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Hindu Nationalists Renew Push for Sanskrit
NDTV.com ^ | June 18, 2014 | Ellen Barry

Posted on 06/17/2014 11:27:33 PM PDT by Cronos

The Indian government's National Sanskrit Institute, whose headquarters are in a run-down section of western New Delhi, has the hallmarks of a long-neglected state project.

Unattached electrical wires dangle down its facade, and one of its senior scholars, Ramakant Pandey, greeted a recent visitor in a fluorescent-lighted office, his mouth stained red with paan, the Hindi word for the betel leaf mixture chewed throughout Asia.

It felt like an office that did not receive many visitors. Still, Pandey was not downhearted.

"Good times are coming," he said.

This summer signals a changing of the guard, as a new group of elites led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi set themselves up in government-issued bungalows in the capital, displacing the Anglophone intelligentsia clustered around the Indian National Congress.

It is unclear what this means for the fabric of high society in New Delhi, with its golf links and polo tournaments. But one project almost certain to benefit is the teaching of Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Brahmin scholars, an effort that has been ignored by the Congress and promoted by the Hindu right wing.

"This government will help Sanskrit, we know that," Pandey said. "They are traditional people - they love literature, they love culture."

"And Modi-ji is a traditional prime minister," he added, using a Hindi honorific.

Many linguists view these efforts skeptically, noting that even in Sanskrit's heyday, about 1,500 years ago, it was primarily used by Brahmin intellectuals as a language of scholarly discourse and never served as a mother tongue. In the most recent census, only 50,000 Indians described Sanskrit as their first language - more than the 14,000 that gave that answer in 2001, but still less than 0.01 percent of the population of an estimated 1.2 billion people.

This has not quenched the enthusiasm of Hindu nationalists, who see the language as a link to an ancient, homegrown civilization swept away by Persian-speaking Muslim emperors and English-speaking British viceroys. Early independence leaders had hoped to phase out English as an official language, but that provoked widespread protests in the country's south, where Hindi is not widely spoken.

To this day, bursts of resistance to English percolate though Hindu-right circles. Last summer, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Rajnath Singh, was quoted as saying that English "had caused a great loss to the country," and that "there are hardly any people who speak Sanskrit now."

Revivalists have taken some unusual steps in an attempt to bring Sanskrit into daily usage, like raising their children in Sanskrit-only households and using the scholarly language in pop-culture genres.

This movement emerged again early this month, when newly elected members of Parliament were taking their oath of office. The foreign minister took her oath in Sanskrit, followed by at least two dozen others. Modi himself sometimes prefers to avoid speaking English despite his proficiency, addressing foreign leaders in Hindi in the presence of a translator. In late May, there had been rumors that he would go a step further and take his oath of office in Sanskrit.

Rakesh Kumar Misra, who edits a weekly Sanskrit newspaper in New Delhi, said that in the days before the ceremony, he had prepared a full draft of Modi's oath to be published on the occasion.
But in the end, Misra said, Modi stuck with Hindi.

"It would have been a great boost for Sanskrit," Misra said. "He must have decided that it was more important to bind everyone together."


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS:
I wonder if they can revive a dead language -- after all Israelis made Hebrew thriving again. We should do the same for Latin
1 posted on 06/17/2014 11:27:33 PM PDT by Cronos
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To: Cronos

Classical Latin is a dead language. It was considered ornate and artificial even by the Romans. All living Romance languages are descended from the vulgar Latin, the popular speech of Rome.


2 posted on 06/17/2014 11:30:28 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop

True. But Classical Latin with it’s multiple cases (like the Slavic languages) helps you learn any of the Romance languages (or Slavic languages or Germanic — as they borrow a lot from Latin and it also helps an English speaker understand the use of cases: Locative, Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Vocative and Instrumental.


3 posted on 06/17/2014 11:51:39 PM PDT by Cronos (Obama’s dislike of Assad is not based on Assad’s brutality but that he isn't a jihadi Moslem)
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To: goldstategop; Cronos

Sanskrit is also close to the root language that English, Greek, and Latin descended from.


