It would seem that the Germans would be the custodians of the culture and heritage of Sanskrit, a classical language of India and one of the country’s 22 official languages, if the high demand for courses in Sanskrit and Indology in Germany is any indication. Fourteen universities in Germany teach classical and modern Indology, which includes the study of Hinduism and Sanskrit literature, together with other religions of India such as Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, as well as Pāli literature.
Most of these schools receive applications for the courses from around the globe. In the case of the South Asia Institute of the University of Heidelberg, the applications they have received is so overwhelming that they had to establish a summer school for spoken Sanskrit in Italy, Switzerland and in India as well. Their annual summer school spans the month of August with students coming from Germany, UK, Italy, the United States and other parts of Europe.
According to Professor Dr. Axel Michaels who heads the university’s classical Indology department, they were prepared to shut the course down after two years. That was 15 years ago. They did not think they would receive such overwhelming response that they had to offer it to other countries in Europe. They even had to turn down some applications, according to Dr. Michaels. They have 254 students coming from 34 countries so far. Dr. Michaels mused that many Sanskrit scholars in the UK, California Berkeley and Harvard are Germans, possibly due to the Germans’ romantic view of India, which they failed to colonize in the past.
One of the students is Francesca Lunari who is taking up medicine. She said that she is interested in psychoanalysis and wants to know how human thoughts came from cultures, societies and texts. She also wants to learn Bangla, another Indian language, so she could understand the original works of an oriental psychiatry pioneer, Girindra Sekhar Bose.
Dr. Hans Harder, the head of the University of Heidelberg’s modern South Asian languages and literatures department said that Bangla, like Sanskrit must be preserved or it could become endangered due to the onrush of English. He added that a good part of the global cultural heritage might become extinct if major Indian languages become affected by Indian English, which had become poorer based on his observation. He said Sanskrit is a living language, and there are still so many things to be discovered including the details of the civilization in the Indus Valley through Sanskrit.
The German language was pulled out as the third language offered in the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghathan (KVS) curriculum in India to be replaced by Sanskrit. While Germany strongly protested against the removal of their language in the lower level school curriculum, the two countries have agreed on offering the language in the higher levels.