for The Hindu on June 25, 2011
On weekends, Saarathi is found chilling out at a pub but on weekdays, she's busy learning Sanskrit. Why Sanskrit, one might ask? She says, “For fun. Sanskrit is probably one of the oldest languages; it's a work of art and should be propagated. It would be a shame to let it fade without even a yelp, like Hebrew!” Young guns these days are tuning into Sanskrit. And scoring marks in the exams doesn't seem to be the only incentive to opt for this language.
Tattoo enthusiasts across the town are also sporting Sanskrit words. Joysen, a tattoo artist from the city, explains that the past two years have seen a growing number of people wanting to stamp a ‘bit of culture' onto themselves. He says that the next generation is resorting to chanting slokas, and their favourites hymns are the Gayatri mantra or Mahamrityunjaya mantra that express inner power. Vikram, also a tattoo artist, says that some couples get tattooed with their partners' names in the Swastika font. There are certainly wannabes who are drawn to this language because they feel like they are doing something different or because it might make them ‘cool'. But most of the people who are learning Sanskrit are doing it as a way to reconnect with their culture and heritage.
Kaushik Vaideeswaran, an engineering graduate, says, “I used to learn Sanskrit during school, but over the years other things took priority. I want to get back to learning Sanskrit now. It's a direct connection with my origins and it's one language with a brilliant sound to it, so why not?” He adds that Sanskrit is a part of Indian culture that has not been adulterated by anything else. He finds it helps him appreciate literature that he usually reads in translation, and a great deal is lost in translation. Sanskrit deserves to be propagated, he feels, but not forced on us.
In tune with this new-found demand, schools are emerging across most cities and towns in the country to teach Sanskrit. Samskrita Bharathi, started in 1981 at Bangalore, now has a branch in Hyderabad. Shubha from the institution says, “We conduct basic classes in spoken Sanskrit and we have seen a growing response from the younger generation, with many college students and software engineers taking these language classes, especially in the conversational style.”
Akarsh Simha, currently studying in the University of Texas, says, “I think learning Sanskrit made it easy for me to understand a whole host of Indian languages and even some foreign languages (I learned German after learning Sanskrit, and could draw so many parallels), since many words and grammatical structures are common.
Sanskrit is probably one of the most structured languages, and that makes learning many present-day languages so much easier.” “I think there is still unexplored literature in Sanskrit,” he adds.
“I mostly refer to literature pertaining to the Sanaatana tradition or Hinduism. Besides, I feel that my understanding of religious or spiritual texts is largely enriched by my knowledge of Sanskrit.”
Even if Sanskrit is still not considered as hep or stylish as French or German, the trend is definitely catching on. The Sanskrit news on All India Radio might just have new listeners!