[INDOLOGY] question for European Indologists

Christophe Vielle christophe.vielle at uclouvain.be
Thu Jul 4 10:35:52 UTC 2013

It is not the first Indian testimony I hear about the practical qualities of Father Robert Antoine's Manual (which in its grammatical explanations follows the indigenous, synchronic, tradition, and in the same time is close to the Jesuit manuals of Latin or Greek which where in use in the European high schools until the 70s). I like it (including all its little defaults) and use it now for teaching in Louvain-la-Neuve since a few years - see more on it from Indology list archives 22-7-2008 below.

I am surprised to not hear on this list about Sanskrit teaching in countries like France and Italy which both have a strong and long tradition in the matter (the Collège the France will celebrate in 2014 the bi-centenary of the creation of the first occidental Sanskrit chair, started with Antoine-Léonard de Chézy). I would be interested to know more about the teaching tradition in Italy and the use of manuals such the ones by Pizzagalli (1931), Rampolla del Tindaro (1936) or Della Casa (1980).
In France, I suppose that Victor Henry's "Éléments de sanscrit classique" (1902), despite its 1963 reprint, is now forgotten. Abel Bergaigne's "Manuel pour étudier la langue sanscrite" (1st ed. 1883),  to the reprint of which Louis Renou added an "avant-propos" (1966) underlying the "good" difficulty of it, is still held in high esteem, but apparently no longer in use (to note that Sylvain Brocquet in his recent "grammaire élémentaire et pratique", which is mainly a manual, proposes [p. 450] to start it... after having completed his own one!). Gonda's little grammar (which despite its French title "Manuel de grammaire" is not really a manual) in its French translation by Rosane Rocher (cf. now the 1997 ed. with Oguibenine's addenda), appears to be still widely used as a handout (I personally prefer to propose in this role Renou's "Grammaire élémentaire", 1st ed. 1946).
In French-speaking Belgium, Bergaigne's "Manuel" was used by Louis de La Vallée Poussin (see what he says in the Préface to his former student Joseph Mansion's "Esquisse d'une histoire de la langue sanscrite"). I know that Etienne Lamotte was not fond of teaching elementary grammar: his students had to read and learn by themselves the paradigms etc., and, before to go through the texts, he limited his basic teaching to one lesson on the script, on lesson on the sandhi, and one on the compounds: I have made a .pdf copy of Lamotte's syllabus on the compounds available at

Best wishes,

Christophe Vielle

Le 4 juil. 2013 à 07:18, soni at staff.uni-marburg.de a écrit :
> The first time I really ´studied´ Sanskrit (and then understanding the mantras which we had learnt by rote), was in the 70s, and through the Jesuit priest Antoine´s book on Sanskrit. in 2 volumes. Now it sounds strange that a traditional Sanskritist here in Banaras used this as a text book, this was for English speaking students.
> By that time I had passed the stage of fearing the classical languages as with Latin when we said at school: Latin is a subject as dead as dead can be; it killed the ancient Romans and now it´s killing me!
> Sanskrit is now keeping me alive.
> Jay
De :  Stella Sandahl <ssandahl at sympatico.ca>

Objet : Sanskrit Primers: R. Antoine's Sanskrit Manual

Date : 22 juillet 2008
À :    INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk

Dear Colleagues,

Good old Antoine! I think it is still relatively easy to get copies in India. Unfortunately, the one I used to have (in two volumes) was printed in India and was very difficult to read because of the so badly printed (and too small) devanagari script, not to speak of the many printing errors. But it was - and remains - a very thorough introduction to Sanskrit along with Kale's grammar (which suffers from the same printing defects).

There seems to be an amazing array of published and unpublished Sanskrit primers which I have been made aware of through kind communications from many colleagues. Mille grazie! Personally I would have liked to try out David Shulman's superb primer.  Unfortunately it is in Hebrew, and the English translation is not yet out.  Maurer  caught my attention because it is amusing with chapters like "The mysterious gerund" and "The Romance of compounds" apart from being very well organized.

Coulson has too much transliteration, and since it is a teach-yourself-book, there is a key to all the exercises which is counter-productive in a class room. Killingley introduces the devanagari script only in lesson 23. Here in Canada, where more than half (and sometimes all) of the students are of Indian origin, a text book using so much transliteration will be perceived as arrogant Western neo-colonialism. And even the least gifted student usually learns the script in two weeks - that's when I stop transliterating.

 There is no ideal text book out there - but there are many very good ones. All of them have their strong and weak points. As the grammar doesn't change from one year the only thing an instructor can change is the text book.

Best regards to all

Stella Sandahl

De : Christophe Vielle <Christophe.Vielle at uclouvain.be>

Objet : Sanskrit Primers: R. Antoine's Sanskrit Manual

Date : 22 juillet 2008
À :    INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk


Dear Colleagues,

I dare to add another Sanskrit primer to the other excellent ones (Coulson, Deshpande, etc.) which could have been quoted in the discussion.

Some years ago, I heard through an Indian friend (a Syriac scholar from Kottayam) about the high value of the Sanskrit Manual of Father R. Antoine s.j., a Belgian scholar who taught in St. Xavier's College, Calcutta (cf. http://www.goethals.in/collections/felixrajarticles/robert.htm : Robert Antoine: The Indologist by J Felix Raj, SJ).

More recently, Prof. Winand Callewaert, from the University of Leuven, told me that he was also using Antoine's manual for his 1st year Sanskrit students.

I finally got an exemplar of this manual through an antiquarian bookseller.

The "Part I" is in two volumes entitled "A Sanskrit Manual for High schools" and "Book of Exercises for the Sanskrit Manual" (1953, Catholic Press, Ranchi; a think that there was in the seventies a reprint in one vol.). The 26 lessons, supposed to cover "the matter of the first three years (standards IV to VI or classes VI to VIII)" of High school, appears to fit perfectly with a first year Sanskrit at the university level.

The lessons are very clear, and the vocabulary to learn, Sanskrit sentences to translate and composition exercises well chosen.

The "Part II" "meant as an immediate preparation for the School Final Examination", joins in one vol. 27 lessons and the exercices, in which the Sanskrit sentences are taken from Kaavya-maalaa or Kaalidaasa and classical literature (+ at the end a list of "verbal roots with their principal parts", "Sanskrit-English Glossary" and "English-Sanskrit Glossary"). So, at the end of High school, it was at that time possible to acquire a Sanskrit level as good as here the level of Greek and Latin of my forefathers... (which is now only possible to acquire at the University).

Despite a few misprints to be corrected, the Manual deserves to be reprinted.

I shall try with 1st year students the vol. I for the coming academic year.

With best wishes,

Christophe Vielle

[Addendum 2013:] A .pdf version of the 1st ed.
Antoine, R. 1953-1954, A Sanskrit Manual for High Schools, 2 vols, Calcutta : St. Xavier’s College.
is available at :   http://www.ragalalit.net/priv/ (id = Lalit, pw = komalRe)
A reprint of vol. 1 is available at: http://www.archive.org/details/sanskritmanualfo00antouoft

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