Sanskrit and the Secularists

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in Dublin last month when Irish students welcomed him with Sanskrit shlokas seems to have raised the hackles of our so called “secularists” with several going out of their way to say “We are secular, Mr. PM and we also love Sanskrit”.

Ms. Seema Mustafa wrote a long letter to prove that secularists are not Sanskrit-baiters. While she may have written out of true anguish and she probably also likes the language, the history, of secularist opposition to Sanskrit does not back her claims.

One merely has to recount the numerous petitions filed over the decades even when Sanskrit was an elective subject to see the kind of lobbying for the inclusion of Persian and Arabic among other options alongside Sanskrit to in the name of secularism.

Secular History of support for Sanskrit

One of the major decisions in this regard came in 1994 (way before Narendra Modi sprang on the scene) in which the Court completely refuted the claims that teaching Sanskrit was against secularism because Arabic or Persian were not accorded a similar status in the educational system.

The verdict was delivered by Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice B. L. Hansaria in response to a writ petition filed by Santosh Kumar and others in 1989 against the Secretary, Ministry of Human Resources Development and Government of India. The court said that “a secular state is not hostile to religion but holds itself neutral in matters of religion” (para 16). It quoted from the Sanskrit Commission’s Report to show that Sanskrit was a binding and unifying force in India. Paragraphs 19 and 20 of the judgment spelt out the views of the Court in no uncertain terms”.

Another petition was filed by Aruna Roy and others, whose secularism was never doubted, (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 98 of 2002) again objecting to the inclusion of Sanskrit in the education system.

Beyond education, the self-professed secularists tried every trick to block Sanskrit gaining a place of prominence in the polity. For example, Kannada sociologist M.N. Srinivas coined a term Sanskritisation, which denotes the acquiring of Brahminical or Hindu ethos by the so called lower castes. The use of Sanskrit here implicitly implied that Sanskrit was a language of higher echelons of the society only (read Brahmins) and lower castes acquired it to gain recognition. Otherwise, the moving to higher echelons of the society by lower strata is generally denoted by the term ‘upwardly mobile’ class.

When Karnataka government proposed to set up Sanskrit University, most of the secularists sprang up to oppose it. When the bill on Sanskrit University came up for debate in the state Legislative Council in 2009, the opposition moved a bill asking for the setting up of the Urdu University alongside it.

Congress member V S Ugrappa and Janata Dal (Secular) leader M C Nanaiah, the parties of which secular credentials are never questioned by ‘progressive’ intellectuals, argued that Sanskrit University could be set up then ‘there should be nothing in the way’ to set up Urdu one.

Clearly, intelligentsia’s idea of secularism was that Urdu, Arabic and Persian should be placed along and in equal proportion to Sanskrit.

Opposition to setting up of Sanskrit university was not limited in Karnataka alone. When the proposal to establish an university at Kalady, the birthplace  of Adi Shankaracharya, in Kerala came up, Marxist Communist Party opposed it vehemently. It is because of their opposition that the setting up of this university got delayed and it was only after Shankaracharya of Sringeri Mutt donated Rs 1 crore towards it, that the then Chief Minister K. Karunakaran took some steps in this direction.

Even when this university was established, the Marxist lobby usurped it leading to the appointment of Prof. K.N.Panicker as its Vice Chancellor. He established a Chair in the name of E M S Namboodiripad in the university, who had opposed its idea from the start, and brought the university to such a pass that an expert study group sent by the UGC recommended urgent and drastic measures to mend it.

It is pertinent here to point out what Tamil writer and Joe D’ Cruz said recently of status of Sanskrit in India. According to The Hindu, he said,

“People have been misguided for 60 years about Sanskrit and have been kept away from learning it. There was a notion that Sanskrit was the preserve of the higher echelons of the society and it was the language of the Hindu texts.”

D’Cruz is a Christian and a Sahitya Akademi award winner. He is also president of the Samskrita Bharati, Uttara Tamil Nadu and it is common knowledge that Samskrita Bharati is a RSS-affiliated organisation. But it proved my point that one who wants to nurture one’s love for Samskrita has to go to RSS or similar organisation – because Secularists never loved Sanskrit!

(Author: Devidas Deshpande, Journalist and Translator. He lives in Pune.)


Sanskrit: A Classical Scene

Sneha Bhura

When Arshia Sattar, noted for her English translations of Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Kathasaritsagara, was studying Sanskrit in the US, she remembers watching GV Iyer’s Adi Shankaracharya (1983)–India’s first Sanskrit feature film–as a ‘language exercise’. The movie outing was hardly meant to generate a can’t-wait-to- watch kind of excitement . She and her peers spent most of their time exchanging notes on possible translations of what was being said onscreen. Today, after a hiatus of more than a decade, there are three new Sanskrit films lined up for release in the course of the next year. Will they go beyond a niche audience and help create a well-defined genre of modern Sanskrit cinema in the future? Sattar is sceptical. ‘As for the ‘future’ of Sanskrit films, I can’t see it as terribly bright. Unless in the next few years we are persuaded that Sanskrit is the only language we should be speaking,’ she says over email.

