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August 1, 2009

Legacy of Sanskrit — Ajoyendranath Trivedi

The name, Sanskrit, itself suggests that it is a cultured (Sanskrit) language. With a sense of reverence has been called as devabhasa. A well known western scholar has described it as the Mother of all languages. Story of the origin and development of Sanskrit as a language is a long saga of linguistic development that the world had witnessed through several millennia. The graph of the origin, development and spread of Sanskrit as a language is an indicator to the linguistic behaviour of the people of this ancient land of India.

The literature composed in Sanskrit has earned laurels from the eastern as well as western scholars. Sanskrit literature has many dimensions encompassing secular as well as religious texts; scientific besides philosophical works; legal and also aesthetic treatise. In addition to that, huge and enormous works on science of literature on the one hand and art of poetry on the other is found in Sanskrit language. In the words of Sir William Jones ‘the language of Sanskrit is of a wonderful structure, more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin and more exquisitely refined than either’.

Sanskrit has been the backbone of Indian culture since it’s formulating past. It has nurtured the very idea of Bharatavarsh. It served as a pan Indian link language. During later centuries Sanskrit gave birth to many languages. Pali and Prakrits are some notable examples. In eighteenth century, by virtue of some distinguished translations from Sanskrit to English, poetic beauty of Sanskrit classics could influence European scholars. Translation of Abhigyanasha-kuntakam and The Bhagavad-Gita into English drew the attention of the international academia. These were the pioneer endeavours to introduce Sanskrit to outer world. It was because of the interest of the European scholars in Sanskrit that this ancient marvel of India could come to limelight and research as well as preservation of manuscripts could took place.

The ancient wisdom of India is preserved in this language. It is universally valued and cherished in India. In order to understand the purpose of our various socio-cultural activities, we frequently refer to ancient scriptures. Almost all such ancient scriptures are found in Sanskrit. In order to assimilate this knowledge diligent preservation and constant interpretation (in light of our experience) of the ancient texts is required. Unfortunately, a section of people including some intellectuals as well as politicians/bureaucrats have tried to undermine the heritage that is preserved in Sanskrit.

Underlining the potentiality of Sanskrit in maintaining and preserving national unity and solidarity Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar and Prof Naziruddin Ahmed stressed the need of propagation of Sanskrit and called upon the Constitutional Assembly to recognise Sanskrit as the official language of India. They contended that Sanskrit can help stimulate the dormant Indian spirit. The Government of India very wisely and timely declared the millennium year as the year of Sanskrit.

It is an irony that some of the timeless legacies of India have been deliberately denigrated. Sanskrit is no exceptation. It had been demeaned as a dead language. In a landmark judgement the Madras High Court observed in 1999 that Sanskrit was not a dead language. Since then serious debates on the significance of Sanskrit is taking place every now and then. Through these debates some pertinent issues involving education and dissemination of Sanskrit came into focus. For quite some time a impression loomed large that Sanskrit was the language of priestly class and had been essentially related to Hindu religion. This has been proved wrong. Modern research papers have proved that this language is a repository of invaluable knowledge that this ancient land of India has gathered and acquired during her enlightened past. Sanskrit’s use in religious activities of the Hindu does not necessarily make it a religious language since the secular literature available in this language is more voluminous than its religious literature.

Scientific phonology and morphology of Sanskrit language have helped this language withstand through the centuries against the ravages of time. Purity of speech and infallibility of structures have made it most suitable for scientific and technical terminology. No wonder India could produce many treatises on subjects like astronomy, medicine, arithmetic and aesthetics. For making scientific and technical terminology in Hindi and in many other Indian languages experts take refuge in Sanskrit grammar.

Sanskrit language is the storehouse of intellectual property of ancient India. Plethora of traditional know-how and practices are preserved in numerous Sanskrit anthologies. Some of them are published whereas majority of them, in the form of manuscripts, is languishing in libraries/monasteries and private hands.

Sanskrit had been the national link language for a fairly long period in ancient India. From Kerala to Kashmir, Sanskrit was used and understood. There was a period in Assamese history, too, when Sanskrit was used as the official language. Inscriptions, plaques etc. in Sanskrit have been unearthed in different places in Assam. Pan Indian use and acceptance of Sanskrit has knitted the Indian people in Indian nationhood. Time has changed and various considerations have emerged. But the bedrock of Indianhood that Sanskrit had been able to successfully establish, through the centuries, is poised to guide our destiny. In times of crises the shared cultural bonds with what our forefathers were tied with have saved us. Sanskrit had contributed a lot in establishing these cultural bonds. Discovery of Sanskrit is, therefore, nothing but the discovery of our roots. ASSAM TRIBUNE

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