Monday, August 29, 2016
Chennaiites get their ucharanam right
Aug 29 2016 : The Times of India (Chennai)
Gajananam bhuta ganathi sevitam, kapittha jambu palasara bhaksitam, uma sutam shoka vinasha karanam, namami vignesvara pada pankajam. The first shloka that is taught to a child is this Ganesha shloka. But does everyone know what it means? Well, that is one of the primary reasons why V Lakshmi Kumari, a housewife signed up for Sanskrit classes.
“We read so many mythological texts without knowing the meaning. I did not want to blindly recite a shloka or read the Ramayana without knowing what it meant,“ says Lakshmi, who has been learning Sanskrit for the last two years.
According to Dr R Ramachandran, a professor of Sanskrit at Vivekananda College, the number of families who can read, write and speak in Sanskrit has increased over the years. In fact, he says that today , there are close to 150 families in Chennai who can speak in Sanskrit fluently . “The number of people who sign up for spoken Sanskrit classes has increased over the years. The class starts with a simple song, first-timers find that easy because they just have to repeat the lines. Then we introduce objects that we use on a day-to-day basis and then, move on to simple sentences. Finally , we get to the grammar part of it, but we don't make it very complicated,“ says Ramachandran, who is also the vice president of Samskrita Bharati, a non-profit organisation working to revive Sanskrit. Anybody can sign up for Sanskrit classes.
“Previously , the perception was that Sanskrit is used only while reciting shlokas for poojas. But that is changing now. Sanskrit these days is used for research in the field of science, math, chemistry and even management. A lot of parents send their children to learn Sanskrit these days, because they never learnt the language themselves, and are now realising its importance,“ he adds.
A TOUGH LANGUAGE?
One might think that the complex nature of the words, complicated sentence structure, and tough grammar makes Sanskrit a tough language to master. But Lakshmi says otherwise. “In the initial stages, learning any new language can seem daunting. But once you get a hang of it, it becomes enjoyable. Sanskrit in particular, is a rich and sweet language. One just needs to develop interest. You will find a lot of teachers in Chennai who take Sanskrit classes. In fact, I am going to take my first class this September,“ she adds.
Sixteen-year-old Ram Prakash and his 12-year-old brother Raghav Prakash have been learning Sanskrit for a year now and have begun speaking the language at home, too. “I took up Sanskrit in my 9th grade and found it really tough. But the language was engaging, which is why I signed up for spoken Sanskrit classes. Sanskrit is a language that has a lot of rules, but that's the best part. The language has helped me improve my pronunciation and has helped me understand the meaning of the shlokas I recite. My brother and I are in the fourth level in spoken Sanskrit and I'm competent enough to read books now, albeit a little slowly ,“ says Ram Prakash.
NOT A COMMUNITY-BASED LANGUAGE ANYMORE
In ancient India, scholars used Sanskrit as the main language of written and verbal communication. In fact, the language was referred to as devabhasha -the language of Gods, and it was spoken by only a certain community . But that has changed over the years. Ramachandran says that Sanskrit has become the janbhasha -the language of the people, now. “Sanskrit is no longer a community-based language. From Muslims to Christians, we have students from different communities who are interested in signing up for spoken Sanskrit lessons. We, in fact, go to villages to teach the language and reach the masses,“ he says.
M Afreen, who is in her eighth grade, has been learning Sanskrit for a year now. She says, “I wanted to learn a new language, which is why I chose Sanskrit. It is the oldest language in our country and is rooted to our culture. My father is not very encouraging of me learning Sanskrit, but then I tell him, that there is nothing wrong in learning a language that belongs to this country . I love the language and I will continue to learn it,“ she says.