"If I was asked what is the greatest treasure which India possesses and what is her finest heritage, I would answer unhesitatingly - it is the Sanskrit language and literature and all that it containssaid Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India.
Sanskrit is indeed a beautiful and a wonderful language. Known as Devabhasha or the language of the gods, admired greatly by scholars from all over the world, its very name means "refined" orsculpted to perfection". We see here Sanskrit in its manifold aspects - the perfection of its grammar, some interesting and amazing creations which border on the unbelievable, and the charm and beauty of its poetry. We look at it as a source of upliftment and enlightenment, as a sacred medium for expressing the highest spiritual truths and experiences.We try to understand its importance for India and the world and how the Soul of India has expressed itself through it for centuries. This book reveals the many wonders of Sanskrit as a living experience and has something for all - whether a scholar deeply immersed in it or someone who has had no previous contact with it.
Sampad (Sampadananda Mishra, PhD) is passionate about Sanskrit. As a part of his work he keeps exploring, through his research, many wonders and splendours of Sanskrit and shares his experience with others through workshops, lectures, writings etc. He strongly believes that Sanskrit has immense potentiality to elevate the human consciousness to sublime heights.
Vijay, a lover and admirer of Sanskrit, had his entire education at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Puducherry. He is a member of the Ashram and Chairman of the Sri Aurobindo Institute of Research in Social Sciences, a research and training wing of Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry.
Let it be known right at the outset that this book is not written by a scholar and furthermore is not meant for scholars. I have never studied Sanskrit in a systematic manner or in great depth, but it has always held a strange fascination for me. I have enjoyed listening to its sound, for even if one does not understand Sanskrit, it compels one to pay attention and often brings an inexplicable joy. I wondered why it was so and how Sanskrit came to acquire such a power. Not only was it a mantric lure, I also felt that if one truly wants to understand India, its culture and ethos, a knowledge of Sanskrit is essential.
On the other hand, I too surrendered to the stereotype of Sanskrit being a very difficult language to learn and grasp, something very alien and distant from our usual spoken and written languages, meant only for the scholars, perhaps even a dead language. Though there was an attraction, with such an in-built bias there was also a strong resistance to make the effort to study it in greater depth.
However, certain circumstances intervened and compelled me to do so. We took up a project called 'Resurgent India', where our endeavour was to discover the greatest and highest achievements of India in every field. While identifying these peaks in the field of language, it was inevitable for us to turn to Sanskrit, one of the oldest and richest languages of the world.
What resulted was an enthralling and fulfilling experience. The deeper we went into it, the more amazed we were by the beauty and perfection of this language. Whichever aspect we explored, there seemed to be no limit to its treasures and wonders.
It was veritably the experience of entering an ancient Indian temple, huge, majestic and mighty, yet with each facet intricately carved and planned to precision. The human mind, once awakened and made aware, knows no rest until it is completely satisfied. It was only natural that a multitude of questions should have arisen and demanded further research and explanation.
An Extraordinary Language
What is language? What is its purpose? How does it communicate? What are the challenges and difficulties it faces? What is the role of grammar, of phonetics? How do they originate? What are the basic fundamental sounds? How do the vocal chords produce them and how does one organise and arrange these sounds in a systematic manner?
We have all learnt our alphabets, our grammars and our languages from early childhood. But rarely does one bother to ask such questions. However, here the questions were raised by Sanskrit itself and we were wonder-struck by the manner in which Sanskrit had answered them.
Sanskrit is a "most wonderful language."' One would imagine such a statement to be mere sales talk, the label 'most wonderful' being placed on practically everything in modern times. What it is, in actuality, is a very well researched and deduced summation by the renowned German Indologist, Max Mueller. But lest this be considered the personal assessment of one scholar, let us see what Professor Friedrich Schlegel, writer and critic, whose brother held the first chair of Indology in Germany at Bonn, has to say: "Justly it is called Sanskrit, that is, 'perfect, finished'. Sanskrit combines these various qualities possessed separately by other tongues: Grecian copiousness, deep-tone Roman force, the divine afflatus characterising the Hebrew tongues. Judged by an organic standard of the principal elements of language, Sanskrit excels in grammatical structure and is indeed the most perfectly developed of all idioms, not excepting Greek and Latin."
This was only one aspect of our discovery. A language derives its value not merely from its logical and grammatical structure but from the manner in which it has been used and the richness of its literature. Whether we looked at the simple, unsophisticated folk style found in fable-books like the Pancatantra and the Hitopadesa, or the practical and scientific writings in the various Sastras like the Arthasastra, Natyasastra, Ayurveda or Jyotisa; whether we delved into the rich, highly developed literary style that expressed itself through the poetry, the dramas and the prose romances of Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti, Magha and Banabhatta; whether we turned to the thousands of Subhasitas (reflective and didactic stanzas), as in the Nitisataka of Bhartrihari, or we studied the great philosophies and learned commentaries of Kapila or Shankara; whether we read the well-known epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, which are an entire world in themselves; whether we sought for the principles of yoga in the Yogasutras of Patanjali, or scaled the highest peaks of spiritual poetry through the Vedas, the Upanisads and the Gita - there was no limit to the treasures that awaited us.
And it was not just a question of a phenomenal quantity and variety but also of the highest quality. Says W.C. Taylor, an American Indologist, "It was an astounding discovery that Hindustan possessed, in spite of the changes of realms and changes of time, a language of unrivalled richness and variety...a philosophy compared with which, in point of age, the lessons of Pythagoras are but of yesterday, and in point of daring speculation Plato's boldest efforts were tame and commonplace. This literature, with all its colossal proportions - which can scarcely be described without thesemblance of bombast and exaggeration - claimed, of course, a place for itself. It stood alone and it was able to stand alone."'
It is therefore not without reason that the well-known historian Will Durant, while writing about India and Sanskrit, affirms: "India was the motherland of our race and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages; she was the mother of our philosophy, mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all."'
The Importance of Sanskrit
In a certain sense all language is an attempt to find the perfect unity of the word, the sound and the meaning. And perhaps this has never been achieved as perfectly and harmoniously as in the Sanskrit language. In this book, we have tried to share the thrill experienced on coming into contact with Sanskrit in its various facets and expressions, and for that purpose we have shown no hesitation in drawing and quoting extensively from writers who have provided many interesting insights.
Sanskrit is rich in every way - rich in vocabulary, rich in literature, rich in thoughts and ideas, rich in meaning and values. The greatness, magnificence and beauty of Sanskrit has perhaps not been described better than by Sri Aurobindo, the great Rishi and Yogi of modern India:
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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