K.M. Munshi was himself one of the luminaries of the Modern Indian Renaissance and like his compatriots, was endowed with a lasting cultural vision.
In the concluding portion of his address, Munshi made several observations and predictions all of which are still valid. In a line, we are today paying the appalling price and are suffering the consequences of ignoring his warnings with regard to Sanskrit. Likewise, his practical recommendations for strengthening and revitalising Sanskrit studies after independence are still worth their weight in gold. One observation especially stands out: every Pathashala is a natural center of Sanskrit.
From 1951 when he delivered this lecture up to today, the decline has been pathetically spectacular: the multicoloured explosion of expensive private schools teach everything but the one thing that will ultimately keep India united: Sanskrit. On the other side, thousands of the Pathashalas that Munshi has so glowingly mentioned, have been shuttered out of existence since his time. The few Pathashalas that have survived continue to reel under multi-pronged attacks. The most lethal of these attacks include the evil rewiring of the Hindu psyche: sending your kids to Pathashalas not only gets them no jobs, but is unfashionable and even worse, Brahminical. Thus, by reducing cultural education to a lifestyle choice, our "education" system has ensured that three generations of Hindus neither have culture nor education in its most profound sense.
Munshi's other brilliant observation also holds true today: people occupying high office in his time who had an abiding love for Sanskrit were "unorganized in their efforts to maintain Sanskrit in its pre-eminent position." To some extent, this situation has been mitigated over the last four decades by devoted institutions like Samskruta Bharati. However, true revitalisation of Sanskrit will occur when enough people who appreciate the value of Sanskrit occupy decisive positions in both the public and private sector. We can indeed make a case for why our decrepit IAS system is overflowing not only with corrupt officers but deracinated and anti-national elements wielding such frightening power: a complete ignorance of Sanskrit. From one perspective, their alliance with alien breaking India forces is a subconscious reflection of their hatred for Sanskrit.
Samskruta brings national Samskara: its absence creates such officers.
The Dharma Dispatch recommends multiple readings of this three-part series of K.M. Munshi's lecture. Better still, a large-scale circulation of the lecture especially among Hindu children and teenagers will go a long way.
Sanskrit, thus being the natural basis of our unity, culture and vitality, its future deserves a careful consideration.
First, the highly placed persons in this country, who have studied Sanskrit and believe in it as an integral element of our national life, are unorganized in their efforts to maintain Sanskrit in its pre-eminent position.
Secondly, in our Universities, and in the higher educational systems, there is a growing outlook borrowed largely from the West, that the study of a classical language is a superfluity, an outlook based on ignorance. However, for India, Sanskrit is not a classical language which serves but to add to the accomplishment of an educated man, it is a vital link in the nation’s evolution.
Thirdly, the elimination of the princely order which, in spite of its many faults, gave generous patronage to the pathashalas, the centers of traditional Sanskrit learning which so far kept the language alive as a spoken language, and the decay of religious belief which denies to their products the means of livelihood.
Lastly, the outlook, fashionable in some westernized sections of the people, that a faith in Sanskrit as a vitalizing force in the modern world is a sign of revivalism. Their children no longer learn our Epics, which have made and preserved India, from the mother’s lips. Nothing could be more saddening than the fact that over sixty per cent of candidates for the I. A. S., the prospective rulers of India, did not know of Kunti, the noble mother, or of Karna, the soul of honour and generosity.
With the dawn of freedom, one would have thought that the encouragement to the study of Sanskrit would have been accepted as one of the first responsibilities of our Governments. Some Governments like that of the Uttar Pradesh have done so. Others, however, have lacked the time or inclination to do so. But it is only a question of time. The basic importance of Sanskrit which underlies our lives, has had no opportunity to express itself fully through the governing class which the struggle for freedom threw up. To anyone, who does not bring to bear a superficial outlook, it would be clear that our freedom would have no meaning if India lost her soul; that we would have no future if she abandoned the principal source of her strength. I go one step further; the world could only be redeemed by a wider appreciation of what Sanskrit stands for; the efficacy of non-violence and Truth, Non-waste, Non-stealing and Non-possession, and faith in the integration of human personality, in the supremacy of the moral order and in the divine essence in man.
The only way to vitalize the study of Sanskrit not merely as a matter of learning or research, but as a cultural force of universal value is to draw upon all the energy and resources which, at present, are being spent in promoting Sanskrit in diverse ways. At the same time, the general interest and widespread support for Sanskrit should not, by being too regulated or centralized, lose the element of spontaneity. The movement should, therefore, be vitalizing and not controlling or regulating.
At the same time, persons interested in Sanskrit should study the condition of Sanskrit studies each in his own sphere from the following points of view:
(i) the place occupied by Sanskrit in our Universities and system of higher education;
(ii) the assistance given by the Central and the State Governments to Sanskrit studies;
(iii) the recognition of Sastric titles as qualifying for University degrees;
(iv) the position of Pathashalas, their economic condition and the way of providing economic assistance to them and career possibilities to their students;
(v) the position of Sanskrit research;
(vi) the desirability of having easy examination programmes for those anxious to study Sanskrit privately;
(vii) the desirability of holding conferences of those interested in Sanskrit;
(viii) the ways and means to make Sanskrit literature and particularly the Epics an element in mass education.
Our appeal must necessarily be to the educationists, the professors, the school-masters, the lawyers, the men of literature and education, a vast majority of whom are interested in Sanskrit in one way or another.
It is for them to develop a conscious response to this movement. In the Universities and the colleges, particularly, groups of educationists, teachers and students could be found who can easily form themselves into centers of study.
Naturally, every Pathashala is a center of Sanskrit. On the Ministers, Vice-Chancellors and high officials who have interest in Sanskrit, lies a great responsibility; and if each one of them acts effectively in his own sphere, we can still preserve the vital strength which Sanskrit has given us through the ages.
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