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Sanskrit Language

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Glimpses to the history of the ancient world are open before us a world of beauty...!

Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages, which has produced the most ancient Classical literature in the world. It is considered the Holy language of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism.

The majority of the world people are unfamiliar with this language. The meaning of the word Sanskrit is 'Pure, Refined or Perfect'. Sanskrit is considered as "Deva Bhasha" which means " Language of the Gods".

In India, this ancient language has been included as one of the 22 scheduled languages, which has been laid down in the Constitution of India as an approved Indian language. It is also the official language of the Indian state, Uttarakhand.

It is now the spoken language of a small group of population. Based on the 2001 census of India, it is the native language of only 14,135 people. The 1991 Indian Census has reported that there are 49,736 persons can speak Sanskrit fluently also.

Beyond this, all Indian Languages India including Dravidian languages is highly influenced by it. It influences not only Indian Languages but also the languages of Southeast Asian languages.

The influence of this classical literature was spread through religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. Its influence is intangible and unbinding, the root of it is spread everywhere India, which is really the power of India to stand as one nation through various languages and cultures in its different states..!

Origin of Sanskrit

Sanskrit is included in the Indo - Iranian branch of the language family " Indo - European".

The Indo- European is the biggest language family in the world, which contains presently above 400 languages spread from the Indian Subcontinent to Iranian Plateau and European Continent.

Later the European migrants spread the area of this language family to America and Australia also. All these languages are formed from a common Primitive Proto- Indo- European language.

Avestan and Old Persian are the ancient Iranian languages, the vocabulary of these languages exert great similarity with Sanskrit.

The scholars suggest that the Vedic Sanskrit or Indo- Aryan language evolved from the Proto- Indo- Iranian ancestor from 2000 BC Era.

The first Sanskrit work 'Rig Veda' was composed on about 1500 BC. It is believed that every Indo- European languages are originated from the same source.

75 % of Indian people speak Indo -European languages like Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Kashmiri, etc.

The sources of these Indian languages are two old languages- Sanskrit and Prakrit.

Sanskrit was the language of Scholars and aristocrats and Prakrit was of common folks in ancient India.

Vedic literature had exchanged from generation to generation through oral traditions in Gurukulas (schools) from Gurus (Teachers) to Shishyas (pupils).

The earliest surviving manuscript to write Sanskrit was Bhujimol script and this is followed by the Brahmi Script. Now Devanagari Script is used to write this language.

sanskit-language-and-literature

Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit

The Sanskrit Language can be classified into two- Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit, Sanskrit before the grammarian Panini, who is considered as the greatest grammarian in the world lived in 4th century BC, is called Vedic Sanskrit and Sanskrit after the written of his grammatical work ' Ashtadhyayi' is known as Classical Sanskrit.

In this book Panini fixed some rules for Sanskrit, these rules paved the way for classical Sanskrit.

Thereafter his rules in Ashadhyayi, no further changes in Sanskrit had occurred except some slight changes by the grammarians Katyayana who wrote 'Vartika' and Patanjali who wrote a commentary on the Ashtadhyayi called the 'Maha Bhashya'

After the writing of Ashtadhyayi, Classical Sanskrit literature is written in accordance with Panini's grammar.

Even the non- Vedic works such as Epics which formed before Panini, had changed its language in the mode of Panini's grammar.

Most of Sanskrit literature like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Puranas, are the works written in Classical Sanskrit.

Presently, Sanskrit is written in accordance with Panini's grammar, except for a few words and expressions which are called Apa Shabdas or Apa Bhramshas, which could not be fitted for Panini's system.

The language of Rigveda exists in its primitive language which is considered as the sacred or holy book of the Hindu religion.

Vedas or Samhitas or Mantras like Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda; The Brahmanas; The Aranyakas, and The Upanishads are considered as Vedic Literature.

sanskit-language-and-literature

Sanskrit in Contemporary Period

Sanskrit is one of the 22 approved languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
Sanskrit is one of the two official languages in the state- Uttar Khand.

Since 1967, Sahitya Akademi ( India's National Academy of Letters) started a yearly award for the best literary work in Sanskrit.

Jnanpith Award is the highest literary honor in India. It is known as India's Literary Nobel Prize. Satyavrat Shastri from Punjab(India) is the first Sanskrit author who has won the Jnanpith in 2009.