Vinod Mankara, an award-winning filmmaker and writer from Kerala, is more hopeful. He was first exposed to the refined elegance of Sanskrit as a child when he would visit temples in his hometown to watch elaborate Kathakali performances with his grandparents. He was besotted with the richly detailed spectacle of this classical dance-drama rendered in chaste Sanskrit. One particular play stayed with him. What Mankara really liked about Nalacharitham was how the play dealt with flesh-and- blood human figures rather than the gods, goddesses and demons in all the other Kathakali performances he had seen. He later studied the play in college and went on to make a critically-acclaimed documentary on it titled Nalacharitham Anchaam Divasam, which won the Kerala Kalamandalam Award. Today, after five years of working on the script, Mankara is ready to release Priyamanasam, a film that chronicles the agony and ecstasy of the 17th century romantic poet- scholar Unnayi Warrier while he was engaged in the creation of his masterpiece Nalacharitham Athakatha

Once, while filming Priyamanasam, Mankara called some of his crew members to the studio to see snippets of his Sanskrit film. He wanted to gauge their response. He was relieved to find that they understood everything that was going on in the scene, in spite of not knowing the least bit of Sanskrit. That’s when Mankara knew he was on the right track. “I have used Kathakali as the subject of this film. And Kathakali is very colourful and so is my treatment of the subject. The colourful scenes and the acting will aid the comprehension of the language. Also, in the last two Sanskrit movies, the language was used in a very rigid manner. In Priyamanasam, I have used Sanskrit dialogues in a very talkative way, like you would talk in Malayalam or Hindi,” he says, explaining his departure in style from that of the Kannada filmmaker GV Iyer. Interestingly Mankara’s Priyamanasam (‘sweetheart’ in Sanskrit) is fully composed in the ancient language from start to finish, including the credits and names on posters, in a bid to make Sanskrit its real hero.

In the film, when Warrier is seen in the act of writing Nalacharitham in the palace of Travancore–as the king and the queen anxiously await the final draft–the poet swings between acute spasms of hallucination and reality. The characters of his play come alive in his mind. These illusory characters talk and argue with the writer and are cleverly juxtaposed with the appearance of the three female lovers who had influenced the poet’s past. This chimeric intermingling of the past, present and future in the poet’s mind is emblematic of a creative churn common to many, and can be transposed to writers and artists of any age. This aspect of the period drama, Mankara feels, will resonate with a modern audience. Due to release in the first week of September, Priyamanasam will be the third Sanskrit language film in the history of Indian cinema. “Marketing the movie will be a big challenge. I am planning to release it in five to ten cinema halls in many cities in India. But most importantly, I will release it abroad as many universities there are eagerly awaiting the release of the film, especially Germany,” says Mankara who has made more than 600 documentaries so far, including one on the painter Raja Ravi Varma.

While a number of measures have been taken by the current Modi government to foreground the rich contributions of Sanskrit–that ‘repository of wit and wisdom of all the Indian peoples throughout the ages’, the attempt to popularise it as a spoken language is clearly assuming a life of its own. That so many filmmakers should make full- length feature films in the language is perhaps the most credible sign of this. The ‘show, don’t tell’ essence of the visual medium may eventually prove far more useful in giving the language a modern-day lease of life.

When Bangalore-based Ravishankar V, a 43-year-old techie, attended a 10-day workshop on Sanskrit at Infosys, he was greatly disturbed to learn how Indians feel so ‘apologetic’ about an important part of their own cultural heritage, and how they wait for foreigners to expound the virtues of Sanskrit to realise its merit. “The more I learnt about the language, the more I saw how a lot of people who have reached great heights in science, like Einstein, have appreciated the thoughts that are there in Eastern philosophy,” he says, “So I wanted to do something for this great language for the next generation.” As a passionate writer of children’s books, he had a story to tell. And the workshop inspired him to meld his storytelling and multimedia skills with his newfound love of Sanskrit into a Sanskrit film.

If all goes by plan, next August will see Ravishankar release Punyakoti, the country’s first crowd-funded and crowd-sourced Sanskrit animation feature film. Set to tune by the acclaimed music maestro Ilaiyaraaja himself, the film’s story is derived from the Padma Purana, a Sanskrit text about a beautiful cow called Punyakoti who is an epitome of honesty and truth. In Karnataka, the Kannada version of this story is more popular as a folk song called Govina haadu and is set in the fictional village of Karunaadu. Ravishankar uses the premise of this song to weave another story on man- animal conflict, when Karunaadu is beset with a drought, to show how the ideals of the truthful cow are relevant under the circumstances.

“This project is a big experiment in Indian cinema itself,” says Ravishankar, “The pre-production of the movie has been done in a crowd- sourced manner for the first time ever in the country.” Several studios and animators have collaborated to produce the varied scenes in the film, he elaborates, but to ensure some method to the madness, every shot has been pre-written and there exists a strict style sheet. “One animator is in Brazil. He is Portuguese. All I know is that he loves Sanskrit and is trained in animation. In fact, I have not even seen some of my team members,” says the filmmaker, who hopes to garner his estimated budget of Rs 40 lakh via Wishberry, a crowd-funding website.

“How is a gangster going to curse his enemies in Sanskrit?”

