Sanskrit – Can this be our National Language?

The first Prime Minister of Independent India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 13th February 1949 while debating on the India’s language policy in the Constituent Assembly, had said that Sanskrit language and literature are the greatest treasure and heritage of India. His words are still used to demonstrate the importance of Sanskrit and the way it can preserve the Sanskriti (culture) of India.

Before the origin of any language,the way of handling down information to next generation was verbal. But with time and evolution, various languages were created in different parts of the world. Sanskrit is an ancient language of India and its origin is dated back to the Vedic period around 2nd millennium BC. Vedic Sanskrit is the pre classical form of this language and Sanskrit has also influenced most of the languages in Indian Subcontinent. Purified, adorned or refined speech are the few meanings of Sanskrit.

During the period between 500 BC and 1600 AD, the language was strictly confined to Brahmins and considered as a very special language. No one except for Brahmins were allowed to learn Sanskrit. To further restrict Sanskrit to just one caste, it was considered as the language of the Gods “Dev Bhasha”. But in the comparative study of languages done by scholars, it has been found that Sanskrit is part of the Indo-European family of languages with Indo-Iranian as sub family.

Grammar rules for Classic Sanskrit are known as Ashtadhyayi (Aṣṭādhyāyī) and these were recorded by Hindu Indian grammarian, Panini in around 4th century BCE.

Though it is listed as one of India’s 22 “scheduled” languages but it is not widely spoken in India except for its use in religious setting and mantras. The language is used in the religious services of Hindus, Jainis and Buddhists. Sanskrit is also the second official language of Uttarakhand.

Many a times Sanskrit is regarded as a dead language and not a common man’s spoken language in India. Perhaps it ceased to be spoken some thousands of years ago but its connection with religion has kept it alive. It was proposed that to preserve the language of Vedic origin, it should be made compulsory in schools and colleges. But probably this is quiet an impossible task to do, as various political parties will have different opinion on the same and some may not be in the favor of this. If possible we can make it our national language if not the official language of India. Other ways to popularize it should be found out.

Arguments in favour to make Sanskrit as a National language state that for any language to be a national language it must have born and developed in the country and Sanskrit is that language.

National language of the country should be close to the culture of the nation, which Sanskrit is.

Moreover you cannot identify it with any particular region or city so it is national in nature.

Then most of the languages in India have been born out of Sanskrit, so it is the mother of almost all the languages in the country.

Some scholars even believe that by teaching Sanskrit we will be more close to our cultural and traditional values which we are losing under the influence of western languages. This does not mean that we should not progress and ignore the modern truth but we should respect our roots as these are our foundation and Sanskrit is a part of it.

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Related information:

Languages of India

Official and Regional Languages of India

About India

India Culture

History of India