By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Recently there have been lots of controversies, protests and agitations by some people against the cabinet decision to make Sanskrit compulsory in schools from class–I to 8th standard. I wonder why some people are so much against this wonderful language. It is sad to note that the Sanskrit language, the life line of Indian people, has lost its glory in recent years, and at present we can see that very few people are interested in this glorious language. Some critics of the language opined that the inclusion of Sanskrit in the school curriculum as a compulsory subject will encourage commulism. I am amazed at such senseless criticisms, since the Sanskrit language does not have a trace of commulism. Anyway, I do hope that now the controversies would come to an end, since I believe that now it would not be a compulsory subject.
Once, Sanskrit was the crown of Indian literature, but now it has fallen down from its pedestral. In the ancient era Sanskrit was held in great esteem and it was termed as a “Devobhasha”, because it was believed that the gods used this language to communicate with the people. So the Sanskrit language has some sacred implication. It has a vast treasure and our ancient religious and philosophical concepts were expressed through this language. Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Dramas, Scientific Texts, Philosophy, Art, Humanities—all were written in Sanskrit. The gurus in ancient India imparted lessons to their disciples in Sanskrit. In short, Sanskrit language expresses the culture and tradition of ancient India and we may regard the Sanskrit literary compositions as a kind of history of the ancient era. Only Sanskrit can acquaint us with the earlier age, without the knowledge of which our education will remain incomplete. We would be a poor tion, if we are ignorant of our own culture and traditions as well as the life in the past. How can we know about ourselves without knowing about our history in the long past?
In actual fact, Sanskrit is the soul of India and without this language we would lose our spirit and the life line of the Indian people. It is endowed with the spirit of liberation and tolerance as well as some ethical principles. Anybody, after reading a few books in Sanskrit, would realise how magnificent the language is. It may be called the richest and the sweetest of all the languages in the world. Sanskrit does not belong to any particular race, sect or religion. It represents a culture that is not rrow and sectarian, but open, tolerant and all–embracing. To have real progress of mind and body, it is imperative that we inculcate Sanskrit in our present day life. It is very important to do that, since because of our negligence of Sanskrit, western culture has nearly elbowed out our rich Indian culture. Today we have a pseudo culture which is rather denigratory to our rich Indian culture. Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world and the beauty of this language is incomparable. Often it is misconceived as only a language of a particular religion, hymns and rituals. This view does great injustice to Sanskrit and also betrays the ignorance of the modern generation regarding the intelligence and brilliance of ancient sages as well as the writers, thinkers, scientists and geniuses like Kautilys, Charaka, Sushruta, Aryabhatta, Varahmihira, Brahmagupta, Bhattaraya, Kalidasa, Bhababhuti, Vasa and others.
Sanskrit has a treasure of knowledge comprising Mathematics, Medicine, Botany, Chemistry, Art and Humanities besides great literary works. It is so rich that to delve into it is like delving into the ocean. The mes of Kalidasa, Bhababhuti and some others in the field of literature need no introduction. Abhigya Sakuntalam, Swap Basabdatta, Kadambari, Kiratarjuniyam, Manusantita are only a few gems out of so many precious stones in the field of literature. In these books you can find magnificent description of ture’s beauty. These books demonstrate how ture was venerated in the olden era. Animals and birds were also viewed with respect. From these books we can know that there was no question of environmental pollution or destruction of wild animals in that era. These literary works depict the rich culture of the Indian people brilliantly. Only the knowledge of Sanskrit can make us aware of our rich Indian culture, which should be preserved. A Sanskrit drama never ends in a tragedy and it demonstrates the fact that man’s hope for happiness is always there. Maharshi Valmiki’s Ramaya and Maharshi Vyas Deva’s Mahabharata amply demonstrate the brilliance of these immortal talented authors. These two epics are not only invaluable, but they are also incomparable. Countless characters are intertwined to make a composite whole with evey person and incident falling in proper places. The beauty and the great attraction of these epics is such that one never gets bored even after going through them repeatedly. They depict the life style of Indian people of that era, covering religion, culture, rituals, marriage, customs, warfare, education and morality. Actually the moral tone is never lost. These epics display the triumph of good over evil forces. I have read many books of renowned authors, but I have not found any book as interesting and captivating as Ramaya and Mahabharata. They are still a source of joy for me and perhaps for many others as well.
