The enchanting hymns and incantation of Sanskrit language has time and again mesmerized people from all over the world. It is one of the oldest ancient scriptures of Hinduism and also one of the richest in terms of philosophical teachings.
Now-a-days, Sanskrit is only regarded as a religious language. It is most commonly used, in the Indian-subcontinents, for pujas and rituals. In the western world however, the only time an individual will hear Sanskrit is while searching the names of yoga poses. This comes as a stark contrast to not more than 50 years ago, when every Hindu family at least knew the basics of the ancient language.
So, let us take some time today to trace back to our history and realize once again the origins and importance of Sanskrit which we have started neglecting.
A more historical outlook to Sanskrit:
Sanskrit is the sacred language of Hinduism and also one of the oldest Indo-European languages with substantial documentation. It is used in many of the ancient classical literary pieces all over the Indian subcontinent. As such it is also the fundamental script for most of the modern languages spoken in Indian subcontinent.
The origin of Sanskrit goes as far back as 1700-1200 B.C. Old manuscripts written in palm leaves have been found in Nepal as well, dating back as far as the 11th century.
At the beginning of its origin, Sanskrit was used as a Vedic literature. It was initially known as Deva-vani (‘Deva’ means ‘god’ and ‘vani’ means ‘language). As foretold by our ancestors, it originated from Lord Brahma who passed it on the earth through the Rishis (sages). For generations it was either sung or spoken as there was no written script available. The only way it was passed down to generation was through the teacher to their disciples.
The very first written forms of Sanskrit language are found in the Vedas. The ancient Vedic scriptures were a collection of hymns and incantations known as Samhitas and also philosophical teachings of Hinduism. It contains four major collections of ancient literature which are; Rig Veda, Sam Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.
As per the historic documents, it was the ancient scholar Panini who first standardized the grammar of the Vedic literature in the book known as Ashthadhyayi (eight chapters). It is known as one of the “finest grammars ever produced”.
The importance of learning Sanskrit
Needless to say, the use of one of the oldest languages known to mankind is not limited to baby names or names of yoga poses only. Here are some reasons why Sanskrit as a language should be learned by everyone in the world.
Philosophical teachings in the world are incomplete without Vedas. Vedas, as one of the oldest religious teachings in the world, propagate the meaning of “Eternal Path” or “Eternal Order”
The true philosophical teachings were passed down to the disciples by their teachers in the ancient times through the four major Vedas, i.e., Rig Veda, Sam Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. Each of these Vedas have different teachings.
- Rig Veda focuses on hymns and verses
- Sam Veda consists of melody or song knowledge
- Yajur Veda focuses on Worship or ritual knowledge
- Atharva Veda consists of spells to ward off evil spirits.
Each of these collections are further separated into four different parts i.e.,
The Upanishads contain the main philosophical teachings of the Vedas and in ancient times were communicated separately to the disciples by their teachers.
To really delve into the philosophical teachings of Hinduism, one needs to have the knowledge of Sanskrit Language.
For most of the Indian-subcontinent, this way of life originated from the ancient scriptures written in Sanskrit language. These traditions, rituals and all in all our way of life has been passed down to us from generations and are integrated deeply into our society.
Of course, there are many literary pieces which have been mistranslated throughout the generations. This has caused a divide in the older and new generation. The older generation takes these teachings as a given while the new generation has the habit of questioning everything they are taught.
As such, it comes into our hands to learn what the ancient scriptures are actually saying, so that we can make our own judgments as to what is right and what is not.
The gradual disappearance of Sanskrit in Nepal:
In the past years, the teaching of Sanskrit in schools has been seen less and less. If you see the curriculum less than 50 years ago, Sanskrit was added as a compulsory subject in most of the schools. The knowledge of the age-old language was also passed by the father to the son and thus most of the older generation have the basic knowledge of Sanskrit Language in Nepal.
This forms the question, why not now? Why has the teaching of Sanskrit become obsolete in Nepal when it should be prioritized over other languages? The answer is not only the modernization of the society but also the increasing apathy of the new generation towards the language.
In a day and age where preserving and teaching languages and religions has become a hot topic, Sanskrit as a language should also be given the same preference.
As the new generation, it is now that you can make a change. Sanskrit for us is not only a language but a story of our ancestors, a story of our origin. Learning this ancient language is not hard for people who already have a basic knowledge of Nepali alphabets. In fact, almost every household in Nepal consists of at least one book written in Sanskrit language. In such modern times where knowledge is in the palm of our hands, why miss out on the knowledge of the universe as our ancestors once saw it?