RAIPUR: It’s hard to imagine 52-year-old Budhram Yadav in a clean white kurta pyjama reciting the Saraswati Vandanam in perfect Sanskrit. The convict lodged in Raipur Central Jail says, “The Vedic language has helped us participate in daily exercises like yoga, self-care and conducting pujas.”
The sight of prisoners performing Hindu rituals and correctly reciting Sanskrit slokas had astonished Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh who visited the jail. Says Sanskrit course coordinator N R Naktode, who claims Raipur prison is the only jail in the country where Sanskrit is taught, “Class VI students get a monthly scholarship of `100 while Class IX students get `150.”
Many of the students have been convicted of heinous crimes like murder, rape and robbery.
“Around 50 inmates are taking regular Sanskrit classes. This course was introduced in 2010 by the Chhattisgarh Sanskrit Board (Sanskrit Vidyamandalam), which conducts the exams, too,” says DIG of Police K K Gupta. The jail administration bears the cost, including fees.
The illuminated and ventilated classroom in Central Jail doesn’t look different from one in a government school. It has a blackboard, iron desks and chairs, and the usual charts and images of freedom fighters on the walls.
Convicts Mananlal Nishad, 62, and Brehan Prakash, 33, are studying Karmkand, Jyotish, Vastu Shastra, Paurohitya, Yoga and Puja Path Vidhaan. “Sanskrit is the mother of all Indian languages. We read the Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Ramayana. It’s a good feeling,” they said.
Chairman of the Board, Swami Pramanand, cites the importance of teaching Sanskrit in correctional institutions. “The spiritual content and language of ancient Indian scriptures leaves a positive impact on thinking and behaviour. Knowledge of Sanskrit inspires prisoners to be polite and cultured,” he said.
The Chhattisgarh government sent a prop osal to Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan for financial assistance and recognition for the course. “We look forward to enhancing the quality of Sanskrit education with the ministry’s support,” course coordinator N R Naktode said.
Undertrials cannot enrol as they can be released or be out on bail and won’t be able to finish the course.