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We talked with Palash Biswas, an editor for Indian Express in Kolkata today also. He urged that there must a transnational disaster management mechanism to avert such scale disaster in the Himalayas.




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Friday, January 31, 2014

Why not Tamil or Gond should be taught countrywide inspite of Sanskrit as Dr Amartya Sen pleaded?

Why not Tamil or Gond should be taught countrywide inspite of Sanskrit as Dr Amartya Sen pleaded?

Palash Biswas

For Debate

Why not Tamil or Gond should be taught countrywide instead of Sanskrit as Dr Amartya Sen pleaded?

Less than Fifteen hundred people in India speak sanskrit,but highly controversial Jaipur Literature Festival made the ground to revive sanskrit as national language.Amartya Sen pleaded that Sanskrit is classical language and it is also very scientific,it should be the language in the quest of multi dimensional knowldge.

Then tamil is also a classical language which is older than Sanskrit.We may read unbroken Indian history of nearly seven thousand years only in Tamil.Which is also a live language and the Tamil people worldwide interact in this language. Why should we not learn Tamil all over the country?It would rather integrate the integrity and unity of India and the great wall in between North and south,in between Aryan and non aryan would be smashed.

On the other hand, Gond is spoken all over central India,all over dandakaranya and beyond.It is also a live language.Then why not Gond?

Amartya Sen speaks against Hindutva.Amartya sen speaks against Narendra Modi.But he is batting for Sanskrit.Sanskrit might be the national language of Hindu rashtra.Then,what is the agenda of the spokesperson,the best,of the open market economy so much so hyped and glorified?

Speaking in a medium of storytelling, Dr Sen began by listing seven wishes for the country to an imaginary figure, which he called Goddess of Medium Things and in the process one by one gave left, right and centre to its political parties, society, especially elite class, judiciary and even media was not spared. He called the Indian society increasingly business oriented that is seriously neglecting language, literature, music and the artists.

Moving on to politics, he yearned for a strong and flourishing right-wing party that is secular and not communal leaving nothing to imagination whom he was aiming at as only a few months ago, he has said that he didn't want Gujarat chief Minister Narendra Modi to become Prime Minister as he didn't have secular credentials.

He followed it by wishing a stronger left front, which according to him, has been nursing an antiquated understanding of imperialism or joining the other political parties in agitating for cheaper amenities for parts of the middle class rather than concentrating on improving the terrible state of the really poor people it has been nursing.

H L Dusadh Dusadh ऐसा फिलहाल होने से रहा क्योंकि जिस सवर्ण वर्ग का देश की अर्थ-धर्म और राजसत्ता पर कब्ज़ा है उसमे भषाई विविधता को सम्मान देने की तमीज ही नहीं है.वह तो हर हाल में अजायब घर में रखी जाने लायक उस कथित देव-भाषा को बचाए रखने का प्रयास करेगा जिसे सवा करोड़ वाले देश में बोलने वालों की संख्या १५०० से भी कम है.

6 hours ago · Like

The Jaipur Literature Festival showcased Dr Amartya Sen who pleaded that Sanskrit is pure and scientific,hence,everyone should learn Sanskrit.Bengali Newspaper AnandBazar patrika published an edit to highlight his stance for the revival of Sanskrit.While Ivan de Klee wrote,Having referenced Amartya Sen over thirty times in my final University Exams, I was trembling with excitement to hear and see this rather unorthodox hero of mine here at the Jaipur Literature Festival. He is not quite the usual Superman or David Beckham hero of today's youths! Amartya Sen as I am sure you all know is a world renowned Mathmetician and Social Economist, I think the fact that I studied theology however and he was found throughout my studies reveals, that he is much more than that.

Amartya Sen certainly lived up to all my expectations, and revealed to me that although a Mathematician (he professed today that "I love maths, I am biased!") and Economist by nature, his work is relevant across all aspects of study, politics and living. Perhaps surprisingly he also revealed that his favourite subject at school was Sanskrit so you can never be too sure where he will next turn his pen…

Amartya Sen emphasised that the quest of multi dimensional knowledge is possible only in sanskrit.The text seems to be underplayed.But the Bengali edit exposes Amartya`s ethical stance.Here you are!Coincidentally,at the same time, bestselling Indian writer Vikram Chandra, made an interesting comparison between Sanskrit grammar and modern programming languages in his latest nonfiction work, The Rasa of Language: Art, Pleasure and Technology. "The similarity between programming languages and Panini's rules for Sanskrit grammar has led to the basic concepts for computer code being renamed the Panini-Backus Form," said Chandra.


বিনা ধ্রুপদী ভাষা

জয়পুর সাহিত্য উৎসবে অমর্ত্য সেন 'ক্লাসিকাল' অর্থাৎ ধ্রুপদী ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি চর্চার গুরুত্ব চিহ্নিত করিয়াছেন। দুনিয়ার নানা জাতির মতোই ভারতবাসীও এখন ধ্রুপদী ভাষা ও সংস্কৃতি বিষয়ে উদাসীন। অনেকেরই ধারণা হইয়াছে যে, প্রগতির সহিত ধ্রুপদীয়ানার বিরোধ আছে। ভ্রান্ত ধারণা। ধ্রুপদী জ্ঞান প্রগতির অনুঘটক। মৌলিক শিক্ষা এবং জ্ঞানচর্চা কেবল প্রযুক্তির শিক্ষায় সীমিত থাকিতে পারে না, তাহা বহুমাত্রিক হওয়া জরুরি। দুনিয়া জুড়িয়াই মৌলিক শিক্ষা বিপন্ন। জ্ঞানচর্চায় তাহার ক্ষতিকর প্রভাব পড়িতেছে। শিক্ষাবিদরা তাহা লইয়া উদ্বেগ প্রকাশ করেন। বাঙালির সমস্যা তাহার অধিক। তাহার কারণ, শিক্ষার ন্যূনতম মান হইতেই সে বিচ্যুত হইয়াছে। এই পরিপ্রেক্ষিতে পশ্চিমবঙ্গে সংস্কৃত চর্চার গুরুত্ব সমধিক। পশ্চিমবঙ্গে বামপন্থী শাসকেরা কেবল ইংরাজির বিরুদ্ধে খড়্গহস্ত হন নাই, সংস্কৃতের প্রতিও বিরূপ ছিলেন। তাঁহাদের বাস্তববিমুখ অপরিণতি সংস্কৃতকে পুরোহিততন্ত্রের ভাষা ও ইংরাজিকে সাম্রাজ্যবাদীদের ভাষা হিসাবে চিহ্নিত করিয়াছিল। ফল: প্রাথমিক শিক্ষা হইতে ইংরাজির বিদায়ের পাশাপাশি বিদ্যালয় শিক্ষায় সংস্কৃত ভাষার গুরুত্ব হ্রাস। এই হ্রাস ও নাশের ফল ছাত্রছাত্রীদের দক্ষতার ক্ষয়।

প্রশ্ন উঠিতে পারে, ইংরাজি বিদায় যে ক্ষতিকর তাহা বোঝা গেল, কিন্তু সংস্কৃত না পড়িলে কী ক্ষতি? একদা এশিয়াটিক সোসাইটির বক্তৃতায় উইলিয়ম জোন্স সংস্কৃতকে লাতিন ও গ্রিকের চাহিতেও 'অনুকরণযোগ্য' বলিয়া রায় দিয়াছিলেন। ইহা কথার কথা ছিল না। সংস্কৃত ভাষার ব্যাকরণ পড়িলে বুঝিতে পারা যায়, এই ভাষা অত্যন্ত বিধিবদ্ধ। তাহার ভাষাবিধিগুলির পশ্চাতে গাণিতিক প্রজ্ঞা ও বিজ্ঞানমনস্কতা বর্তমান। এই ব্যাকরণের চর্চায় কেবল ভাষাবোধ নয়, যুক্তিশৃঙ্খলার বোধও তীক্ষ্নতর হয়। লক্ষণীয়, বঙ্গদেশের পুরাতন বিদ্যালয়গুলিতে সংস্কৃতের পণ্ডিতেরা অনেকেই গণিতেরও পণ্ডিত ছিলেন। আর সাহিত্য? সংস্কৃত ভাষায় রচিত সাহিত্য তাহার ব্যাপ্তি, গভীরতা এবং উৎকর্ষে প্রথম সারির। শিক্ষার সামগ্রিক বিকাশের যে যুক্তিতে ধ্রুপদী সংস্কৃতির চর্চা গুরুত্বপূর্ণ বলিয়া মনে করা হয়, সংস্কৃতের ক্ষেত্রে তাহা বিশেষ ভাবে প্রযোজ্য। ধ্রুপদী ভাষা ও সাহিত্যের পাঠ বন্ধ হওয়ায় তাই ভারতীয় মন এবং মনন ক্ষতিগ্রস্ত হইয়াছে। এই ধ্রুপদী ভাষা-সাহিত্য পড়িলে বিশ্বায়িত দুনিয়ায় যোগ্যতা প্রদর্শনের অসুবিধা হইত না, সুবিধাই হইত। তাহার চর্চা ছাড়িয়া ভারতবাসী, বিশেষ করিয়া বাঙালি, নিজেদেরই ক্ষতি করিয়াছে।

এই ক্ষতি 'অপূরণীয়' নয়। প্রতিকারের উপায় আছে। উপায় শিক্ষায় সংস্কৃত ভাষা ও সাহিত্যের সসম্মান পুনর্বাসন। সংস্কৃত শিখিতে হইবে। যত অল্প বয়সে শেখা শুরু করা যায়, তত ভাল। বিদ্যালয় স্তরে সংস্কৃত পাঠ আবশ্যিক করা উচিত। শৈশবে মন তাজা থাকে, অর্জনের সামর্থ্য বেশি থাকে। ইংরাজি, বাংলা, সংস্কৃত লইয়া পশ্চিমবঙ্গের সরকারি বিদ্যালয়গুলিতে ত্রিভাষা প্রকল্প গড়িয়া তোলা উচিত। ইংরাজির প্রত্যাবর্তন, অন্তত নীতিগত ভাবে, শুরু হইয়াছে। সংস্কৃত আজও সমান অবহেলিত। যে ভাষা-জননীকে বাঙালি একদা গৃহহীন করিয়াছিল, তাঁহাকে সসম্মানে ফিরাইয়া আনুক। 'জননী' কথাটি আলঙ্কারিক নয়, বাস্তবিক। বাংলা ভাষা সংস্কৃতের সন্তান। সংস্কৃতের জ্ঞান বাংলা ভাষার জ্ঞানকে সমৃদ্ধ করিবে। বাংলা ভাষা চর্চার স্বার্থেই সংস্কৃত পড়া দরকার। বস্তুত, ইংরাজি এবং সংস্কৃত, দুইটি ভাষা এবং সাহিত্যের চর্চাই বাংলার যথার্থ পুনরুজ্জীবনের পক্ষে অত্যাবশ্যক। অত্যাবশ্যক ধ্রুপদী সংস্কৃতি হইতে পুষ্টি সংগ্রহ করা। বাঙালির শিক্ষা যেখানে পৌঁছাইয়াছে, তাহাতে কথাগুলি অসম্ভব এবং অবিশ্বাস্য বোধ হইতে পারে। তাহা কথাগুলির দোষ নহে, বাঙালির শিক্ষার অধঃপাতের দোষ।

Adult and continuing education

Attempts at reviving the Sanskrit language have been undertaken in the Republic of India since its foundation in 1947 (it was included in the 14 original languages of the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution).

Organisations like the Samskrta Bharati are conducting Speak Sanskrit workshops to popularise the language. The "All-India Sanskrit Festival" (since 2002) holds composition contests. The 1991 Indian census reported 49,736 fluent speakers of Sanskrit. All India Radiotransmits news bulletins in Sanskrit twice a day across the nation. Besides, Sanskrit learning programmes also feature on the list of most of the AIR broadcasting centres. The Mattur village in central Karnataka claims to have native speakers of Sanskrit among its population. Inhabitants of all castes learn Sanskrit starting in childhood and converse in the language. Even the local Muslims speak and converse in Sanskrit. Historically, the village was given by king Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire to Vedic scholars and their families. People in his kingdom spoke Kannada and Telugu. Another effort concentrates on the preservation of oral transmission of the VedasShri Vedabharathi is one such organisation based out of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh that has been digitising the Vedas through voice recording the recitations of Vedic Pandits.

Samskrita Bharati is an organisation working for Sanskrit revival. It is a tax exempt non-profit organisation with its headquarters in New Delhi, India. The International Centre, "Aksharam," a complex located in Bangalore, India, is its international centre. It houses a research wing, a library, audio-visual lab, and staff quarters. It also has several state-units spread across the country both in the US and India. The US chapter is a registered nonprofit tax-exempt organisation with its headquarters in San Jose, California.

School curricula

The CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) of India has made Sanskrit a third language (though it is an option for the school to adopt it or not, the other choice being the state's own official language) in the schools it governs. In such schools, learning Sanskrit is an option for grades 5 to 8 (Classes V to VIII). This is true of most schools affiliated to the ICSE board too, especially in those states where the official language is Hindi. Sanskrit is also taught in traditional gurukulas throughout India.

Dr. Anand Teltumbde

1:10 PM (13 hours ago)


to me

Dear Palash,

Gondi is a proto-Dravidian language spoken by the Gond tribals in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhyapradesh, Chhattisgarh, I paste here info on it from Enclyclopaedia Britannica:

Gondi language, one of the Dravidian languages of India. In the early 21st century it was spoken by about 2.7 million people, mostly Gonds. Gondi has many dialects, some of which are mutually unintelligible. It is not a writtenlanguage and as such has no well-attested history before European colonization of the region, which began in the late 18th century. Gondi appears to be losing ground to neighbouring languages with written traditions, such as Hindi, Marathi, and Telugu.

The most notable thing is that the Maoists when then reached Bastar, they worked for a decade without indulging into any violent activities (just because they were not noted by the state) and had foucsed on the developmental work for almost a decade. They developed started schools, hospitals, training centres for farmers and developed books in Gondi. I had a full set of such books in my collection.

Obviously, the owverwhelming influence of the 'officla' languages have marginalized peoples' langugaes. Still some 3 million people are said to speak Gondi.


Gondi language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Native to India
EthnicityGondi people
Native speakers2.7 million  (2001)[1]
Language family Dravidian
  • South-Central
    • Gondi–Kui
      • Gondi
Writing system Devanagari scriptTelugu script,Gondi script
Language codes
ISO 639-2 gon
ISO 639-3 gon – inclusive code
Individual codes:
ggo – Southern Gondi
gno – Northern Gondi

Gondi (Gōndi) is a South-Central Dravidian language, spoken by about two million Gond people,[2] chiefly in the states of Madhya PradeshGujaratAndhra Pradesh,MaharashtraChhattishgarh and in various adjoining areas of neighbouring states. Although it is the language of the Gond people, only about half of them still speak it. Gondi has a rich folk literature, examples of which are marriage songs and narrations.


Gondi has a two-gender system, substantives being either masculine or nonmasculine. Gondi departed from the parent Proto-Dravidian language by developing initial voiced stops(g, j, ḍ, d, b) and aspirated stops (kh, gh, jh, dh, ph).


Most of the Gondi dialects are still inadequately recorded and described. The more important dialects are Dorla, Koya, Maria, Muria, and Raj Gond. Some basic phonologic features separate the northwestern dialects from the southeastern. One is the treatment of the original initial s, which is preserved in northern and western Gondi, while farther to the south and east it has been changed to h; in some other dialects it has been lost completely. Other dialectal variations in the Gondi language are the alteration of initial r with initial land a change of e and o to a.

Bhatola is unclassified, but is spoken by Gonds and may turn out to be a Gondi dialect or language.


Main article: Gondi script

Gondi is typically written in the Devanagari script or Telugu script, but has its own writing system, the Brahmi-based Gondi script, designed by a Gond in 1928 and evolved since.[3] However, most Gonds are illiterate and do not use any script.

