Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Importance of Sanskrit in the 21st Century


In this essay, I discuss the Importance of Sanskrit in the 21st Century.
 
I am currently pursuing an Advanced course in Sanskrit from Ramkrishna Mission in Kolkata (Bidhannagar). And I am the only student in my batch. The Spanish course is packed - house-full, so also the French course. People want to learn foreign language - but no one wants to learn their grandmother language. That is the irony.

Most of my friends and colleagues ask me questions like:
- What is the relevance of learning Sanskrit in the 21st century?
- Why are you wasting your time?
- Are you planning to become a Sadhu or Sanyasi?
- Why not learn French or Spanish?
- Why are you learning a dead language?
- This is the age of science. Why waste you time with religion?

And many more such questions. I understand their questions. Even I used to be like them earlier. But gradually I learned more about Sanskrit and our Sanskriti. 

Now I can tell you with utmost confidence, learning Sanskrit has many advantages. I will talk only about practical and ethical advantage of Samskrita. I am listing some of the major reasons below.

1. Ability to understand other Indians

Today India has three major language families:
- Sanskrit based languages like Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi. All these languages have anything between 60% to 80% similarity to Samskrita and use the same vocabulary.
- Dravidian language family like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. The latter three have much in common with Sanskrit.
- Austro Asiatic languages like Munda and Khasi, which also share vocabulary with Samskrita.

In fact it is believed that, all these 3 language families originated from one language family continuum in India, and during the last ice age the speakers got separated, and the languages started developing independently.

Historically, "Sanskrit was regularly taught in schools not only in India, but even abroad, mostly by Brahmins. In India also Sanskrit was the link language used in the different regions. Post-Vedic religious texts as well as texts on medicine, astronomy, philosophy, art and architecture, and important literary works were written directly in Sanskrit itself in spite of the development of regional languages." 

In any case, if one knows Sanskrit he will be able to communicate with or at least understand most other Indians without knowing either Hindi or English.

This will help in National Integration. 

2. Science

Today English is the medium of modern science. However, just as science advances so does English grammar. Shakespearean English is vastly different from modern English. Even the English our grandparents spoke is different from our English. This creates a problem.

If I would like to read Netwon's original English thesis, I would need to do 2 steps:
- first learn old English grammar
- then use the old English to read his paper

Similarly, if after 500 years someone wants to read Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time", he has to first learn today's English grammar and then read the paper.

This is clearly a very troublesome matter. However Sanskrit can easily solve this problem as Sanskrit is grammatically fixed. New words are added, new structures are added, new concepts are added - but the grammar is unchanging. Hence if one knows the vocabulary one ca easily read a 3000 year old book. Just like that.

In fact Sanskrit was the Language of Science for 5000 years.

Women Power - Scientists in Indian Space Research Organization

 3.  Law

Today District courts allow cases in local language. High courts allow cases in Hindi. But Supreme court allows cases only in English.

There are two disadvantages:
a. English is an elitist language and very few people in India actually speak English
b. a judgement in Bankura district of West Bengal in Bengali may have implications for a court in Aurangabad in Maharashtra in Marathi. But they do not understand each other.

Here only Sanskrit can help because of its advanced grammar and computational methods. Sanskrit-based  software translators can easily translate correctly between Bengali and Marathi or any language pair.The software will:
- first translate from Bengali to Sanskrit
- then translate from Sanskrit to Marathi

In this way Sanskrit can help the Legal System in India.

4. Medicine

Only 20% of Sanskrit work in on religion. Yes. That is correct. 

Before the murdering Muslims and cruel Christians came and conquered India, India was in the forefront of medical science.

The first detailed description of plastic surgical procedures is found in the clinical text on Indian surgery known as the 'Sushruta Samhita' (circa 600 B.C.). As per Association of Plastic Surgaeons of India:

The ancient Indian medical knowledge was carried into Greece and Arabia by Buddhist Missionaries. The German, French and English surgeons were introduced to the older Indian method. During that period, certain German scholars who studied the original text in Sanskrit, British surgeons and French travelers, who saw for themselves the rhinoplasty operations performed in India, revealed the wonders and practical possibilities of this speciality to the Western world.

All these knowledge were written  down in Sanskrit by our scholars. However much of it was lost when terrorist Muslim kings and Christian criminals (British) destroyed our Sanskrit. Yet still plenty of manuscripts are still intact. And untranslated.

If we can translate such manuscripts from Sanskrit, who knows what gems and advanced scientific medical discoveries/ innovations we will find?


5. Survival of Regional Languages

Our regional languages depend on Sanskrit for its survival. Without Sanskrit they will die. 

Mahatma Gandhi had said: Sanskrit is like the river Ganga for our languages. I always feel that if it were to dry up the regional language also would lose their vitality and power. It seems to me that an elementary knowledge of Sanskrit is essential. It is not sentiment on my part that makes me say so, but practical consideration of the utility to our country of this great language and the vast knowledge held by it.

If our regional languages die out and get replaced by English, that will be a sad thing to happen. We should ensure that such a disaster does not happen.

Conclusion

As is evident, from a purely scientific and social perspective Samskrita is very important. Not only will Sanskrit help in modern day cutting edge research in medicine, science, linguistics, law and so on, it will in a great way help in achieving National Integration.

Bharat Mata ki Jai !

Reference

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5 comments:

  1. Good one. I started learning Sanskrit by myself. Its tough.

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    Replies
    1. Great initiative. Sanskrit is not at all tough - most languages in India in their pure form is Sanskritic.

      For example, in Hindi if you stop using Urdu/ Arabic words and use shuddha Hindi, you are 90% Sanskrit. For example
      wo bahut badmaash hai --> wo atyanta dushta hai --> saH atyantaM duShTaH

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    2. Awesome tip. I had never noticed it. Ati prasannata hui yah dekh kar ki apni sanskriti ko aap kitne acche se aage le ja rahe hain.

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