The Life Of Sanskrit Lies In The Hands Of The Sanskritists

The Life Of Sanskrit Lies In The Hands Of The Sanskritists

Sanskrit Manuscript
Snapshot
  • Many a times the Sanskritists themselves are the main reason behind the decline of Sanskrit.

    After India gained freedom in 1947, there were enough Sanskrit pandits in the country to revive Sanskrit. But what happened to them?

    There are 16 universities in India specially established for the revival of Sanskrit. No other language in the world has this number of Universities. What is the present situation of the Sanskrit universities? Are they really producing Sanskrit pandits?

A few days back, while surfing the web, I read a column written by Swapan Dasgupta where, he raised a significant question: If we won’t save Sanskrit, why stop foreigners? This is a valid question. If we rationally ponder the reason behind the decline of Sanskrit, many a times Sanskritists themselves are the main culprits.

Often, other reasons like medieval era invasions are proposed. But even during invasions, pandits were not united.  Even in the very beginning, when the Bakhtiyar Khilji burnt the Takṣaśilā library, the pandits did not respond, let alone react. We have also heard of many pandits appeasing the invading rulers with verses like:

dillīśvaro vā jagadīśvaro vā manorathān pūrayitum samarthaḥ
anyair nṛpālaiḥ paridīyamānam śākāya vā syāl lavaṇāya vā syāt

The lord of Delhi and the lord of the world— only these can fulfill my desires.
What other kings give is only enough for either salt or vegetables.

After India gained freedom in 1947, there were enough Sanskrit pandits in the country to revive Sanskrit. But what happened to them? Today, we are in a position where we have to file an online petition to remove someone like Sheldon Pollock who in the name of Sanskrit is diplomatically opposing Sanskrit. Pollock is just an example. There are many others in the line. Yet, there is not even one pandit who critically analysed his works. Where did the pandits fail ?

Recently, I was following a discussion on Twitter. A researcher said that the pandits have not done any critical analysis of the American Indologists. It is true. We must admit that. But times have changed. Better late than never.

Pandits are slowly waking up from their slumber. They have also started thinking rationally. Whatever may be the political consequence of the petition (on the lines of the Rajiv Malhotra’s recent book, The Battle for Sanskrit) against Narayan Murty/Rohan Murty, it has created a sort of awareness and attention. Sanskritists like Dr Shankar Rajaraman have started critically analyzing the works of the western Indologists.

There was a time when India lead all other countries in learning. A famous verse reads:

etaddeśaprasūtasya sakāśādagrajanmanaḥ ।
svaṃ svaṃ caritre śikṣeran pṛthivyāṃ sarvamānavāḥ ॥

It says that people would come to India to learn about their histories. But today, what is the situation of the country with regard to Sanskrit? How are our universities functioning?

There are 16 universities in India specially established for the revival of Sanskrit. No other language in the world has this number of Universities. What is the present situation of the Sanskrit universities? Are they really producing Sanskrit pandits?

There was a time when it was said in Karnataka, if a student gets less marks in his studies, send that child to a pāṭhaśālā. That was the mindset. Many Sanskrit pāṭhaśālaā teachers and Sanskrit professors did not teach Sanskrit to their own children. Those children are now well established as software engineers etc, who eagerly want to learn Sanskrit which they did not get in their homes.

Many Sanskrit lecturers in colleges and universities (which have Sanskrit departments) usually complain about the scarcity of student. But the reality is totally different. If teaching is good, naturally the number of students gradually increases. One should have a look at a small village— Menase near Sringeri, where the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan (Deemed University) has a campus, over 500 students study Sanskrit in a traditional method. They are also equipped with ICT (information and communications technologies) like smart classrooms, language labs etc.

These students don’t learn any modern subjects (except history and environmental science made compulsory by UGC), except the Śāstras in Sanskrit. Hence, it is the responsibility of teachers to be updated with modern technology and the contemporary issues. Recently, Karnataka Sanskrit University started an evening college for Sanskrit where B.A. and M.A. courses are taught with the student strength being above 150.

There was a time, when Sanskritists used to complain that there is no support from the government. But the fact is that they never united to present their demands to the government. Times have changed today.

Some times back, the central government, through the HRD ministry, appointed a committee to draw a roadmap for the development of Sanskrit. The committee successfully submitted the report and the govt has accepted it. Here comes the implementation part. The ministry even sent circulars to the IITs regarding the implementation of Sanskrit. Many state governments are also very supportive. Sanskritists should make use of this opportunity.

A short time ago, there was a meeting of Sanskrit lecturers in a prestigious Sanskrit University. The topic of the discussion was : In which language should Sanskrit be taught? This is the irony. The decline of Sanskrit is mainly because the language/texts were not taught in Sanskrit, but through translation method.

Today, there are many people who want to study Sanskrit and explore the treasure hidden inside the language. But, where are the teachers? Sanskrit teachers are needed all over the country and abroad. The field of Sanskrit does not have the problem of unemployment. Some ask about the relevance of Sanskrit today. But people themselves are getting to know the relevance.

Sanskrit is called Deva-Bhāṣā (Language of the Gods). But we can’t expect a Deva dūta (Messenger of God) to come and revive Sanskrit, It is we, the Sanskritists, who should think and act according to time and need (of nation and language).

We, Sanskritists, should get out of this long sleep and explore new techniques (such as animation etc) for Sanskrit and make Sanskrit flourish in this modern world, thus making Sanskrit more relevant in contemporary world.

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