Bird’s Eye View of Sanskrit


https://www.jnana.com/blog/Sanskrit/

To many of us, the word “Sanskrit” suggests a wonderful language which belonged to a hoary past. We know that India is the land in which this wonderful language originated. Ancient Indians were well versed in the language. The Vedas, the Puranas, the classical texts – The Ramayana and the Mahabharata were written in this language and they have been recognised and revered by people across the globe even to this day. The Indian way of living, its ethos and flavour is directly related to the language and what it has to offer by way of classics and literature. Just about every subject under the sun has been covered in one way or another in some of these texts. Linguists and scientists marvel at the precise nature of this language. The inherent binary code of the letters in the language has been discovered to be compatible for codification and for use by computers. All the contemporary Indian languages have been derived from this source, with the exception of Tamil.

This ancient language has a hoary past running into millenniums hence it is very difficult to arrive at some consensus about the origin of the language. Traditionally, Indians, believe that the language was initially used by our pantheon of 33 crore gods to communicate amongst themselves. Hence Sanskrit is also called Daiva Bhasha or the lingo of the gods. Later on, the language was gifted to mankind by goddess Saraswathi and hence Sanskrit is also known as Geervana Bharathi.

The fairy tale like origin of the language apparently had few takers amongst the hardcore linguists across the globe who think that Sanskrit evolved from Prakruth derived from the sounds of nature. They believe that long, long ago when man evolved into an intelligent being, he found the necessity to communicate his thoughts, feelings and ideas. He probably played “dumb charades” and sometimes took to hieroglyphics to put across his thoughts and aped sounds from nature in order to communicate. Over a period of time the language was organised and honed till it reached the point of perfection. The phonology, syntax, vocabulary and grammar of the language has the world awestruck with its finesse and completeness.

When an ancient language has so many feathers in its cap (or is it crown?) one would think that the language is on velvet and nothing can ever go wrong in its kingdom. Yet sadly enough, we have come a long away from such a pristine state of affairs. A brief study of the history of the country will reveal that, we as a nation have been introduced to varied cultures and civilisation over the course of history. The invaders left their stamp behind that influenced our way of living and thinking to a large extent. Lots of factors changed. Yet the change cannot be considered complete as we have retained the basic Indian values despite innumerable onslaughts. Perhaps it is at this juncture, we should recognise the power of the Sanskrit language which helped us to carry forward the basis of Indian-ness for it has been the cementing factor which has sustained the spirit in the oral and written format.

All of you are perhaps aware that Sanskrit is one of the most ancient languages in the world which is complete in its own way. Have you ever wondered about the origin of this language? As students, whenever you are taught something new or asked to learn a novel concept, you may have found yourself wondering whoever started it all. Some of your questions may have interesting answers and some may not.

If you have ever wondered about Sanskrit, well, there is a very interesting tale about the beginning of the language in our ancient texts. It is said that lord Shiva lapsed into one of his ecstatic danced to the beat of the Dumroo, a small percussion instrument (see picture alongside) and several variations of sounds flowed out of the instrument. It is said these letters were gathered in this order and used as the basic letters of the language and were represented in the ‘Devanagari’ script.

The sound and the symbols of the language were effectively used by the people to compile a comprehensible vocabulary and record their observations and inferences in the form of Vedas which are called Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharvana Vedas. A close reading of the Vedas will reveal that they not only give guidelines to lead a life that emphasises on living in harmony with nature and fellow human beings but also have a wealth of information on just about every topic under the sun.

A few copies of the Vedic literature was etched on processed palm leaves by scholarly students for reference, but most of them committed the entire text to memory and passed on the texts orally to their juniors. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, we do not have too many copies of the entire text available as on date.

Many a time some words were lost in mis-pronunciation and lapse of memory. In such cases, people resorted to the basic rules of grammar which helped them to supplement the blank with an appropriate word. This procedure is almost akin to solving a crossword puzzle where you have a clue of both the meaning of the word and the number of letters in the answer word.

Our ancestors had evolved a wonderful way of understanding and learning a language. Panini an ancient grammarian who is believed to have lived in eighth century BC formulated 3964 “Aphorisms” also known as “Sutras” each running into a word or a phrase. If a student of Sanskrit grammar learned these sutras by heart, his language was sure of becoming impeccable. These sutras dealt with different aspects of language like grammar, analogy, vocabulary, communicative language among other things which facilitated the learning of the language almost faultlessly.

