Making the Argument for Sanskrit

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at CHELLO.NO
Thu Jan 4 10:11:46 UTC 2007

Whitney Cox wrote:

> research.  The complaints from administrative types that I 
> have most frequently encountered about the study (especially 
> the linguistic study) of premodern India are
> two: low student enrollment beyond the most elementary level, 
> and the lack of high-profile, income-generating research 
> projects.  

This is at the core of the matter. In Oslo, and presumably elsewhere,
subjects are funded according to enrollment and the production of "study
points". It is also difficult to see how Sanskrit could generate
income-generating research projects on a large scale. 

Nor is it ever likely that there will be a large number of Sanskrit
students. This is simply because there are no jobs for them outside a
university. If the authorities invented a position of "municipal Indologist"
and required every municipality to have one, there would be lots of Sanskrit
students. As it is, most students study Indology as a companion to some
other line of study (again, Oslo experience). E.g. history of religion,
Sanskrit's hottest customer in Oslo after comparative linguistics were

Thus, the study of Sanskrit must be justified through its intellectual
merits. Sanskrit is a key to understanding not only India's past, but also
its present. Any justification of Sanskrit directed at political authorities
and university administrations must in my opinion emphasize this connection
between India's ancient traditions and the political issues of today (e.g.

I don't want to demonize anybody, I realize that university administrations
must live with the directives they get from their governments. But it is
clear to me that subjects with many students and relatively few teachers
will try to "catch" positions occupied by scholars with few students - such
as Sanskrit. This is normal Darwinism and not very shocking, but it is not a
"good thing". 

Thus, it is a good idea to create position papers and other material that
are available on the Indology site. We need clear presentations of what
Indologists do, and what their contribution is to society.

Lars Martin Fosse


From: Lars Martin Fosse 
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114, 
0674 Oslo - Norway 
Phone: +47 22 32 12 19 Fax:  +47 850 21 250 
Mobile phone: +47 90 91 91 45 
E-mail: lmfosse at


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