Sanskrit is an extremely systematic classical language of Hinduism. The literal meaning of Sanskrit is ‘cultured’ or ‘refined’. It is said that no expression in this world can be defined as uprightly and emotionally as the way it is defined in Sanskrit. Such is the vastness and versatility of this language that there are 67 different words to express different forms of water, 65 words to express forms of earth, and 250 words in total to express rainfall.
Sanskrit is a technically correct and artistically enriched language. Along with its literary value, the language has strong philosophical and grammatical traditions that has been carried on and contemplated over centuries.
Syntax and Language Rules
Sanskrit can never be defined as a growing language as it is an extremely scientific language which works on certain specific mechanisms. The way the language should be used is extremely perfected and every tense, verb, compound, syntax, etc. is fixed.
In Sanskrit the word grammar is called vyakarana and etymologically it means ‘differentiated analysis’. The Sanskrit grammar of the great ancient grammarian Panini, which he composed around 1300 B.C, is the most compact and comprehensive grammar ever produced in the world. Panini named his grammar Ashtadhyayi (8 Chapters). The mechanism of the Sanskrit language and the evolution of different words in Sanskrit are the two areas which Panini has focused on throughout his text. Panini has explained his whole Sanskrit grammar philosophy in 4,000 short verses.
It is said that Sanskrit grammar is as perfect as mathematics and its speech is as refined as music. The language has the capacity to uplift the mind of its users. The clarity with which the language is spoken inspires the hearts of many to adopt this language and learn its brilliance plus rare creative expressions.
In support of the stupendous work of Panini which is the only one of its kind in the whole world, Sir Monier-Williams (1819-1899)
Orientalist Sanskrit professor at the Oxford University, had said that no other country in the world except India once produced a brainy grammarian named Panini with astounding capacity of explaining the most complex grammar mechanisms in the best comprehensible manner.
On the whole, Sanskrit literature is an extremely romantic literature interlaced with spirituality, wisdom and idealism.
Influence and Comparison with Other Languages
If we talk about similarities of Sanskrit with other foreign languages, then a number of associations can be concluded. The popularity of the antique Sanskrit grammar and derivations of its verb have led many eminent linguists to believe that many languages including Greek, Persian, Teutonic, Celtic and Slavonic are in some or the other way scions of the main Sanskrit language.
Sanskrit and Avesta (or Zend)
Avesta, an ancient Iranian language in which all Zoroastrian texts were composed, has a natural resemblance with Rig Vedic Sanskrit. It was surprisingly revealed while comparing the names of various rituals, warriors, god, goddesses, and religious activities. Many words were found similar to those written in the Sanskrit format. Some scholars have also claimed that Avestan (also known as Zend) language could be better known as a dialect of the Sanskrit language.
Some resemblances between the two languages are mentioned below–
|Sanskrit||Avesta or Zend||English Meaning|
||kasmai devaaya vidhema
(Mentioned in Atharva Veda)
|kamhai devaaya vidhema
(Mentioned in Zend Avesta)
|to which God should I sacrifice?|
The below mentioned words in Sanskrit and Avasta carry the same meanings and these uncanny resemblances could never be mere coincidences. Hence, a common root or culture must have played a role in the background as it has been assessed by major national linguists. Follow the list mentioned below
|‘S’ in Sanskrit has been replaced by ‘H’ in Zend|
|Sanskrit||Avesta or Zend|
||Asmi (I am)||ahmi|
||Santi (they are)||hanti|
|‘shva’ in Sanskrit has been replaced by ‘spa’ in Zend|
|“t” in Sanskrit has been replaced by ‘tha’ in Zend|
||traitaal mantra||thraitaan mantra|
Not only words, the two languages also share the same meaning in various slokas –
- mahaantaa mitraa varunaa samraajaa devaav asuraaha sakhe
sakhaayaam ajaro jarimne agne martyaan amartyas tvam nah
- Rigveda: 10:87:21
O Supreme Lord, you are the one who is the Sun, fire and water. O Supreme Lord, you are our father, ruler, friend and teacher.
Our great father, you are immune to aging and death but we are not. We are grateful to you that you have considered us your friend.
mahaantaa mitraa varunaa devaav ahuraaha sakhe ya fedroi vidaat
- Gatha 17:4 Yashna 53:4
Meaning: O Ahura Mazda, you are the father, ruler, friend, worker and pure knowledge. We are thankful that you have shown immense mercy towards a mortal to stay at your feet.
