Wednesday, September 3, 2014


 Sanskrit  Language is   Divine;  Is Tamil too ?
(Compilation for a discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, September 2014)


Sanskrit  is the only language that is not named after the people who speak the language and therefore is not a  mother tongue of anybody and is Divine. Historians say People during the Vedic period transacted in this language and   tradition maintains that it is the language of the Devas or Gods. Subhashita Ratna says: “Bhaashaasu mukhyaa madhuraa divyaa geervaana bhaaratee”--Among all the languages Sanskrit is the sweetest, most important and divine. The word geervana bharatee refers to Sanskrit.

The art of writing was known even during the Vedic age though memorization was preferred and encouraged.  It is presumed that Braahmee script as well as Kharoshthi existed even before the Vedic period. Both Sanskrit referred as Devanagari and Tamil scripts are evolved out of Braahmee script. Braahmee is presumed to be introduced by Brahama the creator called Brahmalipee to the celestial sages who developed grammatical Sanskrit. The word Samskrit is made from two words Sam+krit. Sam means completely or perfectly and krit means done. It has been anglicized to Sanskrit. Sanskrit is celebrated as celestial language or Deva-vaani and the script   Devanaagari.   

Since the Vedas employed words in aphorisms or sutras being brief and tight in linguistic logic for easy memorization as means of knowledge, great care was taken to evolve a system of phonetics, grammar, prosody, etymology etc., built into the language to make it perfect to convey the original intent of the aphorisms. Thus Sanskrit language is unique compared to the latter ancient and scriptural languages like Greek, Hebrew and Latin etc. Sages developed Vedangas literally meaning the limbs of Vedas or assist that made possible proper understanding of Vedas. Of the six Vedangas four relate to language direct. These are Siksha (phonetics), Vyaakarana (Grammar), Prosody (Chandas) and Etymology (Nirukti).

Lord Siva in his cosmic dancing form of Nataraja produced fourteen different sounds in succession as stated in Puranas.  These fourteen beats revealed fourteen aphorisms known as Maheswara sutras in letter form. They contain forty three Sanskrit letters organized in particular order. Do they represent forty three Triangles of Srichakra? I can’t tell! These letters again are believed to be of divine origin. These Sutras or aphorisms are the foundation of Panini’s Grammar on which modern Sanskrit Grammar is based.
Manusmriti says all world languages originated from Sanskrit and even today some words in all languages can be traced back to Sanskrit. Sanskrit is therefore called Mother of all Languages. Phonology and morphology of Sanskrit is Unique for the following reasons:

  1.  1.  Sanskrit was the first language of the world with absolute perfection by its own nature and         formation of vowels, consonants and conjunct-consonants.  Modern languages are also based on this  concept.
  2.  .   Its morphology of word formation is unique with dhatu (root), noun and pronoun forms and verb forms.3.
  3.      Sanskrit Grammar has withstood the test of times from where Panini established it for            the first time needing little or no modification.
  4.     Vedic Sanskrit language started before all other ancient languages of the world—Greek,  Hebrew, Latin etc.
  5.  .  Sanskrit words are found in all languages of the world not vice-versa which shows other languages heavily depended on Sanskrit language for their development.


One of the most intriguing and interesting aspect of Hindu Vedic thought relates to Philosophy of numbers and alphabets. Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavadgeeta glorify alphabet as Supreme Being (Brahman).  Mantras on deities are expressed as mantras in number form or letters. We have several mantras called Ekaaksharee (one letter), Panchaaksharee (five letters), Ashtaaksharee (eight letters), Dwadasaksharee (12 letters), Shodasaaksharee (16 letters), Chatur-vimsat-aksharee (twenty-four letters) etc., which every religious Hindu is familiar with.     Scriptures (Chamakam, Bhagavadgeetaa etc.) ask us to meditate on letters (Om; Hreem) and numbers (odd and even) as mystery of Brahman is hidden in these mantras that call for proper explanation and understanding.  Since the Vedas are in Sanskrit these are Sanskrit letters only. Numbers became universal in application which had their origin in Hinduism including zero or Poornam out of which 1 to 9 were taken away and popularized by Arabs. They were called Arabic numbers to distinguish them from Roman numbers by Westerners at that time.  We are dealing with alphabets only in this discourse. We have dealt  on the divinity of numbers elsewhere. Some of the mantras and couplets that refer to divine nature of Sanskrit letters and its grammar are:

1.  Aksharaanaam akaarosmi dwandah saamaasikasya cha | (Bhagavadgeetaa)
Of letters I am  The first  short  vowel a  in Sanskrit alphabet and  of compound words   I am  dwanda-samasa (Dual-words compound) in Sanskrit Grammar. 
2. Om  ityekaaksharam | Om tad Brahma || (Mahanaarayana Upanishad or MNU)
The single syllable Om (in Sanskri) is Brahman.
3. Aksharam Brahmasamhitam |--Praatar-aaposana mantra (MNU)
This appears as a part of praatar-aaposana (sipping of water in the morning) mantra of Sandhyavnadana (daily prayer).  This mantra refers to letters as Brahman meaning “this one of the form of Varna or letters is equal to Brahman”
4. aa idam tadakshare parame Vyoman (MNU)
Here parama vyoman refers to Akshara (letter) Brahman which has no other cause or support. Aa in the mantra is the vocabulary aah in Vedic mantra which is the Vedic variant of Aaseet pronounced while offering oblation Swaaha.  Aah is vowel aa accompanied by half-moon- period as in Om.
5. Ksharah sarvaani bhootaani kootasthah akshara uchyate | (Geetaa)
All creatures together constitute the Kshara-purusha or constant changing entity and the Changeless in all creatures is the A-kshara-purusha, Changeless Entity or Imperishable or Brahman.
Brahman being a Changeless Entity is addressed as Aksharah. Legal minded people always say put it in writing. When anything is written down it becomes a permanent record or imperishable proof.  So the alphabets in Sanskrit are called Akshara or that which is not perishable with which attribute we glorify Brahman and meditate on Brahman.
6. Aham Brahama, Brahma=aham  (Mahavakya says aham means Brahma.  In reality aham itself is Symbolic. Sanskrit letters beginning with vowel and ending with consonant ha  which includes Ardhachandra Bindu (Half Moon period)to close the sound is send to be the field (Kshetra) of  Kshetrjna (Brahma).

The immanent spiritual energy manifests itself as fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet (panchaasad-varnaroopinee).   The vowels, also known as matrices (maatrikaas) are of the   nature of Sakti, while the consonants (varnas) are of the nature of Siva. The union of the two is illustrated in the seed-syllable (beejaakshara) which is employed in the mantras. The letters themselves are mantras.

Akaarah sarva-varnaargyah prakaasah paramah sivah |
Hakaaro antyah kalaaroopo vimarsaakhyah prakeertitah ||
Ato akaara hakaarabhyam ahamitya prithaktayaa |
Prapancham sivasaktibhyaam kreedeekritya prakasate ||
Kakaaradi kshakaaraantaa-varnaas-te sivarooppinah 
Akaaraadi visargaantaa svaraaha shodasa saktayah ||
Sivasaktimayaah varnaahsabdhaartapratipaadikaah |
Sivah svara paraadheenoe na swatantrah kadaapyasau ||

The universe is bound by the dimensions of its un-manifest origin Siva on the one hand and by the dimension of its manifest passing out and absorption (Sakti) on the other hand,  are illustrated by letters  beginning with alphabet  a  and ending with ha.  The initial letter stands for the manifesting consciousness (prakaasa) of Siva and the final letter for the reviewing energy (vimarsa) of Sakti.

The consonants by themselves are impossible to articulate meaningfully vocalize without the aid of vowels. That is why the vowels are called Uyir Ezhuttu or life letter in Tamil. The Consonants accommodated in the alphabet are therefore are invariably dependent on vowels as Sakti on Siva (ik+a=ka; im+a=ma etc.). They are called Mai Ezhuttu or body (sarira) letters in Tamil. Consonants are dependent on vowels as Siva on Sakti to be effective.  The vowels provide power to the consonants which are in the nature of mere seeds (beeja).

Going through the discourses on even and odd numbers in Chamakam as well as the transcendental mathematical symbol Pi    my thoughts began to focus on Sanskrit alphabets. Sanskrit letters are called Devanagari Script and hailed as Varnamaalaa.  Deva means divine and naagari that which comes from city. So Devanaagri means the language of divine citizens.  Varnamaalaa means garland of letters. We are often told that the mantras chanted in Sanskrit alone take us to divine heights.  Also we know words are identified with numbers in Hindu scriptures often. It all started with Tadekam (that ONE) in Rigveda. Here one stands for Brahman, Supreme Being.  It is then worth examining why Hindus consider Sanskrit as divine? Of course Tamils have their own pride. They say Tamil is also of Braahmee origin.  Sanskrit came much later and Tamil is quite independent of Sanskrit.  They have their own Tamil Vedas too. A Tamil poet laments: 
“Chaturmarai Aariyar varumun sahamuzhutum ninadaayin mudu-mozhi nee anaathaiyena kaanbadum viyappaame”—long before the Aryans of four Vedas came whole world was pervaded by you.  It is a pity you are an orphan today.  Indians believe all other languages are dependent on Sanskrit or they are dialects of Sanskrit.  

Sanskrit alphabets in grammar contain 13 vowels (achah or swaraah) and 33 consonants (halah or Vyanjanaani) making it 46. Besides the above 46 letters there are two more sounds known as Anuswara (period or dot on the letter) and Visarga (:). That brings the total to 48. Hindu scriptures talk of 50 or 51 letters in Sanskrit. Some like Arsha Vidya Gurukul mention even 54 letters.

