World Sanskrit Day
Honouring the language of the gods, the perfect language for science and the oldest living language in the world.
Samskritam or Sanskrit, as the English named it, is such an amazing language that when you start going into its depths you will find that it is not something that could have been invented by an ordinary human brain. It has to be of divine origin and hence it is known as the “Language of the Gods.”
Just as Hinduism is the oldest of all religions, Sanskrit is the oldest living language in the world. No one knows how it came into being or who made it. All languages have their origin in time and space and keep changing with the changing times and places in which they are spoken. But right from the first verse of the Rig Veda, the Sanskrit language has not changed – there has been no sound shift, no addition, no inspiration, and no change in import. The very word “Samskritam” means “refined or perfected.” Nothing can be added or subtracted from it. It is fullness itself, unlike other languages that keep on adding words to its vocabularies. It has not evolved from some initial imperfection. It exists now as it did before the dawn of history. It has mathematical precision and therefore zero deviation.
The question about its origin cannot be answered since its beginning is shrouded in mystery as with the Vedas. The scriptures say that Sanskrit came from the primary sound called pranava or Aum through which the Divine descended in order to create the world of the seen and the heard. The primary concern of other languages is communication through the vaikhari (spoken) medium. This is considered to be an inferior mode of communication in the Sanskrit-Vedic tradition. Sanskrit sounds are not merely meant for verbal communication but for removing the gross wrapping of materialism and exposing us to the vibrations of the divinity underlying all creation. It is most lyrical and poetic; it stirs the divine chords within us and helps us to align ourselves to the positive vibrations of nature.
In other languages, words are not properly defined and are therefore ambiguous. Those languages are not natural since they are human based. Sanskrit, however, is precise, totally free of all ambiguity, and therefore most suited for computers. Sanskrit is the most phonetic language in the world. The meaning of many Sanskrit words can be known through the sound they produce. Innumerable words are created with the help of seed sounds called dhatus.
The Sanskrit language represents the thoughts, traditions, and cultural heritage of the whole of India. It is not the language of a community or a special region, but it has been the golden thread that has connected the whole of Bharat into a single unit. As such the government has a duty to see that it is kept alive and taught in all schools. Scholars abroad have discovered that the learning of Sanskrit aids the growth of memory in children and there are many schools in the UK which teach Sanskrit to their students.
It is an integral part of Hindu literature, tradition, philosophies and the various rituals that are practised daily in all mandirs. Many of the Indian languages like Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi and Malayalam are heavily Sanskrit-ised.
In short, Sanskrit is the container of all that which is Indian. Like the saying, “England without Shakespeare is zero,” we can say, “India without Sanskrit would be zero.” In other words, understanding and appreciation of numerous Indian things whether music, dance, arts, rituals, tradition, religions, values, languages, science etc. will be easy for one who knows Sanskrit. By analogy when we say Eng-land, Nether-land, Soviet-land etc. India is, in fact, Sanskrit-land! The integrity of the Indian culture owes everything to the Sanskrit language and literature which has had a tremendous impact upon it.
The two great epics of Bharat – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were written in Sanskrit and our great poet Kalidasa wrote all his memorable poems in Sanskrit.
Sanskrit had held the status of the first language in Bharat until the advent of the British after which English took first place.
Sanskrit is usually written in the Devanagari (city of the gods) script, a descendant of the Brahmi script. This script is also used for writing Hindi, Marathi, and Nepali. It is a syllable-based writing system in which each syllable consists of a consonant plus an inherent vowel. Vowels are written differently, depending on whether they are independent or whether they follow a consonant. It is written from left to right and sentences are separated by vertical lines.
The oldest collection of spiritual knowledge in the world is known as the Veda. They were a huge collection of hymns and poems which were passed on verbally from the guru (teacher) to the shishya (disciple). The Veda was later codified and separated into four by the great sage and scholar known as Veda Vyasa. They were named as the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. Vedic Sanskrit was the earliest form of language known to man and it was handed down orally.
