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The article is quite thought provoking for those who have a feel for the language. But the problems highlighted is the general decadence of values, satisfaction of most at the shallow levels, and lack of aspiration to scale high, with the necessary equipment. This is a challenge for those who realize the present tragedy, especially created by the philosophy of education termed job orientated. A rare gift of outstanding capabilities manifesting in an individual, which has to be recognized and promoted as nature's gift to entire humanity through centers of excellence and was done so in the past by discerning Royal wisdom, is presently privatized and sold for money. There has to be a way out for every problem and the present fast track method of HRD ministry has provoked many like the author to question the competence of those who are directing the domain of education in the country. Everything begins with the probing thoughts emerging from ultimate silence. Well begun !?
Very well written article. Our education system needs a revamping. Critical thinking in students needs to be promoted rather than pushing readymade ideas down their throats. Sanskrit was killed by the very keepers of the language by eliminating certain sections of society namely women and lower castes from learning it. It is just a high marks securing language in exams not a language spoken by masses. Instead of just promoting it in schools how about giving some respect to people who know the language rather than sneer at them. In India, english speaking dailies are given more importance and respect than hindi or other regional language dailies or magazines. Changes cannot just be made in school and not in real world. Sanskrit today is used as emotional language than the language of any use.
Dear Sanskrit,what will you do in such a culture, you ask? Inspire this culture and show that there is a different way of thinking buried in an ancient language, its concepts and figures of thought, thus enrich our present day understanding of the world, and provide us with ancient but perhaps still valid approaches for interpreting the world. Just show us a different way of thinking! It is very much needed, not only in India. Please do not be discouraged by all these politics, keep going, there is no need for you to hide. I wish you a speedy recovery, in India and in the rest of the world.
I tried responding to this article in Sanskrit and my comment was deleted. How ironic is that? I also commented on the deletion of my comment and that comment was deleted. Probably this will be deleted as well. Just so long as we don't discuss Sanskrit in Sanskrit apparently.
very good article… Beppe Sebaste
A praiseworthy article. Sanskrit needs to be freed from the clutches of orthodoxy and obscurantism. Countrywide discussions involving students, academicians, linguists, litterateurs last but not the least computer scientists should be undertaken to infuse fresh air into the curriculum of sanskrit.
And we are having all the debates and conversations in English! Cool!
I replied to you in Sanskrit and my comment was deleted. I also posted a comment in Sanskrit and it was deleted. Make of that what you will.
Meaningless / Wasteful controversies continue to be created - may be by well-meaning personsHow else can we think of Gita as a " National Book " whereas its true nature transcends all national boundaries and encompasses entire mankind ?
If better theories or histories or metaphors are unavailable for grasping thebroadWirkungsgeschichteof a cultural form like Sanskrit, this is all the morethe case in trying to distinguish among its constituent parts, and their effectsand histories. Consider the history of the Sanskrit knowledge-systems. The twocenturies before European colonialism decisively established itself in the sub-continent around 1750 constitute one of the most innovative epochs of Sanskritsystematic thought (in language analysis, logic, hermeneutics, moral-legal phi-losophy, and the rest). Thinkers produced new formulations of old problems, inentirely new discursive idioms, in what were often new scholarly genres em-ploying often a new historicist framework; some even called themselves (or,
works in English or Hindi on Sanskrit culture, while the first literary text hon-ored was a book of pattern poems (citrakāvya), an almost metaliterary genreentirely unintelligible without specialized training.Such disparities between political inputs and cultural outcomes could be de-tailed across the board. What it all demonstrates—the Sanskrit periodicals andjournals, feature films and daily newscasts on All-India Radio, school plays,prize poems, and the rest—may be too obvious to mention: that Sanskrit as acommunicative medium in contemporary India is completely denaturalized. Itscultivation constitutes largely an exercise in nostalgia for those directly in-volved, and, for outsiders, a source of bemusement that such communicationtakes place at all. Government feeding tubes and oxygen tanks may try to pre-serve the language in a state of quasi-animation, but most observers wouldagree that, in some crucial way, Sanskrit is dead.Although we often speak of languages as being dead, the metaphor is mis-leading, suggesting biologistic or evolutionary beliefs about cultural changethat are deeply flawed.
Sanskrit is a dead language. Repeat after me, Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta.
