Good response to Sanskrit classes at Indian consulate

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Good response to Sanskrit classes at Indian consulate

10-day course sees people of all ages and different walks of life gather to learn language of ancient India.

By Sajila Saseendran/senior Reporter

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Published: Thu 22 Jan 2015, 12:52 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 7:34 PM

Indian Consul-General Anurag Bhushan addressing the students at the end of the conversational Sanskrit course.-- Photo by Mukesh Kamal/ Khaleej Times

Dubai — The Indian Consulate in Dubai recently witnessed something new on its premises which is usually abuzz with diplomatic activities and community services.

The recently renovated auditorium in the mission saw a group of people — 25 of them — ranging from primary school children to senior citizens, sitting together in a corner arranged as a small classroom in the evening.

 The enthusiastic students from different walks of life were attending a 10-day course on conversational Sanskrit.

At the end of the course, most students said they could pick up the language of the scholars of ancient India much faster than expected. “Nobody knew anything in Sanskrit when we joined,” Sumithra Nair, a student, told Khaleej Times.

“But the teacher was so good that he made us learn the words by doing actions. Now after 10 days, I can understand Sanskrit and I can speak a little bit, though with grammatical mistakes,” said Nair, a scientist with PhD in Biotechnology.

Being a researcher, she said, she was keen to know the language because of its wealth of scientific knowledge from ancient India.

Currently, Sanksrit is the first language of less than one hundredth of one per cent of the total population of India. Only some 50,000 people mentioned it as their first language in the most recent census, according to a New York Times report, which said Narendra Modi’s election as the prime minister sparked hope for the teaching and promotion of the language of the Brahmin scholars.

Recently, the government faced criticism over its move to impose Sanskrit in Indian schools. However, officials at the consulate distanced themselves from linking the class at the mission to religion and politics back home. They said the auditorium, which is now provided for holding Indian cultural activities, was offered to facilitate the classes when A. Balasubramanian, the teacher, volunteered to take free classes.

According to Subramanian, an accountant trained in teaching Sanskrit at Sanskrit Bharti, what he does is just another attempt to revive the almost dying language.

“Earlier, people used to encourage the teaching of Sanskrit as it is part of our culture. It is only now that people have politicised the language based on religion,” he said.

Dr Tiju Thomas, consul (Economic and Education), who also attended the classes, said learning Sanskrit is very important to know what was originally written about ancient India.

A physician-turned-diplomat, Dr. Thomas said the knowledge of Sanskrit was also important to popularise highly potent Indian medical stream Ayurveda. Chandan Navlani, a financial consultant, said he joined the class because it was good to learn something new. “There is a lot of sect-based conditions in our society. People generally don’t see any practical application for Sanskrit. But, those who are interested in culture would be keen to know the language.”

Other officials from the consulate were also of the opinion that the conversational class should not be linked to any particular religion.

Appreciating the participants’ interest in learning Sanskrit, the Consul General Anurag Bhushan said: “Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages of the world. Learning Sanskrit not only brings us closer to the rishis and gurus of ancient times but also opens up a vast repository of knowledge essential for a better understanding Indian culture.”

He also took the opportunity to convey to Indian nationals that the consulate was receptive to new ideas on ways to promote Indian culture and requested Indians to come forward with such ideas.

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