Making a Language Immortal
It’s an innocent curiosity that comes to me again and again: why should our Gods listen to Sanskrit hymns only? Now that we know this particular language is dead how can we say gods understand only a language that’s dead? Isn’t devotion language-neutral? Aren’t our gods polyglots? Why should there be an official language for gods? Don’t we have enough of hassles at hand not being able to accept an official language?
Before I go anywhere near its answer, another question bothers me: how does Sanskrit continue to exist when nobody ever speaks this nowadays? There was a time I used to think that Sanskrit exists even to this day owing to its status as the most scoring subject in secondary school examination. Yes, it’s easy to score in nineties with a little bit of labour, or say mugging up a few pages from the help books. And I’ve done that for a result.
But parking a language in the school curriculum alone cannot be said to have ensured its survival. High school examinations are just the recent paraphernalia, nothing compared to the ancientness of Sanskrit.
Only the other day I came across its answer. The secret of the survival of Sanskrit lies in the richness of its contents—they are beyond obsolescence. Aren’t we increasingly validating the methods and medications handed down to us by Ayurveda? So, what is the medium of these treatises? The answer is Sanskrit. Anybody trying to get a grasp of this useful system has to learn Sanskrit.
Another example can be found in the philosophies expounded by our ancient seers. Beginning as oral traditions, they were eventually documented as Vedantas which were all written in Sanskrit. Agreed, translations bring the body of knowledge to us to some extent, but there is nothing like comprehending the philosophy in entirety by studying its originals. Say, an astrophysicist trying to understand origin of universe would like to go through that hymn in Rigveda that says universe came to existence from the primeval light that was in the midst of a vacuum, or the particular prayer verse of Isavasa Upanishad that says that an individual represents the fullness of the creation, a microcosm in the macrocosm.
Why to go that far? Isn’t the ancient Indian history largely based on Sanskrit treatises, like puranas? How to discover the common ancestry of Indo-European races if it is not through the study of etymology, and finding the linguistic affinities, like a “door” in English= a “dwer” in Russian=a “dwar” in Sanskrit, and so forth.
Now there’s a message here—languages that are content-rich has a better possibility of survival. The vernaculars can take cue from this. They should increase their contents—write their encyclopedia, technical literatures, experimental texts and so forth. They should adapt to the technological environment, say they should go online and have more of dictionaries, thesauri, wikipedia, and so forth. Only a few volumes of fiction will not help achieve the immortality of a language in the long run.