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The sanitising power of spoken Sanskrit March 7, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, McCartney, Patrick , trackback

Patrick McCartney

Revived interest in Sanskrit study in India reveals patriotism and a problematic nationalism.

This extract is from the article in Himāl Southasian magazine, 27 February 2014. Read the full article

Out in north-east Delhi, nestled amidst the industrial, agricultural, and residential suburb of Mandoli, is a small compound where a committed group of