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Sanskrit Revival

When Israel became a nation, they chose Hebrew as their official language, while we in India ditched Sanskrit to chose Hindi as the national language. We now stand low, at the eminent historian level, having to depend on English translations of our scriptures to understand their meaning.

Due to work of an organization called Samskrita Bharati, Sanskrit is experiencing a revival and people around the world are getting a quick introduction to the language. The idea behind these classes are to get people comfortable talking in Sanskrit as soon as possible and the teacher does that by conversing only in Sanskrit for the entire 10 day duration.

Today, spoken Sanskrit is enjoying a revival – both in India and among Indian expatriates in the United States. There is even evidence of Sanskrit emerging in American popular culture as more and more people roll out yoga mats at the local gym and greet one another with “Namaste.”

Harvard, Yale, and the University of Chicago, among others, have long offered Sanskrit courses to undergrads. But the demand for these classes is growing beyond academic settings. A decade-long economic boom has brought Indians some measure of prosperity, and with it a sense of pride in the nation’s past. In large part, however, the revival is the result of the efforts of a private group, Samskrita Bharati, headquartered in New Delhi. The volunteer-based group’s mission: Bring the pan-Indian language back to the mainstream and lay the groundwork for a cultural renaissance.

Yoga practitioners in the US are seeking out the authentic Sanskrit names of various poses such as “downward dog” or “spinal twist” and the philosophy behind the practice as spelled out in the Yoga Sutras – the original treatise on the subject written in Sanskrit thousands of years ago.

Science-history buffs see old works in Sanskrit as treasure troves of ancient knowledge of astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and metallurgy. When Copernicus announced that the sun was the center of the universe in 1543, it was a defining moment for Western science. In Samskrita Bharati’s recently released “Pride of India” – a compilation that offers a glimpse into India’s scientific heritage – Sanskrit scholars point to calculations from AD 499 that indicate astronomer Aryabhatta’s underlying concept of a sun-centered planetary model.

“This knowledge tradition is what we hope to revive through the spread of Sanskrit,” says Shastry.[Sanskrit echoes around the world]

Check the site for courses in your area.

10 Responses to Sanskrit Revival

  1. Prasenjeet July 6, 2007 at 11:22 am #

    It’s interesting to note that Hebrew, like Sanskrit, was pretty much an extinct language until the 1800s — when it was revived by European Jews.

    However, given that India’s linguistic divisions are crucial to the entrenched political class, I wouldn’t hold my breath about a similar revival in India (or even by expat Indians) — Sanskrit’s links with Brahminism would make it too uncomfortable, politically, to be made any more popular than a language for scholars to pore over.

  2. JK July 6, 2007 at 11:34 am #

    Prasenjeet,

    We can be 100% sure that there would be no political support for the revival of Sanskrit and it will remain a grass roots movement.

  3. Hari July 6, 2007 at 12:23 pm #

    UCB has a Sanskrit department. Someone told me that the courses are pretty good. But it is not first hand info. I am wondering whether you know anything about it.

    -Hari

  4. JK July 6, 2007 at 1:16 pm #

    Hari,

    Sorry, I don’t have any info on it.

  5. kanada July 9, 2007 at 8:02 am #

    Check the PS to the article it has a typically boneheaded comment from our well known quack the “Wales Professor”! The Samskrit departments in the US and UK are but pale shadows of the ones in Germany, which yet again are but shadows of the vidyapeeths in India. You wouldn’t know that studying Samskrit in the US.

  6. Sabarish Sasidharan July 9, 2007 at 11:08 am #

    Personally i have found the book ‘Sanskritasya Vyavaharikaswaroopam’ (available from Sabda) to be quite useful. It has a practical approach to get us started speaking in samskrtam from day one. I have not been able to spend enough time with the book though (unfortunately).

  7. JK July 9, 2007 at 11:15 am #

    kanada,

    Not everyone can go and study in vidyapeets in India, so we should welcome any arrangement which will get interested people to a Sanskrit teacher.

  8. Sabarish Sasidharan July 9, 2007 at 11:41 am #

    JK

    It would be nice if readers shared their experiences in learning samskrtam as well.

    How about a blog post devoted to that?

    Amritha TV used to devote a few mins (a week i guess) for basic samskrtam. Doubt if if it is aired currently. There is also a yahoo group by the name Kalidasa run by a samskrtam teacher Mr.Govindarajan.

  9. thanu July 9, 2007 at 2:33 pm #

    I learned Sanskrit in school for 5 yrs, 5th grade to 9th grade. I didn’t put any effort it in, just studied enuf to make a decent grade.

    I do regret it now… imagine 5 yrs of learning a language I could have been to much better.

  10. Chandra July 10, 2007 at 11:45 pm #

    I always wanted to learn and at the very least get enough knowledge to read Bhagavat Gita in Sanskrit. Looks like I may have chance…

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