[INDOLOGY] New article on Sanskrit

Lubin, Tim LubinT at wlu.edu
Fri Sep 16 14:34:00 UTC 2016

Dear Artur, et al.,

It is worth noting, for comparative purposes, the success of late 19th-century efforts of groups like the Nāgarī Pracāriṇī Sabhā to create a more Sanskritic Hindi out of the north Indian lingua franca Hindustani/Hindvi by promoting the use of Devanāgarī.  This was accompanied by a concerted effort to substitute Sanskrit tatsamas for more words of Perso-Arabic origin in common use (e.g., pratīkṣā for intezār, vyavasthā for intezām, etc.), to the extent that such words cease to be included in some popular-market Hindi dictionaries.  The result was to nurture a split in the language into two, communally aligned languages, Hindi and Urdu.  (The Bollywood film industry would come to serve as a countervailing force in many cases later.)  A nice account of part of this story (the script part) is provided by Christopher R. King, “Forging a New Linguistic Identity: The Hindi Movement in Banaras, 1868-1914,” ch. 6 in Sandria B. Freitag, ed., Culture and Power in Banaras: Community, Performance, and Environment, 1800-1980 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).

This of course is not at all like successfully instituting spoken Sanskrit, but as a social movement, it certainly had a long-lasting effect on language use.


Timothy Lubin
Professor of Religion and Adjunct Professor of Law
Chair of the Department of Religion
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia 24450


From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info<mailto:indology-bounces at list.indology.info>> on behalf of Ananya Vajpeyi <vajpeyi at csds.in<mailto:vajpeyi at csds.in>>
Date: Friday, September 16, 2016 at 3:20 AM
To: Artur Karp <karp at uw.edu.pl<mailto:karp at uw.edu.pl>>
Cc: Indology <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] New article on Sanskrit

Dear Professor Karp,

The question of "resistance" arises in a a given political context, which those of us who live and work in India, and happen to care about Sanskrit, whether for cultural, scholarly, religious, educational or other reasons, experience here on a daily basis for the past 2-3 years, but especially since May 2014.

In this environment, as I am sure you must know from news of current affairs in this country, everything, from the most innocuous name of a street or square that no one had paid attention to for decades, to prestigious national institutions of higher learning; from what people eat to what people wear; from founding fathers to government holidays; from textbooks to novels and policy reports to poetry -- every single aspect of civic life is aggressively being appropriated and painted with a saffron brush by the ruling dispensation. Minorities have never been so vulnerable at any time since Partition and Independence, nor has media discourse been so muted and stifled. (This reportedly happened during the Emergency in the mid-1970s as well -- but at least then, it was a properly declared period of emergency, and people were aware that the rule of law had been suspended in favour of a state of exception).

It is in this very particular and increasingly suffocating situation that Sanskrit too, has become yet another weapon in the armoury of the Hindu Right, which it selectively "promotes" (or rather, deploys) -- not because of love of the language or a genuine understanding of its historical significance and its wealth of knowledge -- but in order to further a majoritarian and communal agenda. Scholars and intellectuals -- like others in public life -- have to resist this climate of intimidation and censorship, not because they may or may not have this or that linguistic preference or pedagogical skill, but because Sanskrit is now much more than an ancient, classical, dead or living language. It's part of everything that has to be fought over to protect the diversity and inclusiveness of India, its secular state and its egalitarian Constitution. This is a difficult proposition when it happens to be a democratic mandate that has installed a Hindu nationalist party in the Centre, with a majority vote.

My point was that as Indologists, philologists, historians and educators, we cannot allow the architecture of the Hindu Rashtra to rest on a scaffolding of Sanskrit. In failing to be aware of the flaws and contradictions within the complex history of this rich language, in curbing our criticisms of the way it is implicated in caste ideologies and social inequality, and in abandoning its pedagogy and cultivation to inept if not malign government bodies, we are remiss in our responsibility towards the very thing we claim to love the most.

With best regards,

Ananya Vajpeyi.

On Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 11:15 AM, Artur Karp <karp at uw.edu.pl<mailto:karp at uw.edu.pl>> wrote:
> academics need to step out of the ivory tower and resist the government’s manipulation of this ancient language

Dear Ananya,

Why should they step out and resist? Whatever the government's efforts, people aren't going to start speaking/writing Sanskrit.

Do you suspect that replacing some - yes, Islamic and Christian (Arabic/Persian and English) - parts of Modern Indian Languages vocabularies with their - yes, Hindu (Sanskrit) equivalents could create communal tension?

Look at European Languages and the role of Latin/Greek lexemes in their development, especially late XIXth century. In the case of my language (Polish) many German(ic) lexemes were being then systematically replaced with their Latin equivalents. And new Latin/Greek lexemes introduced - to describe, by one word, new philosophical, scientific, technological, political concepts.

Yes, there were some people who tried to resist this trend and kind of re-introduce (largely artificially created) Old-Slavic lexemes. Yes - but their efforts were soon forgotten.


Artur Karp (ret.)
University of Warsaw


Ananya Vajpeyi
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
29 Rajpur Road, Civil Lines
New Delhi 110054
e: vajpeyi at csds.in<mailto:vajpeyi at csds.in>
ext: 229

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