Dr. Sarasvati Mohan, the first woman to earn a doctorate in Sanskrit.
Dr. Sarasvati Mohan, our distinguished director of Sanskrit Academy became the first woman ever to receive a Ph. D. in Sanskrit. She received her doctorate in India at Madras University, the most prestigious institution for Sanskrit scholarship in the world, under the guidance of Dr. v. Raghavan. Her research was in unpublished manuscripts of Sanskrit literature. Her avid interest in Sanskrit begun under a private tutor at the age six, has given birth to a life passion to share with other her love of Sanskrit in all its mystery and majesty.
She has successfully guided students for more than four decades through the intricacies of the Sanskrit language. Combining eastern and western teaching methods, she is continuously developing new material for making the ancient language accessable to students of all backgrounds, interests and abilities. Teaching children at an early impressive age is one of the important goals of the Academy. To this end, grammatical concepts are made easy to follow and the carefully graded exercises give steady and solid progress. Correct pronunciation, the heart of mastery, is emphasized and reinforced through the use DVD, CD and audio tapes. Seven levels of Sanskrit Correspondence course, starting with the alphabet and ending in the construction of metrical composition (Sloka), has been quite successful in promoting this language especially among the English-educated.
First, let me confess, I am neither musician nor musicologist. The beautiful compounding language and literature in these songs has been fascinating and entertaining me for a long time.
Most of the published books give only a summary of each song, which of course is very helpful for musicians and dancers. Since I started teaching at Wesleyan University (Ethnomusicology Department), many musicians and dancers sought my help to know the word-meaning of the songs both in Telugu and Sanskrit. Since then, I felt a need for word-for-word translation of these songs. Translating the songs for the great musicians of the day like Sri Narayana Swamy, Palghat Raghu, Tanjore Viswanathan, my student John Higgins Bhagavatar and the renowned dancer, Smt. Balasarasvati and so many more visiting artists at the Wesleyan University for daily Curry Concerts, I gained good grinding and confidence with the translation work.
Since Rama is very close to my heart, as part of my Upasana, I have been collecting the Stotras of Rama and Hanuman and now the songs on Rama in Sanskrit. My study of Sanskrit from childhood under the late Pandit Sri Nelaturi Krishnamacharya and the rigorous training under the late Dr. V. Raghavan, Professor of Sanskrit in Madras University, have given me strength and courage to take up this translation task.
Translating the Sanskrit compounds requires a good knowledge of word meaning and also clear knowledge of the connecting links between the words. Since the majority of words in a compound lose their case endings, simple guess work is not enough to make sense of these compounds. I tried to separate the words in the songs, then give wordfor-word meaning and then show the general meaning in simple English. The first line gives the text in Devanagari script; the second gives the Roman transliteration with hyphenated words, if in compounds; the third gives the meaning of each word; the fourth connects the meaning of the words and presents it in sensible simple English.
I have collected the Rama songs from most of the published books, the list of which is given in the bibliography. One of my students in USA, Dr. Srikanth Chari, a Vina teacher, with whom I had offered a course on Rama Songs in Sanskrit, has also helped me in gathering some of these yet unpublished songs. My sincere thanks to Mr. B.S.S. Rao, Sri Rajaram, and Dr. V.S. Sampath Kumar for their encouragement.
Lastly, my sincere thanks to M/s. Sharadh Enterprises, without whose untiring efforts this book could not have been brought out in such a presentable form.
I appeal humbly to the music world to advise me if anyone finds a Rama song that is not in this collection.
When I went through the work "Sri Rama Songs in Sanskrit" - translated word- for-word by Dr. Sarasvati Mohan, the first thought that occurred to my mind was, why no one had undertaken such a work prior to this. The only explantion could be that it was left to Dr. Sarasvati Mohan, a great devotee of Lord Rama to serve him through this work.
It has been emphasized by great Vaggeyakaras time and again, that unless one knows the meaning of the song, one will not be able to convey the correct bhava of the composition to the listeners. This is more so in the case of dance unless the dancer knows the exact meaning of each and every word he/she will be not be able to do proper justice to the composition. In this direction, what Dr. Sarasvati Mohan has done will be a boon to the artists.
Dr. Sarasvati Mohan, after having taught Sanskrit in Wesleyan University, USA for a number of years has returned to India and now settled in Bangalore. A Ph.D. in Sanskrit, she had a rigorous training under one of the well-known Sanskrit scholars of our times and a musicologist, Dr. V. Raghavan of the Madras University. Thus she is eminently suited to do this work.
I would like to make a suggestion here. Dr. Sarasvati Mohan should try to collect all the songs that are currently in vogue and bring out a similar publication, which will be of a great help to dance teachers and students.
May lord Rama bless Dr. Sarasvati Mohan with long and healthy life to serve the cause of music and dance for many years to come.
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