The Benaras Hindu University (BHU) and the University of Pune have been at the forefront of Sanskrit education in India. Incidentally, the BHU is the only university in India where both the traditional and modern systems of Sanskrit education exist. The Faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vijnan (Faculty of SVDV) that grants the title of Shastri (equivalent to a BA), Acharya (equivalent to an MA) and Vidyavaridhi (equivalent to a PhD) is the traditional wing whereas the Department of Sanskrit in the Faculty of Arts which grants the routine BA, MA and PhD degrees is the modern wing of this university.
This distinction has translated to an edge in terms of teaching and research. “A clear objective of our traditional system of education (imparted in the Faculty of SVDV) is to preserve the original texts and its commentaries starting from the Vedas, Vedangas, Indian philosophies and poetics,” says Gopabandhu Mishra, head, Department of Sanskrit, Faculty of Arts, BHU.
He continues, “In the modern department we strive to ensure that the learnings of the texts and commentaries go on to explore and explain our age -old values, scientific approach and rational observations (preserved in ancient texts and commentaries) in a manner that is beneficial for the present times. In other words, the classical learnings are examined in the context of contemporary issues and challenges in fostering world peace and harmony, controlling pollution etc.”
The classical learnings are also leveraged in an array of scientific studies pertaining to physics, metaphysics, biology, geography, geology etc.
The Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit in the University of Pune (incidentally this is the country’s oldest UGC centre of advanced study in Sanskrit) also has a pronounced emphasis on a system of research that integrates the classical and contemporary aspects of the discipline.
“Dictionary of domestic ritualistic terms and dictionary of Indian poetics are some of the latest research-based publications,” says Prof Bata Kishore Dalai, who teaches at the centre. He also stresses the need for a more committed pool of students in terms of improving the quality and quantity of research work.
“Among other things, our endeavour is to achieve research outcomes that are relevant to the current times. And to do this, not just our centre but the entire country needs many more students who are genuinely passionate about Sanskrit,”Dalai adds.
Talking about some major initiatives that have been undertaken by BHU in the last five years to improve the standards of learning and teaching Sanskrit in India, Mishra says, “A three-day national seminar on Sanskrit writings of the post independence era was organised by the university in October. This was attended by renowned Sanskrit scholars from different parts of India and abroad. The discussions revolved around the vast body of new creative writings (in Sanskrit), Sanskrit commentaries, translations, criticisms and edited manuscripts.”
He goes on to add, “BHU has also recently conducted two national workshops, one on translation and the other on Sanskrit meters.”