SANSKRIT AT CAMBRIDGE. THY WILL PREVAILS, SONIA KHAN AND ABDUL KALAM
Date: 24 Oct 2006
THIS IS A MOST SHOCKING NEWS FOR ALL THE LOVERS OF SANSKRIT, THE OLDEST LITERARY LANGUAGE ON EARTH.
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY DOES NOT FIND TAKERS OF SANSKRIT ANY MORE.
HOW CAN THERE BE TAKERS IF IN THE LAND OF ITS ORIGIN, HINDUSTAN, THE RULING ESTABLISHMENT CARES TWO HOOTS FOR IT?
WHAT LOVE OF LANGUAGE WOULD THE PRESIDENT OF PARTITIONED INDIA, "SON OF B...." ABDUL KALAM, HAVE FOR SANSKRTI WHO PRAYS IN ARABIC?
WHAT LOVE AND RESPECT FOR SANSKRIT WILL SONIA KHAN, "DAUGHTER OF POPE AND GRANDDAUGHTER OF MUSSOLINI", HAVE FOR SANSKRIT WHEN SHE WANTS IT REPLACED BY ITALIAN THROUGHOUT BHARAT?
Cambridge University axes Sanskrit
Over a century after it was first introduced as a subject for undergraduate study, Sanskrit has been axed from Cambridge University. The decision to remove Sanskrit was taken because there are few takers to study the language, according to university officials.
The British originally took to learning Sanskrit as a means to understand and access India as a country and civilisation. In course of time, this moved beyond its initial utilitarian intentions to acquire the attributes of enlightened learning and scholarship. Universities in those times, in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, encouraged such inquiries for knowledge.
However the character of the university has now changed. Today, knowledge has to be justified by utility. John Smith, who taught Sanskrit at Cambridge for over two decades, accuses universities of increasingly becoming businesses that employ MBA-speak. It is true that the bottom line has become as important as academic excellence for universities in the West.
Smith, who has taught Sanskrit to Cambridge undergraduates for 22 years, said, "The decision is tactless in its timing and skewed in its objectives. They are doing this at a point of time when they are honouring Manmohan Singh, soliciting benefactions from wealthy Indian businessmen and seeking students from South Asia."
Modern day Hindus and the study of Sanskrit
Sanskrit cannot be said to be a dead language. There are still a number of Hindu families who speak it as their first language in day-to-day life. Dr H V S Shastri of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan UK is one such person, whose home village in India is totally Sanskrit speaking.
It is a language that most Hindus still hold in distant reverence. Many Hindus have engaged in short courses in Sanskrit, and many more hope to do so, 'when they get the time'.
However, the current Hindu approach to learning is even more utilitarian that that of the West. In the 'rat-race' for financial security, very few Hindus would consider doing serious studies in any subject that did not guarantee a secure income. This is understandable, and to an extent wise. But it has its down side - being a sure fire path to mediocrity and cultural estrangement. Either way, however disappointed some of us may be with Cambridge University's decision to axe Sanskrit, we have no right to moan. If we do not uphold our heritage, we cannot exactly expect others to do so.