Ravishankar even got his dialogues simplified by Samskrita Bharati, India’s premier institution involved in promoting spoken Sanskrit the world over. Yet, not everyone is convinced that celluloid ventures in the language will find large enough audiences. National Award-winning film critic MK Raghavendra has his reservations, especially since Sanskrit does not lend itself easily to the exploration of unconventional subjects. “Sanskrit takes too much effort to learn, its vocabulary has not been expanded to include contemporary experience and this means that films in Sanskrit will have to use English terms like pizza, mobile phone, AK 47,” says Raghavendra. “Most importantly, we can’t have bad words in Sanskrit. Since cinema is getting more violent and is dealing with crime increasingly, with people constantly swearing, how will Sanskrit accommodate that? How is a gangster going to curse his enemies in Sanskrit?” He believes that Indian audiences may at the most enjoy bits of Sanskrit in a Hindi film: “Say, a film about a peace- loving Sanskrit scholar who is made angry by ruffians and becomes tough.”

Chamu Krishna Shastry, who pioneered the ‘Speak Sanskrit Movement’ through his NGO Samskrita Bharati, counters that view: “As far as vocabulary is concerned , no other language in the world has the kind of word-generating power that Sanskrit has. When a language is used on a daily basis, words automatically come into existence. Current developments can be easily updated in Sanskrit if it is used daily.” Ask Shastry if Sanskrit is really being used beyond academic seminars and conferences, and he confidently reels off a set of numbers. “During the last 34 years,” he says, “Samskrita Bharati has taught more than 10 million people to speak Sanskrit and trained more than 100,000 teachers. Lakhs of people have started using Sanskrit as a medium of communication. Today it is widely used in homes, schools and private conversations.”

“Without Sanskrit, there is no way you can understand anything about Indian culture. The language carries the entire spectrum of the Indian intellectual system,”

Another filmmaker trying to revive Sanskrit on celluloid is the well known Kannada filmmaker KSL Swamy, better known as Ravi. Titled Prabhodha Chandrodayam (‘Rise of the Moon of Intellect’), his film based is based on an 11th century play by Krishna Mishra Yati and is being funded by the Central and Karnataka governments along with some religious mathas. Interestingly, Ravi worked as assistant director to GV Iyer for 30 years, which may explain his own attempt to release a film in Sanskrit. But his film will also have a smattering of Malayalam and other local languages, as Ravi noted in a recent article: ‘Could people like bhajiwalas talk in Sanskrit? At no point in our history did the entire population speak the language.’

Professor Ramesh C Bhardwaj, head of the Sanskrit Department at Delhi University, is clear about the value of the language. “Without Sanskrit, there is no way you can understand anything about Indian culture. The language carries the entire spectrum of the Indian intellectual system,” he says. “The question is not about how many people are speaking Sanskrit, which is hardly more than 1 per cent anyway. So many great Sanskrit scholars I know can hardly speak the language. It is about understanding the root of our culture, to highlight the illustrious tradition of our intellectual thought. Perhaps, this is what these movies are trying to do.”

This article is from Open Magazine

Sanskrit summer camp attracts 60 intellectuals in China

A general view shows the settlements of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy in Sertar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. (Reuters photo)
BEIJING: A group of 60 Chinese intellectuals have enrolled at a Buddhist Institute for a free summer camp to study Sanskrit to understand the religious and yoga texts better as the ancient Indian language is becoming popular among the new generation of Chinese in the Communist nation.

The trainees were selected from more than 300 candidates and cover a broad sphere of professions, including yoga instructors, mechanical designers, performers, hotel management and environmental protection personnel.

Their study at the Hangzhou Buddhism Institute in eastern China over the next six days will focus on reading and writing Sanskrit.

“The language has very complicated grammar. For the present tense alone, the inflection of one verb can have 72 alterations,” Li Wei, an instructor who holds a doctorate in Indology from the University of Mainz, Germany, said.

Sanskrit has gained prominence in China since Buddhist texts were brought by famous monks like famous Chinese Monk Xuan Zang after 17 year long journey to India in sixth century.

Since the several Chinese monks made their way to India, brought a number of religious and texts about ancient Indian medicine.

The Peking University has a separate department for Sanskrit where over 60 study the language. Renowned Indologist Ji Xianlin has been awarded Padma Shri for his contribution.

There is renewed interest in Sanskrit ever since yoga has become popular in recent years specially after UN designated June 21 as international yoga day. Many of the trainees in Hangzhou class have been required to work overtime beforehand to get the six days off, some used their annual vacation while others working night-shifts to save the day for study, state- run Xinhua news agency reported.

Trainee He Min, who graduated with an economics degree from Renmin University of China in Beijing and now works as a yoga practitioner in Hangzhou, says the chance was “too precious” to pass up.

“Sanskrit is a common language used by yoga practitioners across the world. Though many yoga textbooks are written in English, the postures we practice remain named in Sanskrit and the chants are also in Sanskrit,” the 39-year-old said.

Teaching herself Sanskrit for almost three years, she said she was “still a rookie” due to the lack of professional instruction.
Chinese schools began Sanskrit classes in the late 1940s. But the discipline has developed slowly due to the lack of proper textbooks and a teacher shortage.

The case for Sanskrit as National Language of India

Dr. Shrikant Jamadagni

In In my previous column, I had raised the possibility of adopting Sanskrit as the national language of India. But Hindi, along with English, has been our official language since independence. Therefore, before I move on to make my case for Sanskrit I will examine the status of Hindi and its qualifications as the official language and/or national language.
Hindi is a regional language

Based on massive historical evidence in the form of lakhs of books in Sanskrit written by authors spanning over several millennia and spanning the length and breadth of India and covering every imaginable branch of knowledge, one can say with confidence that at the pan-India level Sanskrit is mukhya (principal) and all other languages including Hindi are gouṇa (subordinate). What is mukhya can never become gouṇa, and what is gouṇa can never become mukhya. No power on Earth or Heaven can alter this fact. This is the essence of my argument that Hindi as official language is such a deeply flawed idea.

