Forming the foundation of
many present-day languages of India, Sanskrit is the oldest language of this country. Even languages like Hindi
and Urdu owe its origin to Sanskrit. The earliest form of Sanskrit, known as Vedic, was the language of
communication of the Aryans. By 100 B.C., Sanskrit had died, but much like Latin in the West, it remained the
language of choice for poetry and drama in the royal courts. Sanskrit was also the foundation of many
scientific, philosophical and religious texts and theories.
Other than India,
Sanskrit is spoken in many parts of South and Southeast Asia. Buddhist scholars and monks of China, Japan,
Thailand and Vietnam are conversant in Sanskrit. As per official records available, in 1991, there were nearly
50,000 people who were fluent in Sanskrit and approximately 200,000 people to whom Sanskrit was the second
language according to information available in 1961.
While Sanskrit can be
regarded as the core language of the Hindu religion, its origin is Indo-European. It is also the basis of other
religions like Buddhism and Jainism. A good parallel could be drawn between Sanskrit and Latin and Greek of
Europe. One of the official languages of India and one of the oldest known Indo-European
it has a documented
history which is close to 3500 years old.
Sanskrit – a language of high
origin and higher values
Sanskrit has a rich origin and even richer usage. Used as the primary language
for many ancient religious and scientific theories and discourses in India, Sanskrit was never conceived as just
another language for communication. It was treated as a “refined” manner of speaking. Consequently, fluency in
the language was considered as a hallmark of higher social class and top-class educational achievement, being
taught mostly to Brahmins.