Reviving Sanskrit – The language of the Devas

1715
Sanskrit

महाशापः अस्ति यत् एतत् लेख्यं मया आङ्ग्लभाषायां लेखनीयं | परन्तु किमहं कुर्यायं? भारतवर्षे अद्य न कश्चित् संस्कृतभाषां अवगच्छति – It is a great curse that this essay had to be written in English. But what can I do? No one in Bharatavarsha today even understands Sanskrit.

Sanskrit is the true soul of India. I cannot care any lesser if some language Marxist came and wagged around his tongue like a rabid dog’s tail arguing otherwise. Our Gods were revealed in Sanskrit, the tribes that created our Vedic era civilizations were Sanskrit speaking Rigvedic tribes and it is in Sanskrit that our identities as Indians were born thousands of years ago. As a speaker of Sanskrit, over the past one year, in all my studies of the language, I realized that as an Indian, I can express myself the best in Sanskrit. Not even in Tamil or in Hindi (which are more or less my native languages today), but in Sanskrit.

A people will think in the manner in which they speak. They will likewise speak in the manner in which they think. The average Indian’s speech in English at a very insidious and sub-conscious level deracinates him of his culture. When we speak in English, using English phrases, words, proverbs, sayings, idioms and the occasional benediction, we are basically imitating Englishmen. This is pretty much the plight of most former colonies who are forced to think English as that alone seems to give them a place among the international community of nations.

While we speak in English today as practical matter of international convenience, and given the fact that it is a national and international need for education and professional advancement today, we must remember that English is like the pair of glasses we wear on our eyes, while our mother tongues and more importantly, Sanskrit are like our eyes. We can remove a pair of glasses at will. We really wouldn’t amputate our eyes. Sanskrit must become a spoken language again. Not for any economic gain whatsoever. No! Even if it were economically detrimental in the short run, it nevertheless must happen, for only a nation that speaks the tongue its Gods and forefathers gave it, can progress scientifically, morally and spiritually in the world.

One might ask as to how this can be done, or the usual hollow question as to the feasibility of this. Let me tell you that as far as feasibility is concerned – Israel re-created Hebrew in 1948 as a spoken language, before which the Jews spoke in their respective European tongues. Hebrew which had been a scriptural language was made into a spoken language. The pessimist will now argue as to India’s vastness and diversity. Well, our entire identity irrespective of vastness or diversity is present within Sanskrit. What is far more shameful, is that languages which are grammatically way more difficult from a spoken point of view (such as Russian) are spoken across an entire continent today by even non-Russians and non-Slavs. When they have done it, why not we?

When modern India was formed, the leadership then prided itself in English language, English customs and English ways of life. Nehru is even said to have had a profound scorn and hatred for anything Indic by nativity. That leadership made India sovereign by economy, but a slave by culture. India went on a path that made it a good marketplace for business, but much like any whorehouse, it also made India a complete cultural bastard. That was indeed the time when Sanskrit should have been made a national language for two reasons:

  1. The setting up of an education system with a thrust on Sanskrit would have made it all the more culturally easy to absorb the language.
  2. There was a nationalist gusto in the air considering the British’s exit. That enthusiasm of ‘being Indian’ would have propelled Sanskrit to heights.

Alas, today, when the knowledge of English is so lucrative professionally as well as educationally (from an international perspective), there will be more opposition to it than ever. The post-colonial language inertia that set in after 1947 ensured a complete Anglicization of Indian thought, word and deed to the extent that Sanskrit today appears foreign to the average Hindu and English appears native.

Sanskrit can be implemented in a variety of ways –

Introduce Sanskrit tales of heroism and lore in place of English ones.

Make Sanskrit trendy and cool – make it a symbol of sophistication just the way English authorship is given that sophistication tag.

Instrumental in this can be branding and marketing in Sanskrit just the way many North European clothe makers have begun printing Thor’s Mjolnir and Odin’s crow on tea cups and t-shirts.

The government must set aside a patronage for Sanskrit – whereby studying and propagating the language and its literature will be made a lucrative job. Much like a youngster flocking to an MNC for the allure of its wealth draws him to itself, this psychology can be deployed anywhere to any end.

Sanskrit newsletters need to become mainstream at least within the walls of institutes that will patronize it. By and by, a newsletter within a specific place will become a newspaper over a broader region.

Villages like Mattur can be used as a model to instil Sanskrit among a population. Apart from singing and storytelling which this village uses, signboards and everyday instructions in Sanskrit will at least make people familiar with its vocabulary – a first step to making anyone speaking in a tongue.

When Sanskrit becomes a medium of communication among at least a few thousand people in a region, popular media will follow suit in trying to capture a market space for itself and hence, popular media will also try catering to a Sanskrit audience.