An earlier native Gondi script was recently discovered in GunjalaAdilabad districtAndhra Pradesh. According to former director of AP Oriental Manuscripts Library and Research Centre (APOMLRC) of India, Jayadheer Tirumal Rao, a dozen manuscripts were found in this script. Programs to create awareness and promotion of this script among the Gondi people are in development stage.[4]


  1. Jump up^
  2. Jump up^ Beine, David K. 1994. A Sociolinguistic Survey of the Gondi-speaking Communities of Central India. M.A. thesis. San Diego State University. chpt. 1
  3. Jump up^ Preliminary Proposal to Encode the Gondi Script in the UCS
  4. Jump up^ Singh, S. Harpal (30 January 2013). "Chance discovery of Gondi script opens new vistas of tribal culture"The Hindu. Retrieved 31 January 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Beine, David K. 1994. A Sociolinguistic Survey of the Gondi-speaking Communities of Central India. M.A. thesis. San Diego State University. 516 p.
  • Chenevix Trench, Charles. Grammar of Gondi: As Spoken in the Betul District, Central Provinces, India; with Vocabulary, Folk-Tales, Stories and Songs of the Gonds / Volume 1 - Grammar. Madras: Government Press, 1919.
  • Hivale, Shamrao, and Verrier ElwinSongs of the Forest; The Folk Poetry of the Gonds. London: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd, 1935.
  • Moss, Clement F. An Introduction to the Grammar of the Gondi Language. [Jubbalpore?]: Literature Committee of the Evangelical National Missionary Society of Sweden, 1950.
  • Pagdi, Setumadhava Rao. A Grammar of the Gondi Language. [Hyderabad-Dn: s.n, 1954.
  • Subrahmanyam, P. S. Descriptive Grammar of Gondi Annamalainagar: Annamalai University, 1968.

External links[edit]

Tamil language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
தமிழ் tamiḻ
Pronunciation [t̪ɐmɨɻ]
Native toIndiaSri LankaMalaysiaSingapore,RéunionMauritius
Native speakers70 million  (2007)[1]
8 million as a second language[2]
Language family Dravidian
Writing system Tamil alphabet (Brahmic)
Tamil Braille (Bharati)
Signed form(s) Signed Tamil
Official status
Official language in

 Indian states: Tamil Nadu[3] andPuducherry,[4]
 Sri Lanka,[5] and
Officially Legalised

 Malaysia (Medium of education).[7]
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ta
ISO 639-2 tam
ISO 639-3 Either:
tam – Modern Tamil
oty – Old Tamil
Linguist Listoty Old Tamil
Tamil Verbreitung.png
Distribution of Tamil speakers in South India and Sri Lanka (1961)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Part of a series on
Dravidian culture and history
Dravidische Sprachen.png
Portal:Dravidian civilizations
Tamil A.svg Tamil is written in a non-Latin script. Tamil text used in this article is transliterated into the Latin script according to the ISO 15919standard.

Tamil /ˈtæmɪl/[8] (தமிழ்tamiḻ[t̪ɐmɨɻ] ?) is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of South India and North-east Sri Lanka. It hasofficial status in the Indian states of Tamil NaduPuducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It was once given nominal official status in the state ofHaryana, purportedly as a rebuff to Punjab, though there was no attested Tamil-speaking population in the state, and was later replaced by Punjabi.[9]Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka[10] and an official language ofSingapore[11] It is legalized as one of the languages of medium of education inMalaysia along with English, Malay and Mandarin.[7][12] It is also chiefly spoken in the states of KeralaKarnatakaAndhra Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands as one of the secondary languages. It is one of the 22scheduled languages of India and was the first Indian language to be declared a classical language by the Government of India in 2004. Tamil is also spoken by significant minorities in MalaysiaEnglandMauritiusCanada,[13] South Africa,[14] Fiji,[15] Germany,[16] PhilippinesUnited StatesNetherlands,[15]MauritiusIndonesia,[17] and Réunion as well as emigrant communities around the world.

Tamil is one of the longest surviving classical languages in the world.[18][19] It has been described as "the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past."[20] and having "one of the richest literatures in the world".[21] Tamil literature has existed for over 2000 years.[22] The earliest epigraphic records found on rock edicts and hero stonesdate from around the 5th century BC.[23] The earliest period of Tamil literature,Sangam literature, is dated from ca. 300 BC – AD 300.[24][25] Tamil language inscriptions written c. 1st century BC and 2nd century AD have been discovered in Egypt, Sri Lanka and Thailand.[26] The two earliest manuscripts from India,[27][28] to be acknowledged and registered by UNESCO Memory of the World register in 1997 and 2005 were in Tamil.[29] More than 55% of the epigraphical inscriptions (about 55,000) found by the Archaeological Survey of India are in the Tamil language.[30] According to a 2001 survey, there were 1,863 newspapers published in Tamil, of which 353 were dailies.[31] It has the oldest extant literature amongst other Dravidian languages.[18] The variety and quality of classical Tamil literature has led to its being described as "one of the great classical traditions and literatures of the world".[32] The oldest dated Tamil Brahmi inscription in the world has been found in Palani in Southern India scientifically dated to 540 BCE - the oldest known Brahmi inscriptions on the Indian sub-continent.[33]


Main article: Dravidian languages

Tamil belongs to the southern branch of the Dravidian languages, a family of around 26 languages native to the Indian subcontinent.[34] It is also classified as being part of a Tamil language family, which alongside Tamil proper, also includes the languages of about 35 ethno-linguistic groups[35] such as the Irula and Yerukula languages (see SIL Ethnologue).

The closest major relative of Tamil is Malayalam. Until about the 19th century, Malayalam was a dialect of Tamil.[36] Although many of the differences between Tamil and Malayalam demonstrate a pre-historic split of the western dialect,[37] the process of separation into a distinct language, Malayalam, was not completed until sometime in the 13th or 14th century.[38] Indian Government officially announced Tamil is the oldest language in India and Tamil Nadu Government has celebrated this event at coimbatore as World Classical Tamil Conference 2010


Silver coin of king Vashishtiputra Sātakarni (c. AD 160).
Obv: Bust of king. Prakrit legend in the Brahmi script: "Siri Satakanisa Rano ... Vasithiputasa": "King Vasishtiputra Sri Satakarni"
Rev: Ujjain/Sātavāhana symbol left. Crescented six-arch chaitya hill right. River below. Early Tamil legend in the Tamil Brahmi script: "Arah(s)anaku Vah(s)itti makanaku Tiru H(S)atakani ko" – which means "The ruler, Vasitti's son, Highness Satakani" – -ko being the royal name suffix.[39][40][41][42]

As a Dravidian language, Tamil descends from Proto-Dravidian. Linguistic reconstruction suggests that Proto-Dravidian was spoken around the third millennium BC, possibly in the region around the lower Godavari river basin in peninsular India. The material evidence suggests that the speakers of Proto-Dravidian were the culture associated with the Neolithic complexes of South India.[43] The next phase in the reconstructed proto-history of Tamil is Proto-South Dravidian. The linguistic evidence suggests that Proto-South Dravidian was spoken around the middle of the second millennium BC, and that proto-Tamil emerged around the 3rd century BC. The earliestepigraphic attestations of Tamil are generally taken to have been written shortly thereafter.[44] Among Indian languages, Tamil has the most ancient non-Sanskritised Indian literature.[45] Scholars categorise the attested history of the language into three periods, Old Tamil (300 BC – AD 700), Middle Tamil (700–1600) and Modern Tamil (1600–present).[46]


The exact period when the name "Tamil" came to be applied to the language is unclear, as is the precise etymology of the name. The earliest attested use of the name is found in Tholkappiyam, which is dated as early as 1st century BC.[47] Southworth suggests that the name comes from tam-miḻ > tam-iḻ 'self-speak', or 'one's own speech'.[48](see Southworth's derivation of Sanskrit term for "others" or Mleccha)Kamil Zvelebil suggests an etymology of tam-iḻ, with tam meaning "self" or "one's self", and "-iḻ" having the connotation of "unfolding sound". Alternatively, he suggests a derivation of tamiḻ < tam-iḻ < *tav-iḻ < *tak-iḻ, meaning in origin "the proper process (of speaking)".[49]

The Tamil Lexicon of University of Madras defines the word 'Tamil' as 'sweetness'.[50] S.V Subramanian suggests the meaning 'sweet sound' from 'tam'- sweet and 'il'- 'sound'.[51]

Old Tamil[edit]

The earliest records in Old Tamil are short inscriptions from around the 2nd century BC in caves and on pottery. These inscriptions are written in a variant of the Brahmi script called Tamil Brahmi.[52] The earliest long text in Old Tamil is the Tolkāppiyam, an early work on Tamil grammar and poetics, whose oldest layers could be as old as the 1st century BC.[46] A large number of literary works in Old Tamil have also survived. These include a corpus of 2,381 poems collectively known as Sangam literature. These poems are usually dated to between the 1st and 5th centuries AD,[53] which makes them the oldest extant body of secular literature in India.[54] Other literary works in Old Tamil include ThirukuralSilappatikaram and Maṇimēkalai, and a number of ethical and didactic texts, written between the 5th and 8th centuries.[55]

Old Tamil preserved many features of Proto-Dravidian, including the inventory of consonants,[56] the syllable structure,[57] and various grammatical features.[58] Amongst these was the absence of a distinct present tense – like Proto-Dravidian, Old Tamil only had two tenses, the past and the "non-past". Old Tamil verbs also had a distinct negative conjugation (e.g. kāṇēṉ (காணேன்) "I do not see",kāṇōm (காணோம்) "we do not see")[59] Nouns could take pronominal suffixes like verbs to express ideas: e.g. peṇṭirēm(பெண்டிரேம்) "we are women" formed from peṇṭir (பெண்டிர்) "women" and the first person plural marker -ēm (ஏம்).[60]

Despite the significant amount of grammatical and syntactical change between Old, Middle and Modern Tamil, Tamil demonstrates grammatical continuity across these stages: many characteristics of the later stages of the language have their roots in features of Old Tamil.[46]

Mahadevan has brought to light in this work the influence of Old Kannada on Tamil-Br-ahm-i inscriptions from a period (Second Century B.C. to Fourth Century A.D.) anterior to the earliest Kannada inscriptions and literature. This is a very interesting observation he has made on the basis of lexical and grammatical usages showing the influence of Old Kannada.[61]

Middle Tamil[edit]

The evolution of Old Tamil into Middle Tamil, which is generally taken to have been completed by the 8th century,[46] was characterised by a number of phonological and grammatical changes. In phonological terms, the most important shifts were the virtual disappearance of the aytam (ஃ), an old phoneme,[62] the coalescence of the alveolar and dental nasals,[63] and the transformation of the alveolarplosive into a rhotic.[64] In grammar, the most important change was the emergence of the present tense. The present tense evolved out of the verb kil (கில்), meaning "to be possible" or "to befall". In Old Tamil, this verb was used as an aspect marker to indicate that an action was micro-durative, non-sustained or non-lasting, usually in combination with a time marker such as  (ன்). In Middle Tamil, this usage evolved into a present tense marker – kiṉṟa (கின்ற) – which combined the old aspect and time markers.[65]

Middle Tamil also saw a significant increase in the Sanskritisation of Tamil. From the period of the Pallava dynasty onwards, a number of Sanskrit loan-words entered Tamil, particularly in relation to political, religious and philosophical concepts.[66] Sanskrit also influenced Tamil grammar, in the increased use of cases and in declined nouns becoming adjuncts of verbs,[67] and phonology.The forms of writing in Tamil have developed through years.[68] The Tamil script also changed in the period of Middle Tamil. Tamil Brahmi and Vaṭṭeḻuttu, into which it evolved, were the main scripts used in Old Tamil inscriptions. From the 8th century onwards, however, the Pallavas began using a new script, derived from the Pallava Grantha script which was used to write Sanskrit, which eventually replaced Vaṭṭeḻuttu.[69]

Middle Tamil is attested in a large number of inscriptions, and in a significant body of secular and religious literature.[70] These include the religious poems and songs of the Bhakthi poets, such as the Tēvāram verses on Shaivism and Nālāyira Tivya Pirapantam onVaishnavism,[71] and adaptations of religious legends such as the 12th century Tamil Ramayana composed by Kamban and the story of 63 shaivite devotees known as Periyapurāṇam.[72] Iraiyaṉār Akapporuḷ, an early treatise on love poetics, and Naṉṉūl, a 12th-century grammar that became the standard grammar of literary Tamil, are also from the Middle Tamil period.[73]

Modern Tamil[edit]

The Nannul remains the standard normative grammar for modern literary Tamil, which therefore continues to be based on Middle Tamil of the 13th century rather than on Modern Tamil.[74] Colloquial spoken Tamil, in contrast, shows a number of changes. The negative conjugation of verbs, for example, has fallen out of use in Modern Tamil[75] – negation is, instead, expressed either morphologically or syntactically.[76] Modern spoken Tamil also shows a number of sound changes, in particular, a tendency to lower high vowels in initial and medial positions,[77] and the disappearance of vowels between plosives and between a plosive and rhotic.[78]

Contact with European languages also affected both written and spoken Tamil. Changes in written Tamil include the use of European-style punctuation and the use of consonant clusters that were not permitted in Middle Tamil. The syntax of written Tamil has also changed, with the introduction of new aspectual auxiliaries and more complex sentence structures, and with the emergence of a more rigid word order that resembles the syntactic argument structure of English.[79] Simultaneously, a strong strain of linguistic purismemerged in the early 20th century, culminating in the Pure Tamil Movement which called for removal of all Sanskritic and other foreign elements from Tamil.[80] It received some support from Dravidian parties.[81] This led to the replacement of a significant number of Sanskrit loanwords by Tamil equivalents, though many others remain.[82]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Distribution of Tamil speakers in South India and Sri Lanka (1961).

Tamil is the first language of the majority of the people residing in Tamil Nadu in India andNorthern ProvinceEastern Province, Sri Lanka. The language is also spoken among small minority groups in other states of India which include KarnatakaAndhra PradeshKerala,Maharashtra and in certain regions of Sri Lanka such as Colombo and the hill country. Previously Tamil had a wider distribution in India than its current state. Tamil or dialects of it were used widely in the state of Kerala as the major language of administration, literature and common usage until the 12th century AD. Tamil was also used widely in inscriptions found in southern Andhra Pradesh districts of Chittoor and Nellore until the 12th century AD.[83] Tamil was also used for inscriptions from the 10th through 14th centuries in southern Karnataka districts such as KolarMysoreMandya and Bangalore.[84]

There are currently sizeable Tamil-speaking populations descended from colonial-era migrants in MalaysiaSingaporePhilippinesMauritiusSouth Africa, Indonesia,[85]Thailand,[86] Burma, and Vietnam. A large community of Tamil speakers exists in Karachi,Pakistan, which includes Tamil-speaking Hindus[87][88] as well as Christians and Muslims – including some Tamil-speaking Muslim refugees from Sri Lanka.[89] Many in Réunion,GuyanaFijiSuriname, and Trinidad and Tobago have Tamil origins,[90] but only a small number speak the language. In Reunion where Tamil language was forbidden to be learnt and used in public space by France is now being relearnt by students and adults.[91] It is also used by groups of migrants from Sri Lanka and India, Canada (especially Toronto), United States (especially New Jersey and New York City), Australia, many Middle Eastern countries, and some Western European countries.

Legal status[edit]

Tamil is the official language of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and one of the 22 languages under schedule 8 of the constitution of India. It is also one of the official languages of the union territory of Puducherry.[92][93] Tamil is also one of the official languages of SriLankaand Singapore. In Malaysia, 543 primary education government schools are available fully in Tamil medium.[94]

In addition, with the creation in October 2004 of a legal status for classical languages by the Government of India and following a political campaign supported by several Tamil associations,[95][96] Tamil became the first legally recognised Classical language of India. The recognition was announced by the then President of IndiaAbdul Kalam, in a joint sitting of both houses of the Indian Parliament on 6 June 2004.[97][98][99]


Region-specific variations[edit]

The socio-linguistic situation of Tamil is characterised by diglossia: there are two separate registers varying by social status, a high register and a low one.[100][101] Tamil dialects are primarily differentiated from each other by the fact that they have undergone different phonological changes and sound shifts in evolving from Old Tamil. For example, the word for "here"—iṅku in Centamil (the classic variety)—has evolved into iṅkū in the Kongu dialect of Coimbatoreinga in the dialect of Thanjavur, and iṅkai in some dialects of Sri Lanka. Old Tamil's iṅkaṇ (where kaṇ means place) is the source of iṅkane in the dialect of Tirunelveli, Old Tamil iṅkaṭṭu is the source ofiṅkuṭṭu in the dialect of Madurai, and iṅkaṭe in various northern dialects. Even now, in the Coimbatore area, it is common to hear "akkaṭṭa" meaning "that place". Although Tamil dialects do not differ significantly in their vocabulary, there are a few exceptions. The dialects spoken in Sri Lanka retain many words and grammatical forms that are not in everyday use in India,[102] and use many other words slightly differently.[103] The various Tamil dialects include Bangalore TamilCentral Tamil dialectKongu TamilMadras Bashai,Madurai TamilNellai Tamil in India and Batticaloa Tamil dialectJaffna Tamil dialectNegombo Tamil dialect in Sri Lanka. Sankethi dialect in Karnataka has been heavily influenced by Kannada.

