Passing on the ancient lingo -How Sanskrit is being preserved and spread through education

The employment prospect of Sanskrit is wider than we have ever thought of, and with so many foreign universities providing summer courses and integrating Sanskrit as a compulsory subjects elsewhere, Sanskrit students have lot of career alternatives to choose from.

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NIKITA TRIPATHI
The unbroken tradition of teaching and learning Sanskrit language, in Nepal, has seen its share of hindrances, from threats of bloodshed from the Maoist cadres during the insurgency, vandalizing and capturing of Radhakrishna Sanskrit Ved Vidyashram of Sunsari on March 25, 2006 and May 13, 2002’s news of the then-Mahendra Sanskrit University set ablaze citing reasons as Sanskrit language being used as a medium to ‘maintain the hegemony of Hinduism’ in a nation that was declared secular.

But 13 Sanskrit schools across the nation running under Nepal Sanskrit University (previously Mahendra Sanskrit University) consist of students from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.“The preconceived mentality that Sanskrit is a language of only Brahmins and in particular, sons from poor Brahmin families, has restricted the growth of Sanskrit language in this country,” said Kosh Raj Neupane, who has completed his Masters (Acharya) in Sanskrit and currently teaches Nepali at Tri-Chandra College and has several published works in Sanskrit to his name.

According to Neupane, after the introduction of National Education System Plan in higher education in 2030 BS, the English medium propelled the private and institutionalized teaching of Sanskrit, so much so that Sanskrit became suitable only for Brahmin priests.

A counter argument to this notion would be best exemplified by Late Dr Jagman Gurung, who is known for his extensive knowledge of Sanskrit language, several Muslims in Kapilvastu, Newars and those from non-Hindu backgrounds who are currently studying Sanskrit across the country.

Sizan Tamang, 27 is currently doing his Purva Madhyama (equivalent to Plus 2) at Balmiki Campus after having majored in Tibeto-Burman language under Linguistic Studies from Tribhuvan University. “I am not studying Sanskrit to make a career out of it, it’s just interest. Previously, when I was studying Tibeto-Burman language, my teachers used to talk about Sanskrit and its influence on Indo-Aryan languages including several others spoken all over the world,” he says.

According to Sizan and Govinda Poudel, Vice-Principal of Sanskrit Grammar Department at Balmiki Campus, Sanskrit language helps in phonetics and developing strong command over other languages as well.

Nepal Sanskrit University, located in Dang with its Information Centre in Basantapur, Kathmandu, is the only Sanskrit University in the country. Apart from the government prescribed curriculum with compulsory subjects, the University has provisions for around 20 subjects ranging from Sanskrit Grammar, Literature, Religious Studies, Buddhist Philosophy, and Religious Chants to Historical Puranas, Vedas, Sarva Darshan, Karma Kanda and Graha (Astrology).

The university offers Intermediate (Uttar Madhyama), Bachelor (Shastri), Masters (Acharya) and doctoral courses in Sanskrit and just started the Intermediate courses in Ayurveda and Yoga.

Initially only those who have previously studied Sanskrit were eligible for Purva Madhyama (Plus 2) courses but now, those without Sanskrit background can take up a six-month training and sit for exams.

Apart from Balmiki Campus, Ved Vidyashram in Gaushala provides secondary level education in Sanskrit and evening classes are also conducted at Ranipokhari School.

Narad Poudel, Administrative Officer at the University’s Information Centre in Basantapur, informed that the University gives allowance to Sanskrit students - Rs 900 to male Brahmin students, Rs 1000 to female Brahmin students and Rs 1800 to dalit students and those from indigenous communities.

Santosh Dahal, 19, one of the Sanskrit students from Balmiki Campus, says, “Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world which has influenced many different languages and thus, is difficult to learn. Once you’ve mastered it, learning any other language becomes very easy.”When asked what career he plans on following, Dahal said, “The course is so diverse, it deals with Literature, Astrology, Philosophy, Grammar, Language History to name a few and although you are majoring in Sanskrit, the course is such that a student can go outside and work as a
generalist.”

The employment prospect of Sanskrit is wider than we have ever thought of, and with so many foreign universities providing summer courses and integrating Sanskrit as a compulsory subjects elsewhere, Sanskrit students have lot of career alternatives to choose from.


Most of these students go on to become teachers, having taken up either Nepali or English later; and Sanskrit students can always practice their knowledge of Puranas and Vedas and take up Karma Kanda professionally.

Nepal Army also calls for applicants for the post of army priests with a minimum qualification of SLC in Sanskrit and according to Govinda Poudel, Vice-Principal at Balmiki Campus, around 40 to 50 of his students go onto become army priests every year.

Apart from these, the expertise in Sanskrit language is also utilized in the Department of Archaeology, particularly in historic archives and Public Service Commission.

“Many of our students have also gone up to become Sanskrit littérateurs and since the course also covers many subjects of Arts, it is easy for them to swing jobs,” adds Poudel.

