Sunday, February 11, 2007

Enchanting Sanskrit

Few days ago a Sanskrit university students were outraged by UP Governor's preaching on learning English.

News agencies reported this incident in various different manner. Some were pro Governor, and some other just tried to state facts, adding that Governor was giving a well meaning advice.

Honorable Governor was not incorrect in advising the students to learn English as well. But it seems that he demeaned Sanskrit to make his point. I don't know exactly what he said, but TOI reported that he said - learning Sanskrit would just make students good for doing pujas, Sanskrit is not language of god, and Sanskrit is a language of bail-gadi yug.

I believe he may have outraged the students to a great extent that the response was so unanimous and strong - even from the faculty.

Coincidentally, just a few days ago I came across an article about Sanskrit - Enchanting Sanskrit. It primarily details decline of Sanskrit, its importance, and attempts for it revival.

Here are a few striking points from this article:
  • In 1835, Lord Macaulay produced his "Minute of Indian Education" in which he stated, "What we spend on the Sanskrit colleges is not merely a dead loss to the cause of truth; it is bounty money paid to raise up champions of error [that is, Sanskrit scholars]." He said Sanskrit literature is, "barren of useful knowledge" with "the most serious errors on the most important subjects."

  • One of the factor that contributed greatly to the neglect and "death" of Sanskrit was the treatment it received at the hands of academics. "Nowhere will you find a language being taught in a foreign language," says Sri Krishna Sastry. The easiest and most effective way is the conversational method. Ironically, Sanskrit was being taught through English and in textbook fashion. As a result, students, instead of learning the language and developing affinity, moved away from it.

  • Knowledge of Sanskrit is imperative to understand Ayurveda, but Indian government first made it compulsory that students of modern sciences as majors would only be admitted to Ayurvedic courses. However at the same time CBSE made Sanskrit an optional subject. As a result, students with science background who study Ayurveda at college level, do not know Sanskrit, resist studying it, and instead use translated texts.

  • Sanskrit was initially compulsory for five years of Ayurveda course, was reduced to one year of study. Now science students are even protesting this one year of Sanskrit study.

  • Dr Rahul Peter Das of Martin Luther University in Germany believes that learning Sanskrit helps students understand mathematics better.

  • It recommends three-language formula as: Regional + Classical (Sanskrit) + International (English)
I believe every Indian should read this article.

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