Revival of Sanskrit – Roadblocks and Strategy: Part 1

A Strategic plan to revive Sanskrit should be in place

The Battle for Sanskrit
The Battle for Sanskrit

An acute need for promoting Sanskrit back into academics

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he year 2016 saw my fourth book The Battle for Sanskrit: Is Sanskrit Political or Sacred, Oppressive or Liberating, Dead or Alive? or TBFS in short, finally being published and released. This book kindled interest, respect, and curiosity among the masses, as it dealt with reclaiming Sanskrit and Sanskriti from the clutches of the faulty theorization by western academia. However, it is only the beginning and there is a long way to go in terms of reclaiming the discourse. When I was writing The Battle for Sanskrit, Shri Chamu Krishna Sastry helped me by providing information, insights, and references to counter Sheldon Pollock, the western scholar whose theories I attempt to refute in the book. We also had extensive discussions on the problems that plague Sanskrit and its study in India. I will elaborate on the nature of the issues in this piece.

Sanskrit Bharati has approximately 5000 centres in India and branches in about 15 other countries. About 10000 volunteers are working selflessly to popularise Sanskrit

Brief Introduction: Shri. Chamu Krishna Sastry and Samskrita Bharati 

Shri. Sastry is the creator of Samskrita Bharati, an organization which was established to revive Sanskrit as a language of the common man. It has approximately 5000 centres in India and branches in about 15 other countries. About 10000 volunteers are working selflessly to popularise Sanskrit. This organization has taught spoken Sanskrit to about 10 million people and has trained around one lakh teachers since its inception 35 years ago. It has also published more than 500 books and CDs.

The root cause of the decline of Sanskrit

Before British rule in Bharat, Sanskrit was a thriving language throughout the length and breadth of Bharat. The learning of the language was organic and natural. Today language is taught through grammar i.e rules to example method. In the case of Sanskrit or for that matter our mother tongue, we always learn the grammar through the language i.e example to rules method. It is the natural way, the way a child picks up languages.

However, the scenario changed when the British forcefully introduced the European education system here. In the British education system, language teaching was through the ‘Grammar Translation Method’. The very purpose of that method was to understand literature for translation. At the time, there was huge translation work going on from Greek and Latin into European languages. For this exercise, obviously the grammar to language method is the most suitable since one is not working with native language. Since that was the norm, the British therefore wanted to implement the same method in their educational policy.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he Grammar Translation method is ideal for dead languages as the active use of these languages is not promoted and its requirement is limited only to understand cultures of dead civilizations. The main motive of the British for learning a living and thriving language like Sanskrit was to rule Bharat, but the problem was that they learnt and translated Sanskrit by applying the Grammar Translation Method. Unfortunately, this faulty method caught on and is now followed by all schools throughout the country for teaching a language.

A revolution in the teaching methodology of Sanskrit is urgently needed.

A great irony is that even the Paninian Grammar is rewritten according to English Grammar. This then meant that it was not necessary to use Sanskrit for communication with the result that Sanskrit students and teachers stopped communicating in Sanskrit. Thus, a thriving, sacred language was transformed into a dry and finally, a dead language.

A revolution in the teaching methodology of Sanskrit is urgently needed. We should go back to the traditional method of learning Sanskrit i.e by using it constantly in our day to day life.

Strategy to promote Sanskrit for common people

For popularizing or promoting any language, there are some requirements to be fulfilled, such as:
• Development or creation of speakers of the language
• Using it as a medium of instruction, entertainment, communication etc.
• Creation of contemporary literature using the language
• Continuous word generation
• Use of technology for its propagation
• Patronage from the government and the corporate sector
• Developing strong will power to bring back Sanskrit in everyday life and to create a demand in Society

Role of Government:

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n the year 2015, the Human Resource and Development (HRD) Ministry constituted an Expert Committee exclusively on Sanskrit to revive interest. This committee is headed by Mr. N. Gopalaswami. The uniqueness of this committee is in suggesting an action plan not only for the govt. but also for scholars of Sanskrit, Sanskrit institutions, and the common people.

The government must play a pivotal role to build a bridge between these ancient and modern streams.

As per the committee proposal, all ministries must have something that can associate with Sanskrit. The promotion of Sanskrit is not the responsibility of the HRD ministry alone. However, the HRD ministry will deal with the incorporation of Sanskrit in school, higher education modern streams and universities. The ministry will encourage teaching and popularising Sanskrit not only in traditional Sanskrit pathashalas, but also in science classes and engineering colleges.

The HRD ministry needs to play a very important role to promote interaction between modern and ancient streams, between scholars of Sastra (ancient Sanskrit literature) and scientists or technocrats.

There should be fellowships, internship for both technocrats, who will go to Sanskrit universities and Sanskrit scholars who will attend premier scientific institutions for a few years.

The government must play a pivotal role to build a bridge between these ancient and modern streams. The concentration should be on new ways of teachers’ training and producing Sanskrit study material for students and adult beginners. This will gradually bring the shift from teaching language through grammar to grammar through language, just as a child learns his or her mother tongue.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]here should be an attempt to revive the traditional ‘Vakyarth sabha’ or ‘Sastra sabha’ where both sides debate with one another. Now it is the responsibility of the government to revive this traditional debate or at least cooperate in organizing it.

