Sanskrit Across Cultures
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Sanskrit Across Cultures

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Item Code: NAW022
Author: Shashiprabha Kumar
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9788124604243
Pages: 262
Other Details: 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 550 gm
About the Book

Sanskrit may be said to be one of the oldest extant languages of the Indo- European group of languages. It is hailed as the memory of the human race and its earliest cultural history. No serious study of the world civilization and cultures of different countries will be possible without understanding Sanskrit as it evolved and influenced other languages of the world or bears association with them. This volume has articles that attempt such an understanding of the Sanskrit language.

Scholars trace the link of Sanskrit with various countries of the world and their cultures and languages. They throw light on Sanskrit grammar as recorded in Chinese works and contributions of Sanskrit to Chinese linguistics; on the many Sanskrit manuscripts available in Japan; and similarities and regular-. ities in the phonetic system, grammar and vocabulary of Sanskrit and Russian. They view links between Sanskrit and the Slavonic languages, German, English, Persian and the Indonesian languages, examining mutual borrowings. They explain the way translations from one language to another have affected preservation and dissemination of knowledge.

The articles, a result of meticulous study and marked by simplicity and clarity in expression, will be interesting and informative to a range of scholars of Indology.

About the Author

Shashiprabha Kumar is Professor and former Chairperson in the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is the author and editor of many books including Vaisesika Dargana mein Padartha-Niripana; Relevance of Indian Philosophy in Modern Context, Bharattyam Darsanam, Facets of Indian Philosophical Thought; Self, Society and Value; Kala-Iattva- Cintana and Veda as Word.


I consider it a great privilege to write this Foreword to welcome the new anthology on Sanskrit Across Cultures, which incorporates the lectures organized by the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University on the broad theme, "Sanskrit and World Languages." This anthology is a veritable symposium of far reaching multicultural and worldwide significance.

It was the Sanskrit language as the solar centre, which lit up the constellation of Indo-European languages and inaugurated a renaissance era of Comparative Philology and a comparative study of Indo-European languages. Sanskrit Across Cultures, edited by Dr Shashiprabha Kumar is a heartwarming attempt to revisit that renaissance in the study of comparative linguistics and to survey, update and take stock of the researches initially inspired and inaugurated by Sir William Jones whose intuitive and original contribution to Indology riveted on the common roots of Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages. After his arrival in India, Sir William Jones who was a barrister of the Middle Temple, a medieval Inn of Court in England of which I am privileged to be an Honorary Master and Bencher, struck gold when he found patent and palpable evidence of the common roots of Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages during his study of Sanskrit. He was a veritable genius in the field of linguistic sciences. During my long tour of diplomatic duty as India’s High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, I had the honour to plant a commemorative William Jones Tree in the heart of Legal London.

Sir William Jones encapsulated his conclusions in eloquent words, which I have often cited with pride and gratitude. He said, "The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine all the three without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists." That common source might perhaps have been vouchsafed to humanity in the form of Vedic Sanskrit and its other ancient folk and classical variants. It is in that context that this anthology beckons all scholars to trace the common roots and branches of Sanskrit and its cognate languages. The book celebrates linguistic kinship and gives us an interesting indicative atlas of human origins and migrations which constitute the rainbow reality of global diversities in human speech as also the intimate thread of unity which wove them together.

A language is the edifice of culture. It is a temple in which the soul of those who speak is enshrined. Sanskrit and other European and Indian languages which are rooted in or related to Sanskrit are the treasuries of human civilization, containing the manifold manifestations of human pedigrees of Civilization in its varied and variegated manifestations. The great philosopher Emerson’s cryptic remark is worth recalling. He said, "Language is the archives of history . . . it is fossil poetry." In that remark he linked the primordial antiquity of human expression and human civilization. Both in the Indian and the Greek traditions, Vac and Logos are sacred and are treated as gifts of God. It is probably in that sense that it was received by revelation that we refer to Sanskrit, the oldest language known to humanity as Deva-Vani. It is but natural that we in India who pride ourselves on our Sanskrit heritage and the way it fertilized human speech, that we should reflect on Sanskrit Across Cultures, particularly in the countries inhabited by the family of Indo-European languages and the countries which have had close cultural relations with India. Indeed that would lead to a better understanding of Sanskrit as a language, as a culture and as a catalyst. Sanskrit is by common consent, and verily indisputably the memory of the human race and its cultural history. It is the amber in which a million golden nuggets of thought have been embedded, refined, preserved and disseminated across cultures.

