For over three decades, Chamu Krishna Shastry, a dedicated advocate from Bangalore, has tirelessly pursued the revival of Sanskrit. With an unwavering belief that “Sanskrit is the basis for everything in India,” Shastry acknowledges the challenges but remains resolute in his mission to resurrect this profound language.
The Mother Language
Sanskrit, an Indo-Aryan language, is the venerable mother tongue of numerous Indian languages. Once spoken throughout ancient India, it remains significant in modern times, particularly in liturgical practices.
Originally an oral language, Sanskrit eventually found its written form in the Brahmi script. Over time, it adapted to various regional scripts such as Nagari, Oriya, Grantha, Bengali, Telugu, Sharada, Modi, Tamil, Kannada, and Kharoshti. However, today, Devanagari script remains the primary script employed. The global recognition of Sanskrit’s importance is evident, as 60 countries boast 450 universities that teach the language.
The Present State of Sanskrit
Remarkably, Sanskrit still thrives as the primary language in certain regions of India, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. In the village of Mathur, located in the southwestern state of Karnataka, more than 90% of the population is proficient in Sanskrit. Furthermore, the city of Mysore continues to publish a daily newspaper in Sanskrit. “Sudharma,” the world’s sole publication of its kind, has been in print since 1970 and now has an online presence.
The Bond Between Sanskrit and Hinduism
The intimate connection between the Sanskrit language and Hinduism is undeniable. Hinduism draws heavily from the Vedic civilization, and Sanskrit serves as the primary medium of expressing Vedic thought. Thus, ancient Sanskrit literature undeniably forms the bedrock of Hindu civilization. However, despite Sanskrit’s foundational role, Hinduism has gradually transitioned to being expressed in regional vernacular languages.
The Path to Learning as We Revive Sanskrit
Chamu Krishna Shastry offers an alternative perspective on learning Sanskrit, challenging the current methods used by Sanskrit scholars. He believes that the conventional “rote method” of learning, which relies heavily on translation, creates mental barriers and contributes to the decline of Sanskrit. According to Shastry, true mastery lies in a conversational approach, where teachers go beyond mere memorization and engage in meaningful dialogue.
Shastry asserts that given the Sanskrit roots present in many modern Indian dialects, speaking Sanskrit should be relatively straightforward. To support this claim, he has organized widely popular Sanskrit courses that advocate for the method of “learning the classical language in the same language.”
Unveiling the Depths of Hinduism with the Sanskrit Revival
Given the inseparable bond between Sanskrit and Hinduism, a profound understanding of the latter necessitates a grasp of Sanskrit. In an ideal world, educational institutions and Hindu temples would incorporate Sanskrit revival into their teachings, and young Hindus would also embrace it. However, the reality is quite different, as the cultural significance of Sanskrit has faded over time and the art of studying Sanskrit texts has almost completely faded within Indian society.
Sanskrit Literature in the Western Consciousness
One potential avenue for Sanskrit revival is its continued presence in everyday usage. Even in the Western world, words such as “yoga,” “karma,” “Brahman,” and “dharma” have become commonplace. Some Western alternative rock bands have even incorporated Sanskrit chants into their popular releases. However, it is important to recognize that only some who use these words truly comprehend their full religious significance. Indeed, one of the world’s most ancient languages deserves a deeper study and the undivided attention of those who employ it so casually.
Is the World Ready for the Revival of Sanskrit Language?
Chamu Krishna Shastry’s unwavering dedication to reviving Sanskrit serves as a beacon of hope for preserving India’s ancient language. Sanskrit, as the mother tongue of numerous Indian dialects, holds immense cultural and religious significance. Its revival reconnects people to their rich linguistic heritage and deepens our understanding of Hinduism and its roots in Vedic thought.
While Sanskrit still maintains a presence in certain pockets of India, addressing its challenges in modern times is essential. Shastry’s innovative approach to teaching Sanskrit, emphasizing conversational learning over rote memorization, paves the way for a more engaging and effective educational experience. By incorporating Sanskrit into mainstream education and promoting its usage in temples, we can foster a renewed appreciation for the language among young learners.
The revival of Sanskrit requires collective efforts from educators, scholars, and enthusiasts alike. Embracing the language goes beyond a mere linguistic endeavor; it is a testament to our commitment to preserving our cultural heritage. As we strive to bring Sanskrit back to the forefront, let us recognize its profound influence and dedicate ourselves to its revival as a vibrant and living language.