The present volume is a collection of papers presented during a national seminar on 'Sanskrit in the Twenty First Century' organised by the Department of Sanskrit, University of Calicut and Sahitya Akademi in May 2007. The papers presented includes seminal contributions from stalwarts like Professor Satya Vrat Sastri and covers a wide spectrum of perceptions of the status of Sanskrit in the contemporary world, mainly related to the research prospects in the field and to the avenues of its growth as a living language to be used for creative writing. The papers demonstrate how Sanskrit, doubtlessly the most precious legacy of ancient Indian civilization, is a virtual treasure trove of knowledge related to a variety of disciplines such as medicine, philosophy, architecture, jurisprudence, linguistics, lexicography, environmental science, etc. Belying the predictions of prophets of doom, Sanskrit has stayed with us for all these centuries and its influence on the Indian psyche is ever increasing. The collection will hopefully serve as a roadmap for the further development of Sanskrit in the present century.
C.Rajendran (b.1952), was formerly Professor and Head of the Department of Sanskrit and Dean, Faculty of Languages at University of Calicut. He is the author of 31 books and more than 200 research papers. His works in English include Vyaktiviveka-A Critical Study, Studies in Comparative Poetics, The Traditional Sanskrit Theatre of Kerala, Sign and Structure, Abhinayadarpana, Melputtur Narayana Bhatta, Kuntaka and Understanding Tradition. His contributions in Malayalam are also substantial for which he has received several prestigious awards like the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award. He has delivered lectures at Cambridge, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin, Helsinki, Milan, Leipzig, and Cagliari, and was Visiting Professor at Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences socials (EHESS), Paris and Jageillonian University, Krakow, Poland.
The present volume is a collection of papers presented at the three day National seminar on Sanskrit in the Twenty-first Century organized by the Department of Sanskrit, University of Calicut on 29-31 May, 2007 in collaboration with Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. The seminar was attended by several veteran scholars from different parts of India and covered a wide range of topics. The Sahitya Akademi had, in view of the importance of the topic, decided to publish the proceedings of the seminar in a book form and entrusted me with the task. I am very happy that after a lot of initial difficulties, it has been possible to collect most of the papers presented. The volume will hopefully be a document suggesting the direction in which we have to move to propagate Sanskrit studies in the new millennium. Thanks are due to all the scholars who made their papers available for the volume.
This was the second all India seminar conducted by our department with the active collaboration and financial support of the Akademi. It may be recalled that we have already published the proceedings of the equally successful first National Conference of Paninian Semantics. I wish to thank Sahitya Akademi for the continuous support it has been redering for the cause of Sanskrit studies at Calicut University.
Perhaps there is nothing dramatic about the closure of an old century and the beginning of the new , even when it happens to be a new millennium, to serve as a point of time to facilitate discussion of some the problems and prospects of a classical language like Sanskrit which has been with us for several centuries. But such exercises are occasionally necessary to take stock of the situation and to evolve strategies for the future development of the subject .Indeed this is the justification for Sahitya Akademi and Department of Sanskrit, University of Calicut for having come together to conduct a three day National seminar at Calicut in 2007 on the prospects of the 21st century Sanskrit. The seminar, which was attended by a galaxy of scholars from different parts of India was a forum of some interesting discussions on various aspects of the theme. I have great pleasure in presenting the proceedings of the seminar in a book form.
Any attempt to explore the evolution and the status of Sanskrit in contemporary India is beset with several methodological problems the least of which is the linguistic diversity of India itself, wherein the states are constituted mainly on the basis of language differences. Here the problems and perceptions of one state will be somewhat different from that of another. It is no exaggeration to state that the linguistic diversity prevailing in the sub-continent is much more complex than, say, that of the European Union taken as a whole, where at least most of the languages have a common source. In India, however, the major North Indian and South Indian languages have entirely different linguistic history, as they are related to the Indo- Aryan and Dravidian families respectively. Thus while Sanskrit is linguistically more intimately connected with the North Indian languages, its relation with the Dravidian languages in the South is somewhat different. And there are many languages in India which do not belong to the either group. In short, the relationship between Sanskrit and the various vernacular languages differs consider bay in different parts of India on the basis of linguistic, historical and cultural factors and consequently, the status enjoyed by Sanskrit also has inevitable variations.
