A. What is Learning a Language ?
- There are three skills to be acquired in learning a language – Speaking, Reading and Writing.
- The sequence in which the skills are acquired by a child are in the same sequence as above, i.e. Speaking, Reading and Writing. This method is called as method of DIRECT learning. I know a Tamil boy, who could not read or write Tamil. So, when he would be in Tamilnadu, he would converse fluently in Tamil. Yet whenever he would want to go from one place to another by bus, he would have to necessarily ask somebody, where a particular bus would be going to. In direct method, one may be able to speak a language for years and yet would not know the literary beauty and richness of literature available in the language.
- In DISTANCE learning, the sequence has to be reading, writing, speaking.
- In both methods, the reading skill implies that one would be able to read a text, maybe, even without understanding, at least initially, any meaning.
- The writing and speaking skills imply that one is able to compose one’s thoughts and also express them.
- Most languages have a colloquial style of speaking. The colloquial style is often quite loose and permissive in grammatical accuracy. But writing in a language may not be so permissive.
- Writing skills are again of two types, writing prose and writing poetry.
- This site intends to cater to developing all the skills of learning a language.
- Sanskrit literature has a very, very rich treasure of poetry. Entire mahaabhaaratam महाभारतम् is all poetry of 100,000 verses! So are raamaayaNam रामायणम् and bhaagavatam भागवतम् -all epics!
- Possibly, the most talked about literature in Sanskrit is the Geetaa, rather Shreemad-Bhagavad-Geetaa. So, no speaking of Sanskrit can be complete without speaking of Geetaa. It is actually a part of महाभारतम्
- Why speaking of Geetaa is important and valuable, is best quoted from experiences around the world.
- About the year 1873, reminiscing of his discovery of the Geeta, Emerson wrote to Max Muller, pre-eminent Indologist and Professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford, “…I owed – my friend and I owed – a magnificent day to the Bhagavat Geeta. It was the first of books; it was as if an empire spake to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence …”.
- The Geeta that Emerson had read, was given to him by Carlyle. It was a rendering by Charles Wilkins (1783). The translation had been sponsored by Warren hastings, Governor General of India (1774-85), administrator of an enslaved nation, which nevertheles in some corner of his mind he must have admired, for, he wrote in his preface: “The writers of Indian philosophies will survive when the British dominion in India shall long have ceased to exist, and the sources which it yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrance.”
- Much of that philosophy is written in Sanskrit. Though a great deal has been translated in the centuries since Hastings, it is a great and particular pleasure to be able to read it in the original.
- Most people would hence like to learn Sanskrit to be able to understand and benefit from Geetaa, maybe, even with their own interpretation.
- their extraordinary penance and perceptions,
- the strength and power of “mantras”, by which they could command even the elements
- their extraordinary discoveries in all fields of knowledge – the Saankhya (mathematics, logic, philosophy, management-sciences, etc.), Nyaaya (social justice), Meemaansaa (the art and science of analysis and commentating, Yoga, self-realisation and communion with God, grammar, ayurveda, dance and drama (entertainment at large), astronomy and astrology, governance comprehensively political, economic, defense, et al, grammar, ayurveda, dance and drama (entertainment at large), astronomy and astrology, military strategies, arms and armaments, etc. etc.
“Classical Sanskrit”, an evolutionary development of the “vedic Sanskrit” dates from about 500 BCE. The divergence of the spoken language of the priestly class of this period from the older language was presumably a matter of concern, because the efficacy of the vedic mantra’s – invocations to Gods – was thought to depend upon their letter-perfect recital. This gave impetus to grammatical researches, the like of which had never before, nor for many centuries afterwards, been seen anywhere else in the world. PaaNinee the author of aShTaadhyaayee the definitive grammar of classical Sanskrit, which dates from about this time makes mention of ten grammarians who preceded him, but whose works are lost to us.
aShTadhyaayee is a collection of about 4,000 sUtra’s or pithy aphorisms, that like all of the literature that preceded it, was orally composed and orally transmitted. Considering that the subject, the sUtra’s deal with is about words and their relationships, they represent an unparalleled achieveent of the human intellect, in that they comprehensively, accurately and unambiguously define the grammar of Sanskrit, without recourse to symbols. Bright crystals of surpassing clarity, honed and polished to perfection, they are the distilled wisdom of paaNinee and his predecessors, the culmination of their thinking on the language and the usage of words for the conveyance of meaning.
सूत्रम् sUtram = thread
“A hint is enough for an understanding, inquisitive mind” seems to be the logic.
The aShTadhyaayee (aShTa = eight adhyaayaH = chapter) as its name implies consists of eight chapters, each of which is divided into four sections called paada’s. sUtra’s in one paada range from seventy or so in one to several hundred in another. Also, the sUtra’s are of unequal lengths. Here are two examples of paaNinee’s style –
बहुषु बहुवचनम् (1- 4-21)
The numbers in parantheses refer to Chapter, paada and sUtra respectively.
The first sUtra declares that when many (more than two) things are to be referred to, plural forms must be employed. The second sUtra declares that singular or dual forms are to be used when the allusion is to one or two.
sUtra 1-4-22 exhibits a characteristics of Sanskrit words – their inordinate capability to combine to form words of such length, that they may appeal to be seemingly impossible in any other language.
In Meghdootam, great poet Kaalidaas composed a complete 17-syllable long line of a verse by just one word.
Isn’t all this so very charming, astounding, rich, glorious, entertaining and enjoyable!!
A hearty Welcome to the study of Sanskrit – “saMskRutaadhyayanam” !!
(This author is indebted to quite some information obtained from www.sanskrit-lamp.org)