When Abhigyana Shakuntalam, the Sanskrit play by classical poet Kalidasa, was translated in Germany in 1791, it created quite a stir among young intellectuals of the time. So much so that Shakuntala, the lead character of the play, became as popular as a rock star, said German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner. He was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the Sanskrit Caravan and a conference of “Sanskrit as a Language of Science” here on Thursday.

The Sanskrit Caravan is part of Indian Heritage Caravan, an initiative of Press Council of India chairman and former Supreme Court Judge Justice Markandey Katju, aimed to promote, preserve and propagate Indian languages like Sanskrit and Urdu.

After elaborating in detail about the contribution of India to the evolution of the discipline of science, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor said Sanskrit was the very basis of science. He said India’s contribution to the evolution of science was made possible due to the fact that Sanskrit was the carrying language.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice-Chancellor Prof. S. K. Sopory said: “We are a part of the Caravan because we wanted to make a point that study of Sanskrit is not the study of any religion.”

Talking about “Sanskrit as a language of science”, Prof. Sopory said NASA scientists were developing several programmes on artificial language in Sanskrit. JNU has also developed programmes based on Sanskrit language, he added.

Justice Katju said the Sanskrit spoken and read in modern times was defined and shaped by Panini. Arguing that science requires precision of expression, Justice Katju said Sanskrit became that language which is a “powerful instrument to express scientific ideas with great precision”.