48 letters consist of 13 vowels+25 consonants+4 semi vowels (ya, ra, la, va) called Antahstaah + 3 sibilants (s.a as in sankh, sha, sa) called Ushmaanah + 1 Aspirate (ha). Scriptures added to them cerebral hard ‘la’ which you find in the Tamil word aval and conjunct consonant Ksha. Making it 50. Some scriptures also add the sound of the semi-circular dot (ardha chandra bindu) or half-moon-dot (hereafter referred to as hmb) nasal sound which you usually find on the sacred symbol letter Om. 54 letters consists of adding two more conjunct consonants tra, jnya and a lengthened vowel of lr. Japamaala (meditational beads held together in a circular form by a string) contains 108 beads or 54 beads.  “The Sanskrit alphabet called Aksharamaala contains 54   letters to some.  Repeated forward and backward, the total is 108 in a 54 bead necklace.  As any name of the Lord, whether known or unknown, is included within these letters (ashtottara sata naamaavali) the number 108 represents the Lord” says the instructional book of Balvihar of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam. Though a bit over-stretched there are many who feel so. 54 letters of Sanskrit are supposed to be represented by the Japamaala which contains often 54 beads or occasionally 108   but worn short practically in two rounds of 54   which are held together with a central bead called Meru bead.  In Pradosham worship   circumambulation is done by going forward and backward in a semicircle as in 54 beads Japamala to count 108 and so going forth and backward is permitted. Even otherwise Bhagavdgeeta says: “aksharaanaam akaarosmi” among the alphabet I am the first letter “a”. Brahman is addressed as “Aksharah” and “Aham” (aham brahmaasmi) in Upanishds and Vedas. So we have references to Sanskrit alphabet as containing 48, 50, 51 and 54.  Lalitaasahasranaamam contains two mantras; “Om Maatrikavarna-roopinyai Namah” (577) and “Om Varnaroopinyai Namah” (850) thereby addressing Goddess as the very form of all the letters in Sanskrit.

Out of the 13 vowels five vowels are called short vowels a, i, u, ri, lr or hrasvah and the rest  eight long vowels called deerghah. The thirty three consonants (halah or Vynjanas) are in eight groups: 1) Gluttarals or Kanthyaah   or Ka-varga; 2) Palatals or Taalbyaah or Cha-varga; 3) Linguals or Moordhnyah or Ta-varga; 4) Dentals or Dantyaah or Tha-varga; 5) Labials or Oshathyah or Pa-varga 6) Antahsthaah or semi-vowels (ya ra,la and va) 7) Ushmaanah or Sibilants and 8) Aspirate  ha  going with Visargah.   The consonants assume their full form only with the help of Vowels. For example, im+a=ma


The philologists believe all the vowels have emerged from AUM.  They strongly assert that if one concentrates and repeats the vowels A E I O U, the sound AUM can be heard resonating very clearly. The consonants are considered to be images and reflections only of the primordial sound AUM.  AUM is considered to be the source of all alphabets in Sanskrit and the source of all the languages. The views of philologists on vowels and consonants agree with that of spiritual thinkers. “Aum is the universal formulation of the energy of sound and speech, that which contains and sums up, synthesizes and releases, all the spiritual power and all the potentiality of Vak (speech) and Sabda (sound)” says Aurobindo.


Bhagavadgeeta says that God is in everything sentient and non-sentient echoing Upanishads: “Yo maam pasyati sarvatra sa sarvancha mayi pasyati”--He who sees me everywhere sees everything exists in me.  This view is well expressed in the Hindu thought on Philosophy of Language. Aksharamaala or Varnamaala of Sanskrit is considered divine by the scriptures as revealed in Srichakra and Vishnuchakra described at length in the discourses “Srividya and Sri Lalita” and “Srichakras of Sri Lalita and Brahmachakra of Prabrahman”.  50 or 51 letters in Mantra Rahasya of Srichakra are called Matrikaas.  These are 16 vowels and 33 consonants and transcendental (hmb m). The first letter is short a  and the last letter is ha.  First letter (a) represents Siva and last letter (ha) represents Sakti. Together along with transcendental (hmb m) they constitute aham (ahamtaa, the concept of I), which is Supreme Reality. The vowels from the short a to the unmodified nasal m (in aham), fifteen or sixteen in number, are considered as male principle of Siva, the foundational and content-less Consciousness. The first letter is crystal colored representing all pervasiveness and the last letter is red   representing creativity.

Ya eko a-varno bahudhaa saktiyogaan varnaan anekaan  nihitaartho dadhaati
|| Sv. Up. 4.1 ||

The one a-kaara in which the Supreme Brahman is enshrined creates many letters on account of its association with power. a  is the origin for all consonants(ik+a is ka). Akaara (the letter a ) signifies Supreme Brahman. All speech is said to have letter a as its source. Just as akaara produces different letters the Supreme Brahman creates the world of many varnas.
From the five of the short vowels mentioned above the first five groups of consonants (Ka- varga to Pa-varga) are evolved.

The first five groups of consonants represent the twenty-five Principles of existence as follows:

Kavarga—reprents Pancha Mahabhutas or five elements—earth, water, fire, air and space (aakaasa).

Chavarga—represents the pure condition of the same five elements called Tanmatras in bare form.

Tavarga—represents five organs of action—speech, prehension, locomotion, excretion and reproduction.

Thavarga—represents five sense organs—vision, audition, olfaction, gustation and tactual.

Pavarga— represents Manas (mind), Ahamkara (ego), Buddhi (intellect), Prakriti the female principle of action and Purusha (male principle of undifferentiated and inspiring Consciousness).
The semi-vowels ya and s.a (as in Siva) are formed from Cha; la, and sa are formed  from Tha; va is formed from ta and pa together; and the soft breathing ha  is formed from Visargah (:).  That is why ha is called aspirate being formed from visargah.

Of the four semi-vowels ya represents raaga (attachment), ra represents Vidya (knowledge), la represents Kalaa (art) and va represents Maaya (illusion). The three sibilants s.a, sha, sa and aspirate ha represent the Principles Mahaamaaya, Suddhavidya, Isvara and Sadaasiva.

The Sanskrit word Aham formed by the first short vowel a and the lost consonant ha pervaded by the ardha chandra bimba nasal sound (hmb m) means (aham--I) or ego which pervades the entire visible world of expression and experience.   Brahma chakra described in Svetasvatara Upanishad identifies 50 Sanskrit letters with 50 spokes of the wheel. The rim of the wheel is Prakriti (that is Sakti or primordial matter).    In fact it is strongly believed Brahma Chakra and Sri Chakra are the same and Sri Chakra is an enlarged three dimensional view of Brahamachakra.   Ashokachakra in Indian National Flag has 24 Spokes.  Asoka Chakra is an adoption of Dharmachakra of Buddha.   Asoka Chakra which appears in   the Indian National Flag has 24 spokes.  Later Buddhists followers during Asoka’s time interpreted 12 out 24 spokes as representing twelve casual links to life taught by Buddha. These are: 1.  Avidyaa  (lack of spiritual knowledge; 2) Samskaara (sacrament); 3) Vijnaana (Consciousness);  4) Naamaroopa (name and form);  5) Shadyaatana (six sense including mind); (6) Sparsa (contact); (7) Vedanaa (Pain); (8) Trishnaa (Thirst); 9) Upaadaana  (Seeking alms);  10) Bhaava  (existing) 11) Jaati (Birth in specific society) and 12) Jaraa-marana (old age and death).  These 12 together with the reflection on the other side constituted 24 Dhamma or Life (in Pali language). Probably these 24 represents 24 aspects of the Sun.    Buddhist explanation of 24 spokes in Ashoka Chakra is actually 12 on one side and the mirror image of 12 on the other side, making it, 24.

Extending this Buddhist explanation above to Asokachakra   Hindus may explain this twenty-four spokes to be representing 48 letters of Sanskrit which 48 symbolizes Supreme Principle  (Kshetra of Akshara of Ksherjana). Svetasvatara Upanishad describes Brhamachakra of 50 spokes which includes in addition to 48 alphabets  Bindu  (.) and Visarga (:) which are not alphabets. Sanskrit language has 48 alphabets from A to Ha which represents Supreme Principle who is described as aksharah and aham as contained in Mahavakya aham Brahmaasmi. The consonants ka to Bha containing 24 alphabets are also said to symbolize 24 aspects of Sun according to Hindu Scriptures. 16 vowels represent Moon the transcendental aspect of Brahman.    The consonants from ma to the last letter ha are ten aspects of Fire.  Parabrahman is also called Rudra and glorified with Panchabrahma Mantras in MNU.  Sun, Moon and Fire are the three eyes of Parabrahman or Rudra praised in Vedas in Rudraprasna. It is therefore logical to conclude that Asokachakra lends itself more towards Brahmachakra than Buddhist Dharmachakra. The forty-eight spokes of the wheel back and forth together represent 48 alphabets of Sanskrit or Parabrahman. 24 spokes could also represent 24 hours in a day and the wheel Kaalachakra whose custodian is Kaala or Time that is Brahman which is in continuous forward motion as a wheel. It is likely 24 aspects of Sun represented by consonants Ka to Bha might have given the idea for Western astronomers to divide a day into 24 equal divisions moving away from 30 Muhurtas for a day as originally thought by  ancient Hindu astrologers.