The fact that there have been little or no revisions in the basic rules of the language ever since reflect on the level of perfection that had been attained by the grammarian. The famous Vedas, Puranas, epics, classics and even contemporary literature have been written in the language which subscribes to these rules. Perhaps, it is features like consistency and the completeness of the language that keep it going on till this day despite so many setbacks.

Great Sanskrit Poet – Mahakavi Kalidasa


If one hopes to travel the globe, delve deeply into the psyche of fellow human beings and derive an understanding of history, tradition, culture and civilization one lifetime will prove to be insufficient. Yet if one seeks the solution in the world of literature one is seldom disappointed for literature holds a mirror to life.

II Kavyeshu natakam ramyam, tatra ramya Shakuntala

Tatrapi chaturthaha ankaha tatra shlokaha chatushtayam. II

Drama is the most charming form of literature. Shakuntala is the most charming play. The fourth act of the play happens to be the best while the fourth shloka takes the cake.

Those of you who are familiar with the lines will realise that I am speaking of our greatest poet Mahakavi Kalidasa who is also toted as Kavi Kula Guru. The high praise allocated to the fourth stanza of the fourth act of the play lies in the fact that Kalidasa was subtly breaking news to Kanva maharishi about the pregnancy of his adopted daughter Shakuntala. She had married king Dushyanta in the Gandharva style during his absence. Kanva is informed of the same through an invisible aerial voice. The ability to tactfully render sensitive information about an unconventional situation to a person who was detached from family life forms the climax of the play. The story culminates with the union of the estranged couple after a dramatic course of events. Kalidasa manages to do the needful aesthetically through a mere couplet. This is perhaps one of the reasons why he is considered to be the greatest litterateurs of all times. One Subhashita says,

 

II Pura kaveenaam gananaa prasange kanishtika adhish titha Kalidasa

Adhyaapi tat tulya kavehe abhavaath anaamika sa arthavathi babhoova II

“Once upon a time when great poets were counted, the little finger was raised first and the name of Kalidasa was counted. The ring finger which is the next in sequence is called anaamika which means nameless in the Sanskrit language. It remains in the same nameless status to this day, because there is not another poet who has measured up to the greatest poet, namely Kalidasa”.

Though Kalidasa’s play Abhijnana Shakuntalam has been evaluated as his magnum opus by Von Goethe the greatest poet of Germany who was also his sincere critic and fan, one cannot really discount the other works of the great poet. In his play Malavikagnimitram, Kalidasa chronicled portions of contemporary history by giving an account of the political relationship between the ancient countries of Vidisha and Vidarbha by weaving a romantic theme. The twice married king Agnimitra of Vidisha falls in love with the princess of Vidarbha called Malavika by merely looking at her portrait. Later on Malavika happens to enter his principal wife Dharini’s entourage. Then, over a course of events punctuated with steady humour the affair is solemnized into a marriage of love and political convenience.

Kalidasa’s other popular play is Vikramorvashiyam. It is believed to celebrate his contemporary Gupta king Vikramaditya. The poet improvises on a love story found in the Puranas between the mortal king Pururavas and the celestial nymph Urvashi. Gods, demigods and mortals who populate the story with a romantic theme not only captures varied human emotions but also acts as a guidebook to the flora and fauna in the Himalayan slopes.

Besides being a playwright, he authored two of the most brilliant Mahakavyas or epic poems Raghuvamsham and KumaraSambhavam. In Raghuvamsham the Mahakavi traces the lives, times and values of the kings of the solar dynasty over nineteen cantos. It begins with Vivaswat, Manu, Dilipa, Raghu, Aja, Dasharatha, Rama, Kusha et al all the way up to Agnivarna through magnificent couplets.

Kumara Sambhavam revolves round the life of lord Shiva, who went on to become a recluse after his beloved wife Dakshayini jumped into the sacrificial fire unable to digest the insults heaped on her by her father. Dakshayini reincarnates as Parvathi at the behest of the Gods. She woos Shiva and begets a son who kills Tarakasura who was terrorizing the three worlds. Kalidasa indulges in some of his very best word painting in this epic poem.

Kalidasa was an all-rounder in the world of literature. Historians believe that he must have authored at least forty works in the areas of poetry, drama, criticism and commentary. Meghadutam, Ritusamharam, Kali Stotram, Shyamala Dandakam, Chandikadandaka stotra, Kavya nataka alankaram among others, happen to be a few of his works that are available today.

