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Learn Sanskrit through self study

Why Study Sanskrit?

   The study of languages is always fascinating. For this reason alone, one can study or learn Sanskrit. The members of the Samskritapriyah group are more than fascinated by this language. They come from different disciplines and have had a long lasting association with Sanskrit. This group, comprising scientists, linguistic scholars, computer scientists, Indologists and above all, well respected Sanskrit scholars, feels convinced that there are aspects to Sanskrit not yet seen or observed in other languages. 

   While the lessons are the primary means to learning the language, the information presented alongside will more than arouse the curiosity of the reader. It must be emphasized that the views expressed here are not intended to start a big debate on the language itself. The group has carefully studied the information presented here, for validity, correctness and authenticity. As a consequence, the information should appeal to the scientific mind. 

  The Views expressed here are specific to the Samskritapriyah group and the Samskrit Education Society. IIT Madras, has only made available the web pages as a courtesy to the group. 

Sanskrit, earliest of the ancient languages. 

  There is sufficient evidence available today to say that Sanskrit is the oldest language of the world. 

   Among the current languages which possess a hoary antiquity like Latin or Greek, Sanskrit is the only language which has retained its pristine purity. It has maintained its structure and vocabulary even today as it was in the past. 

  The oldest literature of the world, the Vedas, the Puranas and the Ithihasas which relate to the Indian subcontinent, are still available in the same form as they were known from the very beginning. There are many many scholars in India who can interpret them today, much the same way great scholars of India did years ago. Such interpretation comes not by merely studying earlier known interpretations but through a steady process of assimilation of knowledge linking a variety of disciplines via Sanskrit. 

Sanskrit is as modern as any language can be 

   Sanskrit is very much a spoken language today. Even now, as we enter the twenty first century, Sanskrit is spoken by an increasing number of people, thankfully many of them young. Among the learned in India, it continues to be a bridge across different states where people, in spite of their own mother tongue, use it to exchange scholarly and even general information relating to the traditions of the country. The News service offered by the Government of India through television and radio continues to feature  daily Sanskrit program catering to local as well as international news. 

  The grammar of Sanskrit has attracted scholars world over. It is very precise and upto date and remains well defined even today. Of late, several persons have expressed the opinion that Sanskrit is the best language for use with computers. The Samskritapriyah group does not subscribe to this view however. 

Sanskrit is a Scientist's paradise 

  Sanskrit, the vocabulary of which is derived from root syllables, is ideal for coining new scientific and technological terms. The need to borrow words or special scientific terms does not arise. 

  From the very beginning, scientific principles have been hidden in the verses found in the Vedas, Upanishads and the great epics of India. Concepts and principles seen in present day mathematics and astronomy, are all hidden in the compositions and treatises of many early scholars of the country. Some of these principles and concepts will be shown in the information section that will accompany the lessons. 


  The precise and extremely well defined structure of Sanskrit, coupled with its antiquity offers a number of areas in linguistics research including Computational Linguistics. Also, Sanskrit distinguishes itself in that it is the only known language which has a built-in scheme for pronunciation, word formation and grammar. 

Sanskrit, a language for Humanity 

  Sanskrit is a language for humanity and not merely a means for communication within a society. The oldest surviving literature of the world, viz. the Vedas, encompass knowledge in virtually every sphere of human activity. The fact that many profound principles relating to human existence were given expression through Sanskrit, continue to amaze those who study Sanskrit. A Sanskrit Scholar understands the world better than most others. 

  Sanskrit perfectly depicted (and continues to depict) the social order of the day and offers clues to historical developments within the Society. The language has been used effectively to describe the virtuous and the not so virtuous qualities of great men, women, kings and queens, the philosophers and Saints of the country. 

Philosophy, Theology and Sanskrit 

  Sanskrit abounds in Philosophy and Theology related issues. There are so many words one encounters within Sanskrit that convey subtly differing meanings of a concept that admits of only one interpretation when studied with other languages. The language thus has the ability to offer links between concepts using just the words. 

Sanskrit for your emotions 

  The connoisseurs of the Sanskrit language know that it is the language of the heart. Whatever be the emotion one wishes to display, be it devotion, love, affection, fear, threat, anger, compassion, benevolence, admiration, surprise and the like, the most appropriate words of Sanskrit can flow like a gushing stream. 

Some Unique Characteristics of the language 

  Sanskrit is co-original with the Vedas.. The vedas cannot be studied without the Vedangas, which are six in number. The first three deal with the spoken aspects of the language. The first of these three, namely Siksha, tells us how to pronounce the letters of the aksharas. Siksha divides the letters into three classes- Swaras, Vyanjanas and Oushmanas. Depending on the effort (Prayatna), place of origin in the body (Sthana), the force used (Bala) and the duration of time (Kala), the letters differ from each other in their auditory quality and meaning. 

  Vyakarna, known as the grammar of Sanskrit, is the second Vedanga which describes meaningful word formations. This is usually referred to as Sphota or meaningful sound. 

  The third Vedanga, Niruktam, describes certain fundamental root words used in the Vedas. Classification of words into groups of synonyms is an example. For instance, approximately a hundred and twenty synonyms for water are given in Niruktam. 

  The fourth Vedanga, Chandas, describes the formation of sentences in metrical form. Unlike English which used a very limited number of metres (basically four), Sanskrit offers about two dozen Vedic metres and innumerable conventional metres. 

  The remaining two Vedangas, Kalpa and Jyothisha deal with space and time. 

The letters of Sanskrit

  Sanskrit comprises fifty one letters or aksharas. In other languages, we refer to the letters of the alphabet of the language. We know that the word alphabet is derived from the names of the first two letters of Greek. The term alphabet has no other meaning except to denote the set of letters in the language. 

  In contrast, the word "akshara" in Sanskrit denotes something fundamental and significant. One of the direct meanings of the word is that it denotes the set of letters of Sanskrit from the first to the last. The word also means that the sound of the letter does not ever get destroyed and thus signifies the eternal quality of the sound of the letters. The consequence of this meaning is that the sound of a word is essentially the sounds of the aksharas in the word, a concept which will help simplify text to speech applications with computers. 

  There are two aspects of non destruction in the above explanation. The first one refers to the phonetic characteristics of the language, i.e., in any word, the aksharas retain their sound. The second aspect of non destruction, amazingly, is that the aksharas retain their individual meanings as well! To give an example, the word "guru" consisting of the aksharas "gu" and "ru" stands for a teacher- one who dispels darkness (ignorance) of the the mind (person). "gu" means darkness and "ru" means the act of removal. 

  Now, aren't we beginning to see something very interesting? 

  The popular Sanskrit language is based on root syllables and words. Unlike the other languages of the world, every word in Sanskrit is derived from a root. It is a well accepted fact that all Indo-European languages have a common origin. On the basis of the above mentioned fact that all the words of Sanskrit are traceable to specific roots, a feature not seen in other languages, one can presume that Sanskrit is most certainly the origin. 

Massive, yet precise 

  One can learn Sanskrit purely for the sake of the great epics of India. The Ramayana has 24,000 verses fully in metre and the Mahabharata qualifies as the world's largest epic with 100,000 verses. The Mahabharata says, "what is here may be elsewhere, what is not here is nowhere." The precision with which the verses convey information on so many different aspects of life in a society, is a factor one must reckon as the ultimate in composition. 

Sanskrit Links

(A very useful site with many related links on all aspects of Sanskrit.)

The Samskrita Bharati site

(Emphasis on Spoken Sanskrit)


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