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Sanskrit Language

Updated on April 7, 2017

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Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages, which has produced the most ancient Classical literature in the world. It is considered as the Holy language or Liturgical language of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. Majority of the world people are unfamiliar about this language. The meaning of the word Sanskrit is 'Pure, Refined or Perfect'. Sanskrit is considered as "Deva Bhasha" means " Language of the Gods". In India, this ancient language has included as one of the 22 scheduled languages, which has laid down in the Constitution of India as an approved Indian language. It is also the official language of the Indian state, Uttarkhand. It is now the spoken language of small group of population. (On the basis of 2001 census of India, it is the native language of only 14,135 people. The 1991 Indian Census has reported that there are 49,736 persons can speak Sanskrit fluently also). Beyond this, all Indian Languages of India including Dravidian languages are highly influenced by it. Not only Indian, but also the languages of neighbouring nations of India and South East Asian languages. The influence of this classical literature were spread through the religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. Its influence is intangible and unbinding, the root of it is spread every where India, which is really the power of India to stand as one nation though various languages and cultures in its different states..!

Origin of Sanskrit

Sanskrit is included in the Indo - Iranian branch of the language family " Indo - European". The Indo- European is the biggest language family in the world, which contain presently above 400 languages spread from Indian Subcontinent to Iranian Plateau and European Continent. Later the European migrants spread the area of this language family to America and Australia also. All these languages are formed from a common Primitive Proto- Indo- European language. Avestan and Old Persian are the ancient Iranian languages, the vocabulary of these language exert great similarity with Sanskrit. The scholars suggest that the Vedic Sanskrit or Indo- Aryan language evolved from the Proto- Indo- Iranian ancestor from 2000 BC Era. The first Sanskrit work 'Rig Veda' was composed on about 1500 BC. It is believed that every Indo- European languages are originated from the same source. 75 % of Indian people speaks Indo -European languages like Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Kashmiri etc. The Source of these Indian languages are two old languages- Sanskit and Prakrit. Sanskrit was the language of Scholars and aristocrats and Prakrit was of common folks in ancient India. Vedic literature had exchanged from generation to generation through oral traditions in Gurukulas (schools) from Gurus (Teachers) to Shishyas (pupils).The earliest surviving manuscript to write Sanskrit was Bhujimol script and this is followed by the Brahmi Scipt. Now Devanagari Script is used to write this language.


Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit

Sanskrit Language can be classified into two- Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit. Sanskit before the grammarian Panini, who is considered as the greatest grammarian in the world lived in 4th century BC, is called Vedic Sanskrit and Sanskrit after the written of his grammatical work ' Ashtadhyayi' is known as Classical Sanskrit. In this book Panini fixed some rules for Sanskrit, these rules paved the way for classical Sanskrit. Thereafter his rules in Ashadhyayi, no further changes in Sanskrit had occur except some slight changes by the grammarians Katyayana who wrote 'Vartika' and Patanjali who wrote a commentary on the Ashtadhyayi called the 'Maha Bhashya'


After the writing of Ashtadhyayi, the Classical Sanskrit literature is written in accordance with Panini's grammar.Even the non- Vedic works such as Epics which formed before Panini, had changed its language in the mode of Panini's grammar. Most of Sanskrit literature like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas, are the works written in Classical sanskrit.


Presently, Sanskrit is written in accordance witrh Panini's grammar, except a few words and expressions which are called as Apa Shabdas or Apa Bhramshas, which could not be fitted for Panini's system. The language of Rigveda exists in its primitive language which is considered as the sacred or holy book of Hindu religion. Vedas or Samhitas or Mantras like Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Adharvaveda ; The Brahmanas ; The Aranyakas and The Upanishads are considered as Vedic Literature.

Sanskrit in Contemporary Period

Sanskrit is one of the 22 approved languages in the Eighth Schedule of Indian Constitution. Sanskrit is one of the two official languages in the state- Uttar Khand. Since 1967, Sahitya Akademi ( India's National Academy of Letters) started an yearly award for the best literary work in Sanskrit. Jnanpith Award is the highest literary honour in India. It is know as India's Literary Nobel Prize. Satyavrat Shasrti from Punjab(India) is the first Sanskrit author who has won the the Jnanpith in 2009.