Firstly, lets us look at the number of Hindi speakers in the country, who incidentally, belong only to North-India. As per the 2001 census only 25% of population had declared Hindi as their native language. An additional 20% speak one of many dialects of Hindi. Even if we add these up and say that about 45% of India speaks ‘Hindi’, still, it is less than 50% which could have been an excuse for foisting a language on the entire nation. States in the west, east and south have no emotional connection to Hindi at all. Furthermore, these states have languages of much greater antiquity than Hindi and even regard Hindi as an inferior language.

Secondly, Hindi, like other regional languages, but unlike Sanskrit, has never been a medium of higher learning. This should be actually the most important criteria for a language to be elevated as a national or official language.

The third problem is the vast gulf between ‘official’ Hindi that is loyal to Sanskrit and the popular ‘Hindi’ on TV and in ‘Hindi’-movies that is completely overrun by Urdu. Though geographically speaking Urdu is an Indian language, it is rooted in Persian and thus disconnected with the greater Indian civilization that is firmly rooted in Sanskrit. This two-faced nature of Hindi is confusing and the Urduized ‘Hindi’, which is the public face of Hindi, is completely disconnected with the essence, heart and soul of Indian civilization.

Finally, even the use of ‘official’-Hindi is more of a window-dressing since it is not used in the most important tasks of the Government; for example, the actual making of the laws, i.e. putting a law into writing, is done in English. Only the original English text is considered official and authoritative and not the Hindi translation. Most of the official documents like international agreements etc. are also in English. This is the situation in spite of repeated efforts at pushing Hindi for almost seventy years by the Government. The Government has failed to do what it preaches.

It should be clear to any rational person that Hindi as official language has failed. Therefore it is time we reconsidered Sanskrit which was anyway the choice of half of the Constituent Assembly of 1949 that voted on the choice of official language.

*On September 11 1949, the then Law Minister Dr. B.R.Ambedkar supported by Dy.Minister for External Affairs Dr. B.V.Keskar and Mr.Naziruddin Ahmed sponsored an amendment declaring that the official language of the Union shall be Sanskrit. The amendment had thirteen other signatories of whom eleven hailed from South-India including nine from Madras (now Chennai).When asked by a PTI correspondent ‘Why Sanskrit?’, Dr.Ambedkar’s short reply was ‘What is wrong with Sanskrit?’ Dr.Ambedkar also wanted the Executive Committee of All India Scheduled Caste Federation to pass a resolution supporting Sanskrit as official language, but he had to withdraw it due to opposition from the youth members of the Federation.

Why Sanskrit?

For several millennia, Sanskrit has been the sole medium of not only religion and ritual but also of philosophy & metaphysics, poetics, mathematics and the sciences, law, jurisprudence etc. Sanskrit has always been the common language of all literate persons pursuing studies in various traditional disciplines. To this day, in scores of gurukulams, and in several Sanskrit departments, the medium of instruction and the common language for everyday interaction is Sanskrit.

The logical structure and power of expression of Sanskrit is well-known. Especially, Sanskrit is distinguished by the extraordinary vastness of its vocabulary. The size of Sanskrit vocabulary as testified by the dictionary projectat Deccan College, Pune, is one crore or ten million. According to Merriam-Webster, the size of modern English vocabulary including scientific words is about one million. If Sanskrit lacks the words for modern science & technology it is because we have not bothered to learn and use Sanskrit.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind about ability of Sanskrit to cater to the needs of the modern scientific & technological age. As early as the 1940’s, the great Sanskrit scholar, linguist and nationalist Acharya Raghuvira single handedly compiled a dictionary which he called ‘A Greater English-Hindi dictionary’. In this dictionary he had coined one lakh fifty thousand Sanskrit words for more than thirty-two areas of Administration and Law and for scores of scientific disciplines. His visionary idea was that this dictionary could serve as a reference for all Indian languages thus facilitating use of Indian languages in all modern education. Unfortunately, this pioneering work was quickly forgotten as the states failed to appreciate its importance and the threat that English would eventually pose to regional languages.

Declare Sanskrit as National Language

In summary, the following unique qualities of Sanskrit make it the only choiceas national language of India:

(a) Unlike other regional languages, it is an independent language, i.e. it has a built-in mechanism to generate new vocabulary based on a vast store of base-words and roots. This incomparable power of generating words for every human endeavour and aspiration is Sanskrit’s greatest strength.

(b) It has proven its ability to not only to be the medium, but due to its innate power, also a driving force in the pursuit of man’s worldly pursuits as well as his aspiration for highest spiritual knowledge and enlightenment.

(c) It is the only language that for several thousand years has been continuously link language for educated people from ALL parts of India.

(d) No state or region can claim Sanskrit as its own, but at the same time its vocabulary pervades ALL state/regional languages thus giving it a national identity. This simple fact seems to have been lost to those in the Constituent Assembly who voted in favor of Hindi.

Therefore, the position of Sanskrit as the national language and also the official language is unassailable. Fortunately, though English and Hindi were chosen as official languages for the conduct of official proceedings, the Constitution did not declare any language as the national language.

