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From pulpit to people

The pursuit of a new language that can have little day-to-day use, is empowering an individual to connect with others on similar voyages of linguistic discovery.

india Updated: Sep 23, 2007 22:40 IST

The study of Sanskrit, it would seem, is becoming popular in new-age India. And this must be welcomed for several reasons. A report presented by the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan says that between 2004 and 2006, over 250,000 people learnt Sanskrit through its ‘non-formal course’. The HRD Ministry’s initiative has found many takers among professionals, from doctors to lawyers, businessmen and the retired. And the single driving force behind their desire to learn the ‘language of the gods’ was to benefit from the treasury of scientific, technical and philosophical texts. This could well mean that, at last, Sanskrit will be free of its association solely with religious rites and rituals. It will move from being a mere ceremonial language to the popular mainstream. Not that Sanskrit was ever used for streetspeak, but one only needs to review its evolution, or lack of it, in the last few decades, to appreciate what little freedom we allowed the language to grow and assimilate new idioms. Is this new interest a sign that 21st century India is junking traditional attempts to restrict the language to the select few? There is certainly reason to hope so. No religious overtones, no political undertones. What more could we want?

Too often we lament death of languages and the blame, strangely enough, is often heaped at the doorstep of globalisation. Yet, it is the very fundamental of globalisation that allows individuals to explore newer worlds. The pursuit, in adult life especially of a new language that can have little day-to-day use, is nothing less than empowering an individual to connect with others on similar voyages of linguistic discovery. And the best part is that there’s no room for exclusion. A similar interest in exploring languages relegated to history, like Latin and Urdu, has also been recorded.

The world today has 6,912 known ‘living’ languages — each encrypts a world in its folds. And that doesn’t include Java or C++. Those are languages for a different universe. But it is worth a thought that it is these modern software languages that help us to reach out and embrace the classical ones — which would have died out had it not been for technology.