...and I am Sid Harth
1This anxiety has a longer and rather melancholy history in independent In-dia, far antedating the rise of the BJP. Sanskrit was introduced into the EighthSchedule of the Constitution of India (1949) as a recognized language of thenew State of India, ensuring it all the benefits accorded the other fourteen (nowseventeen) spoken languages listed. This status largely meant funding for San-skrit colleges and universities, and for a national organization to stimulate thestudy of the language. With few exceptions, however, the Sanskrit pedagogyand scholarship at these institutions have shown a precipitous decline from pre-Independence quality and standards, almost in inverse proportion to the amountof funding they receive. Sanskrit literature has fared no better. From the timeof its founding in 1955, the Sahitya Akademi (National Academy of Letters)has awarded prizes in Sanskrit literature as one of the twenty-two officially ac-knowledged literary languages. But the first five of these awards were given for3920010-4175/01/392– 426 $9.50 © 2001 Society for Comparative Study of Society and History*I am grateful to Allison Busch and Lawrence McCrea, both of the University of Chicago, for theircritical reading of this essay
I would learn the language, Try Samskrita Bharati. They run an excellent program in Bangalore and have beginner level youtube videos to get you warmed up. Try Chinmaya Mission's Samskrita distance courses, they go a bit deeper and require more time and rigorous study.
I understand Mr.Mehta's point of view on the language. Here are my two bits. Those who have access and want to learn, should learn. Universities, specially, in the languages and humanities section are pretty pathetic. Search and find the course online and start. I go to a nearby temple to clarify my doubts from the priests.
The mahants and priests also realize that Samskrita needs to be mainstreamed and do help people willing to learn. This SC/ST and Bhraman divide is slowly dying. If Samskrita is picked up by many we can create a critical mass to carry it through.
Learn the language and stop complaining my friends and do it when you have the time. Without well nourished roots, the tree cannot survive. Do your bit.
I am Sanskrit. Thank you Pratap for killing me with your false concern.
I don't really understand the politics of Sanskrit in India - the Hindutva and post-colonialism and all that. But having studied Sanskrit and attempting to read Sanskrit texts on my own now, I find the stuff said about this language bizarre. For example that it is "precise". It just isn't. Or at least as a language it is not more precise than any language; and in many respects less so than English. When declensions begin to merge or there is loss of semantic distinction between morphological forms for example, there is built in confusion. Sanskrit literature is *very* often ambiguous and some of the ancient texts can no longer be fully understood because of this. I've been in seminars with world experts arguing over what a passage means and failing to agree.
It's not so much a fault of the language, since all languages are inherently ambiguous to some extent. It's the authors. Some Sanskrit literature is just badly written - an unfortunately large proportion of the texts that interest me are very poor. Popular none-the-less. Of course some of it is sublime as well - depending on your taste. I find the Bhagavadgīta to be an appalling text, but some people love it.
But all this stuff about the language of the gods is really unhelpful. It's just another human language with all the flaws of other human languages. The literature is a mix of silly and profound, like other bodies of literature. Perhaps if more people could see what Sanskrit texts are really like, see the scribal errors and appalling handwriting, the poor meter and strange choice of words and so on, all the flaws, they might be less inclined to buy into the myths and legends?
I've just spent the best part of two days trying to unravel a very badly written paragraph in Sanskrit accompanied by a poor translation into English that misleads as often as it illuminates. It's barely comprehensible part of a celebrated Buddhist text. Perhaps if more of the people commenting on the language had a similar experience the discussion would go in a different direction?
But given that there are many thousands of texts that need studying using modern methods I really hope that India decides to keep Sanskrit alive. Because our Western masters don't give a shit. Funding for research on Indian literature is getting harder to find in the West. If Indian doesn't care for it's own history they might lose it. The manuscripts have a very limited life time. If not carefully transcribed and edited. the texts will be lost as thousands already have been.
Let us wait for 5 years......And, observe the tangible results :-1. Will anybody carry out any practical transaction in Sanskrit 2. Will the PM or HRD minister speak even 5 sentence in public in Sanskrit 3. Will any coding or application be usefully developed in Sanskrit 4. How many citizens would benefit by way of employment from Sanskrit
That will be real achievement of banning GERMAN & making Sanskrit compulsory !
Once you learn to rabble rouse in the Anglo- American lingo, you are self-certified "knower of all". This syndrome can be readily recognised to be the author's ailment as evident from his outpourings.
First, it was Smriti's Sanskrit. Then came Bhagwat's 3Gs. Now it is Sushma's scriptures. (The less we talk about Jyoti's thoughts or vernacular, the better). I thought these guys wanted to develop the country economically at a fast clip. When did they say, first of all they would have to tackle the long neglected cultural issues? The revival of Sanskrit, the worship of cow, and the super imposition of scriptures dear to me (or them) over others? Would someone enlighten me, please? Did I miss something? I was gung-ho for Mr Modi's election only because I understood him to be referring to the economic buildup of the country - nonstop. My entire being, even my narrow, parochial instincts, were okay with it because somewhere within me I felt that at least 80 percent of the gain would go to my coreligionists. Excuse me, but I do not remember signing for this daily doze of distractions or controversies. The grind of life for us commoners takes up all of our time handling mundane chores of making a living and looking after our families. As anyone can see, that leaves us little or no time for the higher (or the lower) pursuits of culture. For me, I'm happy to leave these things to the better care of the wise academia and the Brahmans of Banaras, and our uber guardians of Nagpur. A government that publicly swears by the constitution must stay within its bounds.