In Sakta concept the   first short   vowel a   is Siva and the last letter ha   is Sakti.  Together they constitute aham with transcendent hmb (half-moon bindu) expressive of Supreme Reality. This should be differentiated from aham   characteristic in individual often translated as ego. When it refers to individual the aham contains Bindu Anuswara   sound which closes the lips and not the transcendental half-moon bindu m   referred in Srichakra.   In Srividya there is neither Vachya nor Vaachaka, expression or expresser. Both expression and expresser are considered as one entity.  The fifteen vowels    that include nasal sound m are considered as one entity or Taatva.  The thirty-six letters containing 35 consonants and all   vowels taken as one of the Sanskrit alphabet correspond to the 36 Principles or Tattvas that constitutes the universe and its function.  That is why Bhagavadgeeta says that Brahman is Alphabet or Akshara. The vowels are said to provide power (Sakti) to the consonants which are in the nature of seeds or Beeja.  All the fifty letters   from a to ksha represent Sakti while ka to ksha are specifically beejaaksharas representing Siva. ik+a =ka represents Siva and Sakti union. So consonants are also associated with vowels all the time for their articulation.

We have fifteen days in a fortnight.  These are fifteen vowels.  The thirty seventh sound hmb-m  makes  the letters energized to Maatrika (mother like). That is why this sound is called Chandra bindu, the moon period, as the one you see in symbol Om which is transcendental.  Moon has fifteen phases or Tithis during each fortnight, the sixteenth phase being transcendental and unchanging which is responsible for his repeated 

The letters of the alphabet are also identified with various   aspects of the divinity. The short vowel a constitutes head the long vowel aa face and back of the head.  The short e and the long  ee  the two eyes; the short u and the long oo the  two  ears: the short ri and the long ree  the two nostrils; the short lr and long  lrr the two cheeks; ae and ai the two sets of teeth;  oe and ou the two lips; the   period am the tongue  and the visarga ah the neck. The consonants   constitute the body (in Tamil Mai or body); the tavarga and thavarga feet; pa and pha the two arm pits; ba, bha and ma tactile sensations, navel and heart. The other consonants are vital currents (Pancha Praanas) inside the body. Thus Microcosm (human body) is identified with Macrocosm (divinity).

Bindu in Srichakra is in the form of a triangle. The three angles of the triangle also represent three forms of speech—Pasyanti, Madhyama and Vaikharee. The triangle is therefore called Vagbhaava or speech born reflecting the concept of language. The form of the triangle, representing the union of Siva and Sakti, is suggested by the way in which the diphthong vowel   ae  (e as in end  bit lengthened, aye) is written in Sanskrit. This vowel is formed by combining two vowel sounds a  and e.  The letter ae in the written form symbolizes the triangle of Vidya comprehending the three-fold liberations: voidness, wishless and signless.
The conception of the Mother as the Supreme Principle brought into worship a complex of mother goddesses, as Maatrikas.   Devanagari script is    believed to be divine and its first vowel letter a   is considered as   Purusha and the last consonant ha  is Prakriti as revealed in  Vedas and Geeta, where Brahman is addressed as Akshara  or the alphabet. The entire 50 letters are considered as Universe are as Kshetra of Kshetrajna adding two more letters hard  la and  Ksha  to 48 letters of Sanskrit Grammar. Sakta followers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu who follow a middle path called this wheel Srichakra and the letters Matrikas.  43 triangles +1 circle+ 1 Square+ 4 gates+ 1 period correspond to 50 Letters or Matrikas in Sanskrit. Similarly 50 Spokes of Brahma chakra and one rim in Svetasvatara Upanishad refer to 51 letters of Sanskrit.   Soundarya Lahari is a divine scripture of Sri Lalita by Sankara edited and enlarged by him. It is effectively employed in   Sakti worship of Srichakra with Vedic approach based on Atharva Veda mainly and also on Yajurveda. It throws light on the 50 Matrikas or 50 Sanskrit letters.  Please note the emphasis on Akshara (letter) in all these nomenclatures. There are   number of just letter-mantras (not words of letter like the above mentioned mantras) for Srividya worship.  South India is strong in Srividya while Kashmir is in Kaula  Sampradya. Perhaps many of you may know good many Kashmir Pandits are called Kauls meaning thereby followers of Kaula Sampradya or Tradition of Siva-Sakti Worship.  In Lalita Sahasranaama, out of 51 letters of Sanskrit which they call Matrikas only 32 letters have been used, first five vowels along with (hmb) m and the rest consonants.


Tamils also think their Tamil language is divine. They always compare the Tamil letter O with the trunk of Ganesha and make their own version of symbol Om with Tamil O and Half-moon Period. Tamil has 36 letters after absorbing 5 letters from Grantha to facilitate quoting terms of Sanskrit Veda. The last vowel in Tamil language is called akh. This is in the form of a triangle with   single dot as apex and bottom two dots separated from each other equal distance from the top dot.  This represents the eye of Siva as fire, Moon and Sun. This is the mystic letter of Tamil. Tamil has no separate sound anuswara (.) but anuswara is invariably used on all consonants as in Tamil word Avan. This is achieved by the convergence of three dots to one in the last sound letter vowel Akh. Akh is also the symbol of Devi as it represents Moon, Sun and Fire symbolizing Icchasakti, Kriyaasakti and Jnaanasakti. The long vowel ae  (as  eni in Tamil) is similar to Sanskrit long vowel ae. Sanskrit ae resembles triangle and symbolizes power of Brahma the creator and Mother Goddess Sakti. Tamil equivalent ae letter is even better and resembles triangle and so is divine say the Tamils.

Tamil language has 12 vowels and one sound known as akh in the form of three periods in triangular form.   It has in all 18 consonants making 31 letters. Later 5 letters have been added ja, sha,  sa, ha, ksha to bring divinity into it. Ksha here is necessary to depict akshra (Brahman) among the alphabet as the ruling Principle and make letters divine representing Universal Brahman.  With short vowel a and consonant ha and nasal akh, its aham depiction is also complete.  Surprisingly Tamil has ideally 36 letters to represent 36 Tattvas unlike Sanskrit which has packed all vowels to one to make the total 36.  Its total alphabet of 36 letters may be   interpreted as the thirty-six principles (tattvas) that underline the constitution and function of the Universe as described in Srichakra. In Srividya concept all letters are Maatrikas. Perhaps the one alphabet that does not fall within the scope is the sound of alphabet zha in Tamil. The alphabet akh of three dots is more powerful than bindu or visargah of Sanskrit. Tamil of late has welcomed to its fold half-moon bindu to accommodate Onkaara. The akh is in its triangular dot form that   converges to a single dot representing transcendental Brahman or diverge to a circle of Srishti, Sthiti and Laya  creation, sustenance and dissolve;   it also represents  three eyes of Siva  with its apex pointing upwards signifying male Principle. In fact, the central point in Srichakra is composed of three dots like the Tamil sound Akh or three fires: 1) Moon (soma) red in color representing Ida Nadi channel in Kundalini nerve system; 2) Sun (Soorya), white in color, representing Pingala Nadi; and, 3) Fire (Agni) of mixed color representing Sushumna Nadi, the central channel. Sometimes fire can also be   black.  The top dot in akh symbolizes the head of the deity and the pair of dots at the bottom symbolizes the breasts of the mother goddess. Red, white and dark color may also mean Sattava, Tamas and Rajas the three characteristics symbolizing Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution. Now you know why Tamils pride over their language as equal to Devanagari, the language of divine citizens.

It is worth recalling here the lyrics: “Agar mudal ezhuttellaam”   famous Tamil song  of sage Tiruvalluvar in Tirukkural paying obeisance to Devi for gifting the alphabets—Vowels, consonants and conjunct  consonants, numbers, language and the voice initiated by Omkaara which otherwise would have made us  meaningless  like many animals with mere voice. Only humans are capable of expression and meaning through the letters, language, medium of poetry, music, drama and above all intelligence and sixth sense.  It also compares the first letter “A” with the Supreme Power Parasakti. Appropriately Tamil calls its vowels as “Life-Uyir”, Consonants as “Mei or Body” and conjunct consonants as   “Uyir-mei or life-body complex” of letters. Sanskrit calls vowels as “achah”, consonants as “vyanjana” and conjunct consonants as “samyukta”:  Tamil Song  
agara mudhala ezhuththellaam ariya vaiththaai devi
aadhi baghavan mudhalendrae unara vaiththaai devi
iyal isai naadaga theebam yetri vaiththaai neeyae
eendravar nenjai indru kulira vaiththaai thaayae

uyir mei ezhuththellaam theriya vaiththaai
oomaiyin vaai thirandhu pesa vaiththaai,ammaa pesa vaiththaai

ennum ezuththenum kan thirandhaai
yetram tharum kulumai aatral thandhaai
aiyam theliya vaiththu arivu thandhaai
oli thandhu mozhi thandhu kural thandhaai
Omkaara isai thandhu uyara vaiththaai devi


This discourse in a way offers another logical explanation as to why Chamakam should end in odd 33 and even 48. Odd 33 represents 33 Vedic deities—11 Rudras + 12 Aadityas + 8 Vasus + Indra + Prajapati. Odd group  beginning with  1 in even group ending in 48   indicates  Purusha and Prakriti pervading the entire Universe as it represents Sanskrit letters 48 as Kshetra (field) and Brahman as (Kshetrajnya) the Supreme Lord. Any number chanted in Chamakam falls within 1 and 48.  

