From: Nalin Parekh < >
When Sanskrit Becomes Alien And German Native In India?
“The aliens are here! We are under attack! They are loony, with loony tunes like Vande Mataram! Help!”
“They have taken out their weapons and are threatening to use their Brahmastra—Sanskrit! We are going to perish! HELP! Bring back Sonia! Bring back German, Italian, whatever, but bring the natives back!”
Yes, it was Natives vs Aliens in India last week. Such was the stupidity we experienced by way of a manufactured controversy to yet again ‘liberally‘ and ‘secularly‘ rant against the BJP government. Seriously, what’s with us? Are we Indians or Germans? Even Friedrich Max Müller, a German, was probably more Indian than most of our natives, or ‘secular’ natives. He claimed, most proudly, that he was a “Sanskrit scholar”; he wasn’t ashamed of it as some of us natives are.
(Whether he was a scholar or not is a different question, as he has been referred to as a ‘swindler’ by many including Prof Prodosh Aich who has done painstaking research on the history of India and its primary sources.)
The whole of last week, the ‘secular natives’ cried in despair: “The aliens want to send us back to the caves, where the dead and Sanskrit lie!”
So Sanskrit was a dead language! And you know who buried it? A German hired by an Englishman for the East India Company. Yes, the very English, very ‘secular natives’ of India. So Max Müller, who never set foot in India, never got any formal training in Sanskrit, becomes a ‘Sanskrit scholar’. And who did he learn Sanskrit from? Well, he read translations by Europeans.
And whom did those European translators learn the language from? From other European ‘scholars’. How did those European ‘scholars’ learn? Some claimed they learnt it themselves and others that they compiled Sanskrit dictionaries without knowing much of the language, but with the help of ‘pundits’ in Calcutta, India. But how can you learn Sanskrit yourself without a dictionary or a grammar book? And how do you compile a dictionary if you aren’t thorough in both Sanskrit and English?
Well, you see, very few Indians or Europeans questioned Max Müller’s Sanskrit scholarship back then and that tradition continues till today. So stop asking questions. It’s the white skin, stupid!
Emboldened by their newfound ‘scholarship’, they went ahead and translated our Vedas, Srimadbhagvad Gita and the Puranas, too. This is not to say there weren’t some Europeans who studied Sanskrit systematically. There were some. But our ancient texts are a repertoire of knowledge, each verse in the Rg Veda has numerous layers of wisdom hidden within and their understanding was largely superficial.
Now, whatever ‘scholars‘ like Max Müller understood, given their limited knowledge and aptitude, they wrote, and what they didn’t understand they spun a tale around. And they finally presented our goods back to us, repackaged, with a tag—brand new and improved!
It is said that Max Müller avoided visiting India for fear of facing scholars like Dayanand Sarawati. Dayanand said of Max Müller, “In a desert where nothing grows, a castor plant looks like an oak.” And of his Sanskrit and Vedic scholarship, Dayanand remarked, “He is a toddler trying to walk.”
And we worship this German, yes, a German, as a Sanskrit scholar, honour him with a centre in Lutyens Delhi, on prime land. He is a native, indeed. Like the natives who have been screaming all of last week.
When people like us, the ‘aliens’, say that we must have Sanskrit, pure and pristine, restored to a country called Bharat, the ‘natives’ scream that it is against their ‘Idea of India.’.
The roots of this idea lie in what Thomas Babington Macaulay and Max Müller did one and a half centuries ago. When they decided on this Great Sanskrit Fraud to make us their children, they knew this was the best way to sever us from the roots of our eighborion. Max Müller reportedly wrote a letter to his wife saying Indians would never get back to their 3,000-year-old roots; they would find their (new) roots through books written by him and his lik.
And so it is! As Prof Aich says, “Today we have no way of getting back to our cultural roots without reading the cock-and-bull stories of Max,” and the best part is that we don’t want to. The refrain that we can read our Sanskrit texts in English and the innocent question as to what the problem with that is overlook the fact that Sanskrit is not merely a language; it’s our history, culture and roots. What kind of an idiot would prefer German to his own roots, Sanskrit? Well, we saw multitudes of them the whole of last week, screaming, raving, ranting.
Do we even eighbo the extent of knowledge that has been denied to us due to lack of Sanskrit education? Do we understand that a language which most Indo-European languages owe their roots to went ‘dead’ because of our willingness to discard all that is Bharatiya? And the tradition continues till today, in the name of liberalism and secularism.
The ‘natives’ put forth another argument: “German is global. Sanskrit is communal.” When did German become global? When I went to sleep last night, the most spoken languages in the world were Mandarin, English, Spanish and Hindi. German didn’t figure even in the top 10. What happened overnight? If I go by the most spoken languages, shouldn’t we make Hindi our ‘global’ national language since it’s spoken by close to 500 million people?
We still faithfully believe Max Müller, who said that we needed Western culture and Christianity to save us, else we are doomed! We are not in the 19th century. We don’t need a Müller to save us. We have to stop seeking the patronage and protection of the West.
Some, of course, don’t think so. Here is what our globe-trotting secular, just back from an international destination Tihar, M.K. Kanimozhi, had to say: “Sanskrit is a Hindu language. It is not used by Muslims or Christians. So why do you want to impose it on everyone? We want an inclusive India, a secular India, an India that belongs to everyone.”
