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Sanskrit Language
See also    Sanskrit Literature
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Sanskrit is India's very old language. It has been used in Ved, Puraan, Upanishad and other religious literature till recently. Today world accepts that it is the most perfect language of the world. "Sanskrit" means that which needs no cleansing.

From the Vedaantee everyone agrees that it was "Sound" that was born first and from the Sound was born "Form". First was born the "Pranava" sound (Om) and from this Om were born Name (Naam) and Form (Roop). Ever since creation (Srishti) man was speaking a language. It is not that he spoke unintelligibly and gradually a language was molded. And this language is Sanskrit.

Being the Divine language it is perfect by its own nature.
--Any number of desired words could be created through its root words (Dhaatu) and the prefix and suffix systems as detailed in the Ashtadhyaayee of Paanini, and, furthermore,
--90 forms of each verb and 21 forms of each noun or pronoun could be formed that could be used in any situation. Thus, there is an extremely extensive scope for creating the desired Sanskrit vocabulary.
--The perfection of the pronunciation (of the consonants and the vowels) and the uniqueness of the grammar that stays the same in all the ages (from the very beginning of human civilization and up till today) are such features which themselves prove that Sanskrit is not manmade; it is a Divine gift to the people of this world. For example: the pravishanti , which means ‘they enter.’ This phrase is from the Eesh Upanishad of Yajur Ved. The same inflection of the verb is being used in all the Sanskrit scriptures from the very beginning (trillions of years ago) and up till today. Isn’t it amazing?
--Moreover, Sanskrit language has never had any dialect, and in every age and in every corner of this brahmaand (and the Earth planet) it always remains the same.
--Sanskrit can be spoken only grammatically and not otherwise. while all other languages are not so. In the case of other languages the spoken language is different from the literary one. They are not spoken grammatically correct. The arrangement of words can be changed to one's ease. The words used in stories, articles have all undergone total transformation. It is so with other languages, too. Thus the languages have lost their original form.

Styles of Representation
There are three styles of Sanskrit language: Vaidik, Upnishadik, and of the Puraan. These are the styles of linguistic representations. They are not improvements over one another, as many intellectuals may think. So, in all ages, they remain the same, even if they have been reproduced 5,000 years ago or a billion years ago.

Whereas the other writing systems of the world started from the primitive signs (related to certain sounds) like the Phoenician signs, and from there, moving through a rigid course of development and crossing a number of stages, they took the shape of a proper language.  Even today, there has not been a single language of the world, that has delivered the exact pronunciation of its alphabet, and its dictionary, which has presently borrowed words from several other languages, is still being modified and new words are being added to it.

[From Wikipedia]
The earliest attested Sanskrit texts are Hindu texts of the Rig Ved, which date to the mid-to-late second millennium BCE. No written records from such an early period survive. However, scholars are confident that the oral transmission of the texts is reliable: they were ceremonial literature whose correct pronunciation was considered crucial to its religious efficacy.

From the Rig Ved until the time of Paanini's (fl. 4th century BC) the development of the Sanskrit language may be observed in other Hindu texts: the Saam Ved, Yajur Ved, Atharv Ved, Braahman, and Upanishad. During this time, the prestige of the language, its use for sacred purposes, and the importance attached to its correct enunciation all served as powerful conservative forces resisting the normal processes of linguistic change.

The oldest surviving Sanskrit grammar is Paanini's Ashtaadhyaayee (Eight-Chapter Grammar). It is essentially a prescriptive grammar, ie, an authority that defines (rather than describes) correct Sanskrit, although it contains descriptive parts, mostly to account for some Vedic forms the use of which had become rare in Paanini's time.

The term "Sanskrit" was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages, but rather as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social class and educational attainment in ancient India and the language was taught mainly to members of the higher castes, through close analysis of Sanskrit grammarians such as Paanini. Sanskrit, as the learned language of Ancient India, thus existed alongside the Praakrit (vernaculars), which evolved into the Middle Indic dialects, and eventually into the contemporary modern Indo-Aryan languages.

Vaidik Sanskrit
Sanskrit, as defined by Paanini, had evolved out of the earlier "Veaidik" form. The beginning of Vaidik Sanskrit can be traced as early as around 1500 BC (the accepted date of the Rig Ved). Scholars often distinguish Vaidik Sanskrit and Classical or Paaninian Sanskrit as separate 'dialects'. Though they are quite similar, they differ in a number of essential points of phonology, vocabulary, grammar and syntax. Vaidik Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, a large collection of hymns, incantations (Sanhitaa), theological discussions, and religio-philosophical discussions (Braahman, Upanishad) which are the earliest religious texts of the Hindu religion. Modern linguists consider the metrical hymns of the Rig Ved Sanhitaa to be the earliest, composed by many authors over centuries of oral tradition. The end of the Vaidik period is marked by the composition of the Upanishad, which form the concluding part of the Vaidik corpus in the traditional compilations. Around the mid 1st millennium BC, Sanskrit began the transition from a first language to a second language of religion and learning, marking the beginning of the Classical period.

Classical Sanskrit
For nearly 2,000 years, a cultural order existed that exerted influence across South Asia, Inner Asia, Southeast Asia, and to a certain extent, East Asia. A significant form of post-Vaidik Sanskrit is found in the Sanskrit of the Hindu Epics - the Raamaayan and Mahaabhaarat. The deviations from Paanini in the epics are generally considered to be on account of interference from Praakrit, or innovations and not because they are pre-Paaninean. Traditional Sanskrit scholars call such deviations Aarsh, or of the Rishi, the traditional title for the ancient authors. In some contexts, there are also more Praakritisms (borrowings from common speech) than in Classical Sanskrit proper.

According to Tiwari (1955), there were four principal dialects of classical Sanskrit: Pashchimottar (Northwestern, also called Northern or Western), Madhyadesh (literally, middle country), Poorvee (Eastern) and Dakshinee (Southern, arose in the Classical period). The predecessors of the first three dialects are even attested in Vaidik Braahman; as, of which the first one was regarded as the purest (Kaushitakee Braahman).

Decline of Sanskrit Language
There are a number of sociolinguistic studies of spoken Sanskrit which strongly suggest that oral use of Sanskrit is limited, with its development having ceased sometime in the past. Accordingly, says Pollock (2001), "most observers would agree that, in some crucial way, Sanskrit is dead". He describes it in comparison with the "dead" language of Latin: Both died slowly, and earliest as a vehicle of literary expression, while much longer retaining significance for learned discourse with its universalist claims. Both were subject to periodic renewals or forced rebirths, sometimes in connection with a politics of trans-local aspiration At the same time both came to be ever more exclusively associated with narrow forms of religion and priest craft, despite centuries of a secular aesthetic.

The decline of Sanskrit use in literary and political circles was likely due to a weakening of the political institutions that supported it, and to heightened competition with vernacular languages seeking literary-cultural dignity. There was regional variation in the forcefulness of these vernacular movements and Sanskrit declined in different ways.

From PVR Narasimha Rao's book "Vedic Wisdom", p 45
Sanskrit language is a wonderful language. Sanskrit names and words selected by Rishi for expressing various concepts and stories are very thoughtful. Depending on how deep one goes, there are many meanings of the same word. Thus, Rishi expressed concepts that may have one meaning to a layman and a different meaning to one who is ready to understand the deeper meaning. Sanskrit names have not
one meaning, but layers of meanings that can be understood based on the capability of the reader. Rishi used this to hide some special meanings and to keep some higher knowledge as secret, even though it is very much out there!

The example: is of Bhaav and Pad. Paaraashar described Bhaav (Houses in astrology) and how to find their respective Pad (Arudhaa Pad of Houses) and said that a Bhaav and its Pad should be judged to see the matters of a House. Though he did not explain the difference between a Bhaav and its Pad further and did not elucidate when to use which one, I said that the very choice of names is a huge clue! Bhaav, which is usually translated as a House, also means "a thought or a concept or a feeling" and Pad means "a symbol or a word" used to express a thought or a concept. Thus, houses are to their Arudhaa Pad what thoughts (Bhaav) are to the words (Pad) that attempt to express them. For example, if the 4th House shows one's happiness from vehicles, the Pad of 4th house shows the tangible articles that attempt to throw light on one's happiness from vehicles (e.g. the physical vehicle owned by one). Houses (Bhaav) show intangible or internal aspects of a matter (just like thoughts inside one's head), while their Arudhaa Pad show tangible or external aspects of a matter (just like the external words spoken that attempt to express the thoughts in the head). If you use the English words to translate Paraashar, this hidden meaning may be lost! So, I argued that Sanskrit names used by Rishi are not like words in any language.

Some Sites for Sanskrit Language  - Is Sanskrit Indian language?  -  How the Sanskrit is a special language?


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/31/12