Spoken Sanskrit and Spoken Sanskrit
ssandahl at SYMPATICO.CA
Wed Aug 13 03:49:54 EDT 2008
In the current debate about "spoken Sanskrit" I believe we are
talking about two different things. It is one thing when for example
a Bengali pandit speaks to Telugu pandit in Sanskrit in order to
debate finer points in a text, or a philosophical issue, a literary
allusion and so forth. Sanskrit is then their common language, a
language of learning, of elegance and wit. And this is quite wonderful.
It is an entirely different matter to try to revive and 'modernize'
Sanskrit. Lying on a table in our university library I found a
typical example of the latter. There were new-fangled "Sanskrit"
words for money order, check-out counter, bus station, bank draft -
as if one finds these things in classical Sanskrit texts! These
manuals are quite ridiculous: I found a sentence like ahaM
sevaphalAni khAdAmi which was supposed to mean 'I eat apples'. First,
as far as I know there were no apples in classical India (weren't
they brought in by Babur?), second the word seva is obviously modeled
on Hindi seb 'apple' from the Persian sib with the same meaning. This
is exactly in line with the examples given by Professor Nair: "adya
kati iddali bhakshitam?" "adya chayam piitam kim?", equally
ridiculous. My niece in Delhi once asked to help her with her
Sanskrit homework. She had to translate the sentence "Kings live in
palaces" into Sanskrit. The word given by the teacher for palace was
'mahala' !!! I tried to convince the little girl that there was no
such word in Sanskrit. In vain. The girl said :"teacher says it is
mahala", and that was what it had to be.
It is very sad to se how the ignorant Hindutva forces demean and make
the wonderful classical language into something trivial and
ridiculous. How do we stop them?
How can we rescue Sanskrit from these vandals? I doubt that the
sevaphalAni-eating student in his mahala can read and understand even
one line by Kalidasa or Bana or Jayadeva.
But he can cut the throat of those who cannot speak his so called
Sanskrit. When he is not busy demolishing mosques and raping nuns.
Professor Stella Sandahl
Department of East Asian Studies
130 St. George St. room 14087
Toronto, ON M5S 3H1
ssandahl at sympatico.ca
stella.sandahl at utoronto.ca
Tel. (416) 978-4295
Fax. (416) 978-5711
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