Therefore we can safely conclude that Chamakam refers to forty-eight letters of Sanskrit which are all divine as explained above. Anything written or spoken in Sanskrit is thus divine. So the prayer odd and even numbers in Chamakam  are all directed to Brahman only with possible other explanations in my discourses, “What do the odd and even numbers in Chamakam Signify?” and “Why did Chamakam end in  numbers  33 Odd and 48 Even?”

1. Ramachandra Rao S.K., Sri Vidya Kosha, Satguru Publications, Delhi, India.
2. Sastry, K.L.V., Sabdamanjari, R.S.Vadhyar & Sons, Palghat, India.
3. Swami Bhaskarananda, Essentials of Hinduism, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India
4. Ananta Rangacharya, Prinipal Upanishads, Bengaluru. India.
5. Ramananda Prasad,  Srimad Bhagvadgeetaa, American Gita Soc iety, CA, USA.
6. Swami Chinmayananda, Vishnu Shasranaamam, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai,    
7. Sunita Ramaswamy & Dr. Sundar ramaswamy, Vedic Heritage Teaching Program, Sri Gngadhareswar Trust, Rishkesh, India.

[This is a prepared lecture compiled from above references and others for a discourse at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville to benefit those who are not able to attend the same in person. You are free to download and use it for your reading and reference as well as circulate to others to spread the wisdom of Vedas and Hindu values which good act will be appreciated.]


Sanskrit Language

Posted by The Editor | Feb 19, 2012 | 543 views

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Sanskrit is the oldest and richest language in the world, and recorded history shows the study of Sanskrit has continued for over five thousand years. The oldest known form of this language is found in the Rigveda. In Vedic culture, the language was used in the public domain and was called bhasha. It later passed through a process of reform or purification, it became known as San(gs)krita (Sam -kri + ta).
There are two stages of Sanskrit from the chronological point of view — Vedic and later Vedic (or Laukika). The later Vedic language is also called Classical Sanskrit. The main difference between these two languages is in their instinctive accents. In Vedic vowel sound there are three kinds of pronunciation — udatta (high), anudatta (low) and svarita (mixed) — but in Sanskrit this distinction is not maintained.
Panini’s Astadhyaayi is the main Sanskrit grammar book. In a later period, Astadhyaayi became even more authoritative through the contributions of Vartikakara Vararuchi (or Katyayana) and Bhashyakara (the commentator) Patanjali. So the complete Ashtadhyaayi is called Trimunivyaakarana (contribution of three grammarians). The rules, which have been compiled in Ashtadhyaayi, are considered to be essential for Sanskrit language and literature. Besides Ashtadhyaayi there are many other famous grammars in Sanskrit. Among them Katantravyakarana by Sharvavarman (100 AD), Chandravyakarana by Chandragomin (c 700 AD), Vakyapadiya by Bhartrhari (700 AD), Katantrasutravrtti by Durgasingha (900 AD), Siddhahemachandranushasana by Hemachandra (1050-1100 AD), Mugdhavodhavyakarana by Vopadeva (1200-1250 AD), Jaumaravyakarana by Kramadishvara (1200-1250), Saupadmavyakarana by Padmanabha Datta (1300-1350), Harinamamrta by Rupagosvami, (c 1470-1559), and Siddhantakaumudi by Bhattojidiksita (1700 AD) are worth mentioning.
According to academics, Sanskrit is a language in the Indo-European family of languages. It belongs to a sub-branch of Indo-Iranian. From the philological and geographical point of view, Indo-European languages are divided into two groups Satam and Kentum. Sanskrit falls under the Satam group. It has some startling similarities with Greek and Latin. For this reason, academics believe that these languages originated in the same place and they are thus known as basic Aryan or basic Indo-European languages.
Sanskrit is also known as an Old Indo-Aryan language. The Aryan language is divided into three stages: Old Indo-Aryan Vedic and Sanskrit; Middle Indo-Aryan Pali, Prakrta and Apabhrangsha, and New Indo-Aryan languages like Bangla, Odia, Hindi, Marathi, etc.
The Sanskrit language has no particular alphabet. Wherever the language studied, the alphabet of that area is adopted for it. But the Nagari or Devanagari alphabet is widely used and internationally accepted for Sanskrit.
Sanskrit is an inflectional language. In this language the role of case-ending  and of suffix and prefix is very significant. A word used in a sentence with an inflection is called pada. A word without inflection cannot be used in a sentence. For this reason, the change of the position of a pada in a sentence does not alter the meaning, and for this reason there is no rigid rule for the positioning of a word in sentence constructions.
There are three genders in Sanskrit (masculine, feminine and neuter) and are three numbers (singular, dual and plural). In the verb form there is no change of gender but it has three numbers and three persons (third, second and first). To indicate the tense and mood (including past, present and future tense), there are ten classes of verbal forms. In brief these are known as ten la-karas. The roots are divided into three groups: parasmaipada, atmanepada and ubhayapada. Sanskrit is an ornate language and numerous meters are seen in Sanskrit verse.
Initially, the geographical area of Sanskritic studies was confined to the northern part of India and then it extended to Western and Eastern India. Gradually its use spread among the neighboring Dravid, Austric and Sino-Tibetan peoples. Its influence also spread to the neighboring countries, e.g., China and Tibet. Sumatra, Borneo, and even to neighboring Western countries. Sanskrit is related inseparably to ancient Indian religion, philosophy, literature and culture.   Knowledge of Sanskrit is very essential for analyzing the structural nature of the language of the region and for searching the origins of new Indo-Aryan languages.
At present the study of Sanskrit is mostly confined to India. In Bangladesh, Sanskrit has been studied from the ancient period, though at present its study is limited to a few areas. In many schools and colleges under the Board of Dhaka, Chittagong, Barisal, Jessore Sanskrit language and literature are studied. In the University of Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi, Sanskrit is studied in BA (Hons), MA, MPhil and PhD courses. In the National University too there is provision for study of Sanskrit in BA and MA classes. Moreover, in various tols and chatuspathis under the Sanskrit and Pali education board, Sanskrit is studied according to the traditional system. In this Board there is provision of examination in Adya, Madhya and Upadhi in different branches of Sanskrit.