But when did Sanskrit become a Hindu language? It’s the only language that is not named after its people and country. If you were to make a small attempt to understand your own country, you will eighbo that it’s a cultural thought that unites us beyond our regional identities; it belongs to the whole of India, not to one ‘wing‘ or the other. It’s that common historical link between all of us who call ourselves Indians, but then your ‘idea of India’ does not allow you to accept that. Because this acceptance will threaten your very raison d’être in politics.
Also, whoever ‘imposed‘ Sanskrit? It was trashed, and German imposed, in typical surreptitious UPA style. In 2011, the government of the United Progressive Alliance unethically imposed German on Kendriya Vidyalayas, thus violating India’s three-language formula, which essentially means English plus two Indian languages are to be taught to children from 6th to the 8th grade. When did German become an Indian language?
Why would our government promote German, which is not even an official UN language, at the expense of 22 constitutionally eighbori Indian languages that need to be preserved as they run the risk of going extinct like hundreds of our languages already have? (See list of endangered Indian languages at the end of this article)
The reasons to do so were two: Evangelical and Economic. Some intelligence reports say Germans also sent their teachers into Maoist-infested areas to teach our people a language that even Germans don’t use while transacting business globally. And economic, clearly, in the sense that we are telling our children they must learn German, go abroad, as there is no future for anybody in this godforsaken country called India.
Then comes the rozi roti attack!
Will Europe, struggling to provide employment to its own people, hire Indians? That’s a bit of a stretch. Was the UPA government trying to mislead our kids? Why is our government encouraging export of talent? Isn’t it the job of the government to create job oppurtunities? Doesn’t the spread of Yoga, Ayurveda, Sanskrit, Vedic sciences etc across the globe generate employment for us and others? It’s a fallacy that an additional language will help build commerce. Israel, China and Japan did not become economic successes because they speak more languages, but because the goods they manufacture talk the global language of consumption.
Furthermore, it’s shocking how people are judging Sanskrit for its ability to be used in jobs. That is exactly the kind of rootless ’clerks’ Macaulay wanted to breed—people unable to think beyond bread and butter and thus rendered easy to enslave by co-opting a few of them in so-called respectable jobs, and then use these few to perpetuate slavery over the masses. (For the uninitiated, there were only 80,000 Brits ever on the ground in India when India’s population was 34 crore—a ratio of 1: 4,250. It’s obvious that they ruled us in active connivance with rootless Indians).
Think of the larger issues of our national identity, our historical and eighborionl heritage that kept us going in the face of 1,000 years of invasions and slavery. There you will find the value of Sanskrit.
Sanskrit is the heart of who we are; it is what distinguishes us from other civilisations and gives us the underlying but invisible unity that has held us together for millennia.
If we lose Sanskrit completely—other than a few scholars, we have substantially lost it already—India will disintegrate. It will be like the West losing Latin, or the Chinese eighborion losing Mandarin Chinese.
Do you wait for a signal of approval from your eighbor before you express your love and respect for your parents? Look at Israel; if they can revive Hebrew, so can we. Look at the Chinese: they have made a powerhouse out of a difficult-to-learn language.
If a billion Indians agree that Sanskrit is a precious piece of our heritage, nothing that any non-Indian says to undermine Sanskrit will matter a whit. If a billion Indians are hesitant about Sanskrit, nothing that any non-Indian says in praise of Sanskrit will make an iota of difference.
The decision is solely ours, aliens!
Endangered Languages of India
A’tong, Adi, Aimol, Aiton, Aka, Anal, Angami, Angika, Ao, Apatani, Asur, Badaga, Baghati, Balti, Bangani, Bangni, Bellari, Bhadravahi, Bhalesi, Bharmauri, Bhumji, Biete, Birhor, Bodo, Brokshat, Bunan, Byangsi, Chambeali, Chang, Chokri, Churahi, Darma, Deori, Dimasa, Gadaba, Galo, Gangte, Garhwali, Gta’, Gondi, Gorum, Great Andamanese languages, Gutob, Handuri, Hill Miri, Hmar, Ho, Hrangkhol, Irula, Jad, Jangshung, Jarawa, Jaunsari, Juang, Kabui, Kachari, Kanashi, Kangdi, Karbi, Khampti, Kharia, Khasali, Khasi, Kheza, Khiamngan, Khoirao, Khowa, Kinnauri, Koch, Koda, Kodagu, Koireng, Kolami, Kom, Konda, Konyak, Koraga, Korku, Koro, Korwa, Kota, Kui, Kului, Kumaoni, Kundal Shahi, Kurru, Kuruba, Kurux, Kuvi, Lamgang, Lamongse, Langrong, Lhota, Liangmai, Limbu, Lishpa, Luro, Mahasui, Malto, Manchad, Manda, Mandeali, Mao, Mara, Maram, Maring, Mech, Meithei, Miji, Milang, Minyong, Mising, Mizo, Moyon, Mundari, Muot, Mzieme, Nahali, Naiki, Nihali, Nocte, Nruanghmei, Nyishi, Onge, Padam, Padri, Paite, Pangvali, Parji, Pasi, Pengo, Phom, Pochuri, Pu, Purik, Purum, Rabha, Remo, Rengma, Rongpo, Ruga, Sanenyo, Sangtam, Sentinelese, Sherdukpen, Shompen, Simi, Singpho, Sirmaudi, Sora, Spiti, Tagin, Tai Nora, Tai Phake, Tai Rong, Takahanyilang, Tamang, Tangam, Tangkhul, Tangsa, Tarao, Thado, Tiwa, Toda, Toto, Tulu, Turi, Wancho, Yimchungru, Zangskari and Zeme.
Sumedha Sarvadaman is an advertising professional based in Delhi. The views expressed are personal.