Loanword variations[edit]

The dialect of the district of Palakkad in Kerala has a large number of Malayalam loanwords, has been influenced by Malayalam's syntax and also has a distinctive Malayalam accent. Similarly, Tamil spoken in Kanyakumari District has more unique words and phonetic style than Tamil spoken at other parts of Tamil Nadu. The words and phonetics are so different that a person fromKanyakumari district is easily identifiable by their spoken Tamil. Hebbar and Mandyam dialects, spoken by groups of TamilVaishnavites who migrated to Karnataka in the 11th century, retain many features of the Vaishnava paribasai, a special form of Tamil developed in the 9th and 10th centuries that reflect Vaishnavite religious and spiritual values.[104] Several castes have their ownsociolects which most members of that caste traditionally used regardless of where they come from. It is often possible to identify a person's caste by their speech.[105] Tamil in Sri Lanka incorporates loan words from Portuguese, Dutch, and English.

Spoken and literary variants[edit]

In addition to its various dialects, Tamil exhibits different forms: a classical literary style modelled on the ancient language (sankattamiḻ), a modern literary and formal style (centamiḻ), and a modern colloquial form (koṭuntamiḻ). These styles shade into each other, forming a stylistic continuum. For example, it is possible to write centamiḻ with a vocabulary drawn from caṅkattamiḻ, or to use forms associated with one of the other variants while speaking koṭuntamiḻ.[106]

In modern times, centamiḻ is generally used in formal writing and speech. For instance, it is the language of textbooks, of much ofTamil literature and of public speaking and debate. In recent times, however, koṭuntamiḻ has been making inroads into areas that have traditionally been considered the province of centamiḻ. Most contemporary cinema, theatre and popular entertainment on television and radio, for example, is in koṭuntamiḻ, and many politicians use it to bring themselves closer to their audience. The increasing use ofkoṭuntamiḻ in modern times has led to the emergence of unofficial 'standard' spoken dialects. In India, the 'standard' koṭuntamiḻ, rather than on any one dialect,[107] but has been significantly influenced by the dialects of Thanjavur and Madurai. In Sri Lanka, the standard is based on the dialect of Jaffna.

Writing system[edit]

Main articles: Tamil script and Tamil braille
See also: Vatteluttu and Grantha script
Jambai Tamil Brahmi inscription dated to the early Sangam age

After Tamil Brahmi fell out of use, Tamil was written using a script called the vaṭṭeḻuttuamongst others such as Grantha and Pallava script. The current Tamil script consists of 12vowels, 18 consonants and one special character, the āytam. The vowels and consonants combine to form 216 compound characters, giving a total of 247 characters (12 + 18 + 1 + (12 x 18)). All consonants have an inherent vowel a, as with other Indic scripts. This inherency is removed by adding a title called a puḷḷi, to the consonantal sign. For example, is ṉa (with the inherent a) and ன் is  (without a vowel). Many Indic scripts have a similar sign, generically called virama, but the Tamil script is somewhat different in that it nearly always uses a visible puḷḷi to indicate a dead consonant (a consonant without a vowel). In other Indic scripts, it is generally preferred to use a ligature or a half form to write a syllable or a cluster containing a dead consonant, although writing it with a visible virama is also possible. The Tamil script does not differentiate voiced and unvoiced plosives. Instead, plosives are articulated with voice depending on their position in a word, in accordance with the rules of Tamil phonology.

In addition to the standard characters, six characters taken from the Grantha script, which was used in the Tamil region to write Sanskrit, are sometimes used to represent sounds not native to Tamil, that is, words adopted from Sanskrit, Prakrit and other languages. The traditional system prescribed by classical grammars for writing loan-words, which involves respelling them in accordance with Tamil phonology, remains, but is not always consistently applied.[108]


Main article: Tamil phonology

Tamil phonology is characterised by the presence of retroflex consonants and multiple rhotics. Tamil does not distinguish phonologically between voiced and unvoiced consonants; phonetically, voice is assigned depending on a consonant's position in a word.[109] Tamil phonology permits few consonant clusters, which can never be word initial. Native grammarians classify Tamil phonemes into vowels, consonants, and a "secondary character", the āytam.


Tamil vowels are called uyireḻuttu (uyir – life, eḻuttu – letter). The vowels are classified into short (kuṟil) and long (neṭil) (with five of each type) and two diphthongs, /ai/ and /au/, and three "shortened" (kuṟṟil) vowels.

The long vowels are about twice as long as the short vowels. The diphthongs are usually pronounced about 1.5 times as long as the short vowels, though most grammatical texts place them with the long vowels.

Short Long
Front Central Back Front Central Back
Close i u
Mide o
Open a (ai) (au)


Tamil consonants are known as meyyeḻuttu (mey—body, eḻuttu—letters). The consonants are classified into three categories with six in each category: valliṉam—hard, melliṉam—soft or Nasal, and iṭayiṉam—medium.

Unlike most Indian languages, Tamil does not distinguish aspirated and unaspirated consonants. In addition, the voicing of plosives is governed by strict rules in centamiḻ. Plosives are unvoiced if they occur word-initially or doubled. Elsewhere they are voiced, with a few becoming fricatives intervocalicallyNasals and approximants are always voiced.[110]

Tamil is characterised by its use of more than one type of coronal consonants: like many of the other languages of India, it contains a series of retroflex consonants. Notably, the Tamil retroflex series includes the retroflex approximant /ɻ/ (ழ) (example Tamil; often transcribed 'zh'), which is absent in the Indo-Aryan languages. Among the other Dravidian languages, the retroflex approximant also occurs in Malayalam (for example in 'Kozhikode'), disappeared from spoken Kannada around 1000 AD (although the character is still written, and exists in Unicode), and was never present in Telugu. In many dialects of colloquial Tamil, this consonant is seen as disappearing and shifting to the alveolar lateral approximant /l/[111] Dental and alveolar consonants also historically contrasted with each other, a typically Dravidian trait not found in the neighbouring Indo-Aryan languages. While this distinction can still be seen in the written language, it has been largely lost in colloquial spoken Tamil, and even in literary usage the letters  (dental) and  (alveolar) may be seen as allophonic.[112]

A chart of the Tamil consonant phonemes in the International Phonetic Alphabet follows:[113]

Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar
Plosives p (b) t̪ (d̪) t (d) ʈ (ɖ) tʃ (dʒ) k (ɡ)
Nasals m n ɳ ɲ ŋ
Tap ɾ̪
Trill r
Central approximants ʋ ɻ j
Lateral approximants ɭ

Sounds in brackets are voiced allophones. They are written the same as the voiceless allophones, as voicing is determined by context. The sounds /f/ and /ʂ/ are peripheral to the phonology of Tamil, being found only in loanwords and frequently replaced by native sounds. There are well-defined rules for elision in Tamil categorised into classes based on the phoneme which undergoes elision.


Classical Tamil also had a phoneme called the Āytam, written as 'ஃ'. Tamil grammarians of the time classified it as a dependent phoneme (or restricted phoneme[114]) (cārpeḻuttu), but it is very rare in modern Tamil. The rules of pronunciation given in theTolkāppiyam, a text on the grammar of Classical Tamil, suggest that the āytam could have glottalised the sounds it was combined with. It has also been suggested that the āytam was used to represent the voiced implosive (or closing part or the first half) of geminated voiced plosives inside a word.[115] The Āytam, in modern Tamil, is also used to convert pa to fa (not the retroflex zha [ɻ]) when writing English words using the Tamil script.

Numerals and symbols[edit]

Main article: Tamil numerals

Apart from the usual numerals, Tamil also has numerals for 10, 100 and 1000. Symbols for day, month, year, debit, credit, as above, rupee, and numeral are present as well.Tamil also uses several historical fractional signs.

zeroonetwo threefourfive sixseveneight ninetenhundred thousand
daymonth yeardebitcredit as aboverupeenumeral


Main article: Tamil grammar

Tamil employs agglutinative grammar, where suffixes are used to mark noun classnumber, and case, verb tense and other grammatical categories. Tamil's standard metalinguistic terminology and scholarly vocabulary is itself Tamil, as opposed to theSanskrit that is standard for most other Dravidian languages.[116][117]

Much of Tamil grammar is extensively described in the oldest known grammar book for Tamil, the Tolkāppiyam. Modern Tamil writing is largely based on the 13th century grammar Naṉṉūl which restated and clarified the rules of the Tolkāppiyam, with some modifications. Traditional Tamil grammar consists of five parts, namely eḻuttucolporuḷyāppuaṇi. Of these, the last two are mostly applied in poetry.[118]

Tamil words consist of a lexical root to which one or more affixes are attached. Most Tamil affixes are suffixes. Tamil suffixes can bederivational suffixes, which either change the part of speech of the word or its meaning, or inflectional suffixes, which mark categories such as personnumbermoodtense, etc. There is no absolute limit on the length and extent of agglutination, which can lead to long words with a large number of suffixes.


Tamil nouns (and pronouns) are classified into two super-classes (tiṇai)—the "rational" (uyartiṇai), and the "irrational" (akṟiṇai)—which include a total of five classes (pāl, which literally means 'gender'). Humans and deities are classified as "rational", and all other nouns (animals, objects, abstract nouns) are classified as irrational. The "rational" nouns and pronouns belong to one of three classes (pāl)—masculine singular, feminine singular, and rational plural. The "irrational" nouns and pronouns belong to one of two classes: irrational singular and irrational plural. The pāl is often indicated through suffixes. The plural form for rational nouns may be used as an honorific, gender-neutral, singular form.[119]

Suffixes are used to perform the functions of cases or postpositions. Traditional grammarians tried to group the various suffixes into eight cases corresponding to the cases used in Sanskrit. These were the nominativeaccusativedativesociativegenitive,instrumentallocative, and ablative. Modern grammarians argue that this classification is artificial,[120] and that Tamil usage is best understood if each suffix or combination of suffixes is seen as marking a separate case.[107] Tamil nouns can take one of four prefixes,iau, and e which are functionally equivalent to the demonstratives in English.

Tamil verbs are also inflected through the use of suffixes. A typical Tamil verb form will have a number of suffixes, which show person, number, mood, tense, and voice.

  • Person and number are indicated by suffixing the oblique case of the relevant pronoun. The suffixes to indicate tenses and voice are formed from grammatical particles, which are added to the stem.
  • Tamil has two voices. The first indicates that the subject of the sentence undergoes or is the object of the action named by the verb stem, and the second indicates that the subject of the sentence directs the action referred to by the verb stem.
  • Tamil has three simple tenses—past, present, and future—indicated by the suffixes, as well as a series of perfects indicated by compound suffixes. Mood is implicit in Tamil, and is normally reflected by the same morphemes which mark tense categories. Tamil verbs also mark evidentiality, through the addition of the hearsay clitic ām.[121]

Traditional grammars of Tamil do not distinguish between adjectives and adverbs, including both of them under the category uriccol, although modern grammarians tend to distinguish between them on morphological and syntactical grounds.[122] Tamil has a large number of ideophones that act as adverbs indicating the way the object in a given state "says" or "sounds".[123]

Tamil does not have articles. Definiteness and indefiniteness are either indicated by special grammatical devices, such as using the number "one" as an indefinite article, or by the context.[124] In the first person plural, Tamil makes a distinction between inclusivepronouns நாம் nām (we), நமது namatu (our) that include the addressee and exclusive pronouns நாங்கள் nāṅkaḷ (we), எமது ematu(our) that do not.[124]


Tamil is a consistently head-final language. The verb comes at the end of the clause, with a typical word order of subject–object–verb(SOV).[125][126] However, word order in Tamil is also flexible, so that surface permutations of the SOV order are possible with differentpragmatic effects. Tamil has postpositions rather than prepositions. Demonstratives and modifiers precede the noun within the noun phrase. Subordinate clauses precede the verb of the matrix clause.

Tamil is a null-subject language. Not all Tamil sentences have subjects, verbs, and objects. It is possible to construct grammatically valid and meaningful sentences which lack one or more of the three. For example, a sentence may only have a verb—such asmuṭintuviṭṭatu ("completed")—or only a subject and object, without a verb such as atu eṉ vīṭu ("That [is] my house"). Tamil does not have a copula (a linking verb equivalent to the word is). The word is included in the translations only to convey the meaning more easily.


The vocabulary of Tamil is mainly Dravidian. A strong sense of linguistic purism is found in Modern Tamil,[127] which opposes the use of foreign loanwords.[128] Nonetheless, a number of words used in classical and modern Tamil are loanwords from the languages of neighbouring groups, or with whom the Tamils had trading links, including Munda (for example, tavaḷai "frog" from Munda tabeg), Malay(e.g. cavvarici "sago" from Malay sāgu), Chinese (for example, campān "skiff" from Chinese san-pan) and Greek (for example, ora from Greek ὥρα). In more modern times, Tamil has imported words from Urdu and Marathi, reflecting groups that have influenced the Tamil area at various points of time, and from neighbouring languages such as TeluguKannada, and Sinhala. During the modern period, words have also been adapted from European languages, such as Portuguese, French, and English.[129]

The strongest impact of purism in Tamil has been on words taken from Sanskrit. During its history, Tamil, along with other Dravidian languages like TeluguKannadaMalayalam etc., was influenced by Sanskrit in terms of vocabulary, grammar and literary styles,[130][131][132][133] reflecting the increased trend of Sanskritisation in the Tamil country.[134] Tamil vocabulary never became quite as heavily Sanskritised as that of the other Dravidian languages, and unlike in those languages, it was and remains possible to express complex ideas (including in science, art, religion and law) without the use of Sanskrit loan words.[135][136][137] In addition, Sanskritisation was actively resisted by a number of authors of the late medieval period,[138] culminating in the 20th century in a movement called taṉit tamiḻ iyakkam (meaning "pure Tamil movement"), led by Parithimaar Kalaignar and Maraimalai Adigal, which sought to remove the accumulated influence of Sanskrit on Tamil.[139] As a result of this, Tamil in formal documents, literature and public speeches has seen a marked decline in the use Sanskrit loan words in the past few decades,[140] under some estimates having fallen from 40–50% to about 20%.[82] As a result, the Prakrit and Sanskrit loan words used in modern Tamil are, unlike in some other Dravidian languages, restricted mainly to some spiritual terminology and abstract nouns.[141]

In the 20th century, institutions and learned bodies have, with government support, generated technical dictionaries for Tamil containingneologisms and words derived from Tamil roots to replace loan words from English and other languages.[80]


Ambox question.svg
This section may contain previously unpublished synthesis of published material that conveys ideas not attributable to the original sources. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. (August 2013)
Main article: Words of Tamil origin

Words of Tamil origin occur in other languages. A notable example of a word in worldwide use with Dravidian (not specifically Tamil) etymology is orange, via Sanskrit nāraṅga from a Dravidian predecessor of Tamil nartankāy "fragrant fruit". Popular examples in Englishare cheroot (churuṭṭu meaning "rolled up"),[142] mango (from mangai),[142] mulligatawny (from miḷaku taṉṉir meaning pepper water), pariah (from paraiyan), curry (from kari),[143] catamaran (from kaṭṭu maram, கட்டு மரம், meaning "bundled logs"),[142] pandal (shed, shelter, booth),[142] tyer (curd),[142] anicut (from anaikattu, அணைக்கட்டு, meaning dam),[142] Cash (from Tamil 'Kasu'), corundum(from Tamil 'kurundam- "ruby sapphire"'),[142] Teak (from தேக்கு மரம்),[142] anaconda(from it represents Tamil anaikkonda "having killed an elephant"),[142] Cot-Small bed(from Tamil-Kattil-கட்டில்),[142] Lemon(from Tamil-Elumichankaai(Elaman-jal-kaai)first & second word denotes it's color pale yellow-இளம் மஞ்சள் from where we get lemon),[142] Coolie-Hired Labour(from Tamil-cooliyal-கூலியாள்),[142] Candy-"crystallised sugar"(from Tamil-Karcantu-கற்-கண்டு),[142] Rice(from Tamil-அரிசி-arisi), Ginger from Medieval Latin- "gingiber" which was from Tamil root word இஞ்சிவேர்,[142] and coir (rope).[144] Tamil words are also found in Sinhala, Malayalam, KannadaTeluguTagalog, Thai, and Malay.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