Sanskrit Literature

All branches of literature including poetry, prose and drama are to be found in Sanskrit. Innumerable books have been written in Sanskrit on different subjects, including philology, comparative grammar, philosophy, rhetoric, logic, physiology, astronomy, astrology, chemistry, algebra, geometry, medical science, zoology, social welfare, sexology, etc.
Sanskrit texts can be divided into literature, philosophy, tantra, scriptures, science, etc. The ancient books of the Hindu religion were written in Sanskrit. Sanskrit literature can be divided into four stages: Vedic, epic, puranic and classical. Vedic literature is divided into Sanghita (rk, saman, yajus and atharvan), Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanisad. The Brahmana, relating to sacrifices or rituals, is called karmakanda, and the Upanisad is called the jnanakanda (philosophical part) of the Vedas. vIn the Vedic period a kind of literature was written in the form of aphorism (sutra) and was known as sutra-literature. It is divided into four parts: Shrauta, Grhya, Dharma and Shulvasutra. The rules of Shrauta sacrifice were written in Shrautasutra. The subject matter of Grhyasutra is the sacrificial rites to be followed by householders. The commandments and prohibitions relating to religion and secular affairs, the rules about the four castes (chaturvarna) and four stages of life (chaturashrama) were written in Dharmasutra. The rules regarding the measurement of land at the time of making sacrifices in altars are to be found in Shulvasutra. Sutra-literature is considered as a source book for acquiring knowledge about ancient Indian civilization and social life.
There are six Vedangas that have been written for the convenience of the study of the Vedas; these are Shiksa, Kalpa, Nirukta, Vyakarana, Chhandas and Jyotisa. Shiksa is actually on phonetics. The subject matter of Shiksa is varna, svara, matra, vala, sama, Santana, etc. Every Veda has its unique Shiksa. Kalpa is sutra literature; because sacrificial rites are confirmed through it, its name is kalpa. Nirukta was composed by Yaska (c. 600 BC).  
The words of the Vedas are collected and explained in Nirukta. Vyakarana is a very essential Vedanga. The Vyakaranarnava of Vyasadeva and the Maheshavyakarana of Maheshvara are known to be very ancient grammar texts, but none of them have been found. For the reading of metrical Vedic hymns, Chhanda is essential. Vedic hymns are composed in syllabic meters; they are not like the gana-chhandas of Sanskrit. There are seven meters in  the Vrhaddevata of Shaunaka and the rsi, chandas, devata and viniyoga related to Vedic hymns are discussed in Anukramani.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata were composed in the epic period. In these two vast epics, the essence of India is reflected. Valmiki is the writer of the Ramayana, and he was believed to be the first creator of worldly meter, and the first poet. In his Ramayana, written in anushtup meter, Valmiki wanted to celebrate the glorious deeds of the ideal man, who is Lord Ramachandra. There are seven kandas in the Ramayana glorifying Lord Rama’s pastimes.
The Mahabharata is massive in its size and scope. Krsna-dvaipayana Vedavyasa composed the Mahabharata in eighteen parvas (chapter) about the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas. In course of time, compositions of many unknown poets were added to it. More than one lakh verses can be found in the present Mahabharata. The Bhagavad-gita falls under the Bhismaparva of Mahabharata. The Gita, composed in eighteen chapters, is recognized as an independent and excellent book, where Lord Krsna instructs Arjuan in gaining perfection in life through Bhakti yoga.
Puranic literature is very vast. Eighteen mahapuranas and eighteen upa-puranas are considered as the main puranas. The Puranas were composed in different times, but Vyasa is known as the only composer of the Puranas, regardless. Mahapuranas have been classified according to the supremacy of three gods: Lord Brahma, Visnu and Shiva. The subject matter of the Puranas includes the creation, existence, destruction, and regeneration of the universe; the stories of the Manus, gods, kings and dynasties, etc. are also discussed. In addition, philosophy, scriptures, rhetorics, etc. are also included in the Puranas as subjects. To know the political and social history of ancient India, the Puranas are indispensable.
Classical Sanskrit is mainly divided into two parts: drshyakavya and shravyakavya. Dramatic literature is under drshyakavya and prose-poetry is under shravyakavya. The greatest poet of this period is Kalidasa (100 BC). His predecessor was the famous dramatist Bhasa (500-400 BC) and Shudraka (300 BC) and a successor poet was Ashvaghosa (100 AD). Bhasa wrote thirteen plays including Svapnavasavadatta, Charudatta, Urubhanga. The plays of Bhasa are celebrated for the diversity of their themes and techniques, and are written based on the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and folktales. Shudraka’s Mrchchhakatika is very remarkable in Sanskrit dramatic literature.
The main works of Kalidasa are two mahakavyas, Raghuvangsha and Kumarasambhava; two khandakavyas – Rtusanghara and Meghaduta; three plays – Malavikagnimitra, Vikramorvashiya and Abhijnanashakuntala.
The important works of Ashvaghosa are Buddhacharita and Saundarananda, the two mahakavyas and the play Shariputraprakarana.
Among subsequent works, mention may be made of the Kundamala of Dinnaga (500 AD), Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi (600 AD), Bhattikavya or Ravanavadha of Bhatti (600 AD), Shishupalavadha of Magha (700 AD); Ratnavali of Shriharsa (700 AD); Uttararamacharita of Bhavabhuti (700/800 AD); Venisanghara of Bhattanarayana (800 AD), Mudraraksasa of Vishakhadatta (800/900 AD), Balaramayana of Rajashekhara (1000 AD); Gita-govinda of Jayadeva (1200 AD), Naisadhacharita of Shriharsa (1200 AD), Pravodhachandrodaya of Krsnamishra (1100 AD), Chaitanyachandrodaya and Chaitanya-caritamrta of Kavi-karnapura (1600 AD)
Some noteworthy mahakavyas based on history are the Navasahasankacharita of Padmagupta (1100 AD), Vikramankadevacarita of Vihlana (1100-1200 AD), Kumarapalacarita of Hemachandra (1080-1173 AD), Rajatarangini of Kahlana (1200 AD), and ramacharitam of Sandhyakar Nandi (1200-1300 AD). Following the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Rupa Goswami and Srila Jiva Goswami have also contributed a great many nectarian texts to Sanskrit literature.
A great many of the fundamental books of Indian philosophy were written in Sanskrit. Indian philosophy is generally divided into two groups: theism and atheism. These divisions are based on the acceptance or denial of the Veda. The six systems of astika philosophy are the Nyaya of Gautama, Vaishesika of Kanada, Sankhya of Kapila, Yoga of Patanjali, Mimamsa of Jaimini and the Vedanta of Vadarayana. The nastika systems are Buddha, Jain and Charvaka. In Bengal the Navyanyaya and the Vaisnava philosophy (based on Radha-Krsna) were widely studied. Tantra is a different stream of literature. Its various divisions are mantra, jnana, yoga, kriya, charya etc.
Dharmashastra and Smrtishastra were written based on religious and social rituals, and dealt with atonement, caste-system, king’s duties, and different laws. It is also known as smrti. Dharmashastras composed under the name of Gautama, Vaudhayana and Vashistha merit mention. These books were composed in approximately 600 BC-300 AD. Among the smrti books, Manusanghita and Yajnavalkyasmrti are worth mentioning. Among smrti-writers of Bengal, Raghunandana’s name stands out.
In science and other subjects some remarkable books are Vatsyayana’s (c. 300-400 AD), Charaka and Sushrutasanghita on medical science (called as Ayurveda), and Arthashastra on political science by Kautilya or Chanakya. In addition, many books were written on chemistry, botany, astronomy, mathematics, music, learning of theft, cooking, agriculture, elephant breeding, animal breeding, human breeding, etc.
Sanskrit Study in Bengal
It is difficult to ascertain when the study of Sanskrit began in Bengal, but it is certain that its history is very old, as is proved by an inscription found around 350 AD in the Gupta period. A clear picture of the study of Sanskrit in the region can be traced from 700 AD. The writing style of Bengal scholars was known as Gaudi to rhetoricians.
Sanskritic studies developed considerably in the Pala and Sena periods. At the beginning of Muslim rule, Sanskrit study faced some checks, but in later periods its development was once more worth mentioning. In particular, the practice of Nyaya that centered around Navadvipa is noteworthy. Bengal was very famous for navyanyaya from 1500-1700 AD. At the time of British rule in 1800-1900 AD Sanskrit study revived again. However, in the last part of the twentieth century, the study of Sanskrit declined in popularity although it is still studied seriously.
The Pala Period (750-1161 AD)
Though the Pala kings were Buddhist, during their reign the practice of Sanskrit language and literature is noteworthy. Notable works of the period include the Venisanghara of Bhattanarayana (800 AD), Mudraraksasa of Vishakhadatta (800/900 AD), Ramacharita of Abhinanda (900 AD), Anargharaghava of Murari (900-1000 AD), Kaulajnananirnaya of Matsyendranatha (first part of 1000 AD), of Noakhali, Chandakaushika of Ksemishvara (c 1000 AD), Bodhimargapanjika and Bodhipradipa of Atisha Dipankara (980-1050 AD), of Vikrampur, Chhandomanjari of Gangadasa (1000-1100 AD), Herukasadhana of Divakarachandra (1000-1100 AD), Chikitsasarasanggraha of Chakrapani Datta (1100 AD), Kichakavadha of Nitivarman (1100 AD), Ramacharita of Sandhyakara Nandi (c 1084-1155 AD), Shabdapradipa and Vrksayurveda of Sureshwara (1100-1200 AD).
The Sena Period (1097-1260)
The Sena kings were Hindu. In this period, Sanskrit language and literature as well as the texts of the Hindu religion were studied widely. Many people believe that this was the golden era of Sanskrit studies in Bengal. Vallalasena (1159-1185) and Laksmanasena (1185-1206) were both scholars and fond of literature. In the court of Laksmanasena there were the five celebrated Sanskrit poets: Jayadeva, Umapati, Dhoyi, Govardhana and Sharana. Vallalasena himself wrote Danasagara, Amrtasagara, Pratisthasagara, Acharasagara and Vratasagara.
Other books of the period that merit mention are Vyavaharatilaka, Karmanusthanapaddhati, Prayashcittakarana of Bhavadevabhatta (1100-1200); Naisadhacharita of Shriharsa (1200 AD); Aryashaptashati of Govardhanacharya, Pavanaduta of Dhoyi, Gitagovinda of Jayadeva, Saduktikarnamrta of Shridharadasa (1200 AD), Haralata and Pitrdayita of Aniruddhabhatta, a preceptor of Vallalasena; Brahmanasarvasva, Mimangsasarvasva, Vaisnavasarvasva, Shaivasarvasva, Panditasarvasva of Halayudha Mishra, the court-judge of Laksmanasena; Bhasavrtti, Haravali, Ekaksarakosa of Purusottamadeva (1200 AD); Durghatavrtti of Sharanadeva (1200 AD) etc., Kalikapurana (1000-1100), Vrhannandikeshvarapurana (1100-1400) and Devibhagavata were also composed in this period.
The Muslim Period (1206-1757)
