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In touch with ancient India

Knowledge of Sanskrit helps you access all the treasures ancient India has to offer, writes Vimal Chander Joshi.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:43 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi
Vimal Chander Joshi
Hindustan Times

In the late ’90s, when Tek Chand Meena was pursuing undergraduate studies at Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati University, Ajmer, he attended a 10-day Sanskrit-speaking camp in Ganganagar. That was his first brush with the ancient language. After savouring its richness, he was hooked to it for life. “After the camp ended, I attended a two-week advanced-level workshop in Bikaner followed by another camp in Gujarat. When we returned after seven weeks, we were conversant in Sanskrit, a fact which floored everyone in the university, including my Sanskrit teacher,” says Meena.

That was the sense of fulfilment and achievement which tempted him to explore Sanskrit literature. After college, he came to Delhi for his postgraduation in Sanskrit, followed by an MPhil from the University of Delhi (DU). And he enjoyed every bit of it. “Sanskrit is a language which opens doors to several other areas, including yoga, Ayurveda, astrology, archaeology, manuscriptology and others. Moreover, it has a very rich literature too,” adds Meena, who is now an assistant professor of Sanskrit in DU.

Dr Dipti S Tripathi, director, National Mission of Manuscripts, also takes pride in being a Sanskrit teacher and scholar. “Our knowledge base of 5,000 years is written in Sanskrit. This language is not only defined by its literature but also spreads into the realms of philosophy, science, technology, medicine architecture and sociology,” says Tripathi.

Young students also learn more about moral values, thanks to Sanskrit. Says Natwar Mangalav, a Sanskrit teacher in Model Convent School, Delhi,

“Sanskrit (in textbooks in schools) deals with issues of discipline, inculcates virtues and helps you lead a happy and healthy life. Once I taught a chapter which taught students about respecting elders — which leads to longevity, makes you more knowledgeable, popular, and strong. After that class, I got to know in a PTA (parents-teachers association) meeting that some children had started touching their parents’ feet every morning.” At times, his students are all ears in class. “I never have to ask the students to stay silent. There is always pin drop silence whenever a Sanskrit lecture is on,” adds Mangalav.

Mangalav thinks highly of the language and has taken his teaching beyond the school classroom. “I have trained hundreds of students in 10-day Sanskrit-speaking camps (the kind of camp Meena had attended) purely out of my love of the language,” he says.

Though he can’t teach at such camps now, thanks to his school job, he enjoys doing what he is best at — teaching Sanskrit to young people. “I am glad that I have studied Sanskrit. It gives me a sense of satisfaction. In retrospect, I think that my life would have been incomplete without Sanskrit,” he says.

The only downside of the language is its low popularity. Students normally don’t study it after Class 10 which offers little incentive to them to take it up at the postgraduation level because there are barely any positions for postgraduate teachers (PGTs) at the school level. This is the reason why Mangalav has to remain content with his job teaching students from Class 6 to Class 8 even though he is an MPhil.

What's it about?
A Sanskrit teacher teaches in a school, college, a coaching academy or a camp. There are some non-government organisations (NGOs) too, such as Sanskrit Bharati, which conduct 10-day or 14-day language workshops

Clock Work
7am: Do yoga
8am: Rush to school/ college/academy
9am: Start classes
12.30pm: Lunch
1pm: Resume classes
2pm: Go home
4pm: Read ancient/ modern Sanskrit literature to improve knowledge

The Payoff
Salaries of Sanskrit teachers are at par with any teacher in any school/ college as per the sixth pay commission norms

. Passion for the language
. Understanding of Indian language, be it Hindi or any Dravidian language
. Interest in teaching
. Explorer’s instinct. If you are thirsty for more knowledge and make others aware of this language, then you have to keep reading India’s ancient texts and scriptures to learn more

How do i get there?
You should be a graduate in Sanskrit with a BEd degree to become a trained graduate teacher (TGT). To become a PGT (postgraduate teacher), one must be an MA in Sanskrit and get a BEd degree. To become a college teacher (or assistant professor), one must clear a National Eligibility Test (NET). Exemption from the NET is given to those with an MPhil degree (earned before July 10, 2009) and PhD (earned before June 11, 2009).

Institutes & urls
. Shastri (equivalent to BA) and acharya (equivalent to MA), Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Delhi
. Shastri (equivalent to BA) and acharya (MA), BEd and MEd, Sampurnanand Sanskrit Vishvavidyalaya, Varanasi
. BA, MA (Sanskrit) from Delhi University,
. BA/ MA in Sanskrit at Banaras Hindu University
. 14-day residential course at Sanskrit Bharati, New Delhi

Pros & cons


No cut-throat competition


It’s gratifying keep alive a language as rich as Sanskrit


Job options in multiple fields, including translation, research, teaching, writing and manuscriptology


Limited career opportunities

‘Bright students should take It up’

There is need for talented students to study and teach Sanskrit, says a scholar

Why should one study Sanskrit?
Our historic scriptures have answers to our economic, social and scientific problems. And all that vast knowledge is documented only in Sanskrit. The knowledge is applicable everywhere from architecture to engineering and from medicine to literature. I believe students from all fields should be taught Sanskrit so that they can read old scriptures to buoy their knowledge. Old scriptures even have useful management principles, but modern practitioners are deprived of all these.

In that case, why is Sanskrit not taught in other disciplines?
You realise its importance only when you study it but professionals in other areas are averse to it. This language is caught in a vicious circle. It is studied by low scorers who have no other option of higher studies. They end up as teachers, who aren’t able to attract young minds to the language because they themselves are not convinced of its importance. To break this cycle, bright students should learn the language.

Where must studying Sanskrit be made mandatory?
It should be made mandatory for scholars doing research in the areas of philosophy, ancient Indian history and also sociology.

Are old scriptures written in Sanskrit relevant today?
Yes they are. Whether it’s the economic crisis or the importance of the environment, everything is emphasised in the scriptures.

What career options does the language offer?
One can become a teacher, or enter the field of manuscriptology and palaeography.

Dipti Tripathi, director, National Mission of Manuscripts interviewed by Vimal Chander Joshi

First Published: Dec 28, 2010 11:55 IST