4 posted on 06/18/2014 12:08:09 AM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: Cronos

Modi’s government is turning out to be just as much of a disaster for India as Obama’s is for the US. Ever since they took power, prices for staple foods have climbed steeply, as has fuel. Power has become more erratic, particularly for the Capital. To make matters worse, the Modi government is blocking the news agencies from reporting on the outages now. Suppression of information is never a good sign.


5 posted on 06/18/2014 12:13:22 AM PDT by Little Pig
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Comment #6 Removed by Moderator

To: Cronos

Sanskrit is such a precise language that it is being studied for use as a universal translator, i.e. language 1 into Sanskrit and then out into language 2. While this can be done with any language, when it is done using Sanskrit as the intermediary the results are extremely accurate.


7 posted on 06/18/2014 12:41:34 AM PDT by Talisker (One who commands, must obey.)
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To: nickcarraway

well, Modern English is fairly new :) — a mongrel language with a mix of Romance and Germanic.


8 posted on 06/18/2014 2:25:14 AM PDT by Cronos (Obama’s dislike of Assad is not based on Assad’s brutality but that he isn't a jihadi Moslem)
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To: Cronos

The pre-Classical form of Sanskrit is known as Vedic Sanskrit, with the language of the Rigveda being the oldest and most archaic stage preserved, its oldest core dating back to as early as 1700 BCE. This qualifies Rigvedic Sanskrit as one of the oldest attestations of any Indo-Iranian language, and one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European languages, the family which includes English and most European languages.

It has been my desire for over twenty years to learn this language. Don’t know why! I have several books on it and even a set of language tapes. It’s on my long “To Do” list before I am relegated to pushing posies.


9 posted on 06/18/2014 3:23:53 AM PDT by tired&retired
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To: tired&retired

Sanskrit must be to written language what Assembler is to computer languages. It was the worst programming course I ever had as it was all on 80 column punched cards back in the seventies. One simple program would be a deck of cards several feet thick. If you dropped the deck it brought tears!


10 posted on 06/18/2014 3:30:32 AM PDT by tired&retired
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To: Cronos

“In the most recent census, only 50,000 Indians described Sanskrit as their first language...”

Found this interesting.

How many folks in Athens still speak Attic Greek; how many Italians speak Latin in the home?

Possibly, then, this sentence should read: “In the most recent census, an amazing 50,000 Indians described Sanskrit as their first language...”


11 posted on 06/18/2014 3:41:59 AM PDT by Jack Hammer
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To: Little Pig

well, Modi has been in power for a few weeks, they can’t change the prices in such a short time


12 posted on 06/18/2014 3:52:03 AM PDT by Cronos (Obama’s dislike of Assad is not based on Assad’s brutality but that he isn't a jihadi Moslem)
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To: Cronos

But that’s my point. The prices *have* changed. They’ve climbed significantly, just in that month since he took power. What’s worse is, the subsidized prices for the poor, so they can buy rice and other low-cost staples, have also climbed, or in some cases, the subsidies have been rescinded, so the poor are getting hammered.


13 posted on 06/18/2014 4:13:48 AM PDT by Little Pig
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To: Little Pig

but with the Iraq trouble, oil prices are up. This pushes up the prices overall


14 posted on 06/18/2014 4:38:53 AM PDT by Cronos (Obama’s dislike of Assad is not based on Assad’s brutality but that he isn't a jihadi Moslem)
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To: Cronos

New Hotel registration form

15 posted on 06/18/2014 4:43:11 AM PDT by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... History is a process, not an event)
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To: Cronos

If English is phased out as an official language then kiss all the outsourcing work good bye. Hard to have call centers in India if the person is talking Sanskrit instead of English, hee hee. This is like Egypt calling for a revivial of hieroglyphs. Sanskirt like Egyptian hieroglyphs was the language of a tiny elite.


