MUMBAI: He is just 16, but already a master of ancient shastras. On September 8, Priyavrata Patil of Goa passed one of the world’s toughest exams — the Tenali Maha Pariksha in vyakarana shastra (grammar), clearing all 14 tests, a feat no one has achieved till now at such a young age.
“Very rarely do scholars complete all 14 exams. One has to rigorously study 12-14 hours a day to accomplish this. Priyavrata is highly talented and is going to become a legend of our times,” Chamu Krishna Shastry, a scholar who has spearheaded efforts to spread spoken Sanskrit among the masses, said.
In the Tenali Maha Pariksha, a student is tested in the ancient Indian method — an oral exam on all 14 mahagranthas (great texts) by the greatest scholars of that shastra. Priyavrata had to study texts like Patanjali’s Mahabhashya, Siddhanta Kaumudi and Praudh Manorama.
“Each text is around 500-700 pages. I used to keep them in front of me, recall what they said, and then speak it aloud, from 7 am to 11 pm every day for two years. I could do this as I like it,” the Sanskrit whiz kid, who hails from the village of Rivan, 60 km from Panaji, said.
It is not just memorisation of the texts and being well-versed in their commentaries, which in itself is a tough task. A student’s own interpretation is also examined. “One is not supposed to just recite the verses, but also understand them and explain their application,” Priyavrata, who has also learnt five of the 8 ashtakas of Rig Veda, said.
The boy comes from an illustrious family. His mother Aparna is a scholar in ancient texts, and his father Devadatta has completed the Tenali Maha Pariksha in three shastras and produced 28 scholars in his gurukulam in Goa. Priyavrata recalls seeing his father teach others and getting inspired. In fact, Mohan Lal Sharma, Priyavrata’s vyakarana guru, once studied under Devadatta.
“Teaching and learning Sanskrit is in our family for a long time. Priyavrata’s great grandfather conversed only in Sanskrit after he gained mastery over the language. There was a brief gap during my father’s generation but I revived the tradition,” Devadatta said. The next mission of his son, who learnt the Bhagavad Gita and Ashtadhyayi by the age of eight, is to study all the 80 aahnikas of Vyakarana Mahabhashya in the next three years, which no one has done till now.
Apart from vyakarana, nyaya (law) and mimansa (philosophy), the Maha Pariksha is also conducted for ganit (mathematics) now. “The method of learning and teaching is the same. Priyavrata has cleared vyakarana. He will take exams in nyaya and mimansa soon,” Devadatta added. Lauding Priyavrata, PM Narendra Modi recently tweeted, “His achievement will serve as a source of inspiration for many!”