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Sanskrit moves from pundits to people

A growing number of students, professionals and even housewives across the country are rediscovering the magic of the language, reports Zia Haq. Read on...

india Updated: Sep 22, 2007 01:48 IST
Zia Haq

A growing number of professionals like doctors and lawyers, students and even housewives across the country are rediscovering the magic of Sanskrit. And they are doing it not for any degree, but for the love of the language.

The latest report of the country’s apex body for Sanskrit learning under the HRD ministry — the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan — says that between 2004 and 2006, over 2.5 lakh people 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 trend is not region- or religion-specific. Recently, 32 Muslim youths approached the head of Kashmir University’s Sanskrit department, S Razdan, requesting her to help them learn the language. Surprised, Razdan wrote to the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan’s Jammu coordinator, Prof. Vishwamurthy Shastri.

The Sansthan started the course in 2004 with 5,000 students at 100 centres. Today, there are over 1,000 centres. “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 Ratan Mohan Jha, the Sansthan’s national coordinator.

There are some who are interested in the 4,000-year-old language to pursue their interests. Dr Atulananda Ramteke, who runs an orthopaedic clinic in Shalimar Bagh, said: “Ancient Sushruta medicine always attracted me. That is why I opted for the course.” Sushruta, he said, was a renowned surgeon of the Vedic era.

BS Lata, a teacher, wanted to read the epics: “The non-formal course is just right for me.” She attends classes at Samwadshala, one of the 10 centres in Delhi.

Prof. Shastri said over phone from Jammu that students like MF Beigh wished to learn Sanskrit after learning about NASA consultant Rick Briggs’s study, which had found that Sanskrit sharpened mental faculties.