A cross-section of Sanskrit scholars feels the English language and its popularity cannot be blamed for the declining interest in one of the country’s oldest languages – Sanskrit, as projected by BJP president Rajnath Singh recently.
“We have to blame ourselves for the downfall of Sanskrit, which is the result of neglecting the language over a period of time and lack of job opportunity for Sanskrit scholars,” says M C Dileep Kumar, Vice Chancellor, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in Kerala. He felt the controversy generated by Singh’s comment is for good as it has brought back the issue into limelight. “People in nearly 49 countries are now researching and learning Sanskrit by understanding its importance. However, this is not the case in India, where no importance is being given to promote the language. Lack of job opportunities has further deepened the problem and it has taken the sheen out of the subject,” Kumar explained. The ancient language can be revived only if the government focused on creating job opportunities for Sanskrit scholars. Sanskrit and other regional languages have to be taught early at the school level, he felt and added that this alone would help to motivate people to take up the language as a subject of study.
The Sree Sankaracharya University is now looking to tie up with institutes in Germany and other countries, where Sanskrit is taught seriously. This would provide wider opportunities to the students in terms of job and take the subject at an international level, he said.
N V Devi Prasad, Principal of Madras Sanskrit College said the number of students learning Sanskrit has seen a dip. Only 50 students are pursuing the course though more seats are available.
“This is not just the case with Sanskrit but all other regional languages. With preference being given to enroll in professional courses, the importance for languages and few other subjects is on the wane. If Sanskrit has to revive creating jobs is the only solution to attract students,” he said.
Adverting to the changing moral and ethical values in society, Prasad contended that Sanskrit and other regional languages carried with it good teachings and knowledge to reform the society. The loss of knowledge has brought about changes in values, he said.
“When Lord Macaulay propagated English education, his true intentions were to destroy the very culture and knowledge of the country. Now it is not only Sanskrit which faces the threat, but all other regional languages,” he felt.
However, disagreeing with these contentions, K Ramakrishnan, president of the rationalist outfit Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, said that English has brought reforms and accessibility to education for all. “When knowledge and education was accessible only to a few, it was English that brought reforms and allowed everyone to learn,” he argued.
Ramakrishnan said it was unacceptable to link Sanskrit with culture as several ancient customs were inhuman in nature. The culture of the past had perpetuated disparity which is visible even now in the society.
However, the TPDK leader felt that the English language was a gateway to understand ing the western and European thoughts, which freed the people from many social ills. Change in culture is just a relative term used by the political leaders to prevent the reform, he opined.