Guess what's keeping together our high-tech gizmo Indian students at various US universities, pursuing higher studies? It's an online Sanskrit magazine.
Indian students, alumni and faculty from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Maryland (UMD), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Caltech, Purdue and so on are bringing out an online Sanskrit magazine under the banner of Campus Samskritam Network (CSN). Hosted on the www.speaksanskrit.org website, the webzine is called 'Vishvavani' (the voice or the language of the world).
Last week the third issue of Vishvavani was released, featuring a wide range of topics. It had an article on ancient Indian mathematics by Prabha Mandyam, (Ph.D. student at Caltech), another on Swami Vivekananda by Harichandan Mantripragada (Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University) and a travelogue by Dr. Jyotsna Kalavar (associate professor at Penn State University).
The webzine is enriched by a 'subhashitam' (wise saying) and even a Sanskrit crossword puzzle. Sowmya Joisa and Avinash Varna, editors of the magazine, say that even though it is not the first online Sanskrit magazine it is currently the only active one available online.
The group has been inspired by the first online Sanskrit magazine 'Apoorvavani', which is not active any more, and by a monthly print magazine 'Sambhashana sandesha' - both brought out by Samskrita Bharati. In addition to a document format uploaded on the web, the contents of the magazine are also published on a blog to make it easier for readers to comment on and give feedback, according to a statement.
In the past two years, blogging in Sanskrit has emerged as a popular online activity contributing to and providing growing evidence of the popularity of the language. While some like 'kalidasa', maintained by Ajit Krishnan, a software engineer at Microsoft Seattle, cover a wide variety of topics, others like 'learnsanskrit' maintained by Himanshu Pota from Australia, focus on specific topics such as teaching Sanskrit, Sanskrit songs, grammar, words, wise sayings and so on.
"Even though the Sanskrit blogging community is not as big as for other languages, we try to be in touch with each other, encourage each other and hope to grow as a group," says Ajit Krishnan, whose blog has seen more than 200 posts and 3,000 hits so far. Ajit also hopes that in future his blog will attract more youth and plans to add more multi-media resources, movie reviews, and feature other contemporary topics.
The common link for many bloggers and students at CSN appears to be Samskrita-Bharati (SB), a non-profit organization spearheading the speak-Sanskrit movement in India, the US and elsewhere.
Even though the web-based Sanskrit activities in the US have increased a lot in the past two or three years, SB USA itself has been active for almost 10 years. The organization is all set to hold its fifth annual meeting for volunteers in Maryland during the March 22-23 weekend, where over 30 volunteers from about 15 cities across the US are expected to participate.
The meeting will be attended by Sri Krishna Shastry, one of the founders of SB, who will also be giving a talk at the University of Pennsylvania on March 26. He will subsequently attend some Sanskrit-related events in New Jersey and New York.
For those unfamiliar with the rising Speak Sanskrit movement, it may sound a bit quaint. However, ask a Sanskrit aficionado, and the future of spoken Sanskrit appears extremely promising.
When asked why blog in Sanskrit when it is not his mother tongue, Ajit replied, once again in Sanskrit - "It is fast becoming my mother tongue".