16 posted on 06/18/2014 5:14:18 AM PDT by C19fan
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To: nickcarraway

I believe the closest living relative to Sanskrit is Lithuanian: very simple sentences are more or less identical.


17 posted on 06/18/2014 6:29:54 AM PDT by pierrem15 (Claudius: "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.")
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To: Talisker

I would assume that holds true only for Indo-European languages.


18 posted on 06/18/2014 6:30:43 AM PDT by pierrem15 (Claudius: "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.")
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To: Cronos
If it hadn't been for the Viking invasion, modern English would probably be almost identical to Dutch or Flemish.

Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon were almost completely mutually intelligible, except in the use of certain case endings. Because of this, speakers started using prepositions to make themselves clear and stopped using the case endings, so the language simplified greatly over time. The same phenomenon has occurred in certain Norwegian dialects that are no longer mutually intelligible with the two main dialects.

19 posted on 06/18/2014 6:34:31 AM PDT by pierrem15 (Claudius: "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.")
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To: Cronos

>> We should do the same for Latin <<

Not me. As a descendant of various British peoples, I’d prefer that we start using Anglo-Saxon.


20 posted on 06/18/2014 6:58:44 AM PDT by Hawthorn
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To: pierrem15
I would assume that holds true only for Indo-European languages.

I'm not sure, but it doesn't seem that it would be so restricted to me. It's not so much the link to modern languages, but the fineness or granularity of the linguistic specificity innate in Sanskrit that gives it this translation precision. Thus, as long as linguistic specificity can be determined for the source language, whether Chinese, Japanese or anything else, those interpretive rules would find a corollary in Sanskrit and therefore be mappable to (apparently) a higher degree of accuracy than what is otherwise available in related systems.

21 posted on 06/18/2014 8:54:33 AM PDT by Talisker (One who commands, must obey.)
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To: pierrem15
I believe the closest living relative to Sanskrit is Lithuanian: very simple sentences are more or less identical.

LOL, what nonsense.

22 posted on 06/18/2014 9:03:11 AM PDT by Talisker (One who commands, must obey.)
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To: Cronos

I took three years of Latin in Jr. High and then Spanish in college. Latin has helped me with English and Spanish.


23 posted on 06/18/2014 2:27:25 PM PDT by manic4organic (It was nice knowing you, America.)
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To: Cronos

Even in places like Iceland, Latin was used into the 1800’s. So good luck to them in India with Sanskrit, and good luck to places like the Vatican where the ATM’s have the option of using Latin, and where students from all over the world go to summer courses in spoken Latin.


24 posted on 06/18/2014 3:21:11 PM PDT by OldNewYork
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To: Hawthorn

You mean the language of Beowulf?


25 posted on 06/18/2014 9:56:20 PM PDT by Cronos (Obama’s dislike of Assad is not based on Assad’s brutality but that he isn't a jihadi Moslem)
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To: tired&retired

Me too, I really got interested while learning polish. I gradually moved from no cases, simplified grammar in English, through French, German and now polish. I realize now that if I had learnt Latin in my youth,the other languages would have been simpler to pick up


26 posted on 06/18/2014 10:00:19 PM PDT by Cronos (Obama’s dislike of Assad is not based on Assad’s brutality but that he isn't a jihadi Moslem)
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To: C19fan

I doubt English would be removed as its the only way for indo-European and Dravidian speakers to communicate. What could be proposed is for Hindi to be downgraded from official to natinonal. India has two official languages: English and Hindi and 25 national languages (with more than 10 million speakers


27 posted on 06/18/2014 10:05:10 PM PDT by Cronos (Obama’s dislike of Assad is not based on Assad’s brutality but that he isn't a jihadi Moslem)
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To: Cronos

>> You mean the language of Beowulf? <<

Absolutemente correcto!


28 posted on 06/19/2014 6:00:03 AM PDT by Hawthorn
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