simplified Sanskrit (was: pronunciation of sanskrit)

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at
Sat Apr 12 01:07:54 UTC 1997

	In view of some of the latest discussion, I think it is absolutely
necessary to distinguish the notions of modern Sanskrit from
simplified/impoverished Sanskrit.  Otherwise, we are bound to be saddled
with some wrong impressions.  For example, serious technical modern works
in Sanskrit like Dr. Palsule's Yubhaata.h Sa.msk.rta.m Prati ("From IE to
Sanskrit") are in modern Sanskrit, and yet not in the
simplified/impoverished Sanskrit.  Similarly, there is a huge amount of
literary output in the form of modern Sanskrit poetry, dramas, and even
epic length narratives on the lives of characters like Mahatma Gandhi,
Lokamaanya Tilak, etc. which are basically ignored by modern western
scholarship.  Dr. Varnekar of Nagpur, a fine example of a modern Sanskrit
poet, also published a fat volume in Marathi on the history of modern
Sanskrit literature, which provides an account of hundreds of works in
Sanskrit produced during the past few decades.  Ashok Aklujkar and myself
have also contributed both to poetry and narrative writings in modern
Sanskrit, but I would be careful to distinguish our Sanskrit from the
simplified/impoverished Sanskrit currently being popularized.  The
language of the high variety of modern Sanskrit literature is modern in
part of its vocabulary, the world of reference, ideological concerns, but
is not grammatically impoverished.  The grammatical impoverishment of the
simplified Sanskrit is part of a deliberate corporate decision to
popularize Sanskrit among the masses, who are believed to be incapable of
learning the full variety.  The movement to popularize Sanskrit among the
masses most often remains satisfied with having given its clients a sense
of return to a putative pure/Vedic/Hindu linguistic environment, without
sacrificing anything of the modern civilization, or putting in the
intensive effort needed to acquire the full classical language.  The
movement is, from my observation of participants, a quasi
religious/political/revivalist movement with appeal to modern educated
Hindus aimed at dealing with their sense of alianation.  While it seems to
infuse certain individuals with a sense of return to roots, I do not know
of anyone who has started with this simplified Sanskrit and moved on to
the serious variety.
			Madhav Deshpande

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