Splashes from Hindu Maha Sagar - 39 - Sanskrit

Sanskrit Language

Sanskrit is the oldest language in the world, and mother of all Indo-European languages. Rishis discovered Sanskrit and used it to create the mantras that were made up of a combination of sound vibrations to create specific effect on the mind and the psyche, when recited. It is the language of the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas. Sanskrit literature is the richest literature in the history of mankind. The Sanskrit alphabet is called ‘devanagari’ and literally means ‘cities of the gods’.

Until 1100 AD Sanskrit was without interruption the official language of the whole of India. The dominance of Sanskrit is indicated by the wealth of literature composed in the language covering every subject under the Sun. On every subject a masterpiece treatise can be found in the Sanskrit literature. The range expands from Philosophy, Religion, Science, Fine Arts, Sex, Music, Astrology, Palmistry, Astronomy, Chemistry, Mathematics, Martial Arts, and Diplomacy, just to list the few.

The word Sanskrit literally means ‘Perfected Language’ or ‘Language brought to formal perfection’. This is quite an appropriate name to describe Sanskrit, but unfortunately our convent educated secularists did not reconcile to it, till NASA declared it to be ‘the only unambiguous language on the planet’.

Sanskrit is a scientific and systematic language. Its grammar is perfect and has attracted scholars worldwide except regrettably in India. Well-known linguists and computer-scientists have also expressed the opinion that Sanskrit is the best language for use with computers.

Development of Grammar – Panini‘s Ashtadhyayi

Panini's Sanskrit grammar, produced in about 300 BC is the shortest and the fullest grammar in the world for its precision of statement, and for its thorough analysis of the roots of the language and of the formative principles of words. By employing an algebraic terminology it attains a sharp succinctness unrivalled in brevity. It arranges, in logical harmony, the whole phenomena, which the Sanskrit language presents. It is one of the most splendid achievements of human invention in the science of Linguistics.

Panini's masterpiece Ashtadhyayi (Eight Chapters) stands out as the first scientific analysis of any alphabet. The work is the more remarkable since the author did not write it down. He worked it all out of his head. Panini's disciples committed the work to memory and in turn passed it on to their disciples. Though the Astadhayayi has long since been committed to writing, rote memorization of the work, with several of the more important commentaries, is still the approved method of studying grammar in India today.

Ashtadhyayi comprises of four thousand sutras or aphoristic rules. Prior grammatical analysis is clearly evidenced by the fact that Panini himself mentions over sixty predecessors in the field. For example, the sounds represented by the letters of the alphabet had been properly arranged, vowels and diphthongs separated from mutes, semivowels, and sibilants, and the sounds had been grouped into gutturals, palatals, cerebrals, dentals, and labials.

Subsequent grammarians, especially Katyayana and Patanjali, carried the work much further, and by the middle of the second century BC Sanskrit had attained a stereotyped form, which remained unaltered for centuries.

The Hindu grammar taught Europeans to analyze speech forms. Ancient Indian work on grammar was objective, systematic, and brilliant than that done in Greece or Rome.

Chand K Sharma