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Saturday, June 10, 2023

संस्कृतम् – Dead or Alive? Why Western ‘Indologists’ abhor Sanskrit Revival

I came across a discussion on BVP that linked to a few leading western Indologists opining on the Sanskrit revival movement and the spoken Sanskrit movement. It is quite instructive!

The starting point – the famous chai video of Pollock (Padma Shri 2010). Efforts to revive or ‘speak’ संस्कृतम् as exemplified by unwashed ‘Hindoos’ trying to order चायपानीयम् in ‘Sanscreet’ memorably filled Prof. Pollock with ‘nwosayae’.

The evocatively titled Death of Sanskrit by Sheldon Pollock had crystallized the Indological view that Sanskrit is dead and its best left dead.

He also shared a horror of ‘Hindoos, inheritors of a past that they did not create themselves’ actually daring to bring it back to life.

Now most संस्कृतम् learners will find it most perplexing. Why should an Indologist, a lifelong Sanskritist have such a horror of संस्कृतम् springing back to life?

किमर्थं भोः?

Prof. Stella Sandahl, an Emeritus Professor at Dept. of East Asian Studies has this opening remark- ‘How can we rescue Sanskrit from these vandals’?

She claims that speaking Sanskrit is correlated with demolishing temples and violating nuns. This is a Professor and a Sanskritist!

A raft of Bharatiya compradors and native informants support this view. For example, a Bharatiya ‘Professor of Sanskrit’ is echoing the pernicious nature of spoken संस्कृतम्.

So, भवान् संस्कृतं जानाति किम्? May be the HindU revivalist equivalent of the infamous East Pakistani lungi test.

HH Hock, a leading Indologist, takes a more nuanced, but still negative view. Spoken सरलसंस्कृतम् is a pidgin and creates a false, manufactured sense of identity.

George Hart, a Sanskritist and Tamizh Indologist and a Padma Shri (2015) has this to say.

The trouble with spoken Sanskrit is that its dumbed down. It creates a sense of arrogance and ‘superiority’. It doesn’t make you rap like Kalidasa.

There are of course, sane views also. Here is the one-

Probably panicking at the thought of having stepped on a land-mine, Professor Sandahl asks plaintively, ‘Why can’t we let it be, a beautiful dead language’?

Apparently Panini assassinated Sanskrit.

This topic is relevant given a recent tweet on ‘scholars’ and twitter folks who rubbish them. These screenshots shows the nature of politics/views connected with Indology scholarship. Staggering hypocrisy!

No wonder hotheads on either side quickly escalate to गाल्यः।

And to conclude by following the sane advice ‘do they even read a line’ of what they discussed, here is what Sarala Samskritam sets out to do.

Here are a few screenshots of the stated purpose and design of the सरलसम्स्कृतम् movement. Quite clear that it’s designed as a ‘gateway program’ and tries to be fully compliant with the Paninian framework.

A whole bunch of privileged Indologists are fearful of unwashed masses learning संस्कृतम्, becoming aware and ‘horror of horrors’, ‘debating’ with them. They fear संस्कृतम् will engender civilizational confidence. They fear a living संस्कृतम्।

पठतु संस्कृतम्। जयतु भारतम्।

This article has been compiled from the tweet thread originally tweeted by प्वालः । pvaal (@pvaal2) on July 10, 2022.

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