The IT boom may have made the Sanskrit education unpopular among youth, but Gangadhar Panda, vice-chancellor of Shri Jagannath Sanskrit Vishvavidyalay (SJSV) in Puri, Odisha, feels every student should be given scope to learn the language. “Except Tamil, Sanskrit is the mother of all languages as it was the medium of instruction in ancient times as far as mythology, Ayurveda, astrology, political science, philosophy and medicine are concerned. Since it is an important part of the culture and tradition of India, everyone should have access to learn it,” feels Panda. “People across the globe are now trying to learn this classical language in their quest for knowledge of ancient age India as all Vedas and Upanishads are in Sanskrit. Since retired persons and foreign students have also evinced interest to learn the language, we have started an MA in Sanskrit for this academic year.”
The University runs eight departments of studies — Dharmashastra, Nyaya, Sahitya, Sarvadarshan, Veda, Vyakaran, Advaita Vedanta and Jyotirvigyan. It has 222 affiliated Sanskrit colleges with 18,000 students who are pursuing Plus II (Upashastri) and BA (Shastri) courses. Besides, the university has 500-odd students pursuing PG courses, 100 in BEd Siksha Shastri, 100 in MPhil and 60 at the PhD level.
At SJSV, the VC and faculty have been constantly trying to evolve the subject with time. “We have a Centre of Advanced Research in Sanskrit where we are constantly researching on Sanskrit and its impact on culture as both are two faces of the same coin — India. A research journal Jagannath Jyoti is published on the foundation day, July 7 of each year,” Panda says.
On ensuring quality of education amid a large number of affiliated colleges, the VC says recently 22 such colleges were de-recognised as they lacked basic infrastructure and faculty to run the courses. “They would also write exams on behalf of the students and arrange certificates for them by charging money. We will take stringent action against any affiliated institute that resorts to such activities,” he says.
There are, however, many stumbling blocks that the VC had to face in the day-to-day management of the Sanskrit University.
Even as there are 16 Sanskrit universities in the country, SJSV has failed to project itself as an outstanding educational institution despite having the potential. “Reasons are many, the primary being lack of adequate staff. In each of the eight departments of studies that we have, there should be at least six to seven faculty members as sanctioned by the government. But we are now managing with three to four. Situation is the same as far as non-teaching staff is concerned. The university is supposed to conduct examination for all the 222 affiliated colleges, but at the examination wing of SJSV, there are just two to three staff who are managing the show. In our Centre of Advanced Research in Sanskrit, there is no director, which is why we are not able to take up the extent of research in Sanskrit and Odisha’s Jagannath Culture that we can,” says Panda.
Notwithstanding the difficulties, the VC has big plans for the university. To begin with, he wants to get the university recognised under National Assessment and Accreditation Council, which will pave way for more financial aid by University Grants Commission. Besides, he wants to open a department in Puranic Studies. Apart from this, he has approached the Higher Education Department to set up a 100-bed girls’ hostel. “The girls-boys ratio in our university is 75:25. However, we have just one girls’ hostel, which is already overcrowded. Hence, we have asked the State Government to set up another 100-bed girls’ hostel,” Panda says.
To make the university self-sufficient, Panda has also approached the State Government to take up cashewnut cultivation in the land under its possession. “Our campus is spread over 100 acres. Of this, 30 acres come under sweet water zone and we cannot construct anything on that area. Hence, we have approached the Odisha State Cashew Development Corporation to take up cashewnut cultivation in this patch of land. When after three years, the plants start bearing fruits, we can auction the plantations, which will fetch us an annual capital of `10 lakh. With the State Government not in a position to fund higher education institutions, this amount will come as big help,” he says.
One of the most ambitious plan is setting up of the National Museum on Jagannath Culture that would come up on the premises of the campus. “The Odisha Government and Puri King Dibyasingha Deb have accepted our proposal. Once we get the required financial support, we will begin work on it. The museum will be an interesting one for all the followers of Jagannath Culture as we will display all facets of it through sculptures, paintings and photographs,” he adds.