AW: Spoken Sanskrit and Spoken Sanskrit

Philipp Maas phmaas at ARCOR.DE
Wed Aug 13 05:03:31 EDT 2008

Dear Prof. Sandahl,

I think that we should be careful not to be discriminatory against those who
use Sanskrit in a creative, modernist fashion. The use of Sanskrit as a
spoken language, whether as standard Sanskrit or as a vulgarized idiom, is
not per se a political statement and it does not per se reveal a tendency to
approve of or even to commit political violence. In spite of everything that
Sanskrit may symbolize, it remains a language that serves the purpose of
expressing thoughts. And the freedom of thought includes, of course, the
freedom to choose one's language.

With best regards,

Philipp Maas

> -----Ursprungliche Nachricht-----
> Von: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at]Im Auftrag von Stella
> Sandahl
> Gesendet: Mittwoch, 13. August 2008 09:50
> Betreff: Spoken Sanskrit and Spoken Sanskrit
> 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.
> Stella Sandahl
> --
> Professor Stella Sandahl
> Department of East Asian Studies
> 130 St. George St. room 14087
> Toronto, ON M5S 3H1
> ssandahl at
> stella.sandahl at
> Tel. (416) 978-4295
> Fax. (416) 978-5711

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