Sanskrit Knowledge Systems on the Eve of Colonialism

Timothy C. Cahill tccahill at LOYNO.EDU
Thu Feb 7 22:13:16 UTC 2002

I suppose one reason that those involved decided to use the plural
("systems") is because they feel that there is no single knowledge system
operative for the period in question.  Moreover, they might also feel that
Sanskrit works have often been seen as authoritative *particularly
because* they were written in Sanskrit.  This elite status of the Sanskrit
language in the period discerned (1550-1750) is pretty well established
throughout the subcontinent. No regional langauge compares in this way;
nor do languages such as Pali, Ardhamagadhi, or classical Tamil carry
comparable prestige throughout the subcontinent over these 200 years. For
this reason, many ideas and arguments conceived in vernaculars came to be
articulated in Sanskrit.

A quick glance at the web site reveals a broad representation of South
Asians, including native Tamil speakers. Given the plurality of the
"knowledge systems" [="sastras"?] involved, I suspect that there will be
*plenty* of material to consider, most of it published. (This is evident
from quickly browsing the bibliographies cited on the site.)  No doubt
other projects could be pursued which attempt an even greater range of
inclusiveness.  What the NEH project aims at is certainly ambitious, if
not comprehensive.

best wishes,
Tim Cahill

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