Arun K. Chhabra, Attorney-at-law, Washington, DC, USA
Excellent article by PBM. As expected Bhakts can't understand it, and the author's lament (about Sanskrit's supporters) is proved true!
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, for all his hoity-toity pretentiousness, writes a 'chaalu' piece and squarely lands himself in the Pollockian westernized-secularist-liberal camp. QUOTE:"Butin all fairness, this has to be said: I somehow felt safer under the patronageof the Mughals, or even the British, than I do at the hands of my benevolentdefenders in democratic India" . Does he mean himself & his ilk, I hope so....
This is a truly brilliant piece. Self-appointed protectors of Hindu thought will naturally spring to attack even this kind of writing. I say 'naturally' because they continue to ignore the tremendous complexity in the layers of history of our country -- beginning from the Aryan invasion down to the freedom movement, they simply do not get their history right. This weakness in itself is enough for any serious man of letters to ignore their clamour.
Mehta is not only spot on as far as the true position of Sanskrit in the minds of its supposed champions and its haters, but is also right about it being dead for all practical purposes...
What was the last scientific text written or translated in Sanskrit? Why do we have to stumble upon a Ganapati Muni or an Arjunwadkar in a dusty old tome rather than them being the manifest celebration of what is possibly the longest surviving human tongue? Is this not the fault entirely of its custodians given that they always had the freedom, like their opponents, to shape the perceptions of Sanskrit as far as they could and yet failed abysmally?
At the very least, if the self-appointed custodians want to continue to claim that "everything is in our ancient scriptures", they will have to back it up with evidence -- they do not even make the efforts to come up with flimsy evidence, such is the thorough lack of any element of the Brahminical intellect they claim to uphold.
Thank you, Dr. Mehta, for this wonderful and illuminating piece.
brilliant take on both sides of the coin.
This article just wasted my time with its most useless & incorrect rantings. Imagine the mental illness of a person impersonating a language that is integral to the largest democracy on earth & them acting AS IF he speaks for a language (as if a language is a human).
Lunacy to the core. Once again, thanks for wasting my time.
If u found this article a waste of time I seriously doubt if your time can be put to any productive use at all to begin with. So what u hv wasted is useless anway.
The economy remains sluggish, despite the enormous windfall of lower oil and commodity prices. If the eye is taken off it, paying obeisance to social and cultural issues that have passed into history aeons ago, voters will get restive.
What you call as economic problems are reflections of social and cultural maladies created by crooks running their economic and political agenda. Bhutan has adopted Human happiness index to measure progress.We are still stuck with GDP as a measure which will show cancel as growth and lean and fit body as underfed.
And you expected economy to overtake that of USA within a few months, what you NEVER demanded from other governments in 67 years?
In this short time, the improvements that have happened considering the economic gloom that was predicted, is nothing short of Amazing.
You had six years before ..... Forget USA ..... Did you even overtake Sri Lanka per capita wise that time ..???/
Improvements????? You should read Arun Shourie's interview in the same paper, its been a lot of talk and not much action! And that is the observation of every neutral observer. They say its the tortoise pace of 'reform' which has been amazing, after all the tall talk!
Irrelevant to d current debate
PBM simply vomiting something. Don't even know if PMB reviewed what he wrote once. Does he know what factors constitute a living language. there are 6 factors and Sanskrit meets all of them. Sanskrit has more speakers than some of the so called living languages of the world
Well conceived master piece from Mr. Mehta. It is the true state of this world's mind or is it true state of impoverished or soulless SOUL? Indians have to change their mindset about Sanskrit. Yes, we were ruled by foreign invaders. But now we are now ruled by our own people. Britisher's system suited their needs. We should not have followed it all. We must have adopted Sanskrit as national link language. Sanskrit gives energy to the body and soul, it is vibrant, it is simple, and Sanskrit is the mother of all Indian languages. What is not there in Sanskrit? Every Indian wakes up and the first act is to listen to the great suprabhatham or divine songs. The legendary carnatic singer, the great Bharat Ratna sung so many divine hymns in Sanskrit. Her proficiency in Sanskrit produced great songs in other languages also. The same state from where she had come, opposes Sanskrit. It is very unfortunate. In the life of nation 67 years is nothing. It is high time we change our language policy.
