A MODERN QUESTION: IS SANSKRIT ALIVE??
Posted on: 8/2/2021
“Sanskrit is a dead language. Why waste your time? It isn’t used very much – why not spend your time learning something a bit modern?”
These are the types of comments I would hear when I told people I was learning Sanskrit. I would just reply: “Old is gold.”
As a little girl, I would see my mother reading some scriptures written in Devanagari. The words themselves were not all Sanskrit words, but they looked beautiful on the page. There is more to Sanskrit than linguistics; it is an art.
As a teen, I would look back to those times of curiosity to see if I could learn how to read, write and understand Sanskrit. I searched ‘How to learn Sanskrit’ online and received many results, but nothing made sense. Self-learning was not a good idea – it would be like walking in a forest blindfolded! I needed guidance from someone who was well versed in the language and willing to share their knowledge.
Finding a class…
Sometime later, I received a message from a friend advertising an opportunity to be a part of a weekly class at Sanskrit at St James. I was so excited because this was the exact opportunity I was looking for! Without hesitation, I signed up. From then on, my Sanskrit journey began.
However, it has not been as plain sailing as I wanted it to be. At that time, I was preparing for my A-levels and had to balance my time with that. Now I do the same whilst studying for a Computer Science degree. In the beginning, I felt it was impossible to continue with Sanskrit. I did not give up hope but persevered as I kept gaining so much out of it. That is when I learnt that time should not be a limiting factor to pursue interests. If I truly wished to do something, I could find some time if I tried.
My biggest fascination with Sanskrit is the word-formation using the system of ‘dhātus’ (root words). Simply by adding or changing a syllable to a root word, the meaning can change! Its intricacy and systematic nature make it satisfying to study. Sanskrit has influenced many modern languages such as English with words like dental, shampoo, grass, etc. Also, being able to chant ślokas from sacred texts like the Bhagawad Gita and read about the past times of Lord Kṛṣṇa and Rāma give me inner peace.
Potential for human discovery…
Sanskrit is beautiful, rich in history with the potential to revolutionise natural language processing – a branch of Artificial Intelligence that helps computers understand, interpret and manipulate human language. Until the full potential of the language is fully explored and appreciated, there is a need to preserve it.
This is only possible by inspiring younger generations to discover its glory and delve into it.
The work done by Sanskrit @ St James is incredible in helping the language become more accessible to all for the benefits to be felt widely. I am grateful for the support Sanskrit @ St James continuously provides to help me do what I love.