Bhagavad Gita is incorporated in the Mahabharata. The Hindus venerate it as a religious text with the firm faith that all the aphorisms laid down in the Gita were actually stated by Lord Sri Krish himself. Though it is revered as a religious scripture, in fact it is more a philosophical and ethical text. When the kurukshetra battle was about to commence, Arju, the third Pandava requested his mentor and charioteer Lord Sri Krish to drive the chariot to the middle of the battle field, so that he could see all those people who were supporting the Kauravas. Accordingly Lord Krish drove the chariot to the central place, from where the opposite side could be seen clearly. Arju saw his grand sire Pitamah Bhishma, other relatives, preceptors and friends in the enemy line. On seeing his own people in the enemy line he became devastated with grief. He told Lord Sri Krish that he was not going to commit sin by killing his own people. Arju laid down his famous ‘Gandiva’ and declared that he would not fight. Then Lord Krish took the role of a preceptor and Arju became his disciple. Lord Krish explained to Arju the meaning of life and the duty of man as well as the significance of death. He also explained the ture of soul, which happens to be immortal. That is Bhagavad Gita, the crown of Indian philosophy. It is more a philosophical text than a religious one. Though the Hindus venerate Gita as a sacred scripture, the word ‘Hindu’ is not mentioned even once in this great literary text. Gita instructs Arju regarding his duty as a Kshatriya and shows the way to liberation. Philosophy is the main topic of this text. Gita depicts Indian culture, philosophy and the facts about life and death in a language which is sweet, simple and rich as well. We have innumerable translations of the Gita in various languages—but the translated works miss the beauty of the origil text.
Sanskrit language is essential for understanding our culture and to regenerate the divinity in man. It has the capacity to stir the soul and bring to the fore the finer qualities of a human being. Descriptions and manifestations of diverse phenome of ture in Sanskrit is really unique. In Kalidasa’s “Abhigya Sakuntalam” we find the wonderful presentation of tural flora and fau in such a magnificent way that ture seems to appear as a benign deity. The same reverence for ture can be seen in “Meghdoot” and other Sanskrit texts. In fact this seems to be the only language which brings ture close to human beings. ture seems to come alive in these classics of the ancient era. At a time when scholars, scientists, intellectuals and others are getting apprehensive about the survival of the planet Earth and when they are discussing about the ways and means to save the earth from annihilation due to man’s assault on ture, I suppose, these Sanskrit texts would be of great value to make man realise and appreciate the contributions of ture. From these great works we learn that once man venerated ture, but today he is trying to domite and exploit ture. In his arrogance he has forgotten the simple and conspicuous truth that man cannot survive without ture. It we go through the Sanskrit texts we would surely realise how close we stand to ture. Environmental imbalance has brought crisis to the earth and it is time we understand how important tural phenome are for our survival. If we read the Sanskrit texts we would realise the value and importance of ture’s gifts to earth.
Sanskrit language also has been the source of values and ideals that have sustained India through the ages. The open–minded seers and thinkers, who spelt out their vision and philosophy in the sacred Vedas and the Upanishads, were able to balance the opposites in their life and in philosophy. The message of the ancient sages of India, who gave us the concept of “Vasundhaiva Kutumbakam”, the world as one family, continues to be of great significance to the world even today. So it can be said that the Sanskrit language embraces the whole world—it is a language for all times and places. There are no limits to its ideas—it covers everything from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high. It has given us such gems of knowledge like “Tat tvam asi”, which identifies “Atma” (soul) with the “Paramatma” (Absolute Soul). It implies that Absolute Reality is residing within ourselves. So Sanskrit language has put forward such highly regarded philosophical notions, which give new direction to our life and thought process. If we follow its direction, surely we would realise the implication of universal brotherhood which implies that all human beings are brothers, since they belong to the same Reality.
Sanskrit embraces a complete knowledge system that embodies the great learning traditions of ancient India. As long as it motivates and influences the life of the Indian people, so long will the basic genius of India will flourish. Many modern Indian languages depend on Sanskrit for their vocabulary. Only by learning Saanskrit people can realise the superb contributions of the language to our life and culture. It covers a diverse range of topics like poetry, drama, aesthetics, scientific literature, philosophical texts like Vedas, Upanishads, and epics like Ramaya and Mahabharata and various other subjects.
It is unfortute that Sanskrit has not been given due importance in our educatiol institutions. If our young generation do not learn the language, they would be the losers. They would lose their identity and would know nothing about our glorious culture and traditions. It is important to widen the range of Sanskrit and make it relevant and useful to the present day situation. The vast literature of Sanskrit should be explored, so that India becomes richer in every way. Then only peace and happiness may return to the country, since the Sanskrit language teaches readers to take a spiritual view of life. We know very well that only the path of spiritualism can give peace and happiness to us.