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  12. Jump up^ UN Chronicle - National Identity and Minority Languages. Retrieved on 2013-07-28.
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  121. Jump up^ Steever, Sanford B. (2002), "Direct and indirect discourse in Tamil", in Güldemann, Tom; von Roncador, Manfred, Reported Discourse: A Meeting Ground for Different Linguistic Domains, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 91–108, ISBN 90-272-2958-9 at p. 105.
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  129. Jump up^ Meenakshisundaran 1965, pp. 169–193
  130. Jump up^ "Literature in all Dravidian languages owes a great deal to Sanskrit, the magic wand whose touch raised each of the languages from a level of patois to that of a literary idiom" (Sastri 1955, p309); Trautmann, Thomas R. 2006. Languages and nations: the Dravidian proof in colonial Madras. Berkeley: University of California Press. "The author endeavours to demonstrate that the entire Sangam poetic corpus follows the "Kavya" form of Sanskrit poetry"-Tieken, Herman Joseph Hugo. 2001. Kāvya in South India: old Tamil Caṅkam poetry. Groningen: Egbert Forsten; Vaiyapuri Pillai in Takahashi, Takanobu. 1995, p18.
  131. Jump up^ See Vaidyanathan's analysis of an early medieval text in S. Vaidyanathan, "Indo-Aryan loan words in the Civakacintamani"Journal of the American Oriental Society 87:4. (October – December 1967), pp. 430–434.
  132. Jump up^ Caldwell, Robert. 1974. A comparative grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian family of languages. New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corp, p.87–88.
  133. Jump up^ Takahashi, Takanobu. 1995. Tamil love poetry and poetics. Brill's Indological Library, v. 9. Leiden: E.J. Brill, p16,18
  134. Jump up^ Pollock, Sheldon. "The Sanskrit Cosmopolis 300–1300: Transculturation, vernacularisation and the question of ideology" in Jan E.M. Houben (ed.), The ideology and status of Sanskrit: Contributions to the history of the Sanskrit language(E.J. Brill, Leiden: 1996) at pp. 209–217.
  135. Jump up^ Trautmann, Thomas R. (1999), "Hullabaloo About Telugu",South Asian Research 19 (1): 53–70,doi:10.1177/026272809901900104 at p. 64
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  137. Jump up^ Ellis, F. W. (1820), "Note to the introduction" in Campbell, A.D.,A grammar of the Teloogoo language. Madras: College Press, pp. 29–30.
  138. Jump up^ See Ramaswamy's analysis of one such text, the Tamiḻ viṭututu, in Ramaswamy, Sumathi. "Language of the People in the World of Gods: Ideologies of Tamil before the Nation" The Journal of Asian Studies, 57:1. (February 1998), pp. 66–92.
  139. Jump up^ Varadarajan, M. A History of Tamil Literature, transl. from Tamil by E. Sa. Viswanathan, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1988. p.12: "Since then the movement has been popularly known as the tanittamil iyakkam or the Pure Tamil movement among the Tamil scholars."
  140. Jump up^ Ramaswamy, Sumathy (1997), "Laboring for language",Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 0-585-10600-2, "Nevertheless, even impressionistically speaking, the marked decline in the use of foreign words, especially of Sanskritic origin, in Tamil literary, scholarly, and even bureaucratic circles over the past half century is quite striking."
  141. Jump up^ Meenakshisundaram, T. P. A History of Tamil Language, Sarvodaya Ilakkiya Pannai, 1982. (translated) p. 241-2
  142. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Oxford English Dictionary Online",Oxford English Dictionary, retrieved 14 April 2007
  143. Jump up^ "curry, n.2", The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 14 Aug 2009
  144. Jump up^ "Entry in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary"Merriam-Webster Dictionary, retrieved 14 April 2007


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  • Kuiper, F. B. J. (1958), "Two problems of old Tamil phonology",Indo-Iranian Journal 2 (3): 191–224, doi:10.1007/BF00162818
  • Kesavapany, K.; Mani, A; Ramasamy, Palanisamy (2008), Rising India and Indian Communities in East Asia, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, ISBN 981-230-799-0
  • Lehmann, Thomas (1989), A Grammar of Modern Tamil, Pondicherry: Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics and Culture
  • Lehmann, Thomas (1998), "Old Tamil", in Steever, Sanford, The Dravidian Languages, London: Routledge, pp. 75–99, ISBN 0-415-10023-2
  • Mahadevan, Iravatham (2003), Early Tamil Epigraphy from the Earliest Times to the Sixth Century A.D, Harvard Oriental Series vol. 62, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-01227-5
  • Maloney, Clarence (1970), "The Beginnings of Civilization in South India", The Journal of Asian Studies (Association for Asian Studies)29 (3): 603–616, doi:10.2307/2943246JSTOR 2943246
  • Meenakshisundaran, T.P. (1965), A History of Tamil Language, Poona: Deccan College
  • Monius, Anne E. (2002), "Book review", The Journal of Asian Studies 61 (4): 1404–1406, doi:10.2307/3096501
  • Menon, A. Govindankutty (1990), "Some Observations on the Sub-Group Tamil–Malayalam: Differential Realizations of the Cluster *nt", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 53 (1): 87–99,doi:10.1017/S0041977X00021285
  • Murthy, Srinivasa; Rao, Surendra; Veluthat, Kesavan; Bari, S.A. (1990), Essays on Indian History and culture: Felicitation volume in Honour of Professor B. Sheik Ali, New Delhi: Mittal, ISBN 81-7099-211-7
  • Ramstedt, Martin (2004), Hinduism in modern Indonesia, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-7007-1533-9
  • Pope, GU (1868). A Tamil hand-book, or, Full introduction to the common dialect of that language. (7th ed. 1911). Madras, Higginbotham & Co.
  • Rajam, VS (1985), "The duration of an action – real or aspectual? The evolution of the present tense in Tamil", Journal of the American Oriental Society (American Oriental Society) 105 (2): 277–291, doi:10.2307/601707JSTOR 601707
  • Rajam, VS (1992), A Reference Grammar of Classical Tamil Poetry, Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, ISBN 0-87169-199-X
  • Ramaswamy, Sumathy (1997), "Laboring for language",Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 0-585-10600-2
  • Shapiro, Michael C.; Schiffman, Harold F. (1983), Language and society in South Asia, Dordrecht: Foris, ISBN 90-70176-55-6
  • Schiffman, Harold F. (1999), A Reference Grammar of Spoken Tamil, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-64074-1
  • Southworth, Franklin C. (1998), "On the Origin of the word tamiz",International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics 27 (1): 129–132
  • Southworth, Franklin C. (2005), Linguistic archaeology of South Asia, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-33323-7
  • Steever, Sanford (1998), "Introduction", in Steever, Sanford, The Dravidian Languages, London: Routledge, pp. 1–39, ISBN 0-415-10023-2
  • Steever, Sanford (2005), The Tamil auxiliary verb system, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-34672-X
  • Tharu, Susie; Lalita, K., eds. (1991), Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the present – Vol. 1: 600 B.C. to the early twentieth century, Feminist Press, ISBN 1-55861-027-8
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  • Zvelebil, Kamil (1992), Companion studies to the history of Tamil literature, Leiden: Brill, ISBN 90-04-09365-6

External links[edit]

Amartya Sen At The Jaipur Literature Festival

Having referenced Amartya Sen over thirty times in my final University Exams, I was trembling with excitement to hear and see this rather unorthodox hero of mine here at the Jaipur Literature Festival. He is not quite the usual Superman or David Beckham hero of today's youths! Amartya Sen as I am sure you all know is a world renowned Mathmetician and Social Economist, I think the fact that I studied theology however and he was found throughout my studies reveals, that he is much more than that.

Indian economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen during Jaipur Literature Festival at Diggi Palace in Jaipur on Jan.17, 2014. (Photo: Ravi Shankar Vyas/IANS)

Mr Makinson remarked in his introduction of Dr Sen that he has a "storytellers gift". This gift was demonstrated throughout his conversation this afternoon with us – the 'brain food' hungry crowd on the Front Lawns here at the Festival. He spoke with real presence and tremendous humility. As Dr Senexplained to us that having a global audience did not damage the nuances of his writing, I can vouch that nor did the fact the Front Lawns were past bursting point at all damage his narrative.

The themes that were covered in the conversation included economics, mathematics, social choices, freedom and theology. I think however that it is the actual interconnectedness of these topics that best demonstrates the theme running through Dr Sen's address. Although never a religious man (aside from a stomach ache as a child praying for a miracle!), Dr Sen explained that there is a natural movement between politics, religions, social systems, moral ideals and mathematical theory.

We learned that all worlds should be open to others. Referring to heaven he asked the question "Is the world available to me if I adhere to no belief?" The answer is yes, through thought and reasoning. Amartya Sen explained that if he had read The Bible or Qu'ran at school rather than the Ramayana he would not have lost the ambiguity that comes with aspects of Hinduism. That being of a different belief does not prevent involvement, pointing here at Gallileo – the Christian astronomer.

Dr Sen is more than a mathematician and economist, his writing filters down through all subjects. He today pointed to Adam Smith as a huge influence on him, who also closely linked morality and economics.However he also said that "morality should make no compromise with what you can empirically discover." It is this grounding in mathematics and reasoning that makes Sen's approach to social and political change so important. The mathematics needed in social issues is not necessarily the very numerical sort of maths that we all associate with long days in the classroom, but of "ordering and ranking".

To summarise, Amartya Sen certainly lived up to all my expectations, and revealed to me that although a Mathematician (he professed today that "I love maths, I am biased!") and Economist by nature, his work is relevant across all aspects of study, politics and living. Perhaps surprisingly he also revealed that his favourite subject at school was Sanskrit so you can never be too sure where he will next turn his pen…

By Ivan de Klee

The Hindutva Movement and Reinventing of History –

by Nobel Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen (Excerpts)

In his engaging essays from The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2005), Nobel Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen lucidly explains the strategy behind the attempts of Hindutva supporters to re-invent India's history, an effort that has now unfortunately reached the shores of California via organizations such the Vedic Foundation and the Hindu Education Foundation. Those who seek a broader understanding of the sectarian motivations behind the edits submitted by these organizations may wish to read Sen's excellent book, excerpts from which are presented here. Please note that the underlined sentences reflect our emphases and not those in the original text.

Index of Excerpts

Capacious Idea of  Hinduism

The Emergence of Hindutva

Numbers and Classification

History and Indian Culture

Inventing the Past

NCERT Social Science Textbooks in India

Indus Valley Civilization and the Aryans

The Miniaturization of India

Re: Capacious Idea of Hinduism

The elaborate presentation of alternative points of views draws attention to the plurality of perspectives and arguments, and this tradition of accom­modating heterodoxy receives…extensive support within well-established Hindu documents (for example in the fourteenth-century study Sarvadarsanasamgraha (`Collection of All Philosophies'), where sixteen contrary and competing viewpoints are sequentially presented in as many chapters). (p47)

In contrast with this large view, many Hindu political activists today seem bent on doing away with the broad and tolerant parts of the Hindu tradition in favour of a uniquely ascertained - and often fairly crude - view which, they demand, must be accepted by all. The piously belligerent army of Hindu politics would rather take us away from these engagingly thoughtful discussions and would have us embrace instead their much-repeated public proclamations... (p47-48)

It is sufficient to note here that there is a well-established capacious view of a broad and generous Hinduism, which contrasts sharply with the narrow and bellicose versions that are currently on political offer, led particularly by parts of the Hindutva movement. (p49)

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Re: The Emergence of Hindutva

In the early years after independence, the broad and inclusive concept of an Indian identity which had emerged during the long struggle for freedom commanded sweeping allegiance. The determi­nation to preserve that capacious identity was strengthened by the deep sense of tragedy associated with the partitioning of the subcon­tinent, and also by considerable national pride in the fact that despite the political pressure for `an exchange of people, the bulk of the large Muslim population in independent India chose to stay in India rather than move to Pakistan. (p51)

It is this spacious and absorptive idea of Indianness that has been severely challenged over recent decades…it can be said that the movement sees Hindutva (liter­ally, `the quality of Hinduism') as a quintessential guide to `Indianness'. (p51)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political party that represents the Hindutva movement in the Indian parliament, was in office in New Delhi between 1998 and 2004, through leading a coalition govern­ment, until its electoral defeat in May 2004…Although Hinduism is an ancient religion, Hindutva is quite a recent political movement. A political party called the `Hindu Mahasabha' did exist before India's independence, and its successor, the `Jan Sangh', commanded the loyalty of a small proportion of Hindus. But neither party was a political force to reckon with in the way the BJP and its associates have now become. (p49)

Even though the BJP is no longer dominant, in the way it was over the last few years, it remains a politically powerful force, and is work­ing hard to return to office before long. (p50)

The BJP gets political support from a modest minority of Indians, and, no less to the point, a limited minority of the Hindus….the proportion of total votes in Indian parliamentary elections that the BJP has maximally managed to get has been only about 26 per cent…in a country where more than 80 per cent of the total population happen to belong to the Hindu community. It is certainly not the party of choice of most Hindus - far from it. (p51-52)

The Hindutva movement has had a strong effect on recent political developments in India, and has added very substantially to the poli­tics of sectarianism. It is therefore important to investigate the nature of the intellectual claims it makes and the arguments it presents.Since the Hindutva movement has been accompanied by violent physical actions, including the killing and terrorizing of minorities (as happened in Bombay in 1992-3 and in Gujarat in 2002), it is difficult to have patience with its intellectual beliefs and public proclamations. (p53)

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Re: Numbers and Classification

The first difficulty is that a secular democracy which gives equal room to every citizen irrespective of religious background cannot be fairly defined in terms of the majority religion of the country. There is a difference between a constitutionally secular nation with a majority Hindu population and a theocratic Hindu state that might see Hinduism as its official religion (Nepal comes closer to the latter description than does India). Furthermore, no matter what the official standing of any community as a group may be, the status of individ­ual citizens cannot be compromised by the smallness (if that is the case) of the group to which he or she belongs. (p54)

While the statistics of Hindu majority are indeed correct, the use of the statistical argument for seeing India as a pre-eminently Hindu country is based on a conceptual confusion: our religion is not our only identity, nor necessarily the identity to which we attach the greatest importance. (p56)

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Re: History and Indian Culture

Certainly, the ancientness of the Hindu tradition cannot be disputed. However, other religions, too, have had a long history in India, which has been, for a very long time indeed, a multi-religious country, making room for many different faiths and beliefs. Aside from the obvious and prominent presence of Muslims in India for well over a millennium (Muslim Arab traders settled in India from the eighth century), India was not a `Hindu country' even before the arrival of Islam. Buddhism was the dominant religion in India for nearly a millennium. Indeed, Chinese scholars regularly described India as `the Buddhist kingdom'. (p56)

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Re: Inventing the Past

History is an active field of intellectual engagement for the Hindutva movement, and parts of that movement have been very involved in the rewriting of history…What is its specific relevance in contemporary Indian politics, and why is Hindutva poli­tics so keen on redescribing the past? (p62)

The rewriting of India's history serves the dual purpose of playing a role in providing a common basis for the diverse membership of the Sangh Parivar, and of helping to get fresh recruits to Hindu political activism, especially from the diaspora. It has thus become a major priority in the politics of Hindutva in contemporary India. Following the electoral victory of coalitions led by the BJP in 1998 and 1999, various arms of the government of India were mobilized in the task of arranging `appropriate' rewritings of Indian history. Even though this adventure of inventing a past is no longer `official' (because of the defeat of the BJP-led coalition in the general elections in the spring of 2004), that highly charged episode is worth recollecting both because of what it tells us about the abuse of temporal power and also because of the light it throws on the intellectual underpinning of the Hindutva movement. (p63)

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Re: NCERT Social Science Text Books in India

The rapidly reorganized National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) became busy, from shortly after the BJP's assumption of office, not only in producing fresh textbooks for Indian school children, but also in deleting sections from books produced earlier by NCERT itself (under pre-BJP management), written by reputed Indian historians. The `reorganization' of NCERT was accompanied by an `overhaul' of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), with new officers being appointed and a new agenda chosen for both, mainly in line with the priorities of the Hindutva movement. (p63)

