By Pavan Tarawade:
“Amongst all the languages, the language of Gods (Sanskrit) is the sweetest, in that the poetry and further in that Subhashitas”
I cannot agree more with this ‘subhashit’ (verse).
I was born in a religious family in the heart of Pune. With an idol of Ganpati at our ancestral house and being the only boy on my paternal side of the family meant that I was supposed to perform all the religious customs on behalf of my family. A mediator between God and myself obviously was a Hindu priest belonging to an upper caste. I wasn’t too comfortable with this barrier of communication between the holy God and my naïve yet inquisitive mind. And the only apparent solution was learning the sacred language itself. The priest wasn’t too happy with the outcome. Over the years, he got further irritated with me reciting the ‘shlokas’ before he could even begin chanting and especially when I suggested that we can skip one or two. And as I grew up, I read more on the language and fell more in love with it, with ‘subhashitas’ and with the works of Kalidas. But all this was possible because I live in the 21st century (‘kaliyug’ as people ironically call it).
The origin of Sanskrit goes back to 1500 BC in the ‘rigvedas’. In fact, its roots lie all the way in Syria and Iran – the lands from where it later reached India along with the migrating tribes in the form of Vedic Sanskrit. Panini was the first one to standardise the grammar and vocabulary for the language. Interestingly, Sanskrit went on to become a language of Gods or ‘Dev’ community.
Sanskrit, the so-called ‘sacred’ language, became restricted only to the Hindu upper castes. So sacred that the lower castes weren’t even allowed to listen to it being recited. This was the first horrendous mistake by the then Sanskrit speakers which led to it eventually getting lost in the sands of time.
‘Prakrit’ languages – ‘Maharashtri’, ‘Magadhi’, ‘Shourseni’ and ‘Paishachi’ also developed around the same time. The ‘Prakrit’ languages were further developed into modern languages known as Marathi (from Maharashtri), Oriya, Bangla, Assamese (from Magadhi), Western Hindi (Shourseni), Kashmiri (from Paishachi), etc. Both Sanskrit and Prakrit languages had the influence on one another. No doubt that a Marathi, Bangla or Hindi speaker will find it easier to learn Sanskrit compared to others. The important thing to note here is that the majority of southern languages had more or less nothing to do with Sanskrit, as claimed by many. Sanskrit was never the official language of all Hindus (except for few). Not a surprising fact that today it is spoken by less than 1% of the Indian population and mostly Hindu priests during religious ceremonies.
Any guesses why Sanskrit did not spread to the other parts of the world? Because according to Hindu priests back then, crossing the sea was a ‘sin’. That not only did kill the language but also made overly-dependent Kshatriya kings more vulnerable to foreign attacks and being conquered. Oxford dictionary, on the contrary, adds new words from other languages to the official English language every year. It isn’t a surprise that English was established as a global language. Imagine if Sanskrit was also taught to people belonging to other castes and religions back then. Imagine if the masses were able to learn and recite Sanskrit shlokas the way few privileged ones were able to. Imagine the kind of literature that would have been created by writers and artists from rest of the Hindu classes which formed the majority of Hindu population. Such as Dnyaneshwar (13th century Marathi poet) who wrote Bhavarth Deepika (Dnyaneshwari) in Marathi for the masses who could not understand Sanskrit. Nothing killed the Sanskrit language (and other ancient arts) more than the devilish tradition of restricting it to only a few classes did.
Moreover, the ego and the self-proclaimed superiority of religious fanatics didn’t help either. For example, let us imagine a hypothetical situation where the current Government does succeed in promoting the Sanskrit language to masses. Let’s imagine a situation ten years from now, where few Hindu priests are performing a religious ceremony in a room full of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras all of whom can perfectly understand and speak Sanskrit. Will the priests be pleased with everyone becoming proficient in Sanskrit and catching them uttering gibberish and charging fees for it? If you know the answer, you’ve got my point.
I genuinely hope that Sanskrit survives and the future generations get to savour the beauty of its literature and rich history. But the fact remains that the preachers of Sanskrit are the original murderers of this language. And these desperate attempts to impose the language on everyone are nothing but an epitome of hypocrisy and embarrassment.
“It is essential to speak the truth, but it is more important to speak out things that matter to the masses. According to me, the thing which is beneficial to the community as whole is the truth.”