Tag Archives: Sanskrit

The Colonial Native Vs The Hindu

David Frawley

Dr. David Frawley September 2, 2013

A defeatist tendency exists in the psyche of modern Indians perhaps unparalleled in any other country today. An inner conflict bordering on a civil war rages in the minds of the country’s elite. The main effort of its cultural leaders appears to be to pull the country down or remake it in a foreign image, as if little Indian and certainly nothing Hindu was worthy of preserving or even reforming.

The elite of India suffers from a fundamental alienation from the traditions and culture of the land that would not be less poignant had they been born and raised in a hostile country. The ruling elite appears to be little more than a native incarnation of the old colonial rulers who haughtily lived in their separate cantonments, neither mingling with the people nor seeking to understand their customs. This new English-speaking aristocracy prides itself in being disconnected from the very soil and people that gave it birth. There is probably no other country in the world where it has become a national pastime among its educated class to denigrate its own culture and history, however great that has been over the many millennia of its existence. When great archaeological discoveries of India’s past are found, for example, they are not a subject for national pride but are ridiculed as an exaggeration, if not an invention, as if they represent only the imagination of backward chauvinistic elements within the culture.

There is probably no other country where the majority religion, however enlightened, mystical or spiritual, is ridiculed, while minority religions, however fundamentalist or even militant, are doted upon. The majority religion and its institutions are taxed and regulated while minority religions receive tax benefits and have no regulation or even monitoring. While the majority religion is carefully monitored and limited as to what it can teach, minority religions can teach what they want, even if anti-national or backward in nature. Books are banned that offend minority religious sentiments but praised if they cast insults on majority beliefs.

There is probably no other country where regional, caste and family loyalties are more important than the national interest, even among those who claim to be democratic, socialist or caste reformers. Political parties exist not to promote a national agenda but to sustain one region or group of people in the country at the expense of the whole. Each group wants as big a piece of the national pie as it can get, not realizing that the advantages it gains mean deprivation for other groups. Yet when those who were previously deprived gain power, they too seek the same unequal advantages that causes further inequality and discontent.

India’s affirmative action code is by far the most extreme in the world, trying to raise up certain segments of the population regardless of merit, and prevent others from gaining positions however qualified they may be. In the guise of removing caste, a new castism has arisen where one’s caste is more important than one’s qualifications either in gaining entrance into a school or in finding a job when one graduates. Anti-Brahminism has often become the most virulent form of casteist thinking. People view the government not as their own creation but as a welfare state from they should take the maximum personal benefit, regardless of the consequences for the country as a whole. Outside people need not pull Indians down. Indians are already quite busy keeping any of their people and the country as a whole from rising up. They would rather see their neighbors or the nation fail if they are not given the top position. It is only outside of India that Indians succeed, often remarkably well, because their native talents are not stifled by the dominant cultural self-negativity and rabid divisiveness that exists in the country today.

Political parties in India see gaining power as a means of amassing personal wealth and robbing the nation. Political leaders include gangsters, charlatans and buffoons who would stop short at nothing to gain power for themselves and their coteries. Even so-called modern or liberal parties resemble more the courts of kings, where personal loyalty is more important than any democratic participation. Once they gain power politicians routinely do little but cheat the people for their own advantage. Even honest politicians find that they cannot function without some deference to the more numerous corrupt leaders who often have a stranglehold on the bureaucracy.

Politicians divide the country into warring vote banks and place one community against another. They offer favors to communities like bribes to make sure that they are elected or stay in power. They campaign on slogans that appeal to community fears and suspicions rather than create any national consensus or harmony. They hold power based upon blame and hatred rather than on any positive programs for social change. They inflame the uneducated masses with propaganda rather than work to make people aware of real social problems like overpopulation, poor infrastructure or lack of education. Should a decent government come to power, the opposition pursues pulling it down as its main goal, so that they can gain power for themselves. The idea of a constructive or supportive opposition is hard to find. The goal is to gain power for oneself and to not allow anyone else to succeed.

To further their ambitions Indian politicians will manipulate the foreign press to denigrate their opponents, even if it means spreading lies and rumors and making the country an anathema in the eyes of the outside world. Petty conflicts in India are blown out of proportion in the foreign media, not by foreign journalists but by Indians seeking to use the media to score points against their own opponents in the country. The Indians who are responsible for the news of India in the foreign press spread venom and distortion about their own country, perhaps better than any foreigner who dislikes the culture ever could.

The killing of one Christian missionary becomes a national media event of anti-Christian attacks while the murder of hundreds of Hindus is taken casually as without any real importance, as if only the deaths of white-skinned people mattered, not the slaughter of the natives. Missionary aggression is extolled as social upliftment, while Hindu efforts at self-defense against the conversion onslaught are portrayed as rabid fundamentalism. One Indian journalist even lamented that western armies would not come to India to chastise the political groups he was opposed to, as if he was still looking for the colonial powers to save him!

Let us look at the type of leaders that India has had with its Laloo Prasad Yadav ( ex CM Bihar), Mulayam Singh Yadav( ex CM UP) or Jayalalita to mention but a few. Such individuals are little more than warlords who surround themselves with sycophants. Modern Indian politicians appear more like colonial rulers looting their own country, following a divide and rule policy, to keep the people so weak that their power cannot be challenged. Corruption exists almost everywhere and bribery is the main way to do business in nearly all fields. India has an entrenched bureaucracy that resists change and stifles development, just out of sheer obstinacy and not wanting to give up any control. The Congress Party, the oldest in this predominantly Hindu nation, has given its leadership to an Italian Catholic woman simply because as the widow of the last Gandhi prime minister, she carries the family torch, as if family loyalty were still the main basis of political credibility in the country. And such a leader and a party are deemed progressive!

The strange thing is that India is not a banana republic of recent vintage but one of the oldest and most venerable civilizations in the world. Its culture is not trumpeting a militant and fundamentalist religion trying to conquer the world for the one true faith but represents a vaster and more cosmic vision. India has given birth to the main religions that have dominated East Asia historically, the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh, which are noted for tolerance and spirituality.

It has produced Sanskrit, perhaps the world’s greatest language. It has given us the incredible spiritual systems of Yoga and its great traditions of meditation and Self-realization. As the world looks forward to a more universal model of spirituality and a world view defined by consciousness rather than by religious dogma these traditions are perhaps the most important legacy to draw upon for creating a future enlightened civilization. Yet the irony is that rather than embracing its own great traditions, the modern Indian psyche prefers to slavishly imitate worn out trends in western intellectual thought like Marxism or even to write apologetics for Christian and Islamic missionary aggression. Though living in India, in proximity to temples, yogis and great festivals, most modern Indian intellectuals are oblivious to the soul of the land. They might as well be living in England or China for all they know of their own country. They are isolated in their own alien ideas as if in a tower of iron. If they choose to rediscover India it is more likely to occur by reading the books of western travelers visiting the country, than by their own direct experience of the people around them.

Mattur – Sanskrit Village

Vedic village’s tryst with IT

Govind Krishnan V 02 Jan 2010

A quarter century ago, AI magazine carried an article that evoked much curiosity among its readers — regular or casual. The 1985 spring issue of the California-based quarterly featured a write-up by an American called Rick Briggs on artificial intelligence (AI) and Sanskrit.

Briggs, who compared its grammar with that of the computer, came to a startling conclusion: Sanskrit, which ceased to be a living tongue millennia ago, had such a logical meaning-structure that it could be a rich mining field for AI.

The following year, Briggs and several academicians flew down to India to pick the brains of India’s Sanskrit pundits who had gathered at Bangalore for a conference inspired by his research.

Had their trip happened today, those experts would have taken Bangalore as nothing more than a stopover. From the Garden City, they would’ve taken a bus and travelled seven hours north to meet the residents of Mattur. In this village, Sanskrit isn’t dead. The language leads an existence — perhaps beleaguered, but tenacious — among its 2,000-odd people. Critically, Briggs and company would have also have witnessed the beginnings of this near-Vedic village’s
strange tryst with Hindustan’s nascent IT revolution: the village has produced around 150 software engineers!

It is a link Briggs would have found exciting. Mattur and its twin village Hosanahalli, a few kilometres north of Shimoga town, sandwich a thin strip of the Tungabhadra. Enter Mattur, and your senses are assailed by a host of sights that is eccentric in its fusion of the picturesque and the quixotic. While a set of Smartha Brahmins recite Vedic hymns by the riverside in the morning cold, a couple of young men with tufts zoom past on a black Pulsar — the unstitched folds of their white uparivasthras flapping in the breeze. When I enter the home of Gopal Avadhani, a retired engineer, a boy named Shantarama introduces himself in Sanskrit, “Mama naama Shantarama.”

Sanskrit dominates the life of Mattur, and not just because half the populace speak the language — with varying degrees of fluency. Right about the time Briggs and his crew were discovering the semantic potential of Sanskrit for computer applications, Mattur was rediscovering Sanskrit for itself.

The journey back to its Vedic roots started for the village in 1981 when Sanskrita Bharati, an organisation that promotes the classical language, conducted a Sanskrit workshop in Mattur. It was attended, among others, by the pontiff of the Pejawar Mutt in nearby Udupi.

Inspired by this village where Sanskrit survived as a spoken language, the seer reportedly exclaimed, “A place where individuals speak Sanskrit, where whole houses talk in Sanskrit! What next? A Sanskrit village!” It’s a call Mattur took to heart.

Sanskrit is reputedly a tough nut to crack, but is it that different from picking up any other language? In some rather important ways, it seems it is. When Shantarama leaves for school and says “Aham vidyalayam gachhami” (I am going to school), he will know that gachhami is very much like gamanam — which means movement. Both words come from the root class gam, from which a fluent Sanskrit speaker can dig up words for all kinds of movements and for things that move. Like gau for cows and khagah for birds. But khagah is not merely something
that moves. It is that which it moves in khagam (sky). From a few basic classes (root words), Sanskrit creates an endless chain of words — all linked to each other.

“The objects, events and actions are all labelled depending on the root,” says Srivatsa S, who is doing his research in linguistics at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.

Dhruv Kumar, who is scholar Gopal Avadhani’s nephew, is one of Mattur’s success stories. He heads a software development company in Bangalore. The IT professional is a stranger to linguistics concepts, but he is very familiar with the idea that one can link together a vast set of seemingly random things by boiling them down to basic classes that will split the objects between them. He would be doing it every day. In his office at Mahalakshmi Layout when Dhruv works on Java or C ++, he is using Object Oriented Programming (OOP), a
programming technique that thinks on lines similar to Panini’s Sanskrit grammar.

OOP allows the programmer to define classes and clump together objects belonging to the same class. Each object within the class can be a further class, and can give more objects, just like one word leads on to another in Sanskrit.

Dhruv, however, is not interested in whether Java shares semantic genes with Sanskrit. His obsession at the moment is Shridam — a rural BPO that set up operations in Mattur three months back. Shridam is Dhruv’s way of giving back to the village that raised him and which he
longs to go back to. The BPO, the brainchild of Mattur’s affluent techie migrants, employs 50 villagers at the moment. “It gives us from Rs 3,000 to 5,000 a month,” says Pattabhiraman, an employee. “We might get double that in Bangalore, but the cost of living there makes Shridam much more attractive. Besides we can stay at home.”

The beehive of air-conditioned cubicles that outsource business operations from foreign shores is something we only associate with a city. But Dhruv thinks this has not only limited our business imagination but held our villages back. “If I can service the USA sitting here in Bangalore, why can’t I do the same from Shimoga? From Mattur?” The words of a dreamer? Dhruv does not agree. After all, the line between dreaming and innovation is a thin one. “When I can get better support, better connectivity and better power in Shimoga, why can’t I deliver the same product to my customers at a lower cost?”

Sridham is only the tip of the iceberg for Dhruv and his various associates. For them setting up a rural BPO is merely the first step in stemming the flood of urban migration that is eroding the very fabric of villages like Muttur. They have much bigger plans for their village. The profits from the BPO shall go into a special fund with which they hope to launch much bigger technological projects in Mattur. And these projects will be not only be run but conceived and
conceptualised by the youth of Mattur. “We want to educate our young people and take up their ideas,” Dhruv explains. “Let them come up with their own projects and execute them. We will give them the support.”

What kind of projects does he have in mind? “Well, for example, wind and water energy from the Tunga can be harnessed to generate power indigenously. The channels of the Badhra flow into the Tunga and the water force can be a valuable resource for our village,” he says. Other plans of a similar kind are being chalked; the thrust is to make the Muttur a self-sufficient unit.

If Dhruv’s dreams come true, Mattur would be a bizarre candidate for that holy grail of liberal economists — the global village. It would be bizarre not merely because the denizens of this global village will speak Sanskrit and wear unstitched clothes while running software companies and techno-heavy development projects.

How to keep a language alive

If one man can be said to be responsible for Mattur’s Sanskrit revolution, it would be Srinidhi, a stocky, bullet-headed man with an enthusiasm that belies his forties. Srinidhi heads Sanskritha Bhavan, a Sanskrit-teaching institute that has taken upon itself a job that to many would seem quixotic, the task of taking the language out of textbooks and literature and bringing it back to life on the streets of Mattur. Among the many things the institute does, the primary one is the language support it gives to the local school. Sanskrit is the first language in the Sharada Vidyapeeth, a private school managed by the villagers that educates the village’s children at little more than Rs 80 a month. Sanskrita Bharati organises spoken Sanskrit courses every few months to make sure that nothing is learnt by rote and forgotten. These Sanskrita Shibirams (Sanskrit camps), where learners brush up on their speaking skills see all kinds — men, women,
Brahmins, Harijans, college students, middle-aged farmers. And the discussions, Srinidhi says, are very lively. The enthusiast, however, admits that the occasional old-timer who grumbles “Sanskrit? At my age?” is not uncommon.

The technological edge

Fifty to sixty software professionals from Mattur are placed in the different IT firms that have made Bangalore the Silicon valley of India. “People from my native place are working for companies such as Wipro, Infosys, HP, IBM and several others in Bangalore,” says
Shashank who is the chief technological officer of Samartha, a software development company in Bangalore floated by another Matturite. Samartha which offers IT services to IT giants in India and abroad, and have HP, IBM and Wipro among its clients. The organisation
employs 100 software engineers, of whom 25 are from Mattur. Another venture with a Mattur entrepreneur at its helm, combines software development functions with that of a training institute. The company provides training to graduates in languages like Java and PLSQL (Procedural Language/Structured Query Language). Mattur has not just spawned techies. It has made its mark in the scientific community also. “Two scientists from Mattur have won the Bhatnagar award for original research,” said Dhruv Kumar, the owner of Samartha.

govindkrishnanv@gmail.com