Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sanskrit – a source of knowledge and wisdom or a dying heritage?
Sanskrit, like Latin or Greek is the world’s one of the oldest and few classical languages. In present times, it is written in the Devnagri script and its grammar was set out in 500 BC. It is listed as one of India’s 23 official languages. The total number of people who speak Sanskrit does not exceed 50,000, whereas it is also a second language to less than 2 lakh people. In whatever limited numbers, besides India, it is also spoken in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and some other areas of South and Southeast Asia. Like in the earlier mentioned counties, many Buddhist scholars in China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam also speak and use Sanskrit. This is supported by the fact that all scriptures of Hindus, Jains and Budhists are written and recorded in Sanskrit. Books of Puranas, with Bhagavad Gita as one of them, are one of the most interesting collection of stories about the Hindu gods and goddesses written in Sanskrit. The fact that Vedas, India’s two most talked about epics, Mahabarat and Ramayan, the works of Kalidas, etc were all written in Sanskrit shows that Hindu philosophy and traditions revolve around Sanskrit based writings. Sanskrit was a vehicle of creativity and development. The work done in Sanskrit is huge - Vedas laid the foundation of Vedic literature and all Sanskrit literature thereafter. Classical Sanskrit literature contains rich poetry, is found in Indian Classical Music and literature, as well as scientific, (Indian plants and animal species, Indian astronomy and ancient Indian sciences), technical, philosophical and religious texts. Sanskrit has been extensively used in religion and philosophy, in grammar, phonetics, etymology and lexicography. Astronomy, astrology, sociology, arts and aesthetics, politics and sex are well explained in Sanskrit language. Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages is considered as the “mother of all languages”, as many languages of world have either evolved out of it or have been greatly influenced by it. At the same time, Sanskrit language, it is believed belongs to the Indo-European, Indo-Aryan language group, as there are too many words in European languages that are similar phonetically and in meaning to those in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is related to Asian and South East Asian culture and philosophy, as Latin and Greek to European. Sanskrit originated from the same source as Latin, Greek and Persian, what we now refer as the Indo European languages. Sanskrit language has a wonderful structure - more perfect than the Greek, more abundant than the Latin, and more elegantly refined than either. It bears such a stronger resemblance to both - verb roots as well as forms of grammar, that it possibly could not be an accident that these evolved from some common source. Unfortunately, this link no longer exists. Though, there are people who suggest that Sanskrit evolved from either Dravidian group of languages or an earlier version of Sanskrit spoken in the sub-continent. But, some of the most widely used words common among these languages suggest that they all came from the same source. Evolution of different words in each language and possible connection with similar words in other comparable languages provides irrefutable evidence of their common origin. Sanskrit today has practically turned in to a ceremonial language, mainly used in Hindu hymns (mantras) and Bhudhists and Jain scriptures, but unfortunately, not brought in day-to-day use.