By demonstrating its callous attitude towards the promotion of Sanskrit, the Government is insulting our rich cultural heritage
The recent forming and dumping of the Sanskrit Commission by the present dispensation displays the latter’s suppressive spirit when it comes to nurturing the traditions, languages and culture of India. In short, it expresses its lack of foresight and deliberate spirit of omission when it comes to preserving and nurturing our civilisational essentials.
That Sanskrit continues to remain a vibrant language today and inspires those who dive into its reserves and while holding great potential — scientific, cultural and spiritual is because of the efforts of a number of dedicated individuals and organisations tirelessly working in the field. Samskrita Bharati, for example, and its huge efforts at rekindling worldwide, interest in Sanskrit and in developing methods for its easy learning have turned a number of modern sceptics into lifelong adherents of the language and have generated genuine efforts among scholars in the West to re-examine the living expressions of Sanskrit.
One of the first commissions constituted in independent India to examine the national education needs of the country, the University Education Commission (1948-1949), with members such as S Radhakrishnan and Meghnad Saha, had observed regarding the teaching of Sanskrit that the importance of the study of classics in our languages had “not been correctly realised”. It had advocated the need for students to take up the study of Sanskrit in the degree course and pointed out that “Sanskrit language and literature, which constitute our cultural heritage” offered a wide opportunity for research. Discussing moral and ethical education the Commission had observed that Sanskrit was “best suited for a spiritual training”. One wonders whether any organised effort and thinking was ever put behind these observations to draw up a road map for enlivening and widening the quest for Sanskrit in the country.
The Secondary Education Commission (1952-1953), discussing the study of languages also made a strong case for promoting the study of Sanskrit. “To the bulk of Indians”, it observed, “Sanskrit which is mother of most Indian languages has always appealed both from the cultural and religious point of view.” It expressed anguish over the decline in the habit of studying classical languages arguing that if the trend were to continue then the study of the classics “which is of immense value” may be completely neglected. It called for promoting the study of Sanskrit to give “every encouragement possible” to those who wish to take up its study. There definitely was a great awareness, among some of our leading minds, for the need to cultivate and support the study of Sanskrit and encourage path-breaking and contemporary researches in its ever renewing character.
Then followed the first, and till now, only Sanskrit Commission (1956-1957) headed by the legendary linguist and scholar of Indian civilisation Suniti Kumar Chatterjee which studied the need for Sanskrit education in the country in great detail. Among its observations and musings was a point which perhaps remains unchanged to this day. The Commission noted that the “dawn of independence has been looked up to by the nation as the beginning of an age of cultural rehabilitation of the country…And Sanskrit, being the bedrock of Indian speech and literature and the artistic and cultural heritage of the country, has been naturally looking forward to the Government, all these years, for measures of its rehabilitation”. Such an effort did not take off and there was a countrywide “feeling of regret and disappointment among the people” on its absence. “The grievance of the people was acute, because they had expected that there would be a better and more sympathetic understanding for Sanskrit after Independence.”
For Sanskrit in India, as the recent treatment of the Sanskrit Commission demonstrates, a false dawn still sheds an uncertain and illusory lustre!