In this period Sanskrit was widely studied. Many books were written in every branch of literature and philosophy. The main books were written by the Vaisnava poets. Navadvipa, the sacred place of the Vaisnavas, became the main centre of Sanskrit study. Some notable books of this time are Padyavali, Harinamamrtavyakarana, Ujjvalanilamani of Rupa Gosvami; Shrikrsnachaitanyacharitamrta of Murari Gupta (1500-1600); Vrhadbhagavatamrta, Vaisnavatosini of Sanatan Gosvami (c 1465-1555); Danakelichintamani of Raghunath Das (c 1490-1577); Suktimuktavali of Vishvanath Siddhantapanchanan (1500-1600); Bhramaraduta, Pikaduta of Rudra Nyayavachaspati (1500-1600); Satsandarbha, Harinamamrta of Jiva Gosvami; Chaitanyacharitamrta, Chaitanychandrodaya, Gauraganoddeshadipika, Alangkarakaustubha of Kavikarnapura; Shurjanacharita of Chandrashekhar (1600-1700), Padyamuktavali of Govinda Bhattacharya (1700 AD); Vikhyatavijaya of King Laksmanamanikya (1600-1700); Vaikunthavijaya of Amaramanikya, Apadeshashataka of Chandramanikya; Kautukaratnakara of Raghunath Kavitarkika, the court poet of Laksmanamanikya (these Manikyas are the kings of bhulua, the present Noakhali of Bangladesh); Anandalatikachampu of Krishnanath Sarvabhauma and his wife Vaijayanti (1700 AD); Shyamarahasya of Priyangvada (1700 AD); Shrikrsnabhavanamrta of Vishvanath Chakravarti (1700 AD), Padankaduta of Shrikrsna Sarvabhauma (1700-1800), etc.
Notable books about Navyasmrti are Dayabhaga of Jimutavahana (c 1050-1150), Prayashchittaviveka of Shulapani (c 1375-1460), Smrtisagara of Kullubhatta (1500 AD), Krtyatattvarnava of Shrinath Acharyachudamani (1500-1600), Astavingsatitattva, Dayabhagatika of Raghunandan Bhattacharya (1500-1600), etc. These books influenced the Hindu society of that time deeply, and continue to do so today.
Other important books on philosophy are Anumanapariksa of Vasudeva Sarvabhauma (c 1430-1540), Pratyaksamanididhiti, Anumanadidhiti of Raghunath Shiromani (1500-1600), Nyayarahasya of Ramabhadra Sarvabhauma (1600 AD), Advaitasiddhi, Vedantakalpalatika, Advaitamanjari of Madhusudan Saraswati (1525-1632), inhabitant of Kotalipara, Gopalganj (the greater Faridpur); Vijnanamrtabhasya of Vijnanabhiksu (1600-1700), etc.
On Vyakarana notable books are Mugdhavodha of Vopadeva, Sangksiptasara of Kramadishvara (1500 AD), Katantrapradipa of Pundarikaksa Vidyasagara (1500-1600); on the lexicon Abhidhanatantra of Jatadhara (1500 AD), of Chittagong, Padachandrika of Vrihaspati Rayamukuta (1500 AD), Ekavarnarthasanggraha and Dvirupadhvanisanggraha of Bharat Mallick, Trikandaviveka of Ramanath Vidyavachaspati etc are books worth mentioning.
Noteworthy books on rhetoric and prosody are Kavyavilasa and Vrttaratnavali of Chiranjiv Bhattacharya (1700-1800); on tantra the Tantrasara of Krsnananda Agamavagisha (1600 AD), Shaktanandatarangini of Brahmanandagiri (1600 AD), and Shyamarahasya, Satkarmollasa, Tattvanandatarangini of Purnananda Paramahangsa Parivrajaka (1600 AD) are considered important.
During the British Period, a revival in Sanskrit studies took place, accompanied by a renaissance in education, society and culture not only in Bengal, but across the whole of India. Though only a few fundamental works were written, the reading, teaching and translation of Sanskrit works were evident throughout the period.
Navadvipa was well-known in history for the study of Navyanyaya. In addition, Bhatpada or Bhattapalli, Guptipara, Burdwan, Triveni, Bali of Howrah, Vishnupur of Bankura in West Bengal and Vikrampur, Kotalipara, Chittagong, and Sylhet in East Bengal were famous for the study of Sanskrit. A centre for the study of Sanskrit was traditionally known as tol. From various Government reports it can be ascertained that there were many tols in Bangla and sufficient students studied in them.
Bengalis made major contributions to the study of Navyasmrti. During this period many scholars contributed significantly to smrti. Jagannath Tarkapanchanan (1694-1807), son of Rudra Tarkavagisha, an inhabitant of Triveni compiled a large book of smrti, entitled Vivadabhangarnava. Sir William Jones (1746-1794) inspired him to write this book. In 1796 Colebroke (1765-1837) translated some parts of this book into English, and this became known as Colebroke’s Digest. This book was very much useful in solving disputes involving Hindu Law all over India.
Vivadarnavasetu is also a famous collection of smrti pieces. Vaneshvara Vidyalangkara (c 1700-1788) compiled this work with the help of ten more Bengali pundits at the request of Waren Hastings. This book proved to be very useful in solving the disputes according to Hindu Law. It was first translated into Persian. Then Halhed (1751-1830) translated it into English from Persian (A Code of Gentoo Law, London, 1776). In addition, Vaneshvara also wrote Chitrachampu, Rahasyamrta, three Khandakavyas and a play entitled Chandrabhiseka.
Kasichandra Vidyaratna (1854-1917) was a famous scholar of Navyasmrti. He was born in a Brahmin family at Vikrampur, near Dhaka. Uddharachandrika is his most important book. The subject of the book is about the re-entry of a Hindu into society, who has travelled to a western country on ships. He wrote the commentary of twenty Dharmashastras, including Manusanghita.
Mahamahopadhyaya Chandrakanta Tarkalankar (1836-1910) of Sherpur (greater Mymensingh) wrote some major books on Navyasmrti. His Udvahachandraloka is well known among scholars of Bengal. Two other books by him are Shuddhichandraloka and Aurdhvadehikachandraloka. In addition to smrti he also wrote books on grammar and literature. The name of his grammar book is Katantrachhandahprakriya.
Beginning in the last part of the nineteenth century and continuing to the second part of twentieth century, Haridas Siddhantavagish (1876-1961) contributed significantly to the study of Sanskrit. He was born at Unashiya, a village of Kotalipara in Gopalganj district. Haridas wrote Smrtichintamani. Navyasmrti includes a Bangla translation containing directions for following all kinds of rules and regulations of the Hindus governing conduct from birth to death. Besides smrti he had masterd kavya and grammar. He had also translated many Sanskrit books and provided them with his own commentaries.
In the study of Navyanyaya and Navyasmrti some other notable works are Krsnakanta Vidayavagisha (1800 AD), Golokanath Nyayaratna (1806-1855), Harinath Tarkasiddhanta (1829-1889), Mahamahopadhyaya Krsnanath Nyayapanchanan (1833-1911), Mahamahopadhyaya Kamakhyanath Tarkavagisha (1843-1936), the famous Naiyayika of Navadvip, Kamalakrsna Smrtitirtha of Battapalli etc. Nyayaratnavali, Nyayapatri, Nyayaratnaprakashika, Tarkamrtatarangini of Krsnakanta; Nyayaprakasha, Vedantaparibhasatika, Arthasanggraha, Tattvakaumudi of Krsnanath; Sangkhyadipani, Nyayatattvavodhini, Nyayasaptapadarthi, Nyayakusumanjalitika of Kamakhyanath; Danakriyakaumudi, Krtyaratnakara, Rajadharmakaustubha (edited by Kamalakrsna) have had a remarkable influence on the study of Nyaya and Smrti.
During colonial rule, many native kings and zamindars made significant contributions to the study of Sanskrit. Among them were Krishnachandra Roy, the king of Nadia; Kirtichand and Tilakchand, the kings of Burdwan; Ramakanta and Bhavani, the king and queen of Natore respectively; Gopal Singh, the Malla king of Vishnupur; Rajavallabh Sen of Rajanagar, Dhaka etc. Krishnachandra Roy donated money for the study of Sanskrit in different parts of Bengal.
The accounts of Sanskrit study in tols, chatuspathis and colleges of Bengal are recorded in various Government reports of that time. Among these, William Adam’s Report (1835-1838) and Reverend James Long’s Report (1868) are worth mentioning. A clear picture of the study of Sanskrit in Bengal can be deduced from these reports.
The study of Sanskrit by Europeans during the Company and British rule in India
Foreigners felt that to run business and administration, knowledge about native language and literature was very essential. For this reason and to satisfy the eagerness of many about Oriental language and literature, a new era started in the field of Sanskrit studies. In this area the contribution made by some European administrators, scholars and linguists is very significant. Among them are Sir William Jones, Sir Charles Wilkins (1749/50-1836), Henry Thomas Colebrooke, Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860) and James Princep (1799-1840). Through research, translation, collection and editing of manuscripts, and archaeological surveys they performed an important role in preaching and spreading Sanskrit and introducing Sanskrit to the world.
William Jones came to Kolkata as a judge of Supreme Court in 1783. Expert in many languages, Jones noted for the first time that the Sanskrit language had a unique relation with Greek and Latin and that all these languages originated from one language. Under his leadership in 1784, the Asiatic society was established in Kolkata for research on Oriental language, history and culture. Through Asiatic Researches, the journal of this institution, he attracted the attention of the western world to the education, culture, history, philosophy, etc. of India. In 1789 he published Abhijnanashakuntalam, a Sanskrit drama by Kalidasa, from Kolkata, titling it Fatal Ring.
Colebrooke came to India as a writer of the Bengal service in 1783. In 1786, at the time of his employment as a collector at Trihut, he was attracted to the study of Hindu religion and culture and begun to learn Sanskrit. After Jones, Colebrooke’s contribution to Sanskrit study must be mentioned. He read Vedic and Puranic literature and Sanskrit grammar carefully. He wrote Grammar of the Sanskrit Language and compiled the Sanskrit Dictionary. By reading his book, The Translation of Two Treaties on the Hindu Law of Inheritance, foreigners were able to get a clear idea about Hindu Law. He played an important role in the institutional study of Sanskrit and its spread as President of the Asiatic society and as Professor of Hindu Law and Sanskrit at Fort William College.
In the spread of Sanskrit studies, the name of Wilkins is significant for a number of reasons. He came to India in 1770 as a writer of East India Company. He earned proficiency in Persian, Bangla and Sanskrit and became an expert in making types of these languages. He established a printing press at Hughli and made Bangla and Sanskrit types. So he is called the founding father of printing in Bengal. He translated the Sanskrit Hitopadesha into Bangla and deciphered some copper and stone inscriptions composed in Sanskrit. In 1785 the Bhagavadgita translated by him was printed in England. He published many valuable essays in Asiatic Researches. Among them are: A Grammar of the Sanskrit Language, Radicals of the Sanskrit Language, Compilation of Jones Manuscripts etc. He also translated some portions of Manusanghita.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, a long line of scholars have kept the Sanskrit language alive, inspiring students and teachers alike in their continual efforts to understand, utilize and master Sanskrit.
Many manuscripts written in Sanskrit on various subjects are preserved in different institutional and personal libraries of the country including Dhaka University Library. In the 1920’s and 30’s of the last century, Sushil Kumar De, Radhagovinda Basak (1885-1982) and Rajendra Chandra Hazra edited some manuscripts, e.g., Kichakavadha (1929), Padyavali (1934), Krsnakarnamrta (1938) and Ghatakarparakavya. After a long time in the 90’s, teachers and researchers have resumed work on a few manuscripts, e.g. Apadeshashataka (1993), Kautukaratnakara (1998), Apadeshiyashatashlokamalika (1998), Kirtishataka etc. The first two of these have been published in the book form with Bangla translations and the third one has been published as an article. At present some researchers are continuing to research on Sanskrit manuscripts in the regions.
A project for collecting and developing manuscripts was conducted from 1984-1988 under the supervision of Dhaka University Library. Then thousands of manuscripts were collected from different collections of the country and their microfilms, accompanied by short descriptions, were preserved in the library. In addition, thousands of manuscripts from the library’s own collection have also been identified briefly. All these manuscripts have been compiled in three volumes.

