Language should not be linked with religion, says Sanskrit scholar at PU global alumni meet
Noted Sanskrit scholar Satya Vrat Shastri, 90, feels language should not be linked with any religion and there are enough Muslims in the world who can recite Vedic texts with as much fervour as the Quran. “It’s a question of learning, anybody can learn,” he says.
The writer, grammarian and poet was speaking at the Panjab University Global Alumni Meet on Friday.
With reference to the recent Banaras Hindu University (BHU) controversy in which students opposed the appointment of Firoz Khan, a Muslim professor, to teach Sanskrit, Shastri said, “There are countless people who were born in Muslim families but can recite the Ramcharitmanas (an epic poem in Awadhi composed by Goswami Tulsidas, the 16th-century bhakti poet). One should not involve language in religion.”
On his tenure in Thailand as visiting faculty of Indian studies, Shastri said two teachers in Chulalongkorn University’s department of Sanskrit were Muslims. One of them had been told by her professor that she would be a misfit among other students as she came from the Muslim tradition.“She replied to her teacher that she can recite the Quran with the same fervour as she can recite Vedic mantras, so there was no question of her being a misfit,” he added.
The BHU students’ argument that a Muslim teacher could not teach them Sanskrit as well as someone from the same tradition was not valid. “Firoz Khan’s appointment is for teaching Sanskrit literature, not its rituals. In fact, Muslims can also take training in rituals,” Shastri said.
Why limit the argument to just Muslims? he asked.
“There are countless Christians who have studied Vedic literature and Sanskrit. I have myself translated the work of A A MacDonnell’s work on Vedic Grammar in Hindi. In my book, Discovery of Sanskrit, I have a separate section on the contribution of Muslims and Christians to Sanskrit.”
Currently, an honorary professor at the special centre for Sanskrit studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Shastri was dean of the faculty of arts at Delhi University and also heading its Sanskrit department.