There can be no serious study of world civilization and the cultures of different countries of the world without the study of their languages. Nor can those languages and their structures and origins be understood without understanding Sanskrit in India and Across Cultures. That is why the study of Sanskrit is central to the study of world civilization and the multicultural world in which we live. This anthology initiates the process of survey, exploration and analysis. In the journey of languages and cultures, more specially the voyage of Sanskrit in different parts of the world, I consider this anthology a modest but significant and sagacious beginning with a mighty potential. I warmly congratulate the contributing authors and the editor Dr Shashiprabha Kumar.


THE Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU has been celebrating Sanskrit Week since 2002 and organizing a series of lectures under the programme. In the year 2005, it was decided that a specific theme be chosen for the purpose, so that the lectures could be published later on and provide reading material to the students of the Centre.

Since an M.Phil. course titled "Sanskrit Across Cultures" was offered by me in the Monsoon Semester, 2006, hence it was decided to organize a series of lectures on "Sanskrit and World Languages" under the Sanskrit Week Programme, 2006. But after the lectures were over and the written papers were received, it was felt that the speakers had not dealt with the theme from a linguistic angle only; they had rather discussed it from a wider cross-cultural perspective. Therefore, it was deemed fit to title the volume in its present form.

The volume in hand is basically a collection of articles presented by the eminent speakers in the above programme. There are, of course, two articles which have been borrowed from already published books or journals. "Sanskrit in Indonesia" by J. Gonda is one of those articles borrowed from a volume of the same name published by International Academy of Indian Culture, New Delhi. Another article, "Sanskrit and Arabic" was originally published in Gagandfcal, a Hindi magazine of Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi. It has been got translated in English and incorporated here, for it was deemed that this would add to the thematic value of the book. The third article added in the volume later on is "Sanskrit and Persian" which has been contributed by a senior reader in Sanskrit who is currently pursuing a second PhD on this very topic. Last, but not the least, an exhaustive paper by a Greek scholar entitled "Greek Logos and Vedic Vac : Creative Power" is included in this volume since this highlights a very significant aspect which was left uncovered in the volume.


The first article in this volume is written by Prof. Saroj Kumar Choudhuri. The learned author has brought out valuable information on Sanskrit Grammar recorded in Chinese works and contributions of Sanskrit to Chinese linguistics, particularly in the area of phonetics, which is the main thrust of his paper.

Dr Shashibala in her article on "Sanskrit and Japan" has highlighted the vast quantities of Buddhist manuscripts written in Sanskrit which are available in Japan. She has shown that a rich literary treasure of Sanskrit literature consisting of dharanis, tantras, siitras and other texts has been kept in Japan for nearly 1400 years. She has exhibited through calligraphic details that Sanskrit manuscripts in Japan were written in Gupta script, Sarada script and Siddham script.

The next article "Sanskrit and Russian" has been penned by Prof. Hem Chandra Pande and Anubha Shukla wherein similarities and regularities in the phonetic system, grammar and vocabulary of these two languages have been discussed. Further, phonetic correspondences of Sanskrit and Russian as well as common vocabulary of the two languages have been shown.

Prof. Satya Vrat Shastri, in his paper entitled "Sanskritic Vocabulary of South-East Asia," which is small in size but rich in content, has highlighted the wide prevalence of Sanskrit in the vast stretches of South-East Asia. Citing numerous examples from and showing their equivalents in Malay, Thai, Lao, Cambodian and Indonesian vocabulary, the learned author has concluded that the absorption and assimilation of Sanskrit must have been a gradual process spanning several centuries of acculturation.

Prof. Lokesh Chandra in his comprehensive paper entitled "Sanskrit in the Renaissance of European Languages" has propounded that Sanskrit was the discovery of the primal soul of Europe, the discovery of her deeps. With the study of Sanskrit, dictionaries of European languages were taken up on historical principles. He concludes by saying that the Modern Civilization again needs the aroma of Sanskrit.

Dr MLK. Byrski, in his article titled "A Preliminary Search for the Common ‘Deoxyribonucleic Acid’ of Indo-European Civilizations," has argued that although there is a prevalent opinion among the comparative linguists that Slavonic languages cannot be simply compared with Sanskrit, yet we should consider the fact that there most probably existed a Proto-Indo-European language. Accordingly he proposes to conduct two types of comparisons: riipavada and arthavada and demonstrates how this type of analysis helps immensely in better understanding not only the many terms but also the accounts of a special feeling of kinsmanship between Indians and Slavs.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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