Should Sanskrit be made a compulsory subject in schools?

The three language directive introduced by the CBSE aids the students to learn two different languages in addition to English however the focus has largely been on the thorough study of the second language elective while the third language elective is often very elementary syllabus for upper primary children. This existing directive of compulsively having Hindi as one of the language electives has left South Indians juggling to make that hard choice between the love for regional language and the awe for Sanskrit, as Hindi is made compulsory.

Such concerns have always met the ire of linguistic nationalism but let me make it overtly clear that South Indians can walk and talk in Hindi today, so certainly this is not a Hindi hating post bringing about the North – South divide, but to talk about the apathy of the treatment meted out to Sanskrit amidst a fearmongering and polarized ecosystem where any efforts for the revival of this rich language called Sanskrit is unapologetically termed as saffronization while unwaveringly taking pride in English.

Today English is the mode of instruction in most educational institutes barring Government schools and a few regional medium schools .It has unofficially become the official language in every other private and business sector, English is the chosen language even in our highest judicial courts. Thanks to the centuries of English propagation that has made us Indians feel that – all what is written in English is gospel truth – which was precisely the intent behind its introduction – to have people read and believe only a particular narrative. Back then Sanskrit was a big obstruction to the cause of English and to the cause of evangelism hence it was serially disconnected from all organized and unorganized institutes of education. States were created on linguistic grounds to uphold the regional chauvinism to keep divisive spirits eternal and quiet naturally I may be seen as succumbing to it when I say that today I am made to either take Sanskrit or Kannada and I cannot have both because Hindi is a mandatory elective.

Languages in schools have always been seen as mere marks garnering subjects and the introduction of foreign languages like German, French with their job promising aspect have fascinated many adding to the toll on regional languages. In places like Bangalore with the millennial generation accommodating to an exploding non-kannada populace, today one can come across only traces of Kannada, even in an eloquent Kannada family as most conversations are often mixed with English and Hindi these days. Essentially whether one takes Sanskrit, Hindi, Foreign or a regional language it is the spoken language that matters to nourish any language as such and today without doubt the millennials are more comfortable in spoken English than in their own mother tongues especially in Southern India and more so in Karnataka, particularly in Bengaluru. Interestingly Hindi has picked up and many who have never studied Hindi are also able to speak in Hindi with ease(although with regional accents), blame or bestow  the credit on Hindi cinema and serials but spoken conversations make an impact.

It is quite ironical that Sanskrit literature that was mined inside out by the British evangelists in the 17th century to form the very basis of their English identity leading to the massaged renaissance of their civilization where the richness of our Vedic past was ingested and surmised off as their own lost past, today that Sanskrit is reduced to a 2nd or 3rd language elective which may or may not be selected over choices of other foreign or regional languages. We cannot undo the past nor can we regressively get rid of English even in the distant future, as English has become a hegemonic yet compulsive necessity considering the job fetching aspect and more importantly to warily understand the scheming English mind! Also more people seem to believe that learning German or French or Japanese will be beneficial from a job perspective and financial gains than learning any regional language or Sanskrit, hence it becomes imperative to educate the masses about the future benefits of studying Sanskrit along with its promotion.

There are more than 14 universities in Germany that are teaching Sanskrit today and the growing number of German Indologists and German Sanskrit scholars in almost all the elite universities are testimony to the importance and relevance of Sanskrit. Recently a British school has made Sanskrit studies compulsory as they believe that this ancient language helps perfect them in Maths, philosophy and Science. In a world scenario where countries like Germany, Britain and America have dedicated institutes set up for pursuing Vedic science and Sanskrit, it is only in India that Sanskrit is still obsessively associated with religion and plagued by polarizing politics obstructing and delaying its rightful sanctity of being enumerated and incorporated as a heritage language that would build a sense of pride and civilizational commonness to integrate the masses at large.

In this backdrop wouldn’t it be prudent for HRD ministry to rejig its three language policy by mandating Sanskrit as a compulsory core subject much like English, Social studies, Science or Maths that needs to be studied from class 1-10. Such a step would also enable promotion of regional languages along with Hindi where Sanskrit is made available not as an optional language elective but imparted as a civilizational and cultural studies. The exploration of political, philosophical, historical, cultural and civilizational aspects present in the Sanskrit literatures would also shun the myth that Sanskrit is just a religious subject. And its study from the foundational levels would enable Indians to get a firsthand viewpoint instead of always looking up for translated versions of westerners! As a pilot project the HRD ministry could actually introduce spoken Sanskrit sessions from classes 1-10 by employing well-trained, very articulate mentors with excellent communication skills to make the sessions interactive and interesting. It is important to keep it interesting as most Sanskrit students of the past have found the grammar and its syntaxes extremely difficult and are unable to interpret long sentences and it was largely due to the fact that it was just theoretical and no spoken sessions happened for any better interpretation or understanding.

The intent of the linguistic demarcation of states in India have fetched profitable political prices for the visionaries of this divide and it may seem impossible to shuffle these regional boundaries today as a sense of linguistic demarcation has already seeped deep into minds and hearts that has led to grouping and linguistic chauvinism even when they cross the regional borders. It is for undoing this regional bias that we need a common language to unite us all that we can all call as ours officially!

It is in this context that I am not opposed to growth of Hindi because by making Hindi a compulsory subject one is bound to learn the Devanagari script and by learning the Devanagari script half the foundation is laid for Sanskrit learning!

Most people deem languages as just a scoring subject and are reluctant about addition of any more languages but it is important to understand the that for any civilization to thrive it has to have a good understanding of its past and take pride in its past and learn from its past mistakes and this is where the crux of the matter lies, language is an important medium for mass communication and mind shaping, our past is hidden in our ancient native writings and it is important to understand the power games of the past to take control of the present, and this can happen only if we revive and rewrite our true history as for far too long we have been fed with fibs of atrocious English literatures that has continually demeaned our history, destroyed the idea of our commonness and divided us. With the Sanskrit rage picking up amongst offshore scholars, there might a time when even Sanskrit literature would be sullied with fabricated theories by the western Sanskrit scholars if we continue to see it as just another marks garnering language burden!

Sanskrit is known to make stiff fingers and stiff tongues flexible but will it bend the stiff secularism rants or will it remain a sabotaged saffron lingo is to be seen but until then should we procrastinate and rant in English about how Hindi is not our national language as per the constitution and how my regional language is neglected?