NEW DELHI: Away from the high-voltage debate on Sanskrit versus German in metros and in TV studios of Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi wakes up to mesmerising renditions of Vedic hymns every morning. The first light of the day coincides with a “Yagya” at Assi Ghat conducted by a group of girl students from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and North-Eastern states. The students—between the age group of 10-16—left their homes and shifted to the temple town to learn Sanskrit at Panini Gurukul, which was established in June 1971 in a small locality known as Tulsipur.
Nandita Shastri Chaturvedi, principal of this girl’s residential college, is aware of the Sanskrit-German controversy, which she finds unwarranted. Chaturvedi says that Sanskrit cannot be compared with any other language as it is not just a language but is ‘Sanskar’ and ‘Sanskriti’. She says that when the controversy was raging, a German student Lucy enrolled herself at the gurukul to learn Sanskrit.
“We have an international hostel where girls from USA, Germany and Europe stay to lean Sanskrit in the gurukul way. A girl from California recently came to learn Sanskrit. The debate and controversy is irrelevant when we have a language that attracts foreigners in huge numbers,” says Chaturvedi. She adds that after completing a 13-year course, students have never faced unemployment issues.
“This entire debate is linked to career options. We have lost the human touch in education. Before imposing the career burden upon a child we must ensure that education must shape the personality. We have to create a better generation that can keep humanity intact,” she says.
In December last year, Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani was slammed for trying to replace German with Sanskrit as the third language in some 500 Kendriya Vidyalayas under the Central government.
Apart from Sanskrit, the syllabus includes English, Science, Computer Science, Mathematics, Geography and History. Ancient verses and the glory of the Vedas in English are among the subjects students must learn. They are also trained in sarate, swords, archery, rifle shooting and at least one musical instrument or vocal. Fluent in both English and Sanskrit, these girls have to maintain a gau shala (cow shed) at the gurukul, which does not accept grants from the government and is completely dependent on individual donations.
“These students are invited to Berlin, the Netherlands, Spain, Japan and many other countries to conduct “Yagya” and musical programmes. The international hostel ensures that those who want to learn Sanskrit after completing their education can stay and complete their short-term course,” says Chaturvedi.