The government must show will to take up this unpopular job of weeding out distorted texts

Further, western scholars have been intentionally distorting and interpreting Sanskrit wrongly and these wrong texts are deeply entrenched in the Indian academy. These texts are required to be pulled out, which necessitates courage, and this step is politically incorrect as well. The government must show will to take up this unpopular job of weeding out distorted texts.

If the government takes such initiatives and funds these types of projects, then all major western schools can be responded to because our tradition is robust.

Role of Scholars of Sanskrit and Lovers of Sanskrit:

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]anskrit scholars can organise Vyakarth Sabha or ‘Purva Paksh – Uttar Paksh’. These vakyarth sessions can be conducted in a novel way. For example, one can take up a certain theory of a western scholar. This can be read, summarised in simple English, and then translated in Sanskrit and finally, responses sought from a group of scholars from orthodox oral tradition. This can then enthuse ordinary people with no knowledge of Sanskrit but with an excellent grasp of English and analysis of Western schools of thought to take up such activity. Similarly, traditional Sanskrit scholars proficient in their field but not fluent in Western language and thought can refute Western arguments robustly without feeling inadequate. This will go a long way in boosting the confidence of the traditional scholars as also those with English and analytical skills just learning what traditional debate entailed.

For the last 150 – 200 years Sanskrit works have been translated to other languages, not vice-versa. All issues and debates are addressed in English. If Sanskrit scholars are interested, then these debates can be conducted in Sanskrit. It is the right time to establish a modern trend and expand the application areas of Sanskrit.

To be Continued….

Born in 1950, Rajiv Malhotra is an Indian American researcher, writer, speaker and public intellectual on current affairs as they relate to civilizations, cross-cultural encounters, religion and science. He studied physics at St. Stephens College in Delhi and went for post-graduate studies in physics and then computer science to the USA. Rajiv served in multiple careers, including: software development executive, Fortune 100 senior corporate executive, strategic consultant, and successful entrepreneur in the information technology and media industries. At the peak of his career when he owned 20 companies in several countries, he took early retirement at age 44 to pursue philanthropy, research and public service. He established Infinity Foundation for this purpose in 1994.

Rajiv has conducted original research in a variety of fields and has influenced many other thinkers in India and the West. He has disrupted the mainstream thought process among academic and non-academic intellectuals alike, by providing fresh provocative positions on Dharma and on India. Some of the focal points of his work are: Interpretation of Dharma for the current times; comparative religion, globalization, and India’s contributions to the world.

He has authored hundreds of articles, provided strategic guidance to numerous organizations and has over 300 video lectures available online. To best understand Rajiv'sthoughts and contributions, his books are a good resource. Besides Invading the Sacred, in which Rajiv is the main protagonist, he has authored the following game changing books:

Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism
Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines; and
Indra's Net: Defending Hinduism's Philosophical Unity
The Battle for Sanskrit: Is Sanskrit Political or Sacred, Oppressive or Liberating, Dead or Alive?
Academic Hinduphobia: A Critique of Wendy Doniger's Erotic School of Indology

Currently, Rajiv Malhotra is the full-time founder-director of Infinity Foundation in Princeton, NJ. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Center for Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and is adviser to various organizations.

Infinity Foundation has given more than 400 grants for research, education and community work. It has provided strategic grants to major universities in support of pioneering programs including: visiting professorships in Indic studies at Harvard University, Yoga and Hindi classes at Rutgers University, research and teaching of nondualistic philosophies at University of Hawaii, Global Renaissance Institute and a Center for Buddhist studies at Columbia University, a program in religion and science at University of California, endowment for the Center for Advanced Study of India at University of Pennsylvania, lectures at the Center for Consciousness Studies at University of Arizona.

Rajiv Malhotra inspired the idea of Swadeshi Indology Conference. The first ever Swadeshi Indology Conference was held at IIT, Chennai from July 6 to July 8, 2016. This conference hosted well-researched papers that highlighted the discrepancies and mistranslations in the studies of Indology done by Prof. Sheldon Pollock. This conference is the first of a series of conferences that have been planned to address multiple issues raised by Western Indologists requiring astute examination, analyses and rejoinders, culminating in a published volume with a selection of papers.

Another major initiative of the Infinity Foundation is the HIST series. The HIST (History of Indian Science and Technology) series is a compilation of multi-Volume History of Indian Science and Technology based only on solid academic scholarship, and not on wild extrapolations. To accomplish this, each volume was subjected to rigorous peer reviews. The following volumes have already been published and printed as part of this IF project:

1. Marvels of Indian Iron Through the Ages
2. Indian Zinc Technology in Global Perspective
3. Water Management and Hydraulic Engineering in India
4. History of Metals in Eastern India and Bangladesh
5. Harappan Architecture and Civil Engineering
6. Beginning of Agriculture and Domestication in India
7. History of Iron Technology in India
8. Indian Beads History and Technology
9. Himalayan Traditional Architecture
10. Animal Husbandry and Allied Technologies in Ancient India
11. Harappan Technology and Its Legacy
12. Reflection on The History of Indian Science and Technology
13. Chalcolithic South Asia: Aspects of Crafts and Technologies
14. Traditional Water Management

Rajiv Malhotra has an active Facebook following with about 1.5 million followers.
He also has an online discussion group. He can be followed at:

Facebook: RajivMalhotra.Official
Twitter: @RajivMessage
Rajiv Malhotra


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