India currently does not have a recognized national language.

Therefore, Parliament should declare Sanskrit as national language and the Central Government should envisage a National Mission for Sanskrit Literacy. The status quo may be maintained – for now – with regards to English and Hindi as official languages.

An awakened and united India

But what could or should Sanskrit literacy achieve? Surely this cannot be about merely replacing one language with another. The advent of Sanskrit as a common voice will help unite all Indians by awakening them to their shared history. People will find out for themselves, as did Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, that India’s vast intellectual and spiritual heritage has nothing to do with caste, ethnicity or race and that it can be embraced by all of humanity. This will greatly help unify all Indians to overcome inimical internal and external forces. A stronger India will emerge that is confident in its own skin and its innate strengths. It can chart its own future course as well as influence the larger humanity, based on its own high principles and values. The sleeping giant will finally awaken.

*Sourced from the book ‘Samskrit, The Voice of India’s Soul and Wisdom’, by NCERT (May 2001)

Dr. Shrikant Jamadagni has a PhD in Aurobindo studies and is a working towards restoring the Sanskrit language as lingua-Indica. He is deeply passionate about Indian Renaissance as expounded by Sri Aurobindo.

Vedic Vidyalayas catch people’s fancy in Hindi belt

Kapil Dixit,

ALLAHABAD: Vedic Vidyalayas are emerging as the latest fad. This became apparent when around 400 children, aged between 9 and 11 years, came to Prayag (Allahabad) from across the country on Wednesday to take the entrance test for 25 seats in two such schools. Most of them were from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and UP.

Only 150 students had appeared in the test in Prayag last year. There are around 35 Vedic Vidyalayas in the country, with UP accounting for eight of them. Prayag and Haridwar have two schools while Kashi, Mathura, Ayodhya, Rishikesh and Lucknow have one each. Vedic schools have also been set up in Manipur, Kolkata, Jammu, Pune, Amrawati and Pushkar.

These vidyalayas are run jointly by Vishwa Ved Sansthan (an organ of Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and Maharshi Ved Vyas Pratisthan (Pune) and offer a seven-year course in Vedas. The academic session of Vedic Vidyalayas in Prayag will begin in the last week of July.

Shubham Tripathi, who had brought his son from Jaipur for the test, said, “Two years back, yoga was not too popular but today International Yoga Day is being celebrated across the world. Same is the case with Vedic education.”

Pranav Pandy, who too brought his son Saurabh from Delhi said, “Entrance test was both written and oral. The results will be announced on July 20. I will be happy if my son is selected.”

Maharshi Bhardwaj Ved Vedang Shikshan Kendra, Prayag, principal Acharya Pankaj Sharma said, “Many western universities offer graduate level courses in Vedas, Sanskrit, Hindu philosophy, yoga, ayurveda, jyotish and medicines. Meritorious students get a worldwide exposure as various universities are on the lookout for such students. Demand for acharyas and experts is on the rise in western countries.”

Rajiv Malhotra on Hindu Intellectuals

“Is it safe to be a Hindu Intellectual?” asks Rajiv Malhotra

For nearly 20 years, after voluntarily retiring early from a successful business career, I’ve spent my time and energies exclusively to studying, documenting and critiquing Western and Christian scholarship on India’s religions and traditions. My work including books such as Invading the SacredBeing Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism, Indra’s Net, and Breaking India have exposed in great detail the biases and conflicts of interest that colour and mar much of the scholarship that has emanated from America’s most prestigious universities and professors. I have pointed out at the way Indians are in awe of the white man telling them what they presumably did not know about themselves. I have pointed out the inferiority complexes many Indian so-called intellectuals suffer from.

From the very beginning of my activism, not surprisingly, I’ve invited the wrath of certain American academics and their Indian followers. From character assassination and name calling to the obstruction of my ideas and the slamming shut of doors, the price for talking back to power has been high for me personally. Thankfully, there are many Indians and Indian Americans who read my works and follow me on social media and discussion forums and are familiar with some of these battles. I frequently share the challenges and obstacles that I face not only to chronicle the cultural and social history of Hindus in America but also to let our community know, without any sugar coating, what we’re up against. The battles that I fight publicly are after all the battles that many of us wage privately in encounters that denigrate and heap contempt on our heritage. As I’ve taken on the Western academy or scrutinized their pet theories, I along with the many Indians watching, have realized that some people are given more freedom to speak than others.

There has been a vicious campaign against me and my writings in the cyber and media space. This started soon after I gave a talk recently at the 16th World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok, about the key ideas in my forthcoming book ‘The Battle for Sanskrit’. It addresses some key disagreements: should Western assumptions in Sanskrit studies be the dominant paradigm for understanding our tradition? Are Indians simply becoming consumers rather than producers of discourse on their own tradition? Can Sanskrit be viewed as mainly a tool of oppression? Is Sanskrit also sacred rather than purely secular? And so on. The points certainly generated lot of interest and support from the traditional side. But there were a lot of disgruntled voices as well which felt threatened.

Many attempts have been made in recent years to stop my work under one allegation or another. The latest attack is a petition signed by 192 persons alleging that in my previous book, Indra’s Net, published one and a half year ago, there are 9 places where I ‘plagiarized’ from sources which I have not adequately cited – implying that I have appropriated ideas without due acknowledgment. Hence, the response demanded by them is for the publishers to drop my books and make an apology. The petition was written by one Richard Fox Young who teachers at a Christian seminary in New Jersey. It just happens to be in the same town where I live, but many Indians have been misled to believe that he is a professor at Princeton University which he is not.

