The Modi government, in its efforts to popularise Sanskrit, is moving beyond symbolism like ‘Sanskrit week’ and is unveiling a 10-year perspective plan for taking it to IITs, NITs, IISERs and other science, commerce colleges across India. Its earlier decision to replace German with Sanskrit as third language in central schools had run into controversy.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) is evaluating a proposal to introduce Sanskrit as an optional subject in all undergrad courses. Also on the cards are revival of old Sanskrit schools, opening of new pathshalas – where Vedas will be taught on par with modern subjects, constitution of CBSE-like Board affiliating all Sanskrit-medium schools, more universities and research centres, and revision of all textbooks in Sanskrit by the NCERT.
The proposals, aimed at developing the country’s ancient language by integrating and modernising the language, are part of the 32-page report submitted by N Gopalaswami committee, which was instituted by the MHRD, in November last year.
Presently, Sanskrit is taught from classes 1 to 12 as ‘optional’ in states. No varsity is offering it in technology, science and commerce streams. The committee believes this the prime reason for the “present disconnect between Sanskrit and science & technology”.
“It is observed that when new subjects like computer, environment science, agriculture, skills etc are introduced at secondary level in various states, usually those subjects are offered as an option to Sanskrit and not to any other subject, and thus Sanskrit becomes a scapegoat,” noted the report.
The committee has estimated that near five crore students are studying Sanskrit at school level. “There are over 1,000 veda pathashalas in the country where three lakh students study. (However) There is no board for veda pathashalas,” it said, noting that there are 15 Sanskrit universities with over 1,000 affiliated colleges, catering to near 10 lakh students.
“Sanskrit literature is a vast repository of knowledge…of science and technology, astronomy and architecture, medicine and metallurgy, agriculture and sculpture, mathematics and management, economics and ecology. In today’s globalised economy…India needs Sanskrit more than ever before, to bridge the ancient and modern, to unravel the knowledge contained in the ancient texts, to protect our Intellectual Property Rights, to explore new avenues of innovations and to lead India into the forefront of the knowledge driven globe,” it said.
The report also recalled Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi’s love for Sanskrit. “In his numerous letters to his sons, Gandhi had emphasized the need to learn Sanskrit. Vivekananda in his letters to various dignitaries and his shishyas categorically reiterated the need of Sanskrit and its usefulness. Every effort should be made to make Vivekananda’s and Gandhi’s vision a reality.”
‘Dr Ambedkar wanted Sanskrit as official language’
The central panel observed that Dr Ambedkar, along with Naziruddin Ahmed etc., was a signatory to the draft amendment motion to declare Sanskrit as official language of India. When it was moved in the Constituent Assembly, Dr Ambedkar and Pandit Lakshmikant Maitra demonstrated how the language can be spoken easily by actually conversing in Sanskrit. Now is the time to make every Sanskrit student of India speak Sanskrit.”
Sanskrit teachers can’t talk in Sanskrit, get less salary: report
Since all the Sanskrit teachers of today are the products of Grammar Translation Method, with very few exceptions of those who studied in traditional and modern streams, most of them do not have the communicative skills in Sanskrit, the committee pointed out, highlighting it as ‘toughest roadblocks’ in the much awaited and desired endeavor of reforming Sanskrit education. The committee recommends a master plan to train five lakh Sanskrit teachers in next three to four years under the Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to make them fluent in the language and recommended salary at par with teachers of other subjects.