History & Culture

Sudharma — World’s only Sanskrit newspaper completes five decades

One day in a year (August 3) is dedicated to the celebration of Sanskrit, but at Sudharma this ancient language is celebrated everyday. The Mysuru-based Sanskrit newspaper completes five decades this year. To mark this milestone, a series of 50 lectures on music, literature and art has been organised. Titled ‘Sudharma Upanyasa’, it is being streamed on YouTube over the past 15 Sundays at 5 p.m. Thirty five more lectures are in the pipeline.

Online edition

“This year is special to us because keeping Sudharma going for the past 50 years, with little support from the government, has not been easy,” says K.V. Sampath Kumar, who succeeded his father, K.N. Varadaraja Iyengar, as editor. He now runs the paper along with his wife Jayalakshmi K.S. “To keep pace with the changing times, we launched our e-paper in 2009. It has a readership of 1.5 lakh across 106 countries, including Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria, Australia, America and Sri Lanka. The print edition has a subscription of nearly 4,000. We send the newspaper by post to our readers across India,” says Sampath Kumar.

Sampath Kumar at the Sudharma office

Sampath Kumar at the Sudharma office  

This year turned out to be special for the couple for one more reason, as Sampath Kumar and Jayalakshmi were jointly selected for the Padma Shri. “We are grateful to my father who decided to start a Sanskrit daily. He felt that a newspaper can help the common man get familiar with the language, which has otherwise remained restricted to vidwans and locked in the Vedas and granthas.”

Before launching Sudharma, Varadaraja Iyengar started Srikaanta Samskriti Sangha for girls in 1963. He then started the Samskruta Paatashala in 1967. “In the mid-1970s, when my father was nominated to the Sanskrit Advisory Committee, New Delhi, he proposed ‘Sanskrit Vaarte’ (news) in All India Radio, which was accepted, with I.K. Gujral, the then Minister of Information and Broadcasting seconding it. Now, we have two Sanskrit bulletins in Akashavani,” says Sampath Kumar.

Business against odds

The passion with which Varadaraja Iyengar started Sudharma is the reason why, despite financial problems, Sampath Kumar did not want to shut it down. “Today Sudharma is the world’s only Sanskrit daily. I promised my father that I would continue his pet project. I owe my Padma Award to him.” .

Sampath Kumar and wife Jayalakshmi at the Sudharma office

Sampath Kumar and wife Jayalakshmi at the Sudharma office  

After his father’s demise in 1990, both Sampath Kumar and Jayalakshmi took charge. While Sampath Kumar, 64, is a Commerce graduate with a ‘Sahitya’ in Sanskrit, Jayalakshmi has done her Masters in the language. “Sudharma’s readers belong to Sanskrit vidyapeethas, academies, Kendriya Vidyalayas and state public libraries,” says Sampath Kumar.

Researchers based in in London and Israel get in touch with the couple for their study of Sanskrit. Says Jayalakshmi, “Many foreign scholars come to Mysuru every year to enhance their knowledge. It is up to the vidwans and educational authorities to see that Sanskrit reaches the students. If job opportunities are made available, it would encourage them to learn the language,” she says. Sanskrit roots are part of several Indian and foreign languages, Jayalakshmi points out, and says that Sudharma reaches the14 Sanskrit universities in Germany. Sanskrit is present in music, dance and works of literature, she says.

Sudharma still struggles to stay afloat. The paper, with its mix of political, civic, sports and culture coverage, functions with donations from individuals, Sanskrit professors, scholars and corporates. “Prof. H.V. Nagaraja Rao, who has a doctorate in Sanskrit, has been supporting Sudharma since the day it was launched. His editorials are considered thought-provoking. We also have other vidwans writing for the cause of Sanskrit,” says Sampath Kumar. “We incur a monthly expenditure of ₹50,000 towards salaries, which is taken care of by generous donors. I bear the printing expenses.”

Sampath Kumar with wife Jayalakshmi at the Sudharma office

Sampath Kumar with wife Jayalakshmi at the Sudharma office  

Sudharma also brings out monthly and anniversary specials. While book releases are a common feature, the dance-drama ‘Dashaavatara Vaibhava’ was staged at the newspaper’s silver jubilee celebration and Sudharma Dini Darshini is their annual calendar. They used to hold the Sanskrit Book exhibition till a decade ago, which attracted visitors from around the world.

“We were planning to publish compositions in Sanskrit with their meanings to mark our golden jubilee. But we had to postpone it because of the pandemic,” says Sampath Kumar.

The writer is a Bengaluru-based

freelance journalist.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 9:24:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/sudharma-worlds-only-sanskrit-newspaper-completes-five-decades/article32575207.ece

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