I saw a strong rebuttal by some scholars who have actually read my book, and it has been used as a counter petition. While the petition attacking me got 192 signatures, this petition supporting me has received 6,500 signatures already. See:

The complaint claims that I have ‘plagiarized’ primarily from a book by Andrew Nicholson. But in fact, I haveheavily cited Nicholson in both the chapters the petition complains about. 12 out of the 30 Endnotes in Ch.8 refer to Nicholson. Not to mention that the chapter is replete with invocations of Nicholson by name numerous times. The same pattern applies to Ch.11 where any reader will see that Nicholson is mentioned enough number of times to suggest that a passage followed from Nicholson. But in a manipulative way, the allegations are made to make it seem as if I never acknowledged.

As in just about any complex work by scholars, in this book there are some omissions and copyediting errors which are more a result of oversight than mala fide intention. These ought to be rectified. And if this were the petition’s real intent then why would they simply not write a letter to the publishers highlighting the omissions and suggesting corrections? That is the standard practice in academia of which the complainant claims to be a puritan adherent. And why do they launch this sudden well-orchestrated attack one and a half years after the book has been in circulation? Has Richard Fox Young ever reacted the same way concerning his colleagues in his seminary whose works are full of such omissions and even blatant misrepresentations? I doubt it, and this brings me to my next point which relates to his over-enthusiasm and over-reaction.

Richard Fox Young uses the brand name ‘Princeton’ leading gullible Indians to believe that he is a professor at Princeton University. Let me be clear: He is NOT a professor at Princeton University. His employer is a Christian Seminary that happens to be located in the town of Princeton. This town has many institutions, of which his seminary is one, just as Delhi has many universities, madrasas and seminaries. The web site of his seminary is: and his personal page at the seminary is: Imagine someone is working at a Madrasa or Church in Delhi and leads people to assume that he is a professor at Delhi University.

Let me also state that I have known him for 20 years. He leads his seminaries’ Afro-Dalit work. This is something I have come down heavily upon in my book Breaking IndiaWestern Interventions in Dravidian Faultlines. This critique is neither personal nor emotional. It is criticism of a system that I find harmful to us. It was by interacting with some persons from his seminary that I learned about Afro-Dalits. So I turned my investigation into a very successful book that has opened many eyes.

When I was invited by Princeton University to present and discuss Breaking India, the host wanted to have a Christian view represented as well. He asked Richard Fox Young to be the discussant at the event, but he refused and suggested another person to speak for Christians. This man was Rev. Thompson.

The video of that evening event is available at:

Richard Fox Young used an Indian Christian as his front man to speak his ideology, and another Dalit Christian was planted in the audience who made a nuisance by attacking the host before walking out in protest on behalf of Dalit Christians. The video makes clear why Young hates me ever since. He knows well that when I refer to the ‘breaking India forces’ in my talks, his work is being implicated for nurturing the anti-Hindu propaganda I talk about.

This also explains why Richard Fox Young and John Dayal in India are collaborators and one retweets the other routinely. When I debated John Dayal on foreign funded NGOs in Delhi (see: ) it naturally would have upset Richard Fox Young. He is considered as the seminary’s resident expert on Hinduism, training Christian evangelists and missionaries on Hinduism so they can go about doing their work to save Hindus more effectively. A natural ally for him is the Indian Left – the common enemy being Hinduism for both. Yet he tries to be very friendly and caring towards Hindus.

The timing of his attacks could be a combination of two factors. First are his insecurities stemming from the increasing acceptance of my work which challenges established Western paradigms in Indian and Sanskrit studies; and second is the fear of my forthcoming book which will shake some of their ideological foundations and their role as a gatekeeper of Hindu studies. His is a strategic attack on behalf of the entire Hinduphobic coterie because my book challenges their positions at a very seminal level. Though parroting intellectual freedom and the importance of dissent, their persistent attacks on me for twenty years prove them to be the ones violating the spirit of intellectual freedom.

The person named on the petition as the one who formally uploaded and started it is Jesse Knutson based in Freemont, California. He is a Sanskrit scholar who collaborates and follows Sheldon Pollock, the main target of my critiques in my forthcoming book. (See: and My forthcoming book also discusses Knutson’s work as aligned with Pollock’s theories, according to which Sanskrit poetry was written primarily to serve political agendas of the elites; the sacred dimension is side lined in their interpretations.

Some of the prominent signatories to their petition are well-known Pollockites like Ananya Vajpeyi, a fire-brand anti-Hindu journalist and scholar affiliated with elitist organizations. It is clear that this hit-job is from a collaboration of leftists and Christian evangelists, the classical cartel of Hinduphobics.

I write this to give my readers an insight into what is going on. But I request them not to lose heart, nor to expect easy victory. What we face is the potential risk of the intellectual re-colonization of India, this time using brown-skinned sepoys working as puppets controlled in foreign-based centres such as the seminary located in Princeton. I wish to thank my supporters for standing up for me in such large numbers. I am moved by this and encouraged to continue fighting the good fight.