The speed of the attempted textbook revision had to be so fast that the newly reconstituted NCERT evidently had some difficulty in find­ing historians to do this task who would be both reasonably distin­guished and adequately compliant. In the early school textbooks that emanated from the NCERT, there was not only the predictable sectarian bias in the direction of the politics of `Hindutva', but also numerous factual mistakes of a fairly straightforward kind. School children were to be taught, in one of the textbooks, that Madagascar was `an island in the Arabian sea and that Lancashire had been `a fast-growing industrial town'. (p64)

Indeed, in addition to the plethora of innocuous confusions and silly mistakes, there were also serious omissions and lapses in the government-sponsored Indian history. For example, one of the text­books that was meant to teach Indian school children about the events surrounding India's independence failed to mention the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, the Hindu political fanatic who had links with the activist RSS (the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) - an omission of very considerable moment. More generally, the accounts given in these textbooks of the fight for India's inde­pendence were powerfully prejudiced in the direction of the politics of Hindutva. (p64)

Despite the understandable panic, it was never easy to see how the Hindutva movement could succeed in making Indians accept a `re­invented past', no matter how much control they might have had over educational policies in New Delhi. The redrawing of India's history using the Hindutva lens suffers from some deep empirical problems as well as conceptual tensions. (p65)

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Re: Indus Valley Civilization and the Aryans

Given the priorities of Hindutva, the rewriting of India's history tends to favour internal and external isolation, in the form of separ­ating out the celebration of Hindu achievements from the non-Hindu parts of its past and also from intellectual and cultural developments outside India. (p65)

The problem starts with the account of the very beginning of India's history. The `Indus valley civilization', dating from the third millen­nium BCE, flourished well before the timing of the earliest Hindu liter­ature, the Vedas, which are typically dated in the middle of the second millennium BCE. The Indus civilization, or the Harappa civilization as it is sometimes called (in honour of its most famous site), covered much of the north-west of the undivided subcontinent (including what are today Punjab, Haryana, Sindh, Baluchistan, western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat) - a much larger area than Mesopo­tamia and Egypt, which flourished at about the same time. It had many special achievements, including remarkable town planning, organized storage (of grain in particular), and extraordinary drainage systems (unequalled, if I am any judge, in the subcontinent in the following four thousand years). (p65)

There is obvious material here for national or civilizational pride of Indians. But this poses an immediate problem for the Hindutva view of India's history, since an ancient civilization-that is clearly pre-­Sanskritic and pre-Hindu deeply weakens the possibility of seeing Indian history in pre-eminently and constitutively Hindu terms. (p66)

Furthermore, there is a second challenge associated with India's ancient past, which relates to the arrival of the Indo-Europeans (some­times called Aryans) from the West, most likely in the second millen­nium BCE, riding horses (unknown in the Indus valley civilization), and speaking a variant of early Sanskrit (the Vedic Sanskrit, as it is now called). The Hindutva view of history, which traces the origin of Indian civilization to the Vedas has, therefore, the double `difficulty' of (1) having to accept that the foundational basis of Hindu culture came originally from outside India, and (2) being unable to place Hinduism at the beginning of Indian cultural history and its urban heritage. (p66)

Thus, in the Hindutva theory, much hangs on the genesis of the Vedas. In particular: who composed them (it would be best for Hindutva theory if they were native Indians, settled in India for thou­sands of years, rather than Indo-Europeans coming from abroad)? Were they composed later than the Indus valley civilization (it would be best if they were not later, in sharp contrast with the accepted knowledge)?...There were, therefore, attempts by the Hindutva champions to rewrite Indian history in such a way that these disparate difficulties are simultaneously removed through the simple device of `making' the Sanskrit-speaking com­posers of the Vedas also the very same people who created the Indus valley civilization! (p67)

The Indus valley civilization was accordingly renamed `the Indus-Saraswati civilization', in honour of a non-observable river called the Sarasvati which is referred to in the Vedas. The intellectual origins of Hindu philosophy as well as of the concocted Vedic science and Vedic mathematics are thus put solidly into the third millennium BCE, if not earlier. Indian school children were then made to read about this highly theoretical `Indus-Saraswati civilization' in their new history textbooks, making Hindu culture - and Hindu science - more ancient, more urban, more indigenous, and comfortably omnipresent throughout India's civilizational history. (p67)

The problem with this account is, of course, its obvious falsity, going against all the available evidence based on archaeology and lit­erature. To meet that difficulty, `new' archaeological evidence had to be marshalled. This was done - or claimed to be done - in a much­ publicized book by Natwar Jha and N. S. Rajaram called The Deciphered Indus Script, published in 2000. The authors claim that they have deciphered the as-yet-undeciphered script used in the Indus valley, which they attribute to the mid-fourth millennium BCE - stretching the `history' unilaterally back by a further thousand years or so. They also claim that the tablets found there refer to Rigveda's Sarasvati river (in the indirect form of `Ila surrounds the blessed land'). Further, they produced a picture of a terracotta seal with a horse on it, which was meant to be further proof of the Vedic - and Aryan - identity of the Indus civilization. The Vedas are full of refer­ences to horses, whereas the Indus remains have plenty of bulls but - so it was hitherto thought - no horses. (p67-68)

The alleged discovery and decipherment led to a vigorous debate about the claims, and the upshot was the demonstration that there was, in fact, no decipherment whatever, and that the horse seal is the result of a simple fraud based on a computerized distortion of a broken seal of a unicorn bull, which was known earlier. The alleged horse seal was a distinct product of the late twentieth century, the credit for the creation of which has to go to the Hindutva activists. The definitive demonstration of the fraud came from Michael Witzel, Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University, in a joint essay with Steve Farmer. The demonstration did not, however, end references in offi­cial school textbooks (produced by the NCERT during the BJP-led rule, ending only in May 2004) to `terracotta figurines' of horses in the `Indus-Saraswati civilization'. (p68)

It is difficult to understand fully why a movement that began with pride in Hindu values, in which the pursuit of truth plays such a big part, should produce activists who would try to have their way not only through falsity but through carefully crafted fraud. (p68)

In trying to invent Indian history to suit the prejudices of Hindutva, the movement took on a profoundly contrary task. The task is particu­larly hard to achieve given what is known about India's long history. The unadorned truth does not favour the Hindutva view, and the adorned falsity does not survive critical scrutiny. (p69)

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Re: The Miniaturization of India

Through their attempts to encourage and exploit separatism, the Hindutva movement has entered into a con­frontation with the idea of India itself. This is nothing short of a sus­tained effort to miniaturize the broad idea of a large India - proud of its heterodox past and its pluralist present - and to replace it by the stamp of a small India, bundled around a drastically downsized version of Hinduism. In the confrontation between a large and a small India, the broader understanding can certainly win. But….Cognizance of India's past is important for an adequate understanding of the capa­cious idea of India. (p72)

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2014 Jaipur Literature Festival Breaks Records

With over 200,000 people attending this year, India's Jaipur Literature Festival can claim to be one of the biggest in the world—and certainly the most fun. Vijai Maheshwari reports on the big speakers, controversies, and hits from this year.

Asia's largest literary festival kicked off in Jaipur, India, last Friday, with over 200,000 people thronging the various stages of the 17th century Rajput-built Diggi Palace in the center of the "pink" city. Free from the controversy that dogged 2012's festival, when Salman Rushdie canceled his trip because of death threats by Muslim fundamentalists, this year's festival has a more relaxed, bohemian vibe. Speakers at the prestigious festival include Jonathan Franzen, Gloria Steinem, Novel-prize winner Amartya Sen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Reza Aslan, Jim Crace, and memoirist Ved Mehta.

Looking relaxed in a grey puffer vest, Franzen joked that it was hard writing for an American audience grown used to "sitcoms with laugh tracks." He admitted that he instead preferred "cold, dark, silent spaces" which helped him focus his mind. Meanwhile, Pulitzer Prize-winning Indian-American writer, Jhumpa Lahiri created a stir when she declared that American literature was "massively overrated" and its reading habits "transformed by the mainstream." She was in Jaipur to promote her latest novel, The Lowlands, a tale of two brothers set in Calcutta of the 1960s, during the Naxalite uprisings.

American feminist Gloria Steinem was a big draw at the festival, with huge crowds at her talk on the parallels between the American and Indian women's movements. With India going through a late-birthing feminist movement in the wake of the recent spate of violent rapes, there's a renewed interest in America's successful struggle for women's rights in the 1960s. Steinem praised India's feminist movement, saying that it "goes back hundreds of years" and had '"personally influenced her." She spoke as part of a new series of talks called Women Uninterrupted, which are an effort by the Jaipur Literature Festival to include more strong female voices in its lineup. Other speakers from the forum included American writer Cheryl Strayed, whose bestselling book about a solitary hike on the 1100 mile long Pacific Crest Trail, is now being made into a film, Wild, with Reese Witherspoon. Audiences also packed a session on Women Writers of the Islamic World, which included Shereen El Feki and Fariba Hachtroudi.

The biggest crowds, however, came for Indian Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen's speech, in which he made seven wishes for a better India. These included a desire for a strong, secular right-wing party, and a greater role for the arts and humanities in contemporary India. The Iranian-American writer, Reza Aslan, who was demonized by Fox News last year for his recent biography of Jesus Christ spoke to a packed hall. "Americans don't understand why a Muslim would write about Jesus," said a Delhi journalist. "But then haven't many Westerners written about Mohammed in the past?"

Writer and historian Anthony Beevor, author of bestselling books on the Second World War, participated in a thought-provoking panel on the Literature of War and Revolution. He talked about the unfortunate "pornography" of some graphic war writing that hooks the reader with its "dark" appeal.

"I'm overwhelmed by the Jaipur literary festival. If only China could organize a festival like this, with free speech, the world would be a different place."

Meanwhile, bestselling Indian writer Vikram Chandra, made an interesting comparison between Sanskrit grammar and modern programming languages in his latest nonfiction work, The Rasa of Language: Art, Pleasure and Technology. "The similarity between programming languages and Panini's rules for Sanskrit grammar has led to the basic concepts for computer code being renamed the Panini-Backus Form," said Chandra.

Though the high profile speakers dominated the conversation, many festival goers were also happy to chill out on the Palace's green lawns, and open spaces, with masala tea and samosas. The literary festival has a "Central Park in summer" vibe in the late afternoons as jazz bands play behind the ornate fountain, and others sip wine and beers in the intimate bars that have sprung up in the nooks of the Rajput palace grounds. The numerous journalists and delegates to the festival, who are given free food and wine for both lunch and dinner, were having a whale of a time. "What's not to like about Jaipur," enthused an English screenwriter. "It's bloody freezing in England, and here's its warm and the curry's fabulous." The dynamic jazz & rock acts, like Ska Avengers and Medieval Pundits, which perform nightly in the lush gardens of a five-star hotel keep the good vibrations going on until late in the evening. "It's inspiring that India has such a burgeoning underground music scene," said an Egyptian journalist. "We have a similar scene in Cairo, but nobody's talking about it."

The Jaipur Literature Festival is also unique among global book festivals for being completely "free" for everyone, regardless of their background. It's a powerful statement in a poor country, where high culture has mostly been out of reach of the underprivileged. This also means, though, that many people skip between various sessions, depending on their level of interest, forcing speakers to be entertaining and engage with the audience. "In the West, people pay separately for each lecture, so the audience is a lot more serious," said an American writer. "Here, you get all kinds of people, from high-school students to curious office workers, which creates a more fun, relaxed atmosphere."

The only discordant note marring the festive atmosphere was the sudden death of the wife of Indian writer and cabinet minister, Shashi Tharoor, this past weekend. She was found dead in a Delhi hotel room, just days after their bitter public spat over his "supposed" affair with a Pakistani journalist that went viral on twitter. Tharoor was scheduled to speak at the literary festival on Sunday. Though a few delegates spoke of her death in hushed tones, the scandal wasn't that much discussed.

It would take more than that to wreck the high of Asia's biggest and most vibrant literary festival. Chinese writer Xiaolu Guo echoed the mood of the lit fest when she gushed, "I'm overwhelmed by the Jaipur literary festival. If only China could organize a festival like this, with free speech, the world would be a different place."


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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संस्कृतम् saṃskṛtam
The word Sanskrit (संस्कृतम्) written in Sanskrit. Displayed in the Sarai font for Devanagari.
The word Sanskrit (संस्कृतम्) written inDevanagari.
RegionGreater India
Eraca. 1200–600 BCE (Vedic Sanskrit), after which it gave rise to the Middle Indo-Aryan languages. Continues as a liturgical language (Classical Sanskrit).
Attempts at revitalization; 14,000 self-reported speakers (2001 census)[1]
Language family Indo-European
Early formsVedic Sanskrit
  • Sanskrit
Writing system No native script.[2]
Written in Devanagari, variousBrāhmī-based alphabets, Thaiin vocabularies, and Latin script
Official status
Official language in India India
Uttarakhand Seal.svg Uttarakhand
Language codes
ISO 639-1 sa
ISO 639-2 san
ISO 639-3 san

Sanskrit (/ˈsænskrɪt/संस्कृतम् saṃskṛtam [səmskr̩t̪əm], originally संस्कृता वाक्saṃskṛtā vāk, "refined speech") is a standardized Indo-Aryan language, the primaryliturgical language of Hinduism, philosophical language in HinduismBuddhismJainismand a scholarly literary language. Developing from Vedic Sanskrit, today it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India[3] and is an official language of the state ofUttarakhand.[4] Sanskrit holds a prominent position in Indo-European studies.

The corpus of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and dharma texts. Sanskrit continues to be widely used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious rituals and Buddhist practice in the forms of hymns and mantras. Spoken Sanskrit has been revived in some villages with traditional institutions, and there are attempts at further popularisation.


The Sanskrit verbal adjective sáṃskṛta- may be translated as "put together, constructed, well or completely formed; refined, adorned, highly elaborated". It is derived from the root saṃ-skar- "to put together, compose, arrange, prepare",[5] where saṃ- "together" (as English same) and (s)kar- "do, make". (cf. Norwegian 'sammen skjær', Afrikaans 'saamskaar')

The term in the generic meaning of "made ready, prepared, completed, finished" is found in the Rigveda. Also in Vedic Sanskrit, as nominalised neuter saṃskṛtám, it means "preparation, prepared place" and thus "ritual enclosure, place for a sacrifice".

As a term for "refined or elaborated speech" the adjective appears only in Epic and Classical Sanskrit, in the Manusmriti and in theMahabharata. The language referred to as saṃskṛta "the cultured language" has by definition always been a "sacred" and "sophisticated" language, used for religious and learned discourse in ancient India, and contrasted with the languages spoken by the people, prākṛta- "natural, artless, normal, ordinary".


Classical Sanskrit is the standard register as laid out in the grammar of Pāṇini, around the 4th century BCE.[6] Its position in the cultures of Greater India is akin to that of Latin and Greek in Europe and it has significantly influenced most modern languages of theIndian subcontinent, particularly in IndiaBangladeshPakistanSri Lanka and Nepal.[7]

The pre-Classical form of Sanskrit is known as Vedic Sanskrit, with the language of the Rigveda being the oldest and most archaic stage preserved, its oldest core dating back to as early as 1500 BCE.[8] This qualifies Rigvedic Sanskrit as one of the oldest attestations of any Indo-Iranian language, and one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European languages, the family which includes English and most European languages.[9]

Vedic Sanskrit

Rigveda (padapatha) manuscript in Devanagari, early 19th century
Main article: Vedic Sanskrit

Sanskrit, as defined by Pāṇini, had evolved out of the earlier "Vedic" form. The beginning of Vedic Sanskrit can be traced as early as 1500–1200 BCE (forRig-vedic and Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni). Scholars often distinguishVedic Sanskrit and Classical or "Pāṇinian" Sanskrit as separate 'dialects'. Though they are quite similar, they differ in a number of essential points ofphonologyvocabularygrammar and syntax. Vedic Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, a large collection of hymns, incantations (Samhitas), theological and religio-philosophical discussions in the Brahmanas and Upanishads. Modern linguists consider the metrical hymns of the Rigveda Samhita to be the earliest, composed by many authors over several centuries of oral tradition. The end of the Vedic period is marked by the composition of theUpanishads, which form the concluding part of the Vedic corpus in the traditional view; however the early Sutras are Vedic, too, both in language and content.[10] Around the mid-1st millennium BCE, Vedic Sanskrit began the transition from a first language to a second language of religion and learning.

