MUMBAI: “I want to be like my father by teaching others whatever I’ve learned and take the legacy forward. I want to serve the language and the ‘Shastra’,” says an elated Priyavrata Patil who recently received special appreciation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for becoming the youngest to clear the Tenali Mahapariksha at the age of 14.
The exam represents the pinnacle of knowledge of ancient Sanskrit 'Shastras'. For the past few years, it has been sponsored by the Kanchi Mutt. Those who want to appear for the exam have to learn their particular stream of ‘Shastra’ from a Guru. A stipend of Rs 1,000 per month is given to such students to stay at the Guru’s place and learn the Shastras. Later, at the end of the year, their knowledge is tested at the exam.
Priyavrata has cleared the exam for Vyakaran. He studied tests like Siddhanta Kaumudi, Praudh Manorama, Sahbdaratna, Lagu Shabdendu Shekhar and Patanjali’s Mahabhashya.
“The test is of knowledge and understanding. Hence, one is not supposed to just recite the verses or the texts, but understand them and explain their application,” Priyavrata said.
“Each text has 500 to 700 pages. I used to keep the texts in front of me, recall what they said, and then speak it aloud. This I used to do from 7 am in the morning to 11 pm every day for two years,” Priyavrata said.
“I could do this because I like it. I learn and study for my pleasure,” he added.
“I have seen my father teaching other students since my childhood. I used to play in the house watching him teaching students. Somewhere back then I decided that I too should be able to do that. Thus, it came to me naturally. I didn’t have to make any special efforts,” Priyavrata said, explaining his inspiration for pursuing the study of the Shastras.
“We organize a ‘sabha’ every week where all the students gather and discuss the subject. Here questions are asked by fellow students, which gives an opportunity to test one’s understanding of the subject,” he added.
“Teaching and learning Sanskrit has been in our family for a long time. Priyavrata’s great grandfather conversed only in Sanskrit throughout his life after he gained mastery over the language. There was a brief aberration during my father’s generation but I revived the tradition,” said Devdutta, Priyavrata’s father, who has cleared the Tenali Mahapariksha twice, once at the age of 29 and then at the age of 42.
He has studied Nyaya and Mimansa and currently teaches them to 16 students at his home in Rivan village in Goa, some 60 km from Panaji.
Apart from Nyaya, Mimansa and Vyakaran, the Tenali Pariksha is also conducted for Ganit now. The method of learning and teaching remains the same. "Priyavrata has also been studying the Nyaya and Mimansa. So he will give those exams also in the near future," Devdutta said.
Vyakaran forms the core of the ‘Shastra’ studies. The typical style of Sanskrit texts involves ‘Sutras’ or the condensed texts. One has to constantly keep referring to dictionaries to decipher the exact meaning of such ‘Sutras’. Studying Vyakaran is the key to understand these sutras. A master in Vyakaran would immediately understand a particular word and differentiate it from similar words used in another context. This gives the person an ability to understand ancient texts more easily, Devdutta said while explaining the essence of studying Vyakaran.
One can sense the pride in Priyavrata’s voice when he says that he has already completed half the study of the ‘Nyaya’ Shastra.