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Sanskrit - a powerful binding force

education Updated: Nov 05, 2013 12:42 IST
Dr Satyamurti

Language is a powerful medium which brings people together and unites them. But the unfortunate irony of our times is that language is being used as a medium to divide people. Today, particularly in India, different forces are constantly working to divide society on the basis of language, religion, nationality and ethnicity. This can seriously jeopardise our sense of national peace and harmony.

Given this backdrop, it is very important to understand and appreciate our linguistic unity. And Sanskrit is the key to this understanding. The linguistic history of Sanskrit reveals that it is the fundamental language of the Indo-European family and has a deep-rooted and intrinsic relationship with various Indian and international languages. Moreover, the vocabulary of Sanskrit and its semantics establishes its close connection with the prime languages of the world.

The history of the development of various languages of Asia and Europe reveals an interesting fact. Nearly 4000-5000 years ago, the ancestors of the majority of people in Asia and Europe had been living together for hundreds of years at one place and our forefathers, whom we call arya, used to speak one language. The original language of the aryans has been termed as Proto Indo-European language -- called PIE in short. While studying the family tree of Indo-European languages, the similarity among languages becomes very visible. It has been established that Sanskrit is more similar to classical languages like Greek, Latin, Avestan and Gothic than the modern languages like English, German and French that have been directly derived from them.

Also, Sanskrit is the only language among ancient languages, which has undergone minimal change. Its vast repository of literature is intact even today. Moreover, most of the characteristics of PIE are still lying in Sanskrit and without knowing Sanskrit, no comparative study of the languages of Indo-European family is possible. In other words, Sanskrit is a binding force for knowing the mutual relationship of different languages and cultures of Asia and Europe. The reason behind it is that the literature of the classical languages like Greek, Latin etc hardly exists today.

As far as India is concerned, barring a few languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam of the Dravidian family and Muṇḍā and Santhālī of Astra-Asiatic family, all Indian languages have originated from Sanskrit. In connection with the aforesaid languages of the Dravidian family and Astro-Asiatic family, there is a give and take relationship with Sanskrit. Malyalam and Tamil have 40 to 50 % words of Sanskrit origin. Sanskrit, too, has become richer by adopting words from Dravidian languages.

Given these facts, it becomes evident that the linguistic diversity of India is its power, not its weakness and Sanskrit is the most powerful binding force which ties various languages in an unbreakable thread of unity.

The author is a well known researcher in the field of linguistics and Indian philosophy