Sanskrit remains one of the few languages which has been unaffected by time, it still follows the grammar founded by Panini, known among Sanskrit and Nepali scholars for it’s nearly 4, 000 scientific formulas and complexity.

With every batch of Sanskrit students who graduate, from Nepal and elsewhere, the future of Sanskrit language, its scipts and epics is secured furthermore.

“The preconceived mentality that Sanskrit is a language of only Brahmins and in particular, sons from poor Brahmin families, has restricted the growth of Sanskrit language in this country,” said Kosh Raj Neupane, who has completed his Masters (Acharya) in Sanskrit and currently teaches Nepali at Tri-Chandra College and has several published works in Sanskrit to his name.

According to Neupane, after the introduction of National Education System Plan in higher education in 2030 BS, the English medium propelled the private and institutionalized teaching of Sanskrit, so much so that Sanskrit became suitable only for Brahmin priests.

A counter argument to this notion would be best exemplified by Late Dr Jagman Gurung, who is known for his extensive knowledge of Sanskrit language, several Muslims in Kapilvastu, Newars and those from non-Hindu backgrounds who are currently studying Sanskrit across the country.

 

Sizan Tamang, 27 is currently doing his Purva Madhyama (equivalent to Plus 2) at Balmiki Campus after having majored in Tibeto-Burman language under Linguistic Studies from Tribhuvan University. “I am not studying Sanskrit to make a career out of it, it’s just interest. Previously, when I was studying Tibeto-Burman language, my teachers used to talk about Sanskrit and its influence on Indo-Aryan languages including several others spoken all over the world,” he says.

According to Sizan and Govinda Poudel, Vice-Principal of Sanskrit Grammar Department at Balmiki Campus, Sanskrit language helps in phonetics and developing strong command over other languages as well.

Nepal Sanskrit University, located in Dang with its Information Centre in Basantapur, Kathmandu, is the only Sanskrit University in the country. Apart from the government prescribed curriculum with compulsory subjects, the University has provisions for around 20 subjects ranging from Sanskrit Grammar, Literature, Religious Studies, Buddhist Philosophy, and Religious Chants to Historical Puranas, Vedas, Sarva Darshan, Karma Kanda and Graha (Astrology).

The university offers Intermediate (Uttar Madhyama), Bachelor (Shastri), Masters (Acharya) and doctoral courses in Sanskrit and just started the Intermediate courses in Ayurveda and Yoga.

Initially only those who have previously studied Sanskrit were eligible for Purva Madhyama (Plus 2) courses but now, those without Sanskrit background can take up a six-month training and sit for exams.

Apart from Balmiki Campus, Ved Vidyashram in Gaushala provides secondary level education in Sanskrit and evening classes are also conducted at Ranipokhari School.

Narad Poudel, Administrative Officer at the University’s Information Centre in Basantapur, informed that the University gives allowance to Sanskrit students - Rs 900 to male Brahmin students, Rs 1000 to female Brahmin students and Rs 1800 to dalit students and those from indigenous communities.

Santosh Dahal, 19, one of the Sanskrit students from Balmiki Campus, says, “Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world which has influenced many different languages and thus, is difficult to learn. Once you’ve mastered it, learning any other language becomes very easy.”

When asked what career he plans on following, Dahal said, “The course is so diverse, it deals with Literature, Astrology, Philosophy, Grammar, Language History to name a few and although you are majoring in Sanskrit, the course is such that a student can go outside and work as a
generalist.”

The employment prospect of Sanskrit is wider than we have ever thought of, and with so many foreign universities providing summer courses and integrating Sanskrit as a compulsory subjects elsewhere, Sanskrit students have lot of career alternatives to choose from.

Most of these students go on to become teachers, having taken up either Nepali or English later; and Sanskrit students can always practice their knowledge of Puranas and Vedas and take up Karma Kanda professionally.

Nepal Army also calls for applicants for the post of army priests with a minimum qualification of SLC in Sanskrit and according to Govinda Poudel, Vice-Principal at Balmiki Campus, around 40 to 50 of his students go onto become army priests every year.

Apart from these, the expertise in Sanskrit language is also utilized in the Department of Archaeology, particularly in historic archives and Public Service Commission.“Many of our students have also gone up to become Sanskrit littérateurs and since the course also covers many subjects of Arts, it is easy for them to swing jobs,” adds Poudel.

Sanskrit remains one of the few languages which has been unaffected by time, it still follows the grammar founded by Panini, known among Sanskrit and Nepali scholars for it’s nearly 4, 000 scientific formulas and complexity.With every batch of Sanskrit students who graduate, from Nepal and elsewhere, the future of Sanskrit language, its scipts and epics is secured furthermore.

source: Tripathi,Nikita (2013),"Passing on the ancient lingo", republica,9 April 2013
photo:Bijay Gajmer/ Republica


2013-04-09 | EducateNepal

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