Sanskrit scholars from 60 countries began a five-day conference in Bangkok on Sunday with an inaugural speech by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who suggested that Sanskrit should be propagated so that “it purifies the minds of the people and thus sanctifies the whole world.”
Speaking entirely in Sanskrit to over 600 Sanskrit experts, Ms. Swaraj called it a “modern and universal” language and said its tradition is comparable to the river Ganga.
“The Ganga remains sacred from Gomukh, its source, to Ganga sagar where it enters the ocean. It sanctifies the tributaries, which attain the very nature of Ganga. Similar is Sanskrit; sacred by itself, it sanctifies all that come into its contact.
“Therefore, Sanskrit should be propagated so that it purifies the minds of the people and thus sanctifies the whole world. You Sanskritists do bathe in the sacred Sanskrit Ganga and are blessed,” she told the gathering.
Inaugural session of World Sanskrit Conference
Addressing the inaugural session of 16th World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok as the Chief Guest, Ms. Swaraj also announced that a post of Joint Secretary for Sanskrit has been created in the Ministry of External Affairs.
“In the present days you are aware that scientists hold the view that Sanskrit can play an important role in developing software for language recognition, translations, cyber security and other fields of artificial intelligence,” Ms. Swaraj said.
“Knowledge in Sanskrit will go a long way in finding solutions to the contemporary problems like global warming, unsustainable consumption, civilisational clash, poverty, terrorism etc,” she said, adding a new direction and vision is needed in the field of research in Sanskrit to accomplish this task.
Citing a Sanskrit shloka, she said that narrow minded people discriminate among people considering some as theirs and some as alien, while the broad minded consider the whole universe as theirs.
Noting that today’s need is a healthy amalgamation of the ancient and modern, a meeting of the best in orient and occident, she said, “Our efforts are to be directed towards narrowing the gap between the study of Shastras and Science.”
This is for the first time that a Union Minister of her seniority has attended the World Sanskrit conference outside the country and hence it indicates the importance that the NDA government attaches to the promotion of the ancient language.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani, whose ministry is partly funding the event, will attend its closing ceremony on July 2.
The World Sanskrit Conference, which was organised first in Delhi in 1972, has been held in different countries since then. It is held once after every three years.
Of the 250 Sanskrit scholars participating from India, around 30 were from the RSS affiliate body Sanskrit Bharati this time.
Lauding Sanskrit Bharati’s role, Ms. Swaraj said that it was propagating Sanskrit by conducting conversation courses not only in India, but also in several countries world over.
“Particularly it has pioneered in introducing Sanskrit as a foreign language for students in United States of America. Its efforts are commendable,” she said.
Improve quality of Sanskrit teaching
The External Affairs Minister urged scholars to strive to improve the quality of its teaching and make it attractive.
“It is not sufficient to praise Sanskrit and detail its forte. All Sanskritists should deliberate upon what is to be done for the development of the language. Teaching of Sanskrit should be attractive, its quality should improve, and research in Sanskrit should be more functional,” she said.
Linking Sanskrit with modern subjects, developing literature on contemporary issues, a scientific study of the available texts, and such assignments are to be taken up by Sanskritists, she said.
“These tasks have to be prioritised. If you focus your discussions in this direction, it would greatly benefit the cause of Sanskrit,” Ms. Swaraj told the gathering.
She held that only a subject that addresses contemporary concerns will be accepted by people, studied and followed and then only it will be popular and relevant.
“For new inventions in science and technology fresh inputs are required. These inputs are available in Sanskrit, but inter-disciplinary research is necessary for achieving this goal. Groups of scholars in modern and ancient subjects have to work together and study Sanskrit texts scientifically.
“There should be coordinated programmes by institutions like Indian Institute of Science, IITs in collaboration with Sanskrit universities. Workshops on Sciences and Shastras and special lecture sessions have to be organised. New paths will open up by such efforts,” Ms Swaraj said.
Proclaiming that it is not mere a language but a “world view”, the Minister referred to percepts from Sanskrit, which say that universality, characterised by harmony, common welfare, and inclusiveness can only bring together the warring factions in the universe by friendly overtures.
“This concept of inclusiveness is unique to Sanskrit, it is its culture. Just as mutual trust, love, harmony, cooperation and other inclusive features are essential for an individual family, so are harmony, trust and cooperation are necessary among different nations, different societies, and different sects and traditions in the family of universe. To achieve this there is the vital necessity of the only excellent device, Sanskrit,” she said.
Ms. Swaraj said the Indian Council for Cultural Relations has decided to grant International Sanskrit Award to the scholar who has made significant contribution for Sanskrit. The award would carry with it a certificate and $20,000.
Thai Princess Mahachakri Sirindhon, herself a Sanskrit scholar, is Royal Patron of the conference.