Skip to comments.Hindu Nationalists Renew Push for Sanskrit
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."
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.
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.
Sanskrit is also close to the root language that English, Greek, and Latin descended from.
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.
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.
well, Modern English is fairly new :) — a mongrel language with a mix of Romance and Germanic.
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.
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!
“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...”
well, Modi has been in power for a few weeks, they can’t change the prices in such a short time
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.
but with the Iraq trouble, oil prices are up. This pushes up the prices overall
New Hotel registration form
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.
I believe the closest living relative to Sanskrit is Lithuanian: very simple sentences are more or less identical.
I would assume that holds true only for Indo-European languages.
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.
>> 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.