The essence of a nation’s conscience – right from an everyday conversation to an abstract praise of the divine, can be felt only in that nation’s tongue. As far as India is concerned, Sanskrit not only allows us to reconnect with our past, but it throws open the entirety of Indian’s past literature and spirituality without the need of translations, and throws open to us a prospective future filled with Sanskrit literature. Let me actually show you how it works

Supposing you wished to describe a mundane event in your life

‘I was walking on the street in the morning when I saw the beautiful sight of a female-dog and her litter scurrying across the street.’

Let us say this in Sanskrit and see for ourselves what lies in store –

अद्य प्रातः काले कदा मार्गे चलन् आसं, एका अतिशोभना दृष्टि मया दृष्टा यस्यां एका सरमा स्वशिशुभिः सह मार्गं पारयन्ती आसीत् |

Now unlike English, I can jumble the word order in almost any way I please just to sound dramatic, poetic, emotional or pretty much anything –

अद्य प्रातः मया दृष्टा एका दृष्टि यस्यां सरमैका स्वशिशुभिर्सह मार्गं पारयन्ती आसीत् |

I can even join words (like I have done above and make shorter sentences) –

अतिशोभनैकादृष्टिदृष्टामया या मार्गपारयन्त्येकासरमायाः यास्वशिशुभिर्सहासीत् | – 4 big dramatic sounding words.

Now if I want to stress something like – ‘It was (indeed) today morning that I saw a dog cross the road with her pups,’ all I need to do is change the word order and voila –

अद्यमयाप्रातःदृष्टा मया स्वशिशुभिर्सह सरमैका मार्गपारयन्ती |

If I wish to say – ‘I SAW, the dog crossing the road with her pups –

मया दृष्टा अद्य प्रातः स्वशिशुभिः सरमैका |

If I want to get all dramatic and say – ‘And thus saw I a dog crossing the road with her pups –

दृष्टा मया सरमैका स्वशिशुभिः मार्गपारयन्ती |

Do you notice that all the while, in English, the effort I put in adding the dramatizing words is far more whereas in Sanskrit I need to just reorder the words? Moreover, when said in Sanskrit, the feeling is far greater. For instance, I could have replaced the word शोभना with चक्षुष्य which would have literally changed ‘beautiful’ to ‘pleasing to the eye.’ We notice that a simple word in Sanskrit has so much more impact than an entire phrase in English. To an Indian ear, the difference is huge indeed.

While this is one miniscule example from the top of my head, we realize the wondrous effect this can have on the listener and the speaker as well. As Sanskrit is a language that makes you to think a lot more in terms of case, word compounds, sentence ordering and choice of words, your brain will work way faster and will process thoughts in unorthodox and unconventional ways conceivable. Sanskrit is not only a must in terms of identity and beauty, but its bounteous complexity allows a speakers and a listener to have swifter than average minds. A simple sentence describing a dog crossing a road itself can have so many intricately beautiful ways of expression.

If one might ask as to what sets Sanskrit truly apart, it would be ‘root-words.’ A root word is a fundamental connotation based on which many words of related meanings can be generated. Let me illustrate with a simple example:

Take the root मा. This root refers to a connotation referring to ‘the passage of thought and the generation of intelligence.’ Let us generate words from this:

मातृ – mother. The mother is seen as a ‘generator of thought and intelligence’ which in the Vedic faith are the signs of life. Hence, the mother bears the unknown meaning of ‘a generator of intelligence’ ergo – a generator of life.

मातरो – One who has been mothered by <someone>. Examples – कुन्तिमातरो – mothered by Kunti. सिन्धुमातरो – mothered by the Sindhu.

मातरि – that which springs from a mother.

मातरिश्व – an epithet of Agni (fire) meaning ‘that which is born in the mother.’ The Vedas compare a new life to a kindled flame and hence, Agni is compared to a new born child and the converse as well.

मति – Thought. The mother’s position as a giver of thought and intelligence is a sign as to how intelligence is the symbol of free-willed life. Our ancestors actually put this much thought into making every word.

Likewise, the word for ‘father’ पितृ literally means ‘giver of food.’ After all, the man of the house is called a ‘bread winner’ for a reason. And this root पि can also be smartly morphed into many derivatives. The entirety of Sanskrit’s vocabulary is generated out of such root-words. From these seeds has grown the mighty tree of Sanskrit on whose branches all Indic languages can be found hanging like well ripened fruits.

Sanskrit is not just a language. It is a whole convention of thought, word and deed. In just a few words you can see how much thought has gone into making those words. Sanskrit goes beyond identity – it goes to intelligence. Such a language when spoken will breed a nation of intelligent people, wise people and above all – rooted people. If I could learn Sanskrit to a level wherein simple poetry is fairly easy for me, and to think that I learned it by just paying attention in school, I think with a good teacher, any Indian can learn Sanskrit.