Thirty-two Muslim youths recently came up to the head of Kashmir University’s Sanskrit department, S Razdan, requesting her to help them learn Sanskrit. Surprised at their interest, Razdan wrote to the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan’s Jammu coordinator, Prof. Vishwamurthy Shastri.
The boys’ interest for a language that goes back 4,000 years is not a one-off case. Professionals like doctors, lawyers and even housewives across the country are rediscovering the classical language.
The latest report of the country's apex body for Sanskrit learning under the HRD ministry -- Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan -- reveals that between 2004 and 2006, over 2.5 lakh people have learnt Sanskrit through its “non-formal course”.
Among them are 500 doctors, as many lawyers, 4,000 businessmen, 8,000 housewives and 20,000 retired professionals.
The Institute had started the course as a pilot project in 2004 with just 5,000 students at 100 centres. Today, there are over 1,000 centres nationwide.
“It is remarkable that none who enroll do so for a degree, but for the love of the language. Remember it's a non-formal course,” said the Sansthan's national coordinator Ratan Mohan Jha.
Dr Atulananda Ramteke, who runs the Agile Orthopaedic Clinic in Shalimar Bagh, said: “Principles of ancient Sushruta medicine always attracted me. That is why I had opted for the course.” Sushrut was a renowned surgeon of the Vedic era, he said.
BS Lata, a Tamil teacher in Delhi, wanted to read classical epics in the original language. “The non-formal course is just right for me.” Lata attends classes at Samwadshala, one of the 10 centres in the Capital that has helped take the course forward.
Prof. Shastri said over phone from Jammu that students like Maghbool Farhat Beigh wished to learn Sanskrit after learning about NASA consultant Rick Briggs’ study, which had found that the language sharpened mental faculties.