The number of influences, adaptations and improvisations of classical literature is omnipresent in the works of the Mahakavi. The content of Kalidasa’s works have been invariably sourced from Vedas, Puranas and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Yet one cannot accuse him of plagiarism because he uses the broad framework and storyline from the original and lends his own special touch to his works by taking ample poetic liberty. He mellowed and molded his characters in such a way that they appealed to ones finer sensibilities and went on to become popular and set new standards. His readers and viewers prefer his version and interpretation of characters as compared to the original.

Kalidasa was unique and second to none in terms of style and presentation. In fact the phrase upama kalidasasya speaks in volumes about his ability to use apt similes to make a point. It is astonishing to note we know very little about Kalidasa who achieved great feats in every conceivable field of Sanskrit literature. Not much is known about him beyond his pen name. Kalidasa just means, the servant or a follower of goddess Kali which is but a common nomenclature. Folklore believes that Kalidasa was an unlettered shepherd who was tricked into marrying an erudite princess. When she discovered his ignorance, she bid him to claim her only after acquiring some basic education. Accordingly, Kalidasa prayed to goddess Kali vehemently and became enlightened with her blessings. History spans the date of Kalidasa over six centuries based on internal references in his works, historical and critical, and from inscriptions and edicts. It is obvious that any mortal could not have lived over six hundred years. Yet the fact remains that he must have lived sometime during this time bracket. His nativity is ambiguous though it is believed that he must have spent a lot of time in Ujjain because he gives a very detailed description of the place. Critics are divided about his patrons too. While some deem him to be one of the nine gems in the court of King Vikramaditya Gupta there are others who think Raja Bhoja patronised him. Stories about his death also vary from being a victim of jealousy of king Bhoja, to the greed of a courtesan who sheltered him.

Though there is abundant folk lore attached to the poet’s time, life and social status none of them are validated with evidence. Most things that we know about his life, place, date and works are sourced from later references, inscriptions and a deeper understanding of their works identified by their unique patterns. Western and modern historians and critics attribute this drawback to the sloppiness of Indians, who did not believe in documenting events or maintaining chronological records. Just about every detail of his life dwells in the realms of speculation.

Today Kalidasa and his works have been limited to academicians and their students. Most prescribed textbooks give limited and selective biographical information about Kalidasa who was an author, poet, dramatist and critic. A student or reader of the Mahakavi has to realise that there is more to it than what meets the eye. The person may be very different from the persona. Hence it will be in the best interests of the literary works not to judge them at the elementary stage of reading. One would do well to read all the possible works of the writer and then read about the person. This measure will help students and the reader to draw a holistic and mature opinion of the litterateur instead of being led by the nose.

We must realise that Indian achievers of the past were sensible and self-effacing people who maintained a low profile. Kalidasa must have belonged to this group of accomplished people with sterling qualities, who dedicated his works to the immediate society he lived in. The fact that his works have stood the test of time and has been translated into many languages of the world and the people world over want to know more about him speaks in volumes of his caliber both at the personal and professional levels.

A connoisseur of art and literature is called a rasika in Sanskrit. It is said that a consistent rasika can turn into a sahridaya or a good hearted person over a period of time. A passionate student of Kalidasa will find that he or she who begins savouring the rasas which are a combination of thoughts feelings and emotions becomes a rasika and has actually signed up for a lifelong rendezvous with the subject. Reading will help them introspect, relate and act to make a difference to the world they live in the capacity of a sahridaya!

If one hopes to travel the globe, delve deeply into the psyche of fellow human beings and derive an understanding of history, tradition, culture and civilization one lifetime will prove to be insufficient. Yet if one seeks the solution in the world of literature one is seldom disappointed for literature holds a mirror to life.

II Kavyeshu natakam ramyam, tatra ramya Shakuntala

Tatrapi chaturthaha ankaha tatra shlokaha chatushtayam. II

Drama is the most charming form of literature. Shakuntala is the most charming play. The fourth act of the play happens to be the best while the fourth shloka takes the cake.