Classical Sanskrit came long after that and was of course based on the old Vedic script. This was the period when Panini composed his book on Sanskrit grammar known as Ashtadhyayi. This is the oldest and most amazing book on grammar ever written in the world. It gives the details of how the language works and forms the basis for modern Sanskrit grammar. The language has a wonderful structure and is more perfect than other languages.
It is a natural language. What this means is that there is a direct link between the sound and the letter; it is phonetic. We write Sanskrit and other Indian languages exactly as we speak it, which means that the writing is based on the spoken sound. There is only one set of alphabets in Sanskrit. This avoids many complexities of writing capital, small and italic letters as they are in the Roman/European scripts. There is an easy, flowing, natural and logical way to proceed while learning this wonderful language.
In contrast to this we can see how difficult it is to learn the spelling-oriented European languages whose silent letters add to the complications. Sanskrit has a perfectly logical sound system, and a natural continuity in its word-making as well as sentence-making. This is why Sanskrit literature is so easy to memorise and explains why the oral tradition of Indian wisdom has been the most long-standing in the entire world. Even the Sanskrit dictionary called the “Amara Kosha” follows this rule. Compare this with the pronunciation and spelling of the languages of countries other than India.
Another incredible fact of this amazing language is that when you pronounce many of the vowels we are forced to do some type of pranayama (breath control). This is indeed something which will take away our breath!!
It is a global language. It has no territory, no bias; hence no limitations. It has a very rational derivative power. In Sanskrit, etymology (Niruktam) is a special science of finding the derivations. The derivative potential of Sanskrit words is breath-taking. Unbelievable it may seem, there are no proper nouns in Sanskrit! Every single Sanskrit word has a meaning built into the word itself; the root hidden in the word contains the meaning of that word. Hence, a Sanskrit scholar seldom runs for a dictionary to find out the meaning of any new or strange word he may come across. He uses the key of etymology which breaks the egg and spills the contents!
Owing to its enormous flexibility, only Sanskrit can imitate any language in sentence structure. Sanskrit words possess a special vibration of sound waves whose resonance is very effective. Hence, Sanskrit mantras can be used for healing. They owe this mystic character and holiness to the essential spiritual character of Sanskrit. Spirituality has been moulded into Sanskrit!
However, it would be wrong to say that Sanskrit is only suited for spiritual matters. Classical Sanskrit includes books on philosophy, astronomy, weaponry, medicine, law, astrology, geography, metallurgy, drama, architecture, temple architecture, sculpture, dance, music, agriculture and much more! Ramayana and Mahabharata are the two epics that were composed in Sanskrit that have stood the test of time. However, owing to the spiritual contents predominant in its literature, the knowledge of Sanskrit adds many important dimensions to our personality.
Sanskrit grammar is rule-bound, formula-bound and extremely logical, which makes it highly appropriate to write algorithms. It has an exceptionally rich, complex, grammatical structure and an enormous vocabulary. Starting from the Rig Veda, which is the earliest known document in the world, there has been a continuous flow of Sanskrit works of poetry in Bharat. Over thousands of years, many scholars have contributed to Sanskrit literature.
It has always been an important language in intellectual communities. Despite its ancient origin, the language has some amazing characteristics that are considered helpful in modern psychological techniques. Of course there is a lot of news now about how it is the best language for use in artificial intelligence and computers and for algorithms.
A 1985 article published in AI Magazine, by a NASA researcher named Rick Briggs spoke on the significant lessons one could learn from Sanskrit in developing a structured and rule-based language. He suggested that studying the way ancient Indian grammarians worked, might help Artificial Intelligence researchers “finally solve the natural language processing.”
As per the 2001 Indian census, around 14,135 speak the language fluently. Apart from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, some areas of south and Southeast Asia, many Buddhist scholars of Japan, China and Thailand use Sanskrit language.
The World Sanskrit Day is a desperate attempt on the part of our government to keep alive the most incredible language of this world. It is celebrated every year on the full moon day of the month of Shravana, which also marks the holy festival of Raksha Bandhan.
Loka Samastath Sukhino Bhavantu!
Thanks for reading The Adiveda Newsletter! Subscribe to receive new posts and support our work.