Sanskrit – An experience

For most of us, the pandemic was an unforgettable period in our lives. Battling the deadly virus was tough on all of us, with many having to bear the loss of their near and dear ones. We feel the impact of this global pandemic on us till date, as it has altered, and in a few cases, totally transformed how the world works. While we can go on listing the harm that it has caused us, the pandemic also gave us a lot of personal time, away from the monotony of our everyday routine. Change can be hard, but also interesting, and this change intrigued me to learn a new language – Sanskrit, which I never would have found time for, otherwise.

Thanks to my sister who encouraged me to learn this noble language, I enrolled myself in an online class along with her. It was a beautiful memory we created together, bonding over our similar interests. In a way, learning with her took me back in time, giving me a sweet touch of nostalgia. It was quite a challenge to adapt to the online mode of learning, more so for the teachers. However, our tutor, Gowri Matha of Samskrita Bharati, did it so seamlessly with her selfless and dedicated teaching, even though she was unfamiliar with the online technology. This whole process of attending the various online lectures, working on activities etc., was an enriching experience, which gave me some insight into this treasure of a language, and I intend to share some of it here.

The history of Sanskrit starts with the Vedas. Hindus consider Sanskrit to be their ancestral tongue, and believe that it was used by the Hindu gods and afterwards by those who lived during the Vedic era to communicate. The Sanskrit grammarian Panini, who is regarded as the language's creator, provided the language with a thorough philosophy of phonetics, linguistics, and syllable structure. Vedic Sanskrit, which was used up until this time, gave way to Classical Sanskrit after Panini.

Our ancestors initially used word of mouth as a medium to preach the language. They acquainted it even more thoroughly in a scientific manner. In fact, it is likely that similar approaches were used in the development of the majority of the languages we use today. Firstly, the fundamental components of language, vowels and consonants, were categorized. This aids in the language's expansion and adaptation.

Sanskrit has a number of particularly distinctive sounds and syllables. Both in the Vedic and classical periods, these accents or tones in the Vedas and meters—the systematic arrangement of language in a series of rhythmic motions involving stressed and unstressed syllables—were crucial to the oral transmission of the language. Furthermore, they are essential components in the creation of a number of poetries in Sanskrit.

With their songs, plays, novels, literatures, children's stories, and other works, eminent Sanskrit intellectuals like Adikavi Valmiki, Kalidasa, Bhasa, Patanjali, Adi Sankaracharya, and many other scholars have played a significant role in preserving the language for future generations.

The Vedas, the oldest known literary works, are an incredible Sanskrit achievement. The Vedas, meaning "knowledge", are the repository of Indian philosophy, culture, and civilization. The four Vedas—Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda —approach nature as a Goddess, rather than as something tangible. The two great epics, Ramayana by Maharishi Valmiki and Mahabharata by Maharishi Vedavyasa, are encyclopedias of knowledge, containing a ton of valuable lessons and messages. Additionally, it is worth noting that Sanskrit has a significant connection to several branches of science, including astronomy, chemistry, medicine, engineering, and also mathematics.

According to some, Sanskrit is an Indo-Aryan or Indo Germanic language family, along with Greek, Latin, and other similar languages. In India and other countries like Germany, scholars employ Sanskrit as a form of expression. It is listed among the modern Indian languages in the Constitution of India. Sanskrit is thought to be a language that was created by the Gods, and has no beginning or end. It is eternal. Despite its depth and richness, a vast deal of Sanskrit literature remains unread and undiscovered. Even if we don't know it, we use a number of Sanskrit-derived phrases in our everyday conversations (in our own mother tongue). In order to maintain the significance of this language among our successors and subsequent generations, a lot more work needs to be done, both on an individual level, and as a society at large.

“Without the study of Samskrit, one cannot become a true Indian and a true learned man”

- Mahatma Gandhi

With this quote, I encourage everyone to celebrate the beauty of this profound language, and also appreciate non-profit institutions like Samskrita Bharati for working passionately on reviving Sanskrit and making it so easily accessible to everyone.

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