I am Sanskrit, and I feel the need to gargle out my throat and ears after listening to this imposter trying to assume my identity. I am not dead or dying, I live in countless hearts and minds and souls. I am their breath of life. You will not know them, but they are there and they are many. They sustain me, and I sustain them. You will not find me in too many universities, as they ceased to be centres of education and culture a long time ago. You will not find me in English periodicals and newspapers for we concern ourselves with different things. But I am always there, everywhere. Sometimes a child hears my breath and stands still for a moment, wonderstruck; he comes closer, driven by curiosity; he takes a step nearer, he reaches out; he gets a glimpse of beauty, magic, and inexhaustible treasure; for every step he takes towards me, I reward him with all that his mind can handle; and as he turns more of his time and attention to knowing me, he sees more and more that he can understand. This child can be ten, twenty, or seventy years old. Everyone who comes to me is my child, and I am their ancient mother. I demand no one's time and love, but should you choose to follow my thousand-hued rainbow, you would find yourself in the lap of an incorporeal mother whose every word is a soothing caress and bears the ring of truth and beauty. I sing, I roar, I laugh, I declaim, proclaim, exclaim, reclaim, I teach, preach, reach, search, surge, lurge, scourge, merge and break away. Nothing can contain me or define me, for I am and will always be the living Word. The ragged throng of right and wrong and left and right are immaterial and fall away, for I alone remain.
The same applies to our classical music as well. Than you.
I read until I reached this
"But in all fairness, this has to be said: I somehow felt safer under the patronage of the Mughals"
After which I decided it was time instead to teach a triangle had 4 edges to children; that would be more correct
powerful stuff...deep and moving. Perhaps Mehta's best
Of all the gifts that the almighty has endowed on mankind, the ability to write well is surely the greatest. Mr. Mehta is a truly gifted individual with a sharp mind and an enormous ability with words.
I have to say only your articles stands out with the opinion section of the NYT , The guardian ,The washington post ..you always challenge and deconstruct any hypothesis with your lucid (though it never seems ) arguments ..
Over the entire history of mankind, numerous languages were born and have passed away, due to myriad reasons. It is upto passionate individuals, and not the entire society, to indulge in the learning of such extinct or endangered topics. Not only is it puerile to compare languages and adjudge one to be the greatest, it is also impractical to keep a language forcefully alive.
It has always been a great experience reading you. Your ability to remember minute details (for example: thought of Dara Shikoh and innovation in the mathematics of the Namboodiris to the brilliant innovations in logic in places now long forgotten, like Nabadwip) and present them in right perspective really amazes me. In that respect, you are Sanskrit except that the language has 'assumed more ghostly forms'! Please keep enlightening us.
Just see the tragedy of this great language, this very...to the point column and the comments (except few saffron Satanists), which'll start very soon including mine is communicating or presenting in other language. But one thing I would like to say, we are slowing becoming importer of all languages of the world and others are exporters.This trade (language & culture) imbalance on the name of "Economic, Trade & Commerce" or ETC is how much good for the health of Art & Culture of any country is very much visible in a recent report which highlighted So-called Communist regime in PRC and their high volume of investment in Research,Development & Export of Ancient Chinese Art & Mandarin language to across globe( I hope all Indian version of Communist from; CP-I, CP(M), CPI(M)......CPI(Z) is watching this Communist game on our head.
In a way Pratap Bhanu Mehtas writings increasingly reflect the dilemma being faced by some neo-bhakts who were thought to be secular but then changed over to the NaMo camp.
These neo-bhakts by now know that NaMo has taken them all for a royal ride through his fake development agenda. But then if they suddenly make a u-turn and start attacking the incompetence and fanaticism of the new dispensation, then they would face more attacks from the hindutva supporters.
And writers like him have no place in the secular firmament either. A liberal like me is never going to accept him as a fellow liberal because he is too deep amongst the hindutva crowd..
So simmer and suffer in your trishank world, mr mehta!
More load of pathetic nonsense about Sanskrit, from people who cant say a sentence in Sanskrit. The line "i fear more from supporters than attackers" shows only your insecurity. Its because of the communists or half-baked liberals like you entire generations have been brain-washed into so called secularism. The "sanskritam culture" is still alive where it needs to be alive. You are looking from the elite media lens, obviously you dont see it and because of that you are generalizing the whole culture. If you are really sincere about Sanskritam revival, go learn it.
LOL. You just proved what Mr. Mehta said in the article. Sanskrut has become a weapon in political fights between liberals and conservatives. How can you just assume that a communist or a so-called secular does not care about Sanskrut? What has Sanskrut to do with liberalism / conservatism / secularism / pseudo secularism? You fell into the same trap man. LOLI don't know how Sanskrut became language of gods. But that is how its decline started. If its language of gods, then whose gods? If Hindu gods, then why bother learning if I am not Hindu? and if i don't believe in gods then why bother once again?
Sanskrut is a beautiful language which needs to become relevant in current times by being more open and not by shoving down peoples' throats. By being open I mean understanding/accepting its limits and overcome them by experimenting with grammar and vocabulary. But all this is very unglamourous. So......back to using Sanskrut as a weapon. LOL