 KG Suresh

The 16th World Sanskrit Conference, held in Bangkok and supported by the Union Government, was yet another feather in India’s soft diplomacy cap, following the grand success of last month’s International Yoga Day

Following the grand success of the International Yoga Day on June 21, another feather in India’s soft diplomacy cap was the 16th World Sanskrit Conference held in Bangkok from June 28th to July 2. Supported by the Government of India, the conference witnessed participation of over 600 delegates from 60 countries. The five day meet was inaugurated by the Thai princess, a scholar and patron of Sanskrit language, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.

Addressing the distinguished delegates, including scholars, teachers, Indologists and lovers of the ancient language in chaste Sanskrit, Ms Swaraj, emphasised that Sanskrit is not a mere language but a “world view.” In fact, the motto of the international meet itself was “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the universe is a family).

The hosting of the conference in Suvarnabhumi, Thailand, and the presence of a large number of scholars from across the world including a big chunk of westerners highlighted the significance of the Sanskrit language in understanding ancient India and its contributions as also its relevance in the present times. It also indirectly served to reject attempts by some “secular” sections to project the language as ‘dead’ and a symbol of Hindutva as against its vibrancy and universality.

As Ms Swaraj aptly put it, “the language of Vedanta is Sanskrit. The language of Yoga is Sanskrit. The language of Ayurveda is Sanskrit. The language of Indian mathematics is Sanskrit. The language of Indian dramaturgy (natyashastra) is Sanskrit. The language of the Bhagavad Gita is Sanskrit. The language of ancient Indian architecture, sculpture, agriculture, chemistry, astronomy, veterinary sciences, economics, political science, and other fields of knowledge is Sanskrit.”

Spread over 31 sessions, including 24 main sessions and seven auxiliary sessions, the conference delved deep into Sanskrit lore including 18 seats of knowledge, 64 arts, four Vedas, over 100 Upanishads, six ancillary Vedas (upavedas), six adjuncts of Vedas (vedangas), 18 epics, the 10 systems of philosophy, history (itihas), literature and dramaturgy.

Staging of the popular Thai Ramayana, a play in Sanskrit, the Sanskrit kavi sammelan (poetry session) and shastrarth (debate) were among the other highlights of the event. Interestingly, one heard the ‘dead language’ being spoken extempore by several foreign scholars.

Ironically, in many graduate and post graduate courses in India itself, Sanskrit is not taught through Sanskrit, and candidates often write their examinations in languages other than Sanskrit. Similarly, it has been observed that Sanskrit scholars pay more attention to the subjects in Sanskrit rather than the language.

Sanskrit can prosper only if it is made the medium for teaching and learning the language. Sanskrit and Sanskrit alone should be the language of communication in Sanskrit educational institutions and Sanskrit departments as also Sanskrit conferences. In schools, Sanskrit is seen as a subject which fetches maximum marks as it can be learnt by rot. It is important that the teaching of Sanskrit be made much more attractive for prospective students.

Apart from the Union and State Governments and NGOs such as Samskrita Bharati, which are doing a yeoman’s service to the language, promotion of Sanskrit should be taken up by corporates as part of their CSR activities. Linking Sanskrit with modern subjects, developing literature on contemporary issues, conducting a scientific study of the available texts and carrying out more functional research in Sanskrit are among the measures that can be taken up on a priority basis to get the language its due place under the sun. These philanthropists can also contribute to the health and well being of crumbling ved pathshalas imparting the centuries old oral and written traditions, particularly in States such as Kerala.

The country’s national news channels  Doordarshan News has recently introduced Vaartavali, a 30-minute-long weekly news magazine, which has become very popular with its viewers. Apart from news, the programme includes interviews with celebrities, teaching of Sanskrit words, coverage of cultural events and even snippets from Bollywood movies. Doordarshan has been running Vaarta an early morning news bulletin for five minutes for some time now and the same is expected to be extended by another five minutes. One only hopes that the public broadcaster introduces a bulletin of the same duration later in the evening, encapsulating the developments of the day.

Apart from growing interest in the language and its text the world over, the spread of Yoga, Ayurveda and Indian classical dances have also contributed to the global enthusiasm towards Sanskrit. Recent decisions by the Narendra Modi Government to grant a $20,000 International Sanskrit Award to any scholar making significant contribution to the language, the institution of fellowships for foreign scholars for conducting research in India in Sanskrit language or literature and the provision of opportunities for new learners to pursue graduate or postgraduate courses or research in India are all expected to give a major boost to the promotion of the language internationally. Reflecting the National Democratic Alliance regime’s commitment to the promotion of the language, Ms Swaraj at the conference also announced creation of a post of Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry exclusively to further Sanskrit.

The modern character of the ancient language can be gauged from the fact that it has been found highly effective in developing software for language recognition, translations, cyber security and other aspects of artificial intelligence. As the repository of ancient knowledge, Sanskrit has the potential to provide solutions to many of the contemporary problems.

It would be most appropriate if scholars from organisations representing modern science and technology such as Indian Council for Medical Research, Indian Institutes of Science and Indian Institutes of Technology work together with their Sanskrit counterparts to carry out inter-disciplinary research and come out with the panacea for the manifold problems confronting mankind.

In sharp contrast to the controversies back home, in Buddhist Thailand, one was pleasantly delighted to find Hindu deities such as Vishnu (Wsnu), Ganesh and Brahma being worshipped with equal reverence. At yoga sessions across Thailand, people chant aum, perform the surya namaskar and Ramayana, study Indian classical dances and savour Indian cuisines without any civilisational conflicts whatsoever.

