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Importance of Sanskrit: Parliament passes Sanskrit university bill

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Rajya Sabha approved Central Sanskrit Universities Bill 2019. The bill seeks to convert three currently working deemed Universities into Central Universities. The name of these deemed universities are: 1) Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, 2) Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth and 3) Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth.

It was approved by Lok Sabha in December last year and presented in Rajya Sabha on 2nd March by HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, where it was passed by the house after some minor amendments.

The recent policy decision, once again, invokes many concerns on the existence of other Indian languages and questioned the need for the popularization of Sanskrit. However the answer of this question itself lies in the constitution. The Article 343 of the constitution clearly state that “The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script” and need not to say the Devanagari Script is written in Sanskrit. Further Article 351, add more relevance to the bill which says “expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages”. Therefore Hindi, the official language of our country, has to be based on Sanskrit.

Even in the question of existence of other classical languages and those who claimed Sanskrit as a dead language, we need to understand that firstly, there are four languages which directly used Devanagari Script are Hindi, Nepali, Marathi, and Sanskrit. Konkani and Gujarati is also based on variant of Devanagari Script. Secondly, the other language scripts also draw formulation from Sanskrit Script. The script is so rich, even one can write Bengali, Oriya and some South Indian languages using the mentioned Script. They all comes from Brahmi Script and there was a period when they all are interconnected.

It’s not only Modi Government, who are continuously talking about the importance of Sanskrit, the mother of all Indian languages but the western fascination to learn and explore Sanskrit can’t be ignored. It has been important language thoroughly used by intellectual communities. Frequently used in therapy session of psychology, spiritual remission, understanding migration theory and so on. In Germany, fourteen Universities teaches Sanskrit. The list is impressive and includes numerous premier academic institutes like Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard University, McGill University and the McMaster University in Canada, Ohio State University, Rutgers University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Alabama, University of British Columbia and University of Calgary in Canada, and University of Chicago. While recognizing the relevance of the oldest language, Mr. Alex Michales, Professor of Classical Indology at the University of Heidelberg said “Even the core thoughts of Buddhism were in the Sanskrit language. To better understand the genesis of oriental philosophy, history, languages, sciences and culture, it’s essential to read the original Sanskrit texts as these are some of the earliest thoughts and discoveries”.

Recently, while addressing to the concern, Mr. Pokhriyal also  clearly state, we as a party committed to the growth of all regional languages, and the spread of Sanskrit becomes important as there were more than five crore students, who are studying the language in the country itself. However, Dr. Subramanian Swamy, the former Union Cabinet minister, articulation to Rajya Sabha members help lot to unbox the dilemma created by the opposition party. He spoke about the inter linkages of Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligence. According to the NASA research, Sanskrit, the ancient Hindu language, is the most suitable language to develop computer programming for their Artificial Intelligence program. The relationship between Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligent is not new and traced back in 1985 in the article of one of the NASA scientist, Rick Briggs.  In his paper published in Artificial Intelligence Magazine, he talked about usage of Natural languages to convert the computing programme into robotic control and Artificial intelligence technology. The work primarily emphasis on Sanskrit among the other human languages, as one of the most important language for computing techniques.

The term “Sanskrit effect” adding new dimension to this debate. This term was coined by neuroscientist James Hartzell. The research indicates that memorizing Vedic mantras increases the size of brain regions and hence affects short and long-term memory. The experiment was based on the MRI scanning of qualified professional Sanskrit pundits, showing numerous regions in their brains were significantly larger than those of controls.  This finding also validates the belief resides in Indian mythologies which suggest memorizing and reciting mantras affect the structure of the brain and enhances thinking.

The applicability of Sanskrit Scriptures is not only limited to above mentioned disciplines, its usefulness can be traced for the legal system too. In the case of “Vijay Narayan Thatte & ors versus State of Maharastra & ors”, the Judge AK Ganguly and Judge Markandey Katju cited the importance of Mimansa System. They further added that it’s a traditional system of interpreting a legal text and having a universal application, where the same can be utilized for interpretation in future also.

Lastly, this step of government is much needed and highly appreciable. Also, as we are in the verge of creating three central universities for Sanskrit, government need to ensure that all the central school must have Sanskrit as an optional paper. Further Sanskrit based promotional activities are needed to conduct so that people can reconnect with the mother of all the Indian languages, Sanskrit.

Author: Dr. Neha Nainwal, Faculty, University of Delhi

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