Classical Sanskrit

For nearly 2,000 years, a cultural order existed that exerted influence acrossSouth AsiaInner AsiaSoutheast Asia, and to a certain extent, East Asia.[11] A significant form of post-Vedic Sanskrit is found in the Sanskrit of the Hindu Epics—the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The deviations from Pāṇini in the epics are generally considered to be on account of interference from Prakrits, or "innovations" and not because they are pre-Paninean.[12] Traditional Sanskrit scholars call such deviations ārṣa (आर्ष), meaning 'of the ṛṣis', the traditional title for the ancient authors. In some contexts, there are also more "prakritisms" (borrowings from common speech) than in Classical Sanskrit proper. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is a literary language heavily influenced by Middle Indic, based on early Buddhist prakrit texts which subsequently assimilated to the Classical Sanskrit standard in varying degrees.[13]

According to Tiwari (1955), there were four principal dialects of classical Sanskrit: paścimottarī (Northwestern, also called Northern or Western),madhyadeśī (lit., middle country), pūrvi (Eastern) and dakṣiṇī (Southern, arose in the Classical period). The predecessors of the first three dialects are even attested in Vedic Brāhmaṇas, of which the first one was regarded as the purest (Kauṣītaki Brāhmaṇa, 7.6).

Contemporary usage

As a spoken language

Modern Sanskrit
Regionscattered villages
Native speakers 14,000 self-reported  (2001 census)[1]
(may not be native)
Language family revitalized Sanskrit or relexified local languages
Language codes
ISO 639-3san (generic code)

In the 2001 census of India, 14,135 people reported Sanskrit as their native language.[1]Since the 1990s, movements to spread spoken Sanskrit have been increasing. Organisations like the Samskrita Bharati are conducting Speak Sanskrit workshops to popularise the language.

Indian newspapers have published reports about several isolated villages, where, as a result of recent revival attempts, large parts of the population, including children, are learning Sanskrit and are even using it to some extent in everyday communication:

  1. MatturShimoga districtKarnataka[14]
  2. Mohad, Narsinghpur districtMadhya Pradesh
  3. Jhiri, Rajgarh district, Madhya Pradesh[15]
  4. Kaperan, Bundi districtRajasthan
  5. Khada, Banswara district, Rajasthan
  6. Ganoda, Banswara district, Rajasthan[16]
  7. Bawali, Bagpat districtUttar Pradesh
  8. Shyamsundarpur, Kendujhar districtOdisha[17]

In official use

In the Republic of India Sanskrit is included in the 14 original languages of the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. The state ofUttarakhand in India has ruled Sanskrit as its second official language. In October 2012 noted social activist Hemant Goswami filed awrit petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for declaring Sanskrit as a 'minority' language, so that it could enjoy special protection as available to minorities under the Constitution of India.[18][19][20]

Contemporary literature and patronage

The Sahitya Akademi has had, since 1967, an award for the best creative work written that year in Sanskrit. In 2009, Satyavrat Shastribecame the first Sanskrit author to win the Jnanpith Award, India's highest literary award.[21]

In mass media

Over 90 weeklies, fortnightlies and quarterlies are published in Sanskrit.[22] Sudharma, a daily newspaper in Sanskrit has been published out of Mysore in India since the year 1970, while Sanskrit Vartman Patram and Vishwasya Vrittantam were started in Gujarat over the last five years.[22] Since 1974, there has been a short daily news broadcast on state-run All India Radio.[22] These broadcasts are also made available on the internet on AIR's website.[23][24] Sanskrit news is broadcast on TV and on the internet as part of the DD National channel at 6:55 AM IST.[25]

As a liturgical language

As the liturgical language of Hindus, it is used during worship in Hindu temples throughout the world. Also, in Newar Buddhism, it is used in all the monasteries as liturgical language. It is also popular amongst the many practitioners of yoga in the West, who find the language useful in understanding the Yoga Sutra[citation needed].

Devimahatmya manuscript on palm-leaf, in an early Bhujimol script, Bihar orNepal, 11th century

Symbolic usage

In the Republic of India, in Nepal and Indonesia, Sanskrit phrases are widely used as mottoes for various national, educational and social organisations (much as Latin is used by some institutions in the West). For example:

  • Republic of India: 'सत्यमेव जयते' Satyameva Jayate "Truth alone triumphs"
  • Nepal: 'जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी' Janani Janmabhūmisca Svargādapi garīyasi "Mother and motherland are greater than heaven"
  • Aceh Province: 'पञ्चचित' Pancacita "Five Goals"

Many of India's and Nepal's scientific and administrative terms are named in Sanskrit. The Indian guided missile program that was commenced in 1983 by DRDO has named the five missiles (ballistic and others) that it has developed as PrithviAgniAkashNag andTrishul. India's first modern fighter aircraft is named HAL Tejas.

Historical usage

Origin and development

Sanskrit is a member of the Indo-Iranian sub-family of the Indo-European family of languages. Its closest ancient relatives are theIranian languages Old Persian and Avestan.

In order to explain the common features shared by Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages, many scholars have proposedmigration hypotheses asserting that the original speakers of what became Sanskrit arrived in what is now India and Pakistan from the north-west some time during the early second millennium BCE.[26] Evidence for such a theory includes the close relationship of the Indo-Iranian tongues with the Baltic and Slavic languages, vocabulary exchange with the non-Indo-European Uralic languages, and the nature of the attested Indo-European words for flora and fauna.[27]

The earliest attested Sanskrit texts are Brahmanical texts of the Rigveda, which date to the mid-to-late second millennium BCE. No written records from such an early period survive, if ever existed. However, scholars are confident that the oral transmission of the texts is reliable: they were ceremonial literature whose correct pronunciation was considered crucial to its religious efficacy.[28]

From the Rigveda until the time of Pāṇini (fl. 4th century BCE) the development of the early Vedic language may be observed in other Vedic texts: the SamavedaYajurvedaAtharvavedaBrahmanas, and Upanishads. During this time, the prestige of the language, its use for sacred purposes, and the importance attached to its correct enunciation all served as powerful conservative forces resisting the normal processes of linguistic change.[29] However, there is a clear, five-level linguistic development of Vedic from the Rigveda to the language of the Upanishads and the earliest Sutras (such as Baudhayana).[10]

Standardisation by Panini

The oldest surviving Sanskrit grammar is Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī ("Eight-Chapter Grammar"). It is essentially a prescriptive grammar, i.e., an authority that defines correct Sanskrit, although it contains descriptive parts, mostly to account for some Vedic forms that had become rare in Pāṇini's time.

Classical Sanskrit became fixed with the grammar of Panini (roughly 500 BCE), and remains in use as a learned language until the present day.

Coexistence with vernacular languages

The term "Sanskrit" was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages, but rather as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social class and educational attainment in ancient India and the language was taught mainly to members of the higher castes, through close analysis of Sanskrit grammarians such as Pāṇini andPatanjali, who exhorted that one should speak proper Sanskrit at all times, and at least during ritual.[30] Sanskrit, as the learned language of Ancient India, thus existed alongside the Prakrits (vernaculars), also called Middle Indic dialects, and eventually into the contemporary modern Indo-Aryan languages.

Over the centuries, the Prakrits underwent language change to a degree that vernaculars and Sanskrit ceased to be intercomprehensible and had to be learned as a separate language, rather than a distinguished or noble register of the popular language. This transition was completed by the Early Middle Ages (Middle Indic), but a significant number of the elite remained fluent in Sanskrit, a situation directly comparable to the role of Latin in Medieval Europe.

Prakrits dominated in Magadh, the eastern part of India during the time of Buddha and Mahavira, one of which was likely the ancestor ofPali. Apparently in Gandhara the language remained particularly close to Sanskrit for a long time. Mahmud the Gazanavi used Sanskrit on his coins, and Sanskrit was in use as an official language during early Muslim rule in Kashmir.

Patronage and use by the upper classes

Many of the Sanskrit dramas suggest that it coexisted along with prakrits, spoken by multilingual speakers with more extensive education. Sanskrit speakers were also almost always multilingual.[30]

Some kings patronised Sanskrit poets. Rashtrakuta King Amoghavarsha is said to have composed a Sanskrit text. Parmara KingBhoja (1010–1053) himself composed and supervised the composition of Sanskrit texts. That suggests that Sanskrit was widely spoken and understood in that period by the elite.

In the medieval era, Sanskrit continued to be spoken and written, particularly by learned Brahmins for scholarly communication. This was a thin layer of Indian society, but covered a wide geography.[30] Centres like Varanasi, paithan, Pune, and Kanchipuram had a strong presence of teaching and debating institutions, and high classical Sanskrit was maintained until British times.[30]

Use of Sanskrit lingered on in Kashmir even during the Muslim period as is observed by use of Sanskrit on Muslim tombstones and in official documents.


There are a number of sociolinguistic studies of spoken Sanskrit which strongly suggest that oral use of Sanskrit is limited, with its development having ceased sometime in the past.[31] Pollock (2001) says "most observers would agree that, in some crucial way, Sanskrit is dead".[11] Pollock has further argued that, while Sanskrit continued to be used in literary cultures in India, Sanskrit was not used to express changing forms of subjectivity and sociality embodied and conceptualised in the modern age.[32] Instead, it was reduced to "reinscription and restatements" of ideas already explored, and any creativity in Sanskrit was restricted to hymns and verses.[33][34] He describes it in comparison with the "dead" language of Latin:[35]

Both died slowly, and earliest as a vehicle of literary expression, while much longer retaining significance for learned discourse with its universalist claims. Both were subject to periodic renewals or forced rebirths, sometimes in connection with a politics of translocal aspiration... At the same time... both came to be ever more exclusively associated with narrow forms of religion and priestcraft, despite centuries of a secular aesthetic.

Hanneder (2002) and Hatcher (2007) contest Pollock's characterisation, pointing out that modern works continue to be produced in Sanskrit:

On a more public level the statement that Sanskrit is a dead language is misleading, for Sanskrit is quite obviously not as dead as other dead languages and the fact that it is spoken, written and read will probably convince most people that it cannot be a dead language in the most common usage of the term. Pollock's notion of the "death of Sanskrit" remains in this unclear realm between academia and public opinion when he says that "most observers would agree that, in some crucial way, Sanskrit is dead"

Hanneder (2009) argues that modern works in Sanskrit are either ignored or their "modernity" contested.

When the British imposed a Western-style education system in India in the nineteenth century, knowledge of Sanskrit and ancient literature continued to flourish as the study of Sanskrit changed from a more traditional style into a form of analytical and comparative scholarship mirroring that of Europe.[36]

Public education and popularisation

Adult and continuing education

Attempts at reviving the Sanskrit language have been undertaken in the Republic of India since its foundation in 1947 (it was included in the 14 original languages of the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution).

Organisations like the Samskrta Bharati are conducting Speak Sanskrit workshops to popularise the language. The "All-India Sanskrit Festival" (since 2002) holds composition contests. The 1991 Indian census reported 49,736 fluent speakers of Sanskrit. All India Radiotransmits news bulletins in Sanskrit twice a day across the nation. Besides, Sanskrit learning programmes also feature on the list of most of the AIR broadcasting centres. The Mattur village in central Karnataka claims to have native speakers of Sanskrit among its population. Inhabitants of all castes learn Sanskrit starting in childhood and converse in the language. Even the local Muslims speak and converse in Sanskrit. Historically, the village was given by king Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire to Vedic scholars and their families. People in his kingdom spoke Kannada and Telugu. Another effort concentrates on the preservation of oral transmission of the VedasShri Vedabharathi is one such organisation based out of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh that has been digitising the Vedas through voice recording the recitations of Vedic Pandits.

Samskrita Bharati is an organisation working for Sanskrit revival. It is a tax exempt non-profit organisation with its headquarters in New Delhi, India. The International Centre, "Aksharam," a complex located in Bangalore, India, is its international centre. It houses a research wing, a library, audio-visual lab, and staff quarters. It also has several state-units spread across the country both in the US and India. The US chapter is a registered nonprofit tax-exempt organisation with its headquarters in San Jose, California.

School curricula

The CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) of India has made Sanskrit a third language (though it is an option for the school to adopt it or not, the other choice being the state's own official language) in the schools it governs. In such schools, learning Sanskrit is an option for grades 5 to 8 (Classes V to VIII). This is true of most schools affiliated to the ICSE board too, especially in those states where the official language is Hindi. Sanskrit is also taught in traditional gurukulas throughout India.

In the west

St. James Junior School in London, England offers Sanskrit as part of the curriculum.[37] In USA, since Sep 2009, high school students have been able receive credits (as Independent Study or towards Foreign Language requirements) by studying Sanskrit, as part of the "SAFL: Samskritam as a Foreign Language" program coordinated by Samskrita Bharati.[citation needed]


A list of Sanskrit universities is given below in chronological order:





NameLocation TypeSpecialisation
11791Sampurnanand Sanskrit University Varnasi Uttar Pradesh
2 1876Samskrit PathashalaMysore Karnataka
3 1961Kameshwar Singh Darbhanga Sanskrit University Darbhanga Bihar
41962 Rashtriya Sanskrit VidyapeethaTirupati
51962Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha New Delhi Central Govt
6 1970Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan New Delhi Central GovtMulti Campus
71981 Shri Jagannath Sanskrit VishvavidayalayaPuri Odisha
81993 Sree Sankaracharya University

Of Sanskrit

Kalady Kerala
91997 Kaviguru Kalidas Sanskrit UniversityRamtek, (Nagpur) Maharashtra
10 2001Jagadguru Ramanandacharya

Rajasthan Sanskrit University

11 2005Shree Somnath Sanskrit UniversitySomnath-Veraval,


12 2008Maharshi Panini Sanskrit

Evam Vedic Vishwavidyalaya

UjjainMadhya Pradesh
13 2011Karnataka Samskrit University Bangalore Karnataka

Within other universities

Besides this, many universities throughout the world train and employ Sanskrit scholars - either within a separate Sanskrit department, or within a broader focus area - for example, in South Asian studies/linguistics departments in universities across the West. For example, Delhi university has about 400 Sanskrit students, out of which about half are reading it in post-graduation programmes.[22]

European scholarship

A poem of the ancient Indian poet Vallana (between 900 and 1100 CE) on the side wall of the building at the Haagweg 14 in Leiden, Netherlands.

European scholarship in Sanskrit, begun by Heinrich Roth (1620–1668) and Johann Ernst Hanxleden (1681–1731),[38] is regarded as responsible for the discovery of the Indo-European language family by Sir William Jones. This scholarship played an important role in the development of Western philology, or historical linguistics.[39]

Sir William Jones, speaking to The Asiatic Society in Calcutta on 2 February 1786, said:

The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists.

British attitudes

According to Thomas R. Trautmann, after the 18th-century wave of "Indomania", i.e. enthusiasm for Indian culture and for Sanskrit, as exemplified in the positions of Orientalist scholars such as Sir William Jones, a certain hostility to Sanskrit and to Indian culture in general began to assert itself in Britain in the early 19th century. The hostility was manifest by a neglect of Sanskrit in British academia, as compared to other European countries, and was part of a general push in favor of the idea that India should be culturally, religiously and linguistically assimilated to Britain as far as possible. Traufmann considers that this British hostility to Sanskrit had two separate and logically opposite sources: one was "British Indophobia", which he calls essentially a developmentalist, progressivist, liberal, and non-racial-essentialist critique of Hindu civilisation as an aid for the improvement of India along European lines. The other was race science, which was a theorisation of the English "common-sense view" that Indians constituted a "separate, inferior and unimprovable race".[40]


Further information: Śikṣā

Classical Sanskrit distinguishes about 36 phonemes. There is, however, some allophony and the writing systems used for Sanskrit generally indicate this, thus distinguishing 48 sounds.

The sounds are traditionally listed in the order vowels (Ach), diphthongs (Hal), anusvara and visargaplosives (Sparśa) and nasals(starting in the back of the mouth and moving forward), and finally the liquids and fricatives, written in IAST as follows:

a ā i ī u ū ṛ ṝ ḷ ḹ ; e ai o au
ṃ ḥ
k kh g gh ṅ; c ch j jh ñ; ṭ ṭh ḍ ḍh ṇ; t th d dh n; p ph b bh m
y r l vś ṣ s h

An alternate traditional ordering is that of the Shiva Sutra of Pāṇini.