To illustrate how regional perceptions of Sanskrit differ on account of the historical and socio-cultural factors, let us take the case of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Both these regions have made tremendous contributions to Sanskrit in the past. Kerala cane boast of a galaxy of luminaries including Sankaracarya, Saktibhadra, Melputrur Narayana Bhatta and Ramapanivada. Here Sanskrit tradition was centered around royalties and feudal chieftains. But probably owing to the fact that some of the earlier settlers in Kerala had brought Sanskrit here as as a part of the Buddhistic and Jainistic tradition, Sanskrit was not the exclusive cultural legacy of the high-caste Brahmins, who, in any case mixed freely with local non-brahmins through the Sam bandha system of marriage. As a result of all this, and also due to the fact that non- Brahmin professionals like physicians, engineers, supervisors, carpenters, and astrologers required a proficiency in Sanskrit for their profession, Sanskrit was never perceived as a Brahmin language. Most of the outstanding contributions to Sanskrit literature by way of poetry, drama and commentaries were from the pens of non-brahmin scholars like Variers, Pisharotis and Nambiasans while most of the Brahmanical contributions were centered around Vedic ritual and hermeneuties. This state of affairs continued until fairly recent times. Even in the arena of spirituality, great non-Brahmin saints like Chattampi Swamikal and Srinarayana Guru, themselves Sanskrit scholars of great acumen, used Sanskrit to express their reformist ideas. The broad -based nature of Sanskrit scholarship continues till date. One of the finest epic poems produced in the post-independent Kerala is the Sahitya Akademy Award winning Krstubhagavatam, written by the Christian scholar P.C.Devasya on the life of Jesus Christ Thus, Kerala has by and large accepted Sanskrit to its mainstream mass culture and does not have any resistance to it as a legacy from the North. On the contrary, even though the contributions made by the Tamil speaking region of India to Sanskrit is substantial, especially in and around places like Kanchi and Tanjavur, the fact remains that it has been largely perceived as a Brahminical language. There are several historical and political reasons for this. One fact is the Brahminical exclusiveness and monopoly centered on the Sanskrit tradition. This was sought to be reversed during the heyday not the Dravidian movement which resisted any type of perceived Aryanisation, whether it be Sanskrit or Hindi being "imposed" from outside. Another reason is probably linguistic. The very phonological structure of Tamil resisted Sanskritisation from the early times onwards because Tamil does not accept the plosive aspirates, media and media aspirates necessary to represent Sanskrit words. On the other hand, Malayalam, her sister language enlarged its phonological basis to borrow Sanskrit words into its fold. The other Southern languages like Telugu and Kannada also have been very much sanskritised. In the North, the Khadiboli variety of the Hindustani, which developed into the modern Hindi is heavily Sanskritised, but this cannot be said about Urdu, modern Punjabi or Kashmiri. Needless to say, these diverse linguistic socio-cultural and political backgrounds make the generalization of the status of Sanskrit in India extremely difficult.
Despite all this, such an exercise is indeed worth undertaking given the special role Sanskrit has played in the cultural history of Asia, symbolizing, to quote Shelden Pollock, "the cultural order that for the millennia exerted a transregional influence across Asia-South, Southeast, Inner and even East Asia, that was unparalleled until the rise of Americanism and global English. "1 Jawaharlal Nehru once remarked, "If I was asked what is the great 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 contains This is a magnificent inheritance and so long as this endures and influences the life of our people, so long the basic genius of India will continue."However, it is a fact that the status enjoyed by Sanskrit as a vehicle of thought of the intelligentsia and the medium of expression for creative ideas definitely declined during the medieval times, and a further slide happened during the colonial period. Sheldon Pollock has analyzed the gradual decline and disappearance of the Sanskrit tradition of India in his provocatively titled article, "The Death of Sanskrit".
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