Those of you who are familiar with the lines will realise that I am speaking of our greatest poet Mahakavi Kalidasa who is also toted as Kavi Kula Guru. The high praise allocated to the fourth stanza of the fourth act of the play lies in the fact that Kalidasa was subtly breaking news to Kanva maharishi about the pregnancy of his adopted daughter Shakuntala. She had married king Dushyanta in the Gandharva style during his absence. Kanva is informed of the same through an invisible aerial voice. The ability to tactfully render sensitive information about an unconventional situation to a person who was detached from family life forms the climax of the play. The story culminates with the union of the estranged couple after a dramatic course of events. Kalidasa manages to do the needful aesthetically through a mere couplet. This is perhaps one of the reasons why he is considered to be the greatest litterateurs of all times. One Subhashita says,

 

II Pura kaveenaam gananaa prasange kanishtika adhish titha Kalidasa

Adhyaapi tat tulya kavehe abhavaath anaamika sa arthavathi babhoova II

“Once upon a time when great poets were counted, the little finger was raised first and the name of Kalidasa was counted. The ring finger which is the next in sequence is called anaamika which means nameless in the Sanskrit language. It remains in the same nameless status to this day, because there is not another poet who has measured up to the greatest poet, namely Kalidasa”.

Though Kalidasa’s play Abhijnana Shakuntalam has been evaluated as his magnum opus by Von Goethe the greatest poet of Germany who was also his sincere critic and fan, one cannot really discount the other works of the great poet. In his play Malavikagnimitram, Kalidasa chronicled portions of contemporary history by giving an account of the political relationship between the ancient countries of Vidisha and Vidarbha by weaving a romantic theme. The twice married king Agnimitra of Vidisha falls in love with the princess of Vidarbha called Malavika by merely looking at her portrait. Later on Malavika happens to enter his principal wife Dharini’s entourage. Then, over a course of events punctuated with steady humour the affair is solemnized into a marriage of love and political convenience.

Kalidasa’s other popular play is Vikramorvashiyam. It is believed to celebrate his contemporary Gupta king Vikramaditya. The poet improvises on a love story found in the Puranas between the mortal king Pururavas and the celestial nymph Urvashi. Gods, demigods and mortals who populate the story with a romantic theme not only captures varied human emotions but also acts as a guidebook to the flora and fauna in the Himalayan slopes.

Besides being a playwright, he authored two of the most brilliant Mahakavyas or epic poems Raghuvamsham and KumaraSambhavam. In Raghuvamsham the Mahakavi traces the lives, times and values of the kings of the solar dynasty over nineteen cantos. It begins with Vivaswat, Manu, Dilipa, Raghu, Aja, Dasharatha, Rama, Kusha et al all the way up to Agnivarna through magnificent couplets.

Kumara Sambhavam revolves round the life of lord Shiva, who went on to become a recluse after his beloved wife Dakshayini jumped into the sacrificial fire unable to digest the insults heaped on her by her father. Dakshayini reincarnates as Parvathi at the behest of the Gods. She woos Shiva and begets a son who kills Tarakasura who was terrorizing the three worlds. Kalidasa indulges in some of his very best word painting in this epic poem.

Kalidasa was an all-rounder in the world of literature. Historians believe that he must have authored at least forty works in the areas of poetry, drama, criticism and commentary. Meghadutam, Ritusamharam, Kali Stotram, Shyamala Dandakam, Chandikadandaka stotra, Kavya nataka alankaram among others, happen to be a few of his works that are available today.

The number of influences, adaptations and improvisations of classical literature is omnipresent in the works of the Mahakavi. The content of Kalidasa’s works have been invariably sourced from Vedas, Puranas and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Yet one cannot accuse him of plagiarism because he uses the broad framework and storyline from the original and lends his own special touch to his works by taking ample poetic liberty. He mellowed and molded his characters in such a way that they appealed to ones finer sensibilities and went on to become popular and set new standards. His readers and viewers prefer his version and interpretation of characters as compared to the original.

Kalidasa was unique and second to none in terms of style and presentation. In fact the phrase upama kalidasasya speaks in volumes about his ability to use apt similes to make a point. It is astonishing to note we know very little about Kalidasa who achieved great feats in every conceivable field of Sanskrit literature. Not much is known about him beyond his pen name. Kalidasa just means, the servant or a follower of goddess Kali which is but a common nomenclature. Folklore believes that Kalidasa was an unlettered shepherd who was tricked into marrying an erudite princess. When she discovered his ignorance, she bid him to claim her only after acquiring some basic education. Accordingly, Kalidasa prayed to goddess Kali vehemently and became enlightened with her blessings. History spans the date of Kalidasa over six centuries based on internal references in his works, historical and critical, and from inscriptions and edicts. It is obvious that any mortal could not have lived over six hundred years. Yet the fact remains that he must have lived sometime during this time bracket. His nativity is ambiguous though it is believed that he must have spent a lot of time in Ujjain because he gives a very detailed description of the place. Critics are divided about his patrons too. While some deem him to be one of the nine gems in the court of King Vikramaditya Gupta there are others who think Raja Bhoja patronised him. Stories about his death also vary from being a victim of jealousy of king Bhoja, to the greed of a courtesan who sheltered him.