- yadi antareekshe yadi vaate aasa yadi vriksheshu yadi bolapashu yad ashravan pashava ud-yamaanam tad braahmanam punar asmaan upaitu
- Atharva Veda 7:66;
The same sloka is present in Zend Avesta Prishni, Chapter 8, Gatha 12
Oh Lord! Whether you reside in the sky or in the breeze; in the woods or in the waves;
No matter where you reside, please come to us once. All living beings impatiently anticipate your footfalls.
Sanskrit and Other Languages
Below mentioned words have common derivations with that of Sanskrit language –
||Old Irish||brathair||10.||Old Irish–with loss of original consonant||athir|
In the Word of Western Scholars
Various eminent and literary personalities, form the West, have commented, glorified and evinced interest in Sanskrit on the global arena.
- Rick Briggs, a researcher in NASA, has said that to fulfil the search of truth there was a language invented and that was Sanskrit. As per Briggs, in ancient India, there was a strong urge and intention of people to discover higher wisdom in life; in the process of finding such virtue they discovered a versatile language which could complement such findings.
- Frederich von Schlegel, (1772-1829), German literary critic, poet, philologist, philosopher and founder of German Romanticism had also shared his views on Sanskrit as an indologist. As per Schlegel, no language in the world has as much ‘clarity and philosophical precision’ as Sanskrit has. Schlegel throughout his indological research had maintained that no heritage in this world, not even that of Greeks, is as original and intellectually, religiously or politically rich as the Indian heritage.
- Juan Mascaro (1897 – 1987) was a professor at Oxford University, Cambridge University, the University of Barcelona, Parameshvara College at Jaffna and he also presented precise English translations of the Hindu text Bhagavad Gita, and of some part of Upanishads. As maintained by Mascaro, Sanskrit is a great literature as many precious Hindu texts of great and pure literary value were originally written and preserved in Sanskrit.
In support of his statement, he mentioned the glory and magnificence of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Mascaro also opined that only a language as pious as Sanskrit can do justice with the philosophies of Sankhya, Yoga and Vedanta. He also stressed on Panini’s grammar, Laws of Manu, and finally the dramas and lyrical poetries of Kalidasa.
- Chicago University’s Professor Leonard Bloomfield (1887-1949) who promoted structural linguistics in the U.S. amid 1930-1950, also said once that the grammar used in Sanskrit language stands as an epitome of human intellect.
- William Humboldt (1767 –1835), a German (Prussian) philosopher, diplomat, and founder of the Berlin University maintained in context of Sanskrit language that a language is the manifestation of power and divinity present in man, hence a language can never be artificially created.
- Francois Gautier (1959-till date) is a French writer and journalist based in India. He is also a South Asian correspondent of France’s largest daily circulation Le Figaro. Gautier says that besides English, which is still being only used by minority, Sanskrit has the full potential of becoming the unifying language of India.
Gautier also states that though Sanskrit today is considered as a dead language by many social scientists, it has the full potential to emerge itself as a main stream language. He justifies his statement with the fact that Hebrew was also considered a dead language till the year 1948 when Jewish people resettled on their land and revived Hebrew as their official language which today is being used in Israel on a full-fledged basis.
Sanskrit and Hindu Heritage
Unfortunately, today’s Hindus have somehow failed in preserving the heritage of Sanskrit language and bringing it to the next level. Our spiritual and ethical commitments have apparently been crushed at the hands of secularism. Today we have secularism – which is nothing but easy consumerism – that has taken a front seat and has tremendously influenced the mindset of the contemporary Hindus. The way people are neglecting their religious and cultural values, it is highly feared that Sanskrit will be extinct from most schools and colleges in the face of rising secularist milieu.
It is a bitter fact that like other countries in the world, Indians somewhere have not succeeded in preserving and promoting their ancient language. Alongside, universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and many others have eliminated Sanskrit department since over a decade. It is strongly felt by many scholars and historians that if Indian schools start including Sanskrit as one of their main language subjects, it will regain its lost glory and reverence at a national level. On a final note, Sanskrit is a language instilled with vitality, life, peace, and unity. It is considered as a sacred gift and an opportunity to spiritually uplift its users by delving deep into ancient Indian literature.
Arise India Forum 2010