Palaeographical Importance of Nandinaagari
Posted by The Editor | Feb 18, 2012 |IndiaDivine.Org

Nandinagari script is the western variety of the archaic Nagari script of northern India. Nandinagari is also found in the inscriptions and manuscripts available in the western part of a few southern states; for example, south Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. That is why Nandinagari is also known as southern variety of Nagari.
Origin Nandinagari is a descendent, as all indigenous scripts of India and Southeast Asia are, of the Brahmi script. This script was developed through various stages. It is closely related to northern Nagari which took its identifiable shape as early as the tenth century A.D. The modern Devanagari, which is now used for writing and printing Sanskrit, Hindi, Nepali, Rajasthani and Marathi, is a refined and standardized form of old or archaic Nagari script. Most probably, since the refined Nagari is used for writing Sanskrit which is venerated as devabhasha (language of divinities), it is called ‘Devanagari’.
Nandinagari has never been used for printing and hence it lacks the necessary refinement and standardization. Nevertheless, its importance in the areas of epigraphy can’t be ignored. There are innumerable manuscripts written in Nandinagari, covering vast areas of knowledge, such as Vedas, philosophy, religion, science and arts. These are preserved in the manuscript libraries, particularly those in the southern regions of the country.
It is difficult to present any exact etymological meaning of the name ‘Nandinagari’. The first part of the term ‘nandi’ is rather ambiguous in the present context. It may mean ‘sacred’ or ‘auspicious’ (cf. Nandi verses in Sanskrit drama). Nandi is the name of Lord Siva’s brisha vahana (bull vehicle). Nandi bull is widely worshipped in the South, particularly in Karnataka. As a matter of fact, the sculpture of Nandi bull has become a cultural symbol of Karnataka. The name ‘Nandinagari’ may, therefore, mean ‘a script which is prevalent in a region where Nandi bull is venerated’. The second constituent of the term, that is ‘nagari’, indicates that Nandinagari is a variety in the family of Nagari. It is quite probable that first the Saivites adopted the Nandinagari script and thereafter it was accepted by Vaisnavites as well.
Epigraphical Use
As regards the period of epigraphical use of Nandinagari, it may be said safely that Nandinagari is found to have been used since the tenth century A.D. But the script of a few inscriptions of much earlier time (say, 6th, 7th and 8th century A.D.) may be identified as archaic form of Nandinagari.
As regards the epigraphical use of the Nandinagari script, it may be mentioned that majority of the inscriptions, particularly the Sanskrit ones, of the period of Vijayanagara Empire are inscribed in Nandinagari. A. C. Burnell held that Nandinagari was used exclusively for writing on palm leaf. This view is supported by Shivaganesha Murthy also. But the existence of innumerable inscriptions in Nandinagari invalidates this view altogether. We can only say that, there developed two types of Nandinagari, slightly differing from each other – one used in the inscriptions, inscribed with chisel and the other used in palm leaf manuscripts written with the help of stylus. Obviously the latter type is rather cursive.
Some of the modern epigraphists opine that Nandinagari is less legible. But this view is also not correct. To one, who can read the Nagari of medieval inscriptions and manuscripts, Nandinagari is perfectly legible and transparent. It seems to be practical to furnish a chart of the basic letters of the Nandinagari alphabet before discussing the characteristics and variations of the script. The characters are given below:
The system of adding medial vowels in Nandinagari closely resembles that of Nagari. Here are a few examples:
It may be noticed from the chart that the difference between Nandinagari and Devanagari in the style of adding medial vowels is found only in one case. That is in adding the short-i where the vertical stroke (f) is present in Devanagari it is missing in Nandinagari. The other small difference is in adding long-u. In Nandinagari a slanting tie is added at the bottom of the letter, whereas in Devanagari a cursive loop (w) is found.
Since the Nandinagari script was never been standardized, and it had been used in a vast area during a long period of several centuries, obviously variations in forms in case of a few letters could be discerned.
The constituents and ligatures in conjunct consonants in Nandinagari are easily identifiable as they are in Devanagari. There are, however, a few exceptions. Though Nandinagari script is no longer in vogue, neither for printing nor for writing, no scholar of Sanskrit language and literature can afford to remain ignorant of this script. For the students of Indian epigraphy and palaeography, learning Nandinagari is a must. It is also proved to be very useful for those who are engaged in in-depth textual study of Virasaiva and Madhva Vaisnava works. Nandinagari is helpful in another way: one who is proficient in it can read or learn Jain Nagari script with less effort.

Exploring Consciousness with 10 Sanskrit Words in Ways That English Can’t
Posted by Vyasa Houston M. A. | Nov 27, 2015  | IndiaDivine.Org

The extraordinary thing about Sanskrit is that it offers direct accessibility to anyone to that elevated plane where the two —mathematics and music, brain and heart, analytical and intuitive, scientific and spiritual become one. – Vyasa Houston M. A.
Panini, in roughly 500 BC, standardized Sanskrit as a language through his extensive book titled ‘Ashtadhyayi’. An ambiguous version of the language existed for almost a millennium before Panini. The semantics of the language has been scientifically derived by logic & the grammar has been worked out using proper mathematics & algebraic algorithms. The language has also been claimed by NASA scientists to be the most suitable language to communicate with AI.
However, my claim here about the language is the following beautiful & powerful set of words which pay great respect to higher states of consciousness. With no English equivalents, the sad part here is that these words fail to find a commonplace of acceptance in our modern-day culture.
Atman: The spiritual life principle of the universe, especially when regarded as immanent in the individual’s real self (talks about the unconscious part of ‘me’ as if it belongs to the Cosmos or somehow is connected to the Universe around by a string)
Akasha: A supposed all-pervading field in the ether in which a record of past events is imprinted (not just a word, this phrase looks like a principle of Science in itself. We started relating to this only after Einstein’s theory of relativity)
Dharma: One’s personal path in life the fulfillment of which leads to a higher state of consciousness. (This is as close as religion has been defined in the language)
Dhyana: The focusing of attention on a particular spiritual idea in continuous meditation.
Ishwara: Personal manifestation of the supreme; the cosmic self; cosmic consciousness. (We are all cosmic citizens, aren’t we?)
Maya: The illusions the physical world generates to ensnare our consciousness. (Yeah, we see the capitalistic world spearheading one such illusion)
Moksha: The attainment of liberation from the worldly life. (Moha+Kshaya=Moksha)
Nirvana: The transcendental state that is beyond the possibility of full comprehension or expression by the ordinary being enmeshed in the concept of selfhood.
Samadhi: State of enlightenment of Super-consciousness. The union of the individual consciousness with the cosmic consciousness.
Soma: A plant, probably with psychedelic properties, that was prepared and used in ritual fashion to enable men to communicate with the gods.
We very well see the reason why the exploration of consciousness has been developed to an incredible degree in the Indian culture. It is a Science and more than that it is a beautiful way of life to be one with the consciousness of the Cosmos.

India and Sanskrit: The Source of World Literature
Posted by Stephen Knapp | Dec 21, 2015  

Sanskrit, if it is the original language since the creation, is also the source of world literature. Laura Elizabeth Poor observes in her book, Sanskrit and Its Kindred Literature-Studies in Comparative Mythology, “I propose to write about the literature of different nations and different centuries. I wish to show that this literature is not many but one; that the same leading ideas have arisen at epochs apparently separated from each other; that each nation however isolated it may seem, is, in reality, a link in the great chain of development of the human mind; in other words to show the unity and continuity of literature…”
“The histories of Phoenicians, Cartheginians, Romans or Greeks, were so many detached pieces of information…But the moment the mind realizes…that one nation is connected with all others, its history becomes delightful and inspiring…And it is to the Sanskrit language that we owe this entire change…Sanskrit was a spoken language at the time of Solomon, 1015 B.C., also of Alexander, 324 B.C.”
In this same line of thought, it has been determined that the Sanskrit Rig-Veda is the oldest piece of literature in the world. Reverend Morris Philip, in his book The Teaching of the Vedas (p.213), concludes, “After the latest researches into the history and chronology of the book of Old Testament, we may safely now call the Rigveda as the oldest book not only of the Indian community, but of the whole world.”
A. A. Macdonell provides a few more details in his book, India’s Past, about how various literature in the world are all connected. In fact, he explains that many of the world’s fairy tales come from India. “The history of how India’s fairy tales and fables migrated from one country to another to nearly all the people of Europe and Asia, and even to African tribes from their original home in India, borders on the marvelous. It is not a case of single stories finding their way by word of mouth…from India to other countries, but of whole Indian books becoming through the medium of translations the common property of the world…many fairy tales current among the various people can be traced to their original home in India.”
When we begin to compare the ancient legends and stories of one country with another, and one time period with another, we can recognize how similar and yet different they are. The conclusion is that they had to have come from one basic source, one people that later became divided and spread out over a wide area. Each part of this society must have brought with them into the new lands their old legends that were once common to all. Many of these stories were later shaped and altered according to the place they lived, and the natural aesthetic and artistic preferences they acquired, while the primary legends have been the most likely to maintain their storyline. Though various mythologies may have similarities, the most common traits can be seen between any of them and the Vedic traditions. These kinds of similarities between these myths and the Vedic legends make it clear that the Vedic tradition is the original from which all others are derived.
An example of this is the Indian classic Ramayana; from India the Ramayana has travelled to many other countries who now claim their own versions of the epic. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, even Jamaica and Africa have versions of the Ramayana that have slight differences from the Indian Ramayana. Thus we can see how this early Sanskrit literature travelled throughout the world and became local versions of what originated in India. 