All India Radio (Akash Vani) has started Sanskrit news bulletin since 1974.There are some Sanskrit dailies has started publication from India since 1970.

There are many encouragement to sanskrit language through Sanskrit Kalotsava (Art Festival) among students in most states in India.

In 1983, Adhi Shankaracharya, the first Sanskrit movie is released. Ganapathy Venkatrama Iyer from Karnataka state was the director of this film. It has won four Indian National Awards for the Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Audiography in 1983. This film is also nominated for the Bogota Film Festival, in Colombia. His second Sanskrit movie Bhagavad Gita: Song of the Lord has also won the National Award for Best Film in 1993. Swami Vivekananda was his third and last Sanskrit movie.

Influence of Sanskrit

The influence of Sanskrit is not confined within the boundaries of India. It influenced East Asia also. Spread of Buddhism helped for the spread of Sanskrit also. The motto of India is Satyameva Jayate means Truth alone Trumps, is from Sanskrit language. Many motto from this language is quotes from this language even in the Muslim Majority nation like Indonesia

About 75 % of Indians speak Indo- Aryan languages, which are directly formed from Sanskrit and Prakrit have deep influence of Sanskrit. Also Dravidian languages like Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu is also influenced by Sanskrit. Manipravala was a literary style in Kerala. 80% of words are from this classical language in this literary style.

There are about 14 Sanskrit Universities in India which works for the development of Sanskrit Some important Sanskrit Universities and its location maybe watched in the table below:

Important Sanskrit Universities

Name
Established in
Location
Sampurnanand Sanskrit University
1781
Varanasi, UP
Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha
1962
Tirupati, Andhra
Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan
1970
New Delhi
Nepal Sanskrit University
1986
Nepal
Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit
1993
Kerala, India
Karnataka Samskit University
2011
Karnataka

Language of Unity in Diversity

Sanskrit is a perfect and beautiful language. Sanskrit is the pride not only of India, but also of the world. This language reflects the philosophical, scientific, administrative and literary capabilities of our ancestors. The epics "Maha Bharata", and "Ramayana" relates the empires and emperors of pre historic period. These portrays the depth and magnanimity of human relations in ancient world. Works like Upanishads are the philosophical views of ancient religion which had existed in India. The Puranas says the stories of Gods and Goddesses. The Four Vedas are considered as the holy books of Hinduism, which are the most ancient works in literature. The word "Veda" means "Knowledge". The God Brahma, one of the Trinities( Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara) is considered as the author of Vedas.The Vedas are full of Mantras or hymns, incantations, rituals and philosophies which had strictly adhered by the Hindus in ancient period. The Mantras in Sanskrit have a charming audibility. A Hindu Devotee begin his day by hearing Gayatri Mantra in Sanskrit. Kalidasa was a famous classical Sanskrit playwright and poet who lived in 4th century AD. He writes dramas based on Epics and Puranas. Abhijnana Shakuntalam, Raghu vamsham, Mekha Dhoodam, Vikramorvashiyam and Kumara Sambhavam are his notable works. The above is a micro brief explanation of the Sanskrit literary works. Their influence in Indian culture exists through many centuries.

Sanskrit is not a Dead Language, because its vocabulary and grammatical aspects live through the present Indian languages. The products of Sanskrit literature are re created again and again in new literary works in India. Its influence in the social life of India which continues from generation to generation. My spoken language is Malayalam, which is a Dravidian language. But it is abundant with Sanskrit words. Some Manipravala slokas in Malayalam have great similaty with Sanskrit slokas. Any Indian can easily recognize many Sanskrit words without studying it as an optional language, Its influence in Indian languages is as same of Greek and Latin in modern European languages. The languages of neighbour nations are utterly different from India. Mongolian, Polynesian and Semantics are the language groups which are spoken around India. But India keep its ancient languages, culture and religion as a holy light, which did not extinct till now, even after many foreign invasions like Muslim Dynasty and British invasion which prevails about 1000 years. These invasions reveals the fact that Indian culture is one which can not invade through weapons, physical power or money power. The influence of Sanskrit is remarkable and it combines many states of India as one nation though its diversities in cultures, religions and languages.

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