Though there is abundant folk lore attached to the poet’s time, life and social status none of them are validated with evidence. Most things that we know about his life, place, date and works are sourced from later references, inscriptions and a deeper understanding of their works identified by their unique patterns. Western and modern historians and critics attribute this drawback to the sloppiness of Indians, who did not believe in documenting events or maintaining chronological records. Just about every detail of his life dwells in the realms of speculation.

Today Kalidasa and his works have been limited to academicians and their students. Most prescribed textbooks give limited and selective biographical information about Kalidasa who was an author, poet, dramatist and critic. A student or reader of the Mahakavi has to realise that there is more to it than what meets the eye. The person may be very different from the persona. Hence it will be in the best interests of the literary works not to judge them at the elementary stage of reading. One would do well to read all the possible works of the writer and then read about the person. This measure will help students and the reader to draw a holistic and mature opinion of the litterateur instead of being led by the nose.

We must realise that Indian achievers of the past were sensible and self-effacing people who maintained a low profile. Kalidasa must have belonged to this group of accomplished people with sterling qualities, who dedicated his works to the immediate society he lived in. The fact that his works have stood the test of time and has been translated into many languages of the world and the people world over want to know more about him speaks in volumes of his caliber both at the personal and professional levels.

A connoisseur of art and literature is called a rasika in Sanskrit. It is said that a consistent rasika can turn into a sahridaya or a good hearted person over a period of time. A passionate student of Kalidasa will find that he or she who begins savouring the rasas which are a combination of thoughts feelings and emotions becomes a rasika and has actually signed up for a lifelong rendezvous with the subject. Reading will help them introspect, relate and act to make a difference to the world they live in the capacity of a sahridaya!

Overcoming Obstacles – Lessons from Hanuman


http://www.vydikshala.com/blog/Hanuman-Lessons/

By – Radha Prathi

When Hanuman was crossing the great ocean in search of Sita, he was waylaid by obstacles. Three Rakshasis posed problems to his progress. He overcame each one of them in an enterprising manner with presence of mind. The journey of Hanuman towards his mission and the way he dealt with each one of his different troubles can be used as a proven guide to any one of us who are striving hard to achieve our goal.

Hanuman was first confronted by Surasa. She threatened to swallow him. When he spelt out the nature of his undertaking, she softened her stance. She insisted that Hanuman should enter her mouth before taking off. Hanuman nodded and drew himself to his full length. Surasa widened her mouth proportionately. In a trice, the clever messenger shrunk himself to the size of a shrimp and quickly dashed in and out of the Rakshasis oral cavity in a bid to keep his word and hers. Traversing the beaten path or trying out previously tried and tested solutions may not always be useful in sorting out issues. Lateral thinking can save the day. It is mandatory for us to understand that when logical reasoning and physical strength is sidelined as redundant, thinking out of the box can provide a solution.

 
Hanuman’s journey was not really smooth after he outsmarted his way out of his first impediment. Another Rakshasi called Simhika posed as a speed breaker. She caught hold of  Hanuman’s shadow which was reflected in the waters and made it impossible for him to inch forward. The champion had to gather all his strength to literally tear way from his marauder and killing her in the process. The shadow in this case is a euphemism for the thoughts and reservations that hinder us from moving forward. It is imperative for us to let go of our weaknesses, inhibitions and insecurities and face whatever comes our way with grit and determination.

 

When Hanuman touched the Lankan soil, he metamorphosed himself into a little monkey in order to explore the place. There, he was confronted by another Rakshasi Lankini who challenged his entry into the land she guarded. Hanuman struck the spirit of Lanka nonchalantly, subscribing with his contemporary form. His unassuming behaviour unnerved Lankini psychologically because she remembered that Lanka was destined to be destroyed when a monkey struck her. Unknowingly, Hanuman won the day by just construing to his role which ultimately worked in his favour.

All predicaments will have answers. It is up to us to analyse the time, place and situation of the crisis  and work on a key that will see us out of it safely and successfully.