All India Radio (Akash Vani) has started the Sanskrit news bulletin in 1974. There are some Sanskrit dailies that have started publication from India since 1970.

There is much encouragement to the Sanskrit language through Sanskrit Kalotsava (Art Festival) among students in most states in India.

In 1983, Adi Shankaracharya, the first Sanskrit movie is released. Ganapathy Venkatrama Iyer from Karnataka state was the director of this film.

It has won four Indian National Awards for the Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Audiography in 1983.

This film is also nominated for the Bogota Film Festival, in Colombia.

His second Sanskrit movie Bhagavad Gita: Song of the Lord has also won the National Award for Best Film in 1993.

Swami Vivekananda was his third and last Sanskrit movie.

Influence of Sanskrit

The influence of Sanskrit is not confined within the boundaries of India.

It influenced East Asia also.

The spread of Buddhism helped for the spread of Sanskrit also.

The motto of India is Satyameva Jayate means Truth alone Trumps, is from the Sanskrit language.

Many mottoes from this language are quoted from this language even in the Muslim Majority nation like Indonesia

About 75 % of Indians speak Indo- Aryan languages, which are directly formed from Sanskrit, and Prakrit has a deep influence of Sanskrit.

Also, Dravidian languages like Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu is also influenced by Sanskrit.

Manipravala was a literary style in Kerala. 80% of words are from this classical language in this literary style.

There are about 14 Sanskrit Universities in India which works for the development of Sanskrit Some important Sanskrit Universities and its location may be watched in the table below:

Important Sanskrit Universities

NameEstablished in Location

Sampurnanand Sanskrit University

1781

Varanasi, UP

Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha

1962

Tirupati, Andhra

Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan

1970

New Delhi

Nepal Sanskrit University

1986

Nepal

Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit

1993

Kerala, India

Karnataka Samskit University

2011

Karnataka

Language of Unity in Diversity

Sanskrit is a perfect and beautiful language. Sanskrit is the pride not only of India but also of the world.

This language reflects the philosophical, scientific, administrative, and literary capabilities of our ancestors.

The epics "Maha Bharata", and "Ramayana" relate the empires and emperors of the prehistoric period.

These portray the depth and magnanimity of human relations in the ancient world.

Works like Upanishads are the philosophical views of an ancient religion that had existed in India.

The Puranas says the stories of Gods and Goddesses.

The Four Vedas are considered as the holy books of Hinduism, which are the most ancient works in literature.

The word "Veda" means "Knowledge".

The God Brahma, one of the Trinities( Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara) is considered as the author of Vedas.

The Vedas are full of Mantras or hymns, incantations, rituals, and philosophies which had strictly adhered to the Hindus in the ancient period.

The Mantras in Sanskrit have charming audibility. A Hindu Devotee begins his day by hearing Gayatri Mantra in Sanskrit.

Kalidasa was a famous classical Sanskrit playwright and poet who lived in the 4th century AD. He writes dramas based on Epics and Puranas.

Abhijnana Shakuntalam, Raghu Vamsham, Mekha Dhoodam, Vikramorvashiyam, and Kumara Sambhavam are his notable works.

The above is a micro brief explanation of the Sanskrit literary works. Their influence in Indian culture exists for many centuries.

Sanskrit is not a Dead Language, because its vocabulary and grammatical aspects live through the present Indian languages.

The Sanskrit literature is re-created again and again in new literary works in India.

Its influence in the social life of India which continues from generation to generation.

My spoken language is Malayalam, which is a Dravidian language.

But it is abundant with Sanskrit words. Some Manipravala slokas in Malayalam have great similarities with Sanskrit slokas.

Any Indian can easily recognize many Sanskrit words without studying it as an optional language,

Its influence in Indian languages is as same as Greek and Latin in modern European languages.

The languages of neighbor nations are utterly different from India.

Mongolian, Polynesian, and Semantics are the language groups that are spoken around India.

But India keeps its ancient languages, culture, and religion as a holy light, which did not extinct till now, even after many foreign invasions like Muslim Dynasty and British invasion which prevails about 1000 years.

These invasions reveal the fact that Indian culture is one that can not invade through weapons, physical power, or money power.

The influence of Sanskrit is remarkable and it combines many states of India as one nation through its diversities in cultures, religions, and languages.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Indra