Sanskrit – The language of the gods

Sanskrit is a ‘high’ language that is mainly used during religious and scholarly discourse. It is the classical language used in India and the liturgical language for Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. The language is mainly used during religious ceremonies and when chanting mantras or singing hymns, hence, it earned the nick name ‘the language of the gods’. This made it to be considered an elite language. Sanskrit was also used as the primary language for the arts, literature and the sciences for thousands of years. Some effort is being made to revive the Sanskrit as a language which can be used in the day to day life of its speakers. The language is often not spoken at home, though there are a few communities that are starting to use the language regularly. There are 14,000 people who speak this language. Sanskrit has official recognition as one of the 22 languages of India. The word ‘Sanskrit’ means consecrated, sanctified or refined.

Sanskrit has mainly been written using the Devanagari alphabet since the 19th century. Other alphabets in India, with the exception of Tamil and Gurmukhi have been also used to write the language. Tibetan, Thai, Sharda, Grantha and Siddham alphabets have also been used to write Sanskrit. The Rigveda, which is a collection of Indian hymns composed during the 2nd BC, is the oldest text written using the Sanskrit language. The German author Goethe borrowed from the Sanskrit playwright Kalidasa for the Vorspiel auf dem Theater in Faust. Many other European intellectuals were influenced by Sanskrit literature during the 19th century. Most of the texts that were originally written about Yoga were written in Sanskrit. Sanskrit literature covers just about every topic on earth.

Sanskrit is an Indo-European language just like English, even though there is a remarkable difference between the languages. Sanskrit has a lot of vocabularies and a complex grammatical structure. This makes it quite challenging for Anglophones to master Sanskrit, but this can be overcome by the use of various resources that are available to learners. Learning the language will help you understand the culture of Southeast Asia.

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