The vowels of Classical Sanskrit written in Devanagari, as a syllable-initial letter and as a diacritic mark on the consonant प् (/p/), pronunciation transcribed in IPAIAST, and approximate equivalent in English:

Letterप् IPAIAST English equivalent (GA unless stated otherwise)
/ɐ/ or /ə/ ashort near-open central vowel or schwau in bunny
पा/ɑː/ ālong open back unrounded vowela in father (RP)
पि/i/ ishort close front unrounded vowele in england
पी/iː/ īlong close front unrounded vowelee in feet
पु/u/ ushort close back rounded voweloo in foot
पू/uː/ ūlong close back rounded voweloo in cool
पृ/r̩/ syllabic alveolar trill: closest to er in butter in rhotic accents
पॄ/r̩ː/ syllabic alveolar trill: closest to ir in bird in rhotic accents
पॢ/l̩/ syllabic dental lateral approximantle in turtle
पॣ/l̩ː/ syllabic dental lateral approximant: longer le
पे/eː/ elong close-mid front unrounded vowela in bane (some speakers)
पै/əi/ aia long diphthongi in ice, i in kite (US, Canadian, and Scottish English)
पो/oː/ olong close-mid back rounded vowelo in bone (Scottish English)
पौ/əu/ aua long diphthongou in house (Canadian English)

The long vowels are pronounced twice as long as their short counterparts. Also, there exists a third, extra-long length for most vowels, called pluti, which is used in various cases, but particularly in the vocative. The pluti is not accepted by all grammarians.

The vowels /e/ and /o/ continue as allophonic variants of Proto-Indo-Iranian /ai//au/ and are categorised as diphthongs by Sanskrit grammarians even though they are realised phonetically as simple long vowels.

Additional points:

  • There are some additional signs traditionally listed in tables of the Devanagari script:
    • The diacritic  called anusvāra, (IAST). It is used both to indicate the nasalisation of the vowel in the syllable [◌̃] and to represent the sound of a syllabic /n/ or /m/; e.g. पं /pəŋ/.
    • The diacritic  called visarga, represents /əh/ (IAST); e.g. पः /pəh/.
    • The diacritic  called chandrabindu, not traditionally included in Devanagari charts for Sanskrit, is used interchangeably with theanusvāra to indicate nasalisation of the vowel, primarily in Vedic notation; e.g. पँ /pə̃/.
  • If a lone consonant needs to be written without any following vowel, it is given a halanta/virāma diacritic below (प्).
  • The vowel /aː/ in Sanskrit is realised as being more central and less back than the closest English approximation, which is /ɑː/. But the grammarians have classified it as a back vowel.[41]
  • The ancient Sanskrit grammarians classified the vowel system as velarsretroflexespalatals and plosives rather than as back, central and front vowels. Hence  and  are classified respectively as palato-velar (a+i) and labio-velar (a+u) vowels respectively. But the grammarians have classified them as diphthongs and in prosody, each is given two mātrās. This does not necessarily mean that they are proper diphthongs, but neither excludes the possibility that they could have been proper diphthongs at a very ancient stage. These vowels are pronounced as long /eː/ and /oː/ respectively by learned Sanskrit Brahmans and priests of today. Other than the "four" diphthongs, Sanskrit usually disallows any other diphthong—vowels in succession, where they occur, are converted to semivowels according to sandhi rules.


IAST and Devanagari notations are given, with approximate IPA values in square brackets.

p  [p] b  [b] t  [t̪] d  [d̪]   [ʈ ]   [ɖ ] c  [c] j  [ɟ] k  [k] g  [ɡ]
ph [pʰ] bh [bʱ] th [t̪ʰ] dh [d̪ʱ] ṭh  [ʈʰ] ḍh  [ɖʱ] ch [cʰ] jh [ɟʱ] kh [kʰ] gh [ɡʱ]
 [m] n  [n̪]   [ɳ ] (ñ  [ ɲ])   [ŋ]
 [w]  [j]
 [l̪] [ɽ][dubious – discuss]
s  [s̪]   [ʂ] ś  [ɕ]   [h] h  [ɦ]

The table below shows the traditional listing of the Sanskrit consonants with the (nearest) equivalents in English (as pronounced inGeneral American and Received Pronunciation or the Indian English pronunciation if specified), French and Spanish. Each consonant shown below is deemed to be followed by the neutral vowel schwa (/ə/), and is named in the table as such.

alpaprāṇa śvāsa
mahāprāna śvāsa
alpaprāṇa nāda
mahāprāna nāda
anunāsika nāda

/kə/; English: skip

/kʰə/; English:cow

/ɡə/; English: game

/ɡʱə/; no equivalent

/ŋə/; English: ring

/cə/; no equivalent

/cʰə/; no equivalent

/ɟə/; no equivalent

/ɟʱə/; no equivalent

[ ɲə]; French: agneau, Spanish ñ

/ʈə/; English: stop

/ʈʰə/; English:time

/ɖə/; English (Indian): door

/ɖʱə/; no equivalent

/ɳə/; no English equivalent

/t̪ə/; French, Spanish:tomate

/t̪ʰə/; Aspirated/t̪/

/d̪ə/; French: dans, Spanishdonde

/d̪ʱə/; Aspirated/d̪/

/n̪ə/; English name

/pə/; English: spin

/pʰə/; English:pork

/bə/; English: bone

/bʱə/; no equivalent

/mə/; English: mine

/jə/; English: you

/ɽə/; no equivalent

/l̪ə/; French, Spanish: la
/wə/; English w

/ɕə/; similar to English: ship

/ʂə/; Retroflex form of /ʃ/

/s̪ə/; English: same
/ɦə/; English ahead


Main article: Vedic accent

Vedic Sanskrit had pitch accent: Some syllables had a high tone, and the following syllable a falling tone, though through ellipsis a falling tone may occur elsewhere.

Classical Sanskrit ...

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Phonology and sandhi

The Sanskrit vowels are as discussed in the section above. The long syllabic l () is not attested, and is only discussed by grammarians for systematic reasons. Its short counterpart  occurs in a single root only, kḷp "to order, array". Long syllabic r () is also quite marginal, occurring in the genitive plural of r-stems (e.g. mātṛ "mother" and pitṛ "father" have gen.plmātṝṇām and pitṝṇām). i, u, ṛ, ḷ are vocalic allophones of consonantal y, v, r, l. There are thus only 5 invariably vocalic phonemes,

a, ā, ī, ū, ṝ.

Visarga   is an allophone of r and s, and anusvara Devanagari  of any nasal, both in pausa (i.e., the nasalised vowel). The exact pronunciation of the three sibilants may vary, but they are distinct phonemes. An aspirated voiced sibilant /zʱ/ was inherited by Indo-Aryan from Proto-Indo-Iranian but lost shortly before the time of the Rigveda (aspirated fricatives are exceedingly rare in any language). The retroflex consonants are somewhat marginal phonemes, often being conditioned by their phonetic environment; they do not continue a PIE series and are often ascribed by some linguists to the substratal influence of Dravidian[42] or other substrate languages. The nasal [ɲ] is a conditioned allophone of /n/ (/n/ and /ɳ/ are distinct phonemes—aṇu 'minute', 'atomic' [nom. sg. neutr. of an adjective] is distinctive from anu 'after', 'along'; phonologically independent /ŋ/ occurs only marginally, e.g. in prāṅ 'directed forwards/towards' [nom. sg. masc. of an adjective]). There are thus 31 consonantal or semi-vocalic phonemes, consisting of four/five kinds of stops realised both with or without aspiration and both voiced and voiceless, three nasals, four semi-vowels or liquids, and four fricatives, written in IAST transliteration as follows:

k, kh, g, gh; c, ch, j, jh; ṭ, ṭh, ḍ, ḍh; t, th, d, dh; p, ph, b, bh; m, n, ṇ; y, r, l, v; ś, ṣ, s, h

or a total of 36 unique Sanskrit phonemes altogether.

The phonological rules which are applied when combining morphemes to a word, and when combining words to a sentence, are collectively called sandhi "composition". Texts are written phonetically, with sandhi applied (except for the so-called padapāṭha).

Writing system

Kashmiri Shaivaite manuscript in theSharada script (c. 17th century)
This article is about how Sanskrit came to be written using various systems. For details of Sanskrit as written using specifically Devanāgari, see Devanagari.

Sanskrit was spoken in an oral society, and the oral tradition was maintained through the development of early classical Sanskrit literature.[43] Writing was not introduced to India until after Sanskrit had evolved into the Prakrits; when it was written, the choice of writing system was influenced by the regional scripts of the scribes. Therefore, Sanskrit has no native script of its own.[2] As such, virtually all of the major writing systems of South Asia have been used for the production of Sanskrit manuscripts. Since the late 19th century,Devanagari has become the de facto standard writing system for Sanskrit publication,[44]quite possibly because of the European practice of printing Sanskritic texts in this script. Devanāgari is written from left to right, lacks distinct letter cases, and is recognisable by a distinctive horizontal line running along the tops of the letters that links them together.

"My name is 'incomplete third word is the name'" (written) in Sanskrit

The earliest known inscriptions in Sanskrit date to the 1st century BCE.[45] They are in theBrahmi script, which was originally used for Prakrit, not Sanskrit.[46] It has been described as a "paradox" that the first evidence of written Sanskrit occurs centuries later than that of the Prakrit languages which are its linguistic descendants.[45][47] When Sanskrit was written down, it was first used for texts of an administrative, literary or scientific nature. The sacred texts were preserved orally, and were set down in writing, "reluctantly" (according to one commentator), and at a comparatively late date.[46]

Sanskrit in modern Indian and other Brahmi scripts. MayŚiva bless those who take delight in the language of the gods. (Kalidasa)

Brahmi evolved into a multiplicity of scripts of the Brahmic family, many of which were used to write Sanskrit. Roughly contemporary with the Brahmi, the Kharosthi script was used in the northwest of the subcontinent. Later (around the 4th to 8th centuries CE) the Gupta script, derived from Brahmi, became prevalent. From ca. the 8th century, the Sharada script evolved out of the Gupta script. The latter was displaced in its turn byDevanagari from ca. the 11/12th century, with intermediary stages such as theSiddham script. In Eastern India, the Bengali script and, later, the Oriya script, were used. In the south where Dravidian languages predominate, scripts used for Sanskrit include KannadaTeluguTamilMalayalam andGrantha.


Since the late 18th century, Sanskrit has been transliterated using the Latin alphabet. The system most commonly used today is the IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration), which has been the academic standard since 1888/1912. ASCII-based transliteration schemes have evolved due to difficulties representing Sanskrit characters in computer systems. These include Harvard-Kyoto and ITRANS, a transliteration scheme that is used widely on the Internet, especially in Usenet and in email, for considerations of speed of entry as well as rendering issues. With the wide availability ofUnicode-aware web browsers, IAST has become common online.

It is also possible to type using an alphanumeric keyboard and transliterate to Devanagari using software like Mac OS X's international support.

European scholars in the 19th century generally preferred Devanagari for the transcription and reproduction of whole texts and lengthy excerpts. However, references to individual words and names in texts composed in European languages were usually represented with Roman transliteration. From the 20th century onwards, due to production costs, textual editions edited by Western scholars have mostly been in Romanised transliteration.


Main article: Sanskrit grammar

Grammatical tradition

Main article: Sanskrit grammarians

Sanskrit grammatical tradition (vyākaraṇa, one of the six Vedanga disciplines) began in late Vedic India and culminated in theAṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini, which consists of 3990 sutras (ca. 5th century BCE). About a century after Pāṇini (around 400 BCE) Kātyāyana composed Vārtikas on Pāṇinian sũtras. Patañjali, who lived three centuries after Pāṇini, wrote the Mahābhāṣya, the "Great Commentary" on the Aṣṭādhyāyī and Vārtikas. Because of these three ancient Sanskrit grammarians this grammar is called Trimuni Vyākarana. To understand the meaning of sutras Jayaditya and Vāmana wrote the commentary named Kāsikā 600 CE. Pāṇinian grammar is based on 14 Shiva sutras (aphorisms). Here whole Mātrika (alphabet) is abbreviated. This abbreviation is called Pratyāhara.[48]


Main article: Sanskrit verbs

Sanskrit has ten classes of verbs divided into two broad groups: athematic and thematic. The thematic verbs are so called because ana, called the theme vowel, is inserted between the stem and the ending. This serves to make the thematic verbs generally more regular.Exponents used in verb conjugation include prefixessuffixesinfixes, and reduplication. Every root has (not necessarily all distinct) zero, guṇa, and vṛddhi grades. If V is the vowel of the zero grade, the guṇa-grade vowel is traditionally thought of as a + V, and thevṛddhi-grade vowel as ā + V.

The verb tenses (a very inexact application of the word, since more distinctions than simply tense are expressed) are organised into four 'systems' (as well as gerunds and infinitives, and such creatures as intensives/frequentativesdesiderativescausatives, andbenedictives derived from more basic forms) based on the different stem forms (derived from verbal roots) used in conjugation. There are four tense systems:


Main article: Sanskrit nouns

Sanskrit is a highly inflected language with three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) and three numbers (singular, plural, dual). It has eight casesnominativevocativeaccusativeinstrumentaldativeablativegenitive, and locative.

The number of actual declensions is debatable. Pāṇini identifies six karakas corresponding to the nominative, accusative, dative, instrumental, locative, and ablative cases.[49] Pāṇini defines them as follows (Ashtadhyayi, I.4.24–54):

  1. Apadana (lit. 'take off'): "(that which is) firm when departure (takes place)." This is the equivalent of the ablative case, which signifies a stationary object from which movement proceeds.
  2. Sampradana ('bestowal'): "he whom one aims at with the object". This is equivalent to the dative case, which signifies a recipient in an act of giving or similar acts.
  3. Karana ("instrument") "that which effects most." This is equivalent to the instrumental case.
  4. Adhikarana ('location'): or "substratum." This is equivalent to the locative case.
  5. Karman ('deed'/'object'): "what the agent seeks most to attain". This is equivalent to the accusative case.
  6. Karta ('agent'): "he/that which is independent in action". This is equivalent to the nominative case. (On the basis of Scharfe, 1977: 94)

Personal pronouns and determiners

Sanskrit pronouns are declined for casenumber, and gender. The pronominal declension applies to a few adjectives as well. Many pronouns have alternative enclitic forms.

The first and second person pronouns are declined for the most part alike, having by analogy assimilated themselves with one another. Where two forms are given, the second is enclitic and an alternative form. Ablatives in singular and plural may be extended by the syllable -tas; thus mat or mattasasmat or asmattas. Sanskrit does not have true third person pronouns, but its demonstratives fulfill this function instead by standing independently without a modified substantive.

There are four different demonstratives in Sanskrit: tatetatidam, and adasetat indicates greater proximity than tat. While idam is similar to etatadas refers to objects that are more remote than tateta, is declined almost identically to ta. Its paradigm is obtained by prefixing e- to all the forms of ta. As a result of sandhi, the masculine and feminine singular forms transform into eṣas and eṣã.

The enclitic pronoun ena is found only in a few oblique cases and numbers. Interrogative pronouns all begin with k-, and decline just astat does, with the initial t- being replaced by k-. The only exception to this are the singular neuter nominative and accusative forms, which are both kim and not the expected *kat. For example, the singular feminine genitive interrogative pronoun, "of whom?", iskasyãḥIndefinite pronouns are formed by adding the participles apicid, or cana after the appropriate interrogative pronouns. All relative pronouns begin with y-, and decline just as tat does. The correlative pronouns are identical to the tat series.

In addition to the pronouns described above, some adjectives follow the pronominal declension. Unless otherwise noted, their declension is identical to tat.

