Saturday, May 26, 2007

In favour of Sanskrit education

I have this in common with the RSS-parivar crowd: I favour Sanskrit education and mandatory reading of ancient epics. Because that may be the only way to counter the Hindu moral brigade.

Consider this (via desipundit): these nitwits are protesting the depiction of Krishna in a dating advertisement; they (the nitwits) define "dating" as "a social vice" and "Obscene behaviour indulged by young girls and boys under the pretext of meeting each other", and say that "those advocating this concept are launching an attack on our culture." I don't know what they understand of the Krishna-Radha legend: did they think that Krishna and Radha were married, or even planning to get married?

Consider this hit job on Leela Samson and Kalakshetra, that I recently linked to: the author says "Teachers hand-picked by [Samson] teach Geeta-Govindam in a very vulgar manner". Is he aware of the nature of the Gita-Govinda, which tries to "combine religious fervour with eroticism"?

The trouble is that most Indians, me included, learned the epics from our grandmothers or from Amar Chitra Katha, and those versions are -- to understate things -- Bowdlerised. So we imagine that, for example, Vyasa magically made two queens and a maidservant in Vichitravirya's court bear children merely by staring at them, while the original Mahabharata has him go to their beds and do things the explicitly biological way.

It's high time we restored our original Sanskrit epics to their full, uninhibited glory and force-fed them to our RSS-brainwashed public.


Abi said...

I think it's a great idea: force-feeding all the ancient erotica to our public.

It can also be done using English translations, no? Perhaps we can use RSS-authorized translations ...

Tabula Rasa said...

how unislamic

Rahul Siddharthan said...

abi - in fact some graphic English translations of Kalidasa exist, we just need to get people to read them.

Anonymous said...

Great idea. Even if the public doesn't read it, at least the RSS should read it..

Anonymous said...

That's one of the reasons I've started to learn Sanskrit.

Anonymous said...

A great idea. Sanskrit is a difficult but a rather scientific language and is very useful if you want to learn other indian languages or improve your memory power. I remember that we had a good sanskrit teacher who staged some of the great comedies.
However, I am afraid most of the good sanskrit teachers are creatures of the past. We need to import them from the west.

ybr (alias ybrao a donkey) said...

For selected verses from Sanskrit Valmiki Ramayana:
From Mahabhagavata:

Rahul Siddharthan said...

revathi - I'm not sure they are creatures of the past. Many people I know have enough sanskrit knowledge to read texts in the original, and there are dictionaries for the more difficult words. However, I believe the more difficult passages do require expertise in "parsing" -- they are ambiguous (sometimes deliberately so) and can be read in many different ways. There, of course, a good teacher is important.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rahul,

When you say "many people you know" it means perhaps 20-100 people? If we really need to introduce sanskrit in schools like they teach latin and greek in the west we need not 50-100 but thousands of good teachers. Most schools in Europe offer greek, latin, arabic etc as optional subjects at the secondary school level and a lot of students expecially those aiming to go to medical schools/history give it a shot. Nowadays one can do chinese and japanese in several schools. It is a pity that these options of learning ancient languages is no longer available in India at the secondary school level.

Anonymous said...


Basically, the "secular" intellectuals and the "Hindutva" idiots share one common trait - they are both contemptous and embarrassed by our own past, especially the "Hindu" parts.

The idiocy of the Hindutvavadis is well-known. But regarding their "secular" opponents - I think they invoke our past only when necessary to counter the loony guardians of Hindu morality (to use an evocative phrase of Madhu Kishwar). Just ask yourself: Have you ever encountered them chant "ancient erotica," "Khajuraho" blah blah in any other context?

Given this, why do you think a "force-feeding" is going to help? There is a deep-rooted problem here, involving all strands of (Hindu?) society. It appears to me that behind the rantings of the "Hindutvavadis" is a deep feeling of inferiority. I also think that the "counters" of the secularists are mostly ineffective because, as I said, they share one trait of the Hindutvavadis, viz., they are also contemptous and embarassed of our own past. I don't think you counter a feeling of inferiority using such tactics as you propose.

I don't have a solution - just pointing out that the "solution" is more complex than we (the "secularists") imagine.


Rahul Siddharthan said...

SM - yes I agree our left is equally prudish. I once ran into a group of petitioners, belonging to some CPI(M)-affiliated women's organisation, asking me to sign some petition against vulgar movies. When I asked whether they couldn't think of any better causes to fight for, they seemed genuinely puzzled: what could be more important than this?

However, I think making people comfortable with erotica is just one narrow aspect of the problem I have with the right; I was advocating the force-feeding of ancient epics on the theory that, if you demolish one of their pillars (that Hindu culture is chaste and prudish), the rest of the edifice will follow.

On the whole, I think the left tends to be more tolerant of others' beliefs and lifestyles.