Teaching Sanskrit

Published - April 30, 2016 01:03 am IST

The writer, Nikhil Govind, says Sanskrit is a difficult language for most to learn with its endless tables (“How to teach Sanskrit”, April 29). But other languages such as German also have tables of declensions, as well as compound words. In Sanskrit, in addition to singular and plural, there is something called a dual form. In some introductory primers on Sanskrit, this has been relegated to the background to simplify the course. So there are teaching methods appropriate to the present times. But the main question is, why learn any classical language at all? The rigour of Sanskrit inculcates a mental discipline worth cultivating. Westerners found Sanskrit fascinating and scholars spent their entire lives trying to master it. It is not improper to give an opportunity to Indians to do the same. There may not be many takers for the course, but why not leave it to the students to decide? After all, it’s only an elective course.

Siva Chander,Hyderabad

Maybe Sanskrit is a highly scientific language but why bring it up now? It is unsurprising that Smriti Irani, who has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, is being attacked for this suggestion. Any move to uplift Sanskrit will be termed as saffronisation. Moreover, students in the IITs face a lot of academic pressure. Introducing another difficult subject to the curriculum would only add to their misery. Sanskrit is in no way connected to what they study, so this is an unnecessary suggestion and debate.

K. S. Jayatheertha,Bengaluru

Just as mathematics has certain basic formulae and philosophy has some basic doctrines that help understand and appreciate the subject, so does Sanskrit. How can a person who runs away from learning Sanskrit on seeing its endless number of tables, without understanding the underlying principles in preparing those tables, draw conclusions that the language is difficult? To learn any subject requires patience, especially in the initial years.

India has a good historic record of wonderful scientific achievements. Ancient Indian texts on architecture such as the Manasara and Samarangana Sutradhara deal with subjects like building not only houses, but also villages, townships and cities. There are volumes of information about the conservation of forests and purification of rivers. Even today a plethora of independent treatises of ancient India are available on mathematics, astronomy, zoology, and so on. Is it then acceptable to say that “science in India, like anywhere in the world till the rise of the modern West — was never the centre of research or scholarly endeavour”?

Mr. Govind has also said that “the state of Sanskrit scholarship in the country — in proportion to how important Sanskrit is to our intellectual heritage — is truly abysmal.” I would say that the state of interest in learning the ancient Indian knowledge systems in the contemporary Indian academic circles — in proportion to how important Sanskrit is to our intellectual heritage — is truly abysmal.

Rani Sadasiva Murty,Tirupati

The HRD Ministry’s suggestion is merely an attempt to implement the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s agenda to saffronise the education system. This move should be vehemently objected to by not only the students but also by every other citizen of the country.

Tharcius S.Fernando,Chennai

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