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Sanskrit course a hit with students from India, abroad

James Madaio, a PhD candidate at Deccan College, Pune, considered Sanskrit a dead language until last year.
Hindustan Times | By Vimal Chander Joshi, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2011 12:23 AM IST

James Madaio, a PhD candidate at Deccan College, Pune, considered Sanskrit a dead language until last year.

His opinion changed shortly after he saw his college teachers converse with their students in Sanskrit.

Later, he landed up in Delhi and joined Samvadshala, where a 14-day Sanskrit speaking course draws students from all parts of country and abroad, such as US, Russia, China, Germany, Canada and others.

The residential course follows a unique methodology to teach the ancient language through songs, jokes, lectures and by offering the right environment.

"Students are mandated to interact only in Sanskrit. Not even informally are they allowed to speak in Hindi," says Manju Shree, who teaches at Samvadshala.

She spoke in Hindi only after this reporter pestered her to violate the sacred rule of conversing only in Sanskrit.

"We don't let any other language pervade this environment in our quest to keep it as clean and pristine as Sanskrit," she adds.

Currently, the 22-student batch comprises students from different corners of India. Ghanshyam Shukla, an IAS aspirant, 28, is from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, while Dundu Lal Atre, 65, a retired rural development officer is from Khairlanji, Maharashtra.

Shukla, a postgraduate in physics from Delhi University finds the teaching methodology at Samvadshala scientific.

"At the outset, they make you hear Sanskrit, then you are encouraged to start using it in daily conversations and eventually, you learn grammar. Every evening, we listen to a lecture in simple Sanskrit by an eminent scholar," says Shukla.

"A lot of words are common to Hindi and Sanskrit. Even the script (Devnagari) is the same. On top of it, when you get an environment where you have to communicate only in the same language from five in the morning to 10 at night, learning takes place faster," Manju Shree adds.

At Samvadshala, the complete dependence on Sanskrit is taken very seriously by teachers and administrators alike.

There are some staff members who don't understand any language except Sanskrit and if a student is found talking in Hindi, he/she is issued a green card, followed by a red card, on committing the mistake the next time.

On the third instance, he/she is sent out of school.

In this batch too, one student had to face dismissal for a similar reason.

This strict rule makes students such as James decide to stay quiet when at a loss for Sanskrit words. "Several times, I just stay quiet," quips James.

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