Sanskrit and India

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People would find my statement bizarre that a language which is spoken by a miniscule number of persons in India, and almost nil in Pakistan and Bangladesh, represents the soul of the Indian nation (in which I include Pakistan and Bangladesh), and gives it its distinct identity.. And yet I will attempt to substantiate this very thesis in this article.

In the Indian Constituent Assembly debates ( 1947-49 ) when the question was discussed what should be India’s national language, this exchange took place on 12.9.49 :

The President of the session, the Honble Shri Ghanshyam Singh Gupta: ‘ We want to hear your views on Sanskrit ”

Mr Naziruddin Ahmed:

” I thank the Honble President Mr Gupta. If you wish to adopt any language why should you not have:the world’s greatest language ? It is a matter of great regret that we do not know with what reverence Sanskrit is held in the outside world. I shall only quote a few remarks. Mr Taylor says Sanskrit is a language of unrivalled richness and purity–”

The Honble President :

” I suggest that you may leave that question alone, because I propose to call a member who has given notice about Sanskrit to speak on it ”

Mr Naziruddin Ahmed :

”Yes sir, I shall not stand in between. I will only give a few quotations. Prof Max Muller says that Sanskrit is the greatest language in the world, the most wonderful and the most perfect. Sir William Jones writes ‘ Whenever we direct our attention to the Sanskrit literature, the notion of infinity presents itself. Surely the longest life would not suffice for a perusal of works that rise and swell, protuberant like the Himalayas, above the bulkiest compositions of every land beyond the confines of India ‘. Sir W. Hunter says ‘ The grammar of Panini stands supreme among the grammars of the whole world. It stands forth as one of the most splendid achievements of human invention and industry ‘. Prof M. Dubois says ‘ Sanskrit is the origin of the modern languages of Europe ”..Prof Weber writes ‘ Panini’s grammar is universally admitted to be the shortest and fullest gammars of the world ‘. Prof Wilson says ‘ No nation but the Hindu has yet been able to discover such a perfect system of phonetics ‘. Prof Thompson says ‘ The arrangement of consonants in Sanskrit is a unique example of human genius ‘. Dr Shahidullah, Professor of Sanskrit in Dacca University, who has a worldwide reputation as a Sanskrit scholar, says ‘ Sanskrit is the language of every man to whatever race he may belong ‘.

The Honble President :

” And what is your view ? ”

Mr Naziruddin Ahmed :

” My own view is that Sanskrit is one of the greatest languages, and—”

An Honble member :

” But should it be adopted as the national language ? It is not spoken by anyone now. ”

Mr Naziruddin Ahmed :

” Yes, for the simple reason that it is impartially difficult to all. Hindi is easy for the Hindi speaking areas, but difficult for others. There should be some impartiality in the selection. If we have to adopt a language as the national language it must be grand, great, and the best. Then why should we discard the claim of Sanskrit ? ”

Pt Laxmikant Mishra :

” If today india has an opportunity to shape her own destiny I ask in all seriousness if she is ashamed to recognise the Sanskrit language, the revered grandmother of languages of the world, still alive with full vigour and vitality, and deny its rightful claim ? I know it will be said that it is a dead language. Yes, dead to whom ? Dead to you because you have become dead to all that is noble and great in our own culture. You have been chasing the shadows, and never tried to grasp the substance. If Sanskrit is dead, may I ask whether she is ruling us from her grave ? ”.

The foundation of Indian culture is based on the Sanskrit language. There is a misconception about the Sanskrit language that it is only a language for chanting mantras in temples or religious ceremonies. However, that is less than 5% of the Sanskrit literature. More than 95% of Sanskrit literature has nothing to do with religion, and instead it deals with philosophy, law, science, art and literature, grammar, phonetics, interpretation etc. In fact, Sanskrit was the language of free thinkers, who questioned everything, and expressed the widest spectrum of thoughts on various subjects.

Even the materialist atheistic philosophers, the Charvaks, wrote in Sanskrit, and the Mahayan Buddhist texts, e.g. the Avadan Shatak, are mostly in Sanskrit.

The famous Hindi writer Rahul Sanskritayan said that before he learnt Sanskrit he believed in God, but after he learnt it he became an atheist.


The word `Sanskritmeansprepared, pure, refined or prefect”. It was not for nothing that it was called the `devavani’ (language of the Gods). It has an outstanding place in our culture and indeed was recognized as a language of rare sublimity by the whole world. Sanskrit was the language of our philosophers, our scientists, our mathematicians, our poets and playwrights, our grammarians, our jurists, etc. In grammar, Panini and Patanjali (authors of Ashtadhyayi and the Mahabhashya) have no equals in the world; in astronomy and mathematics the works of Aryabhatta, Brahmagupta and Bhaskar opened up new frontiers for mankind, as did the works of Charak and Sushrut in medicine. In philosophy Gautam (founder of the Nyaya system), Ashvaghosha (author of Buddha Charita), Kapila (founder of the Sankhya system), Shankaracharya ( founder of Vedant ), Brihaspati ( founder of the atheistik Charvak philosophy ), etc., present the widest range of philosophical systems the world has ever seen, from deeply religious to strongly atheistic. Jaimini’s Mimansa Sutras laid the foundation of a whole system of rational interpretation of texts which was used not only in religion but also in law, philosophy, grammar, etc. In literature, the contribution of Sanskrit is of the foremost order. The works of Kalidas (Shakuntala, Meghdoot, Malavikagnimitra, etc.), Bhavabhuti (Malti Madhav, Uttar Ramcharit, etc.) and the epics of Valmiki, Vyas, etc. are known all over the world. These and countless other Sanskrit works kept the light of learning ablaze in our country upto modern times.

In particular, Sanskrit made a great contribution to the development of science in ancient India, as explained in the articles below, and it is science and scientific thinking alone which can solve India’s massive problems of today.

Indians were once leaders in science

Indians and science

Science requires logical thinking and precision. The great grammarian Panini through his book Ashtadhyayi systematised and purified the pre-Panini Sanskrit language, and made it a highly efficient tool for expressing scientific ideas with great precision..

Many Westerners have studied Sanskrit, apart from their own disciplines, e.g. Prof Robert Oppenheimer, the great nuclear physicist who is regarded as the father of the atom bomb, who was also a great Sanskrit scholar and quoted a verse from the Gita when the first aom bomb was successfully tested

Some people may object that what have Nagas, Tamilians, etc to do with Sanskrit ? My reply is that it is the rationalist spirit of Sanskrit which all Indians, including Nagas, Tamilians etc, must imbibe and follow if our country is to surmount its present massive problems and enter into an age of prosperity.






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