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Learning Sanskrit in India – Washington Post Poorly Explores the Debates, Politics and Controversy of Teaching Sanskrit

An article titled ‘Summer Camps Revive India's Ancient Sanskrit’ in the Washington Post by Rama Lakshmi tries to explore the controversies, debates and politics behind learning Sanskrit in India. The author in the beginning of the article tries to prove that the learning and teaching of Sanskrit is an attempt made by Hindu nationalists to instill in Hindus religious and cultural pride. Then the author narrates the sad plight of Sanskrit in India. As usual the article ends with glorifying Sanskrit by suggesting that it is very suitable for computing.

The author uses Sanskrit Samvad Shala and a two-week course conducted by it to prove her point. The article wrongly gives the feel that Sanskrit Samvad Shala is an all India phenomenon and that all Hindu students attend it. It also ignores and disrespects the large number of Sanskrit Scholars who are secular.

Some of the points detailed by the author

  • Summer Sanskrit Camps in India attempts to promote Sanskrit, which is a dead language.
  • The aim of the camps is to promote Hindu supremacy.
  • Politicians and academics are divided over teaching Sanskrit in schools.
  • Learning French is better than Sanskrit as French language provides job opportunities.

The teaching of Sanskrit in summer camps is a negligible phenomenon in India. If such camps are to be taken seriously, then questions should be raised against Madrasas that teach Arabic and Sunday schools that teach Bible.

The author conveniently forgets the numerous Sanskrit Universities in India which conduct regular courses in Sanskrit. Also the numerous researches that is being conducted on the use of Sanskrit in computing etc and the fact that Sanskrit is used by Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs in their religious texts. Plus the numerous Muslim, Buddhist and Christian Sanskrit Scholars.

And unfortunately there is not a single expert quoted in the article. An expert who has knowledge about the social use of learning Sanskrit. The author also ignores that almost all regional languages in India developed from Sanskrit, the vast scientific literature in Sanskrit and also Ayurveda and Yoga.

Interestingly, such poorly researched and biased articles only appear with matters associated with Hinduism. What is more alarming is when newspapers like Washington Post publish it.