  • eka: "one", "a certain". (singular neuter nominative and accusative forms are both ekam)
  • anya: "another".
  • sarva: "all", "every". (singular neuter nominative and accusative forms are both sarvam)
  • para: "the other". (singular neuter nominative and accusative forms are both param)
  • sva: "self" (a reflexive adjective). (singular neuter nominative and accusative forms are both svam)


Main article: Sanskrit compounds

One other notable feature of the nominal system is the very common use of nominal compounds, which may be huge (10+ words) as in some modern languages such as German and Finnish. Nominal compounds occur with various structures, however morphologically speaking they are essentially the same. Each noun (or adjective) is in its (weak) stem form, with only the final element receiving case inflection. The four principle categories of nominal compounds are:[50]

These consist of two or more noun stems, connected in sense with 'and'. Examples are rāma-lakşmaņau—Rama and Lakshmana,rāma-lakşmaņa-bharata-śatrughnāh—Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna, and pāņipādam—limbs, literally hands and feet, from pāņi = hand and pāda = foot.
There are many tatpuruṣas; in a tatpuruṣa the first component is in a case relationship with another. For example, a doghouse is a dative compound, a house for a dog; other examples include instrumental relationships ("thunderstruck") and locative relationships ("towndwelling").
A compound where the relation of the first member to the last is appositionalattributive or adverbial; e.g., uluka-yatu (owl+demon) is a demon in the shape of an owl. Karmadhārayas are considered by some to be tatpuruṣas.[50]
Bahuvrīhi compounds refer to a compound noun that refers to a thing which is itself not part of the compound. For example the word bahuvrīhi itself, from bahu = much and vrīhi = rice, denotes a rich person—one who has much rice.


Because of Sanskrit's complex declension system the word order is free.[51] In usage, there is a strong tendency toward subject–object–verb (SOV), which was the original system in place in Vedic prose. However, there are exceptions when word pairs cannot be transposed.[52]


The numbers from one to ten:

  1. éka-
  2. dva-
  3. tri-
  4. catúr-
  5. páñcan-
  6. ṣáṣ-
  7. saptán-
  8. aṣṭá-
  9. návan-
  10. dáśan-

The numbers one through four are declined. Éka is declined like a pronominal adjective, though the dual form does not occur. Dváappears only in the dual. Trí and catúr are declined irregularly:

Three Four
Masculine NeuterFeminine MasculineNeuter Feminine
Nominativetráyas trī́ṇitisrás catvā́rascatvā́ricátasras
Accusativetrīntrī́ṇi tisráscatúrascatvā́ri cátasras
Instrumental tribhístisṛ́bhis catúrbhiscatasṛ́bhis
Dativetribhyástisṛ́bhyas catúrbhyascatasṛ́bhyas
Ablativetribhyás tisṛ́bhyascatúrbhyas catasṛ́bhyas
Genitivetriyāṇā́m tisṛṇā́mcaturṇā́m catasṛṇā́m
Locativetriṣú tisṛ́ṣucatúrṣu catasṛ́ṣu

Some peculiar characteristics of Sanskrit

In the introduction to his celebrated translation of Vidyakara's 'Subhasitaratnakosa', the eminent sanskritist Daniel H.H. Ingallsdescribes some peculiar characteristics of the Sanskrit language. He refers to the enormous vocabulary of Sanskrit, and also of the presence of a larger choice of synonyms in Sanskrit than any other language he knew of. Further,he writes, just as there exist a vast number of synonyms for almost any word in Sanskrit, there also exist synonymous constructions. Ingalls writes that in elementary Sanskrit examinations he would ask his students to write in Sanskrit the sentence 'You must fetch the horse' in ten different ways. Actually, Ingalls explains, it is possible to write the sentence in Sanskrit in around fifteen different ways 'by using active or passive constructions, imperative or optative, an auxiliary verb, or any of the three gerundive forms, each of which, by the way, gives a different metrical pattern'. Ingalls emphasizes that while these constructions differ formally, emotionally they are identical and completely interchangeable. He comments that in any natural language this would be impossible. Ingalls uses this and other arguments to show that Sanskrit is not a natural language, but an 'artificial' language. By 'artificial', he explains he means it was learned after some other Indian language had been learned by simple conditioning. Ingalls writes: 'Every Indian, one may suppose, grew up learning in a natural way the language of his mother and his playmates. Only after this and if he belonged to the priesthood or the nobility or to such a professional caste as that of the clerks, the physicians, or the astrologers would he learn Sanskrit...As a general rule, Sanskrit was not the language of the family. It furnished no subconscious symbols for the impressions which we receive in childhood nor for the emotions which form our character in early adolescence.' [53]

Influence on other languages

Indic languages

Sanskrit's greatest influence, presumably, is that which it exerted on languages of India that grew from its vocabulary and grammatical base; for instance, Hindi is a "Sanskritised register" of the Khariboli dialect. However, all modern Indo-Aryan languages, as well asMunda and Dravidian languages, have borrowed many words either directly from Sanskrit (tatsama words), or indirectly via middle Indo-Aryan languages (tadbhava words).[7] Words originating in Sanskrit are estimated to constitute roughly fifty percent of the vocabulary of modern Indo-Aryan languages,[54] and the literary forms of (Dravidian) Malayalam and Kannada.[7] Literary texts in Telugu are lexicallySanskrit or Sanskritised to an enormous extent, perhaps seventy percent or more.[55]

Sanskrit is recognised as a storehouse of scripture and as the language of prayers in Hinduism. Like Latin's influence on European languages and Classical Chinese's influence on East Asian languages, Sanskrit has influenced most Indian languages. While vernacular prayer is common, Sanskrit mantras are recited by millions of Hindus, and most temple functions are conducted entirely in Sanskrit, often Vedic in form. Of modern day south Asian languages, Hindi, NepaliBengaliAssameseKonkani, and Marathi still retain a largely Sanskrit and Prakrit vocabulary base, while Hindi and Urdu tend to be more heavily weighted with Arabic and Persianinfluence. The Indian national anthem, Jana Gana Mana, is written in a literary form of Bengali (known as sadhu bhasha); it is Sanskritised to be recognisable but is still archaic to the modern ear. The national song of India, Vande Mataram, which was originally a poem composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and taken from his book called 'Anandamath', is in a similarly highly Sanskritised Bengali. MalayalamTelugu and Kannada also combine a great deal of Sanskrit vocabulary. Sanskrit also has influence on Chinese through Buddhist Sutras. Chinese words like 剎那 chànà (Devanagari: क्षण kṣaṇa 'instantaneous period of time') were borrowed from Sanskrit.

Interaction with other languages

Sanskrit and related languages have also influenced their Sino-Tibetan-speaking neighbors to the north through the spread of Buddhisttexts in translation.[56] Buddhism was spread to China by Mahayanist missionaries sent by Emperor Ashoka mostly through translations of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit texts, and many terms were transliterated directly and added to the Chinese vocabulary. (Although Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is not Sanskrit, properly speaking, its grammar and vocabulary are substantially the same, both because of genetic relationship, and because of conscious implementation of Pāṇinian standardisations on the part of composers. Buddhist texts composed in Sanskrit proper were primarily found in philosophical schools like theMadhyamaka.) The situation in Tibet is similar; many Sanskrit texts survive only in Tibetan translation (in the Tanjur).

In Southeast Asia, languages such as Thai and Lao contain many loan words from Sanskrit, as do KhmerVietnamese to a lesser extent, through Sinified hybrid Sanskrit. For example, in Thai, the Rāvana—the emperor of Sri Lanka is called 'Thosakanth' which is a derivation of his Sanskrit name 'Dashakanth' ("of ten necks").

Many Sanskrit loanwords are also found in Austronesian languages, such as Javanese particularly the old form from which nearly half the vocabulary is derived from the language.[57][58] Other Austronesian languages, such as traditional Malaymodern Indonesian, also derive much of their vocabulary from Sanskrit, albeit to a lesser extent, with a large proportion of words being derived from Arabic. Similarly, Philippine languages such as Tagalog have many Sanskrit loanwords, although more are derived from Spanish.

A Sanskrit loanword encountered in many Southeast Asian languages is the word bhāṣā, or spoken language, which is used to mean language in general, for example bahasa in MalayIndonesian and Tausugbasa in JavaneseSundanese, and Balinesephasa in Thaiand Laobhasa in Burmese, and phiesa in Khmer.

Popular culture in other languages

Recital of Sanskrit shlokas as background chorus in films, television advertisements and as slogans for corporate organisations has become a trend. The opera Satyagraha by Philip Glass uses texts from the Bhagavad Gita, sung in the original Sanskrit.

Recently, Sanskrit also made an appearance in Western pop music in two recordings by Madonna. One, "Shanti/Ashtangi", from the 1998 album Ray of Light, is the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga chant referenced above set to music. The second, "Cyber-raga", released in 2000 as a B-side to Madonna's album Music, is a Sanskrit-language ode of devotion to a higher power and a wish for peace on earth. The climactic battle theme of The Matrix Revolutions features a choir singing a Sanskrit prayer from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad in the closing titles of the movie. Composer John Williams featured choirs singing in Sanskrit for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom[59] and in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.[60] The lyrics of The Child In Us by Enigma also contains Sanskrit, latin and English verses.[61]

The Sky1 version of the title sequence in season one of Battlestar Galactica 2004 features the Gayatri Mantra, taken from the Rig Veda(3.62.10). The composition was written by miniseries composer Richard Gibbs.

Sanskrit has also seen a significant revival in Mainland China. Musicians such as Sa Dingding have written pop songs in Sanskrit.[62]

Computational linguistics

There have been suggestions to use Sanskrit as a metalanguage for knowledge representation in e.g. machine translation, and other areas of natural language processing because of its relatively high regular structure.[63] This is due to Classical Sanskrit being a regularised, prescriptivist form abstracted from the much more complex and richer Vedic Sanskrit.

See also


  1. Jump up to:a b c "Comparative speaker's strength of scheduled languages − 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001"Census of India, 2001. Office of the Registrar and Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  2. Jump up to:a b Banerji, Suresh (1971). A companion to Sanskrit literature: spanning a period of over three thousand years, containing brief accounts of authors, works, characters, technical terms, geographical names, myths, legends, and twelve appendices. p. 672. ISBN 978-81-208-0063-2.
  3. Jump up^ "Indian Constitution Art.344(1) & Art.345". 4 October 2007. Archived from the original on 4 October 2007. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  4. Jump up^ "Sanskrit is second official language in Uttarakhand – The Hindustan Times". 19 January 2010. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  5. Jump up^ Monier-Williams (1898:1120)
  6. Jump up^ "Ideology and Status of Sanskrit: Contributions to the History of the Sanskrit - Page 11"
  7. Jump up to:a b c Staal 1963, p. 272
  8. Jump up^ Macdonell (2004:?)
  9. Jump up^ Burrow (2001:?)
  10. Jump up to:a b M. Witzel, Inside the Texts-Beyond the Texts, Harvard, 1997.
  11. Jump up to:a b Pollock (2001:393)
  12. Jump up^ Oberlies (2003:xxvii-xxix)
  13. Jump up^ Edgerton (1953:?)
  14. Jump up^ "This village speaks gods language – India – The Times of India". The Times of India. 13 August 2005. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  15. Jump up^ "Sanskrit boulevard". Hindustan Times. 20 September 2008. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  16. Jump up^ Indian Express, Friday, 14th march 2003
  17. Jump up^ "Orissa's Sasana village – home to Sanskrit pundits! !". 9 April 2010. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  18. Jump up^ "Writ Petition on Sanskrit". JD Supra. 15 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
  19. Jump up^ "PIL seeks minority status for Sanskrit". The Financial World. 15 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
  20. Jump up^ "Mother language 'Sanskrit' needs urgent protection". GoI Monitor. 8 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-10.
  21. Jump up^ "Sanskrit's first Jnanpith winner is a 'poet by instinct'"The Indian Express. 14 Jan 2009.
  22. Jump up to:a b c d Mayank Austen Soofi (23 November 2012). "Delhi's Belly | Sanskrit-vanskrit". Livemint. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
  23. Jump up^ "Breaking News on Politics, Cricket, Sports, Business , State,Formula One in INDIA , Regional Language Audio Bulletins, Regional Language scripts". News On Air. 15 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
  24. Jump up^ "News archive search can automatically create results from relevant time periods". Newsonair. 15 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
  25. Jump up^ "Doordarshan News Live webcast". Retrieved 2012-12-06.
  26. Jump up^ Masica, pp. 36–37
  27. Jump up^ Masica, p. 38
  28. Jump up^ Meier-Brügger, Michael; Matthias Fritz, Manfred Mayrhofer, Charles Gertmenian (trans.) (2003), Indo-European Linguistics, Berlin; New York: Walter de Gruyter, p. 20,ISBN 3-11-017433-2
  29. Jump up^ Keith, Arthur Berriedale (1993), A history of Sanskrit literature, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p. 4, ISBN 81-208-0979-3
  30. Jump up to:a b c d M Deshpande "Efforts to vernacularise Sanskrit"
  31. Jump up^ Hock, H. "Language death phenomena in Sanskrit: Grammatical evidence for attrition in contemporary spoken Sanskrit" in Studies in the Linguistic Sciences v.13 no.2 1983 Dept. of Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Dept. of Linguistics
  32. Jump up^ Pollock (2001:416)
  33. Jump up^ Pollock (2001:398)
  34. Jump up^ A notable exception are the military references of Nīlakaṇṭha Caturdhara's 17th-century commentary on the Mahābhārata, according to Minkowski (2004).
  35. Jump up^ Pollock (2001:415)
  36. Jump up^ Seth (2007:172–175)
  37. Jump up^ "Sanskrit | St James Junior School - London". Retrieved 2012-12-06.
  38. Jump up^ T. K. John, "Research and Studies by Western Missionaries and Scholars in Sanskrit Language and Literature," in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. III, Ollur[Trichur] 2010 Ed. George Menachery, pp.79 - 83
  39. Jump up^ Friedrich Max Müller (1859), A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, Williams and Norgate, p. 1
  40. Jump up^ Thomas R. Trautmann (2004). Aryans and British India. Yoda Press. pp. 161–. ISBN 978-81-902272-1-6. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  41. Jump up^ Tiwari (1955:?)
  42. Jump up^ Hamp, Eric P. (Oct-December 1996). "On the Indo-European origins of the retroflexes in Sanskrit". Journal of the American Oriental Society, The. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
  43. Jump up^ Salomon (1998), p. 7
  44. Jump up^ Whitney (1889:?)
  45. Jump up to:a b Salomon (1998), p. 86
  46. Jump up to:a b Masica (1991:135)
  47. Jump up^ In northern India, there are Brahmi inscriptions dating from the 3rd century BCE onwards, the oldest appearing on the famous Prakrit pillar inscriptions of king Ashoka. The earliest South Indian inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi, written in early Tamil, belong to the same period. Mahadevan (2003:?)
  48. Jump up^ Abhyankar (1986:?)
  49. Jump up^ "". Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  50. Jump up to:a b Lennart Warnemyr. An Analytical Cross Referenced Sanskrit Grammar Compounds
  51. Jump up^ Staal, J.F. (1967), Word Order in Sanskrit and Universal Grammar, Springer Science & Business, ISBN 978-90-277-0549-5
  52. Jump up^ Gillon, B.S (25 March 1996), "Word order in Classical Sanskrit"Indian linguistics 57 (1–4): 1, ISSN 0378-0759
  53. Jump up^ Vidyakara; Daniel H.H. Ingalls, An Anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry, Harvard Oriental Series, pp. 5–8
  54. Jump up^ Chatterji 1942, cited in Staal 1963, p. 272
  55. Jump up^ Velcheru Narayana Rao; David Shulman, Classical Telugu Poetry (2 ed.), The Regents of the University of California, p. 3
  56. Jump up^ van Gulik (1956:?)
  57. Jump up^ See this page from the Indonesian Wikipedia for a list
  58. Jump up^ Zoetmulder (1982:ix)
  59. Jump up^ "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (John Williams)". Filmtracks. 11 November 2008. Retrieved 2012-04-05.
  60. Jump up^
  61. Jump up^ "The Child In Us Lyrics - Enigma". Retrieved 2013-01-27.
  62. Jump up^ BBC - Awards for World Music 2008 - Asia/Pacific, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four television.
  63. Jump up^ First suggested by Briggs (1985)


This article incorporates material from the Wikia article "Termination of spoken Sanskrit", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.

Further reading




  • Otto Böhtlingk, Rudolph Roth, Petersburger Wörterbuch, 7 vols., 1855–75
  • Otto Böhtlingk, Sanskrit Wörterbuch in kürzerer Fassung 1883–86 (1998 reprint, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi)
  • Manfred MayrhoferKurzgefasstes etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindischen, 1956–76
  • Manfred Mayrhofer, Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen, 3 vols., 2742 pages, 2001, ISBN 3-8253-1477-4

External links

Sanskrit edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sanskrit edition of Wikisource, the free library
For a list of words relating to Sanskrit, see the Sanskrit language category of words inWiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Sanskrit
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sanskrit.




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