In a corner of city, a Sanskrit-only school
As the debate on replacing German with Sanskrit in Kendriya Vidyalayas rages on, a residential school in north-east Delhi is waging quite a battle to restore the popularity of the ancient Indian language.india Updated: Dec 14, 2014 00:20 IST
As the debate on replacing German with Sanskrit in Kendriya Vidyalayas rages on, a residential school in north-east Delhi is waging quite a battle to restore the popularity of the ancient Indian language. Set up by Samskrita Bharati, which refers to itself as ‘an organisation of dedicated volunteers’, the Samvadshala teaches Sanskrit to around 1,000 students a year and claims to have taught 11,000 students so far.
The two-week crash course in spoken Sanskrit costs just `600. Easy as it sounds, surviving the gurukul-style training is tough. The first rule — no other language is allowed. It takes a lot of reasoning on our part to convince Manjushree, head of the institute’s training programme, to break her sacred rule. “You have to live at the institute (in Mandoli village) during the course. You must deposit your mobile phone with us, visits by friends and family members are not allowed, and, of course, you will have to speak only in Sanskrit,” Manjushree tells us in Hindi. Speaking English is simply out of the question for her. If a student is found conversing in any other language, he/she is issued a warning. Further non-adherence results in expulsion.
“The idea is to make Sanskrit the country’s spoken language,” says Manjushree, adding that lessons are imparted through songs and lectures “in the right environment”. All students have to wake up at 4.45am, take a bath, do yoga, recite the Gita, and be in class by 8.45am. Teaching continues till 8pm and by 10pm everyone has to go to bed. According to Manjushree, the rules are the same for all students, some of who hail from the United States and Europe. They include young techies, MBA graduates, teachers, philosophy students and yoga enthusiasts.
Taking a break from his Sanskrit novel, Dhananjay Mishra, 16, an IAS aspirant from Allahabad says, “I really do not understand why any Indian should learn English. Sanskrit is in our blood, every Indian should be able to speak it.”
Deepak Sharma from Gwalior says , “I want to join the Army as a religious teacher which requires fluency in Sanskrit.” He is cut short by fellow student Jayesh Tank who hails from Ahmedabad. Clearly dissatisfied with Sharma’s reply, Tank says, “Sanskrit is a modern language of science and technology. It has helped many scientists dip into our ancient scriptures for a better understanding of genetics. Sanskrit promotes scientific temper.” Manjushree nods in admiration.
By now she is losing patience with so many students speaking in Hindi. “It’s time for the next class,” she announces. In the class, men and women sit separately. Present in the class is Devaki from the Netherlands. “There is a huge demand for Sanskrit teachers back home. I have done MA in Sanskrit from Leiden University and have come here to brush up my conversational skills,” she says in English, her head covered with a dupatta.