One of the most prominent tableaux at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport is that of the saagar manthan or churning of the ocean from Hindu mythology. Guru Buddhhacharan, a Chinese born Thai scholar of Vedas is planning to open a 100 Vedic schools in the South East Asian country and the nation’s Princess Maha Chakri herself developed interest in Sanskrit studies since she was very young. She obtained her Master of Arts degree in oriental epigraphy from Silpakorn University and Master of Arts in Pali and Sanskrit from Chulalongkorn University. The Princess has supported further education in Sanskrit by granting scholarships for university students to study the language abroad, many of whom have become lecturers at Silpakorn University, whose Sanskrit Study Centre jointly organised the World Conference.

As the world increasingly looks at India as the vishwa guru, learning valuable lessons from its rich past, it is high time we, Indians, close our ranks and reflect our collective identity and unity overcoming petty partisan politics. As our ancestors exhorted, “Sanghacchadhvam, samvadadhvam, Samvomanamsi janatam” (Let us move together, speak in one voice, think alike and understand one another).

(The author is a senior journalist based in New Delhi)

Modern Sepoy Army

Rajiv Malhotra

Like the prior ones, the modern sepoys of the likes of Pankaj Mishra, Devdutt Patnaik, Ananya Vajpeyi, Aatish Taseer and others, can be: very sharp, intelligent, articulate, courageous, outspoken. But unlike before, the ‘strategy’ has new qualities given below:

1. Unlike sepoys of the past, these new sepoys are Sanskrit educated in USA by the likes of Hawley, Sheldon Pollock, Wendy Doniger, Witzel and a dozen other PhD factories.

2. In return, they get their mentors like Pollock big awards by Indian govt — ‘Padam Shree’ for Sheldon Pollock about 2 or 3 years back is one example. Also, Narayan Murthy selected Pollock to be editor in chief of his $20 million grant to translate classical Indian works into English. You can imagine which translators he selects and what filters/biases they are required to utilize in their interpretation.

4. Most Indians get fooled because these sepoys can play both sides skilfully (Good Cop-Bad Cop). Ananya looks like a sweet Indian girl who gets sympathy from the “Uncle jis’ and Auntie ji’s” at Indian gatherings. “She is like our beti”, is the type of sympathetic response the NEXUS wants to elicit in deploying such Sepoys. They know the psychology of Indians.

5. About 100 – 250 such Sepoys have been trained at PhD level in the past 15 years in the West, mostly in USA.

6. The raw material is brought to USA from places like JNU and other similar left wing universities, to make sure the person is vulnerable and ready for advanced training and brainwashing.

7. These people are now spread widely in India – universities, media, think tanks (like CSDS), etc.

8. The new govt lacks adequate screening of such folks as they try to sneak into important organizations where they will serve their masters in the West.

9. The game has become far more dangerous. I started monitoring this strategy around year 2000 when I had a big fight with Jack Hawley’s “Indian team” of students at Columbia — all from JNU, all doing PhDs in Hinduism. The reaction from Hindu activists and leaders in USA was pathetic. They had no clue. They came across like a bunch of unsophisticated and uninformed persons not interested in learning what I had to say.

10. My sources inform me that Sringeri mattha is likely to fund several million dollars to help these PhD factories. This is how ignorant our folks are. But who am I in their eyes to listen to? The white scholars are so smooth in impressing the Indian fools, using their skills with Indian languages and culture.

11. Nothing has changed since British colonialism. In fact, the Americans have upgraded their game considerably. Macaulay must be smiling in his grave.

Sanskrit phobia? Not in this class

KOLKATA: If you thought you have to travel all the way to the tols of Nadia to learn Sanskrit from scratch, a trip to Shakespeare Sarani is all what you need to do. Here, Samskrita Bharati, a voluntary organization, holds two-hour classes through the week to help people converse in Sanskrit. You will have in company people from all walks of life, from IIT engineers and scientists to Sanskrit scholars and school passouts.

“I passed MA in Sanskrit, but failed to speak the language. So I took admission in the course and mastered the art of speaking Sanskrit. People are afraid of Sanskrit because of its grammar, but here stress is on communicating in Sanskrit,” teacher Nibedita Dutta said, busy teaching her students. She has 10 days in hand to teach them the tricks to speak in Sanskrit.

Retired scientist Ajit Bardhan, 78, joined Samskrita Bharati so that he can communicate in Sanskrit. “I try to speak in Sanskrit while communicating over phone with students of Samskrita Bharati as I can not commute regularly,” he said.

Prof V R Desai of the civil engineering department of IIT Kharagpur is one who had gained much by learning Sanskrit. He now holds weekly classes on the IIT campus on behalf of Samskrita Bharati so that he can spread the language.

“Our aim is to spread Sanskrit language so that those who are not acquainted with it can also speak it,” said Pranab Nanda, secretary of Samskrita Bharati, which is teaching Sanskrit in Bengal since 2008. “If we get 25 students, we can conduct a free course on spoken Sanskrit. We also have residential programmes,” he said.

There are young learners too. Partha Mondal, who passed HS this year and will study Bengali honours, said, “I hope learning Sanskrit will help me a lot. Here learning process is easy. I am not facing any difficulty.”…/articlesh…/47932893.cms