History of Sanskrit

My interest in the origin - development of languages is of recent origin. I must give credit to Khushwant Singh for arousing my interest in languages by saying that Punjabis were responsible for the killing of Urdu in Punjab. I found the article on Urdu very enlightening (go to the History section if you like to read about it). Every time I have got down to compiling an essay have learnt much more than I had ever dreamt of. In this case I wanted to start with Hindi because I felt that Sanskrit would be too much of effort. As I browsed through books I realized that if I were to write about Hindi first it would be akin to writing about a child’s life before the mother’s birth. 

The article is verbatim from the History and Culture of Indian People after that I compared notes with The Cultural Heritage of India by the Ramakrishna Mission. The first chapter is self-explanatory, the second is an overview on the development of all Indian languages – simply and sequentially given – the third tells you scientific literature in S after which developments are taken period wise. The article is divided into the following chapters –

1. Importance of Sanskrit language –  quote Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
2. Introduction on Development of Indian languages by Shri K M Munshi.
3. Scientific Literature in Sanskrit
4. The Vedic Age Upto 600 BC. 
5. The Age of Imperial Unity includes development of Prakrit - 600 bc to 320 ad.
6. The Classical Age 320 to 750.  
7. The Age of Imperial Kannauj also has development of Apabhramsa - 750 to 1000. 8.   The Struggle for Empire 1000 – 1300.
9. The Delhi Sultanate 1300 to 1526.
10. The Mughal Period 1526 to 1707.
11 Maratha Supremacy 1707 to 1818.
12. British Period 1818 to 1905.
13. Struggle for Freedom 1905 to 1947 

Importance of Sanskrit Language, Words of Sri Aurobindo & the Mother

..Each language is the sign and power of the soul of the people, which naturally speaks it. Each develops therefore its own peculiar spirit, thought-temperament, and way of dealing with life and knowledge and experience…. Therefore it is of the utmost value to a nation a human group-soul, to preserve its language and to make of it a strong and living culture instrument. A nation, race or a person, which loses its language, cannot live its whole life or its real life.

Indian’s nature, her mission, the work that she has to do, her part in the earth’s destiny, the peculiar power for which she stands is written there in her past history and is the secret purpose behind her present sufferings and ordeals. A reshaping of the forms of our spirit will have to take place; but it is the spirit itself behind past forms that we have to disengage and preserve and to give to it new and powerful thought-significances, culture-values, a new instrumentation, greater figure. And so long as we recognize these essential things and are faithful to their spirit, it will not hurt us to make even the most drastic mental or physical adaptations and the most extreme cultural and social changes. But these changes themselves must be cast in the spirit and mould of India and not in any other, not in the spirit of America or Europe, not in the mould of Japan or Russia.

India is destined to work out her own independent life and civilization, to stand in the forefront of the world and solve the political, social, economic and moral problems which Europe has failed to solve, yet the pursuit of which and the feverish passage in that pursuit from experiment to experiment, from failure to failure she calls her progress. Our means must be as great as our ends and the strength to discover and use the means so as to attain the end can only be found by seeking the eternal source of strength in ourselves.

The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendor, depth and fullness is its [India’s] first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavor to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualized society is the third and most difficult Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its help to the future of humanity.

…what constitutes this higher or highest existence to which our evolution is tending? In order to answer the question we have to deal with a class of supreme experiences, a class of unusual conceptions, which it is difficult to represent accurately in any other language than the ancient Sanskrit tongue in which alone they have been to some extent systematized.

The [Sanskrit} language itself, as has been universally recognized by those competent to form a judgment, is one of the most magnificent, the most perfect and wonderfully sufficient literary instruments developed by the human mind, at once majestic and sweet and flexible, strong and clearly-formed and full and vibrant and subtle, and its quality and character would be of itself a sufficient evidence of the character and quality of the race whose mind it expressed and the culture of which it was the reflecting medium.

The Sanskrit language is the devabhasa or original language spoken by men in Uttara Meru at the beginning of the Manwantara; but in its purity it is not the Sanskrit of the Dwapara or the Kali, it is the language of the Satya Yuga based on the true and perfect relation of vak and artha. Every one of its vowels and consonants has a particular and inalienable force which exists by the nature of things and not by development or human choice; these are the fundamental sounds which lie at the basis of the Tantric bijamantras and constitute the efficacy of the mantra itself. Every vowel and every consonant in the original language had certain primary meanings, which arose out of this essential Shakti or force and were the basis of other derivative meanings. By combination with the vowels, the consonants, and without any combination, the vowels themselves formed a number of primary roots, out of which secondary roots were developed by the addition of other consonants. All words were formed from these roots, simple words by the addition again of pure or mixed vowel and consonant terminations with or without modification of the root and more complex words by the principle of composition.

This language increasingly corrupted in sense and sound becomes the later Sanskrit of the Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yuga, being sometimes partly purified and again corrupted and again partly purified so that it never loses all apparent relation to its original from and structure. Every other language, however remote, is a corruption formed by detritions and perversion of the original language into a Prakrit or the Prakrit of a Prakrit and so on to increasing stages of impurity. The superior purity of the Indian language is the reason of its being called the Sanskrit and not given any local name, its basis being universal and eternal; and it is always a rediscovery of the Sanskrit tongue as the primary language that prepares first for a true understanding of human language and, secondly for a fresh purification of Sanskrit itself.

Everyone should learn that [Sanskrit]……

Not Sanskrit from the point of view of scholarship, but Sanskrit, a Sanskrit – how to put it? – That opens the door to all the languages of India. I think that is indispensable. The ideal would be, in a few years, to have a rejuvenated Sanskrit as the representative language of India, that is, a Sanskrit spoken in such a way that Sanskrit is behind all the languages of India and it should be that. This was Sri Aurobindo’s idea, when we spoke about it. Because now English is the language of the whole country, but that is abnormal. It is very helpful for relations with the rest of the world, but just as each country has its own language, there should…. And so here, as soon as one begins to want a national language, everyone starts quarrelling. Each one wants it to be his own, and that is foolish. But no one could object to Sanskrit. It is a more ancient language than the others and it contains the sound, the root-sounds of many words……

Every child born in India should know it, just as every child born in France has to know French. He does not speak properly, he does not know it thoroughly, but he has to know French a little; and in all the countries of the world it is the same thing. He has to know the national language. And then, when he learns, he learns as many languages as he likes…

So I would like to have a simple Sanskrit taught…., as simple as possible, but not “simplified” – simple by going back to its origin…. all these sounds, the sounds that are the roots of the words which were formed afterwards.”

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