Many people do not know that in 1949 Dr. B R Ambedkar as the Law Minister tried his best to make Sanskrit our national language. This had received full support from even Tamil Nadu, known to be anti-Sanskrit. There are records available about the press statement given by Dr B R Ambedkar on 11 September 1949 stating: “What is wrong with Sanskrit?” Not only that, in this regard, he prepared a draft bill to amend the constitution; but the same was opposed by his own followers. One among them, the main opponent, B P Mourya stated in a recent letter (dated 14 February 2001) that “because of my inexperience I opposed the resolution.” Added to that, he praised the merits of Sanskrit and reflected the importance of the events happened. After Independence when India was clueless about which language should be made its national language, several western scholars had asked with surprise – Why this laughable and meaningless search when you have Sanskrit?
In the Vedas, it is said that the Sanskrit language itself is the nation. It is the means to all prosperity (अहं राष्ट्री संगमनी वसूनां चिकितुषी प्रथमायज्ञियानाम्। तां मा देवा व्यदधुः पुरुत्राभूरिस्थात्रां भूर्यावेशयन्तीम्॥ Ṛgveda-saṃhitā 10.125.3).
In the Tolkappiyam, the first grammatical treatise of the Tamil language, it is said that Sanskrit is equally applicable to all regions of the country (வடசொல் எல்லாத் தேயத்திற்கும் பொதுவாகலானும்).
Though these examples and incidents are enough to write a book, we would complete this by reiterating the words of our beloved Kannada poet Kuvempu in his poem ‘ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತ ಮಾತೆ’ (Mother Sanskrit)
“At the dawn of the earth, in the unknown past, a faded historical vision could recognize, you played as a new born in the cradle of the eternal white Himalayan slopes of Mother Earth! You, the Goddess of Words, are the sculpture carved out of the first refined utterances in the hymns of the Āryamātā!… We, the civilized, can’t live without your milk, how can this Bharata-khaṇḍa live without you?”
When Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, the Central Government declared the full moon day (pūrṇimā) of the month of Śrāvaṇa as ‘Sanskrit Day.’ It is not just a day for remembering, but a day to get initiated into Sanskrit. It is the day to determine to spend our rest of our life per the values learnt from Sanskrit and to work for the same. This is an auspicious day popularly known as Śrāvaṇi in Kalpa-sūtras and known for the upākarma (day of re-commencing the study of the Vedas). It is the day we must listen (śrāvaṇa). It is said, “उपाकृता वै वेदाः (We are initiated to the quest of knowledge) and this is indeed a day to initiate our quest of knowledge. Now the Central Government has declared the entire week as “Saṃskṛta sapthāha.” With all these efforts, throughout the nation we need to celebrate Sanskrit, serve Sanskrit, and take the culture of Sanskrit to all corners.
Today [c. 2005] we have about three crore (thirty million) students studying Sanskrit at schools and there are eleven Sanskrit universities. More than two hundred and fifty universities conduct graduate courses, post-graduate courses, and doctoral research in Sanskrit. Not only in India but in forty other countries, Sanskrit is being studied deeply. Around sixty daily, weekly, monthly Sanskrit magazines are available. We have more than ten thousand people writing in Sanskrit today. We have more than five thousand Sanskrit gurukulas. Millions of people are using this language like their mother tongue. This being so, Sanskrit, our pride, will it vanish? No, certainly not!

Kanchi Vijayendra Saraswati came up with the statement “Sanskrit has been proved to be the most suitable language for Artificial Intelligence/ Computer Programming”.    A NASA researcher, named Rick Briggs, published a research paper titled "Knowledge Representation in Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligence" in 1985. (…/inde…/aimagazine/article/view/466/402), where he attempts to justify that a natural language (especially a language with certain unique attributes) has qualities to be blended and used for the purpose of Artificial Intelligence.  To enhance his justification, he took Sanskrit just as a case study to derive his final claim in this paper. Further, he discusses that every language (especially the classical language) has certain unique qualities and likewise, Sanskrit has certain excellent beautiful qualities that makes it unique in its own style. Among its unique qualities, the highlight is its order-free grammatical style which makes it ideal for Artificial Intelligence. For example, the words in a sentence can be mixed in more than one way and still we get a logical meaning.  But more research is needed to establish the uniqueness of Sanskrit language. Perhaps Malayalam which is Sanskritized  Tamil may prove even better.

 A Neuroscientist Explores the "Sanskrit Effect"

MRI scans show that memorizing ancient mantras increases the size of brain regions associated with cognitive function
By James Hartzell on January 2, 2018

A hundred dhoti-clad young men sat cross-legged on the floor in facing rows, chatting amongst themselves. At a sign from their teacher the hall went quiet. Then they began the recitation. Without pause or error, entirely from memory, one side of the room intoned one line of the text, then the other side of the room answered with the next line. Bass and baritone voices filled the hall with sonorous prosody, every word distinctly heard, their right arms moving together to mark pitch and accent. The effect was hypnotic, ancient sound reverberating through the room, saturating brain and body. After 20 minutes they halted, in unison. It was just a demonstration. The full recitation of one of India´s most ancient Sanskrit texts, the Shukla Yajurveda, takes six hours.

I spent many years studying and translating Sanskrit, and became fascinated by its apparent impact on mind and memory. In India's ancient learning methods textual memorization is standard: traditional scholars, or pundits, master many different types of Sanskrit poetry and prose texts; and the tradition holds that exactly memorizing and reciting the ancient words and phrases, known as mantras, enhances both memory and thinking.
I had also noticed that the more Sanskrit I studied and translated, the better my verbal memory seemed to become. Fellow students and teachers often remarked on my ability to exactly repeat lecturers’ own sentences when asking them questions in class. Other translators of Sanskrit told me of similar cognitive shifts. So I was curious: was there actually a language-specific “Sanskrit effect” as claimed by the tradition?

When I entered the cognitive neuroscience doctoral program at the University of Trento (Italy) in 2011, I had the opportunity to start investigating this question. India's Vedic Sanskrit pundits train for years to orally memorize and exactly recite 3,000-year old oral texts ranging from 40,000 to over 100,000 words. We wanted to find out how such intense verbal memory training affects the physical structure of their brains. Through the India-Trento Partnership for Advanced Research (ITPAR), we recruited professional Vedic pundits from several government-sponsored schools in the Delhi region; then we used structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at India’s National Brain Research Center to scan the brains of pundits and controls matched for age, gender, handedness, eye-dominance and multilingualism.

What we discovered from the structural MRI scanning was remarkable. Numerous regions in the brains of the Pundits were dramatically larger than those of controls, with over 10 percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, and substantial increases in cortical thickness. Although the exact cellular underpinnings of gray matter and cortical thickness measures are still under investigation, increases in these metrics consistently correlate with enhanced cognitive function.

Most interestingly for verbal memory was that the pundits' right hippocampus—a region of the brain that plays a vital role in both short and long-term memory—had more gray matter than controls across nearly 75 percent of this subcortical structure. Our brains have two hippocampi, one on the left and one on the right, and without them we cannot record any new information. Many memory functions are shared by the two hippocampi. The right is, however, more specialized for patterns, whether sound, spatial or visual, so the large gray matter increases we found in the pandits’ right hippocampus made sense: accurate recitation requires highly precise sound pattern encoding and reproduction. The pandits also showed substantially thickening of right temporal cortex regions that are associated with speech prosody and voice identity.

Our study was a first foray into imaging the brains of professionally trained Sanskrit Pundits could not directly address the Sanskrit effect question (that requires detailed functional studies with cross-language memorization comparisons, for which we are currently seeking funding), we found something specific about intensive verbal memory training. Does the pundits’ substantial increase in the gray matter of critical verbal memory organs mean they are less prone to devastating memory pathologies such as Alzheimer's? We don't know yet, though anecdotal reports from India's Ayurvedic doctors suggest this may be the case. If so, this raises the possibility that verbal memory “exercising” or training might help elderly people at risk of mild cognitive impairment retard or, even more radically, prevent its onset.

If so, the training might need to be exact. One day I was filming four senior pundit teachers demonstrating the different recitation speeds. Partway into one session all four suddenly stopped. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “One of us made a slight error," came the response. "I don’t mind," I said. "Yes, but we do," and they restarted the entire recitation from the beginning. 

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.