Tag Archives: Spoken Sanskrit

People Have Been Misguided About Sanskrit – Joe D’ Cruz

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Noted Tamil writer and Sahitya Akademi award winner, Joe D’ Cruz, on Friday charged that people have been “misguided for 60 years” about Sanskrit and had been kept away from learning it.

Speaking at the inauguration of the three-day ‘ Samskrit for Samanya’ , a conference at the Meenakshi College for Women here that seeks to take the language to the common people, Mr. D’Cruz asserted that Sanskrit was the window to India’s culture.

“Where is the great knowledge, culture of this country? We have been taken away from it,” he said.

The writer said there was a notion that Sanskrit was the preserve of the higher echelons of the society and it was the language of the Hindu texts. “But I must tell you it is great literature. You will find our heritage, culture through it,” Mr. D’Cruz pointed out.

It was not as though Sanskrit was being taken to a lower level to help the downtrodden access it. Rather, he said, it had always been a language of everyone and gave examples of Vyasa, Valmiki and Kalidasa and their great contribution to literature.

“Unless we know our history, how will we progress,” he asked.

CEDA introduces e-learning in Sanskrit

CEDA introduces e-learning in Sanskrit

Special Correspondent

The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CEDA) Bangalore, has
developed a syllabus for e-learning of Samskrit up to postgraduate level,
said P. Ramanujan, Associate Director of Indian Heritage and Language
Computing of CEDA.

Speaking at the inaugural of the two-day workshop ‘vaignanika sadas’
organised by the Samskrita Sahittya Parishad at Srimathi Indira Gandhi
College for Women here on Saturday, Mr. Ramanujan said that the syllabus is
learner-friendly. He said that the learners would be fully satisfied over
the teacher’s explanation being offered through the e-learning programme.

Mr. Ramanujan, who delivered a lecture on ‘on-line resources for e-learning
of Samskrit’ said that the CEDA had evolved a special font for handling the
Vedic text. “The font would facilitate easy understanding of the vedic
‘slokas’ and other hymns ,” he said. V. Kannan, professor of Mathematics,
University of Hyderabad, in his lecture on ‘Mathematics on Samskrit’,
highlighted the treasurers of mathematical formula and theorems codified in
Samskrit language, much ahead of the times of western mathematicians or
scientists. The principles of calculus were also rich in Samskrit language,
he said citing examples from the ancient texts.

V. Gopalakrishnan, principal of Saranathan College of Engineering, said
that Samskrit was a treasure house of information, arts and science.
Research programmes should be taken up so that Samskrit could be best
utilised for our country’s overall progress .

S. Ravindran, president of the Parishad, said that two samskrit scholars
N.V. Devi Prasad and Raghunatha Sastrigal would be honoured on Sunday.

http://www.thehindu .com/todays- paper/tp- national/ tp-tamilnadu/ article2934152. ece#.T0sQjqcTG0g .email

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