also find themselves entertained by the daily performances at Casino Mahjong, as the venue goes that extra mile to keep their players happy and entertained throughout their stay.

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Mayfair Hotels & Resorts, along with Casino Mahjong support and promote responsible gambling. Flickr

Casino Pride

Casino Pride is a group of casinos within India, which are recognised as being some of the best around due to their high standard of gaming and hospitality. They currently have two five-star venues under their banner which tells you that they offer players the quality experiences they expect, every time. They’ve also been awarded the award for being the best casino in India by the Indian Travel Awards too. What you’ll find at Casino Pride establishments are slots and table games, as well as local favourites such as Mang Patta and Paplu. Casino Pride is an operator who stick close to their roots, while also recognising their international connections too.

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A landmark of Glory & Glamour. With five Casinos & two five stars under its banner, awarded the best casino in India by Indian Travel Awards. Flickr

Casino Pearl

Casino Pearl is one of the newest casinos in India, located in the 5-star resort of Bogmallo. It may be relatively new to the scene, but it’s already managing to cause a stir with it being one of the largest casinos in the area. They have everything a gamer casino goer could need and more, with plenty of slots, table games, live roulette, baccarat and Tai Sai. Visitors are also able to take advantage of unlimited food at the buffet, as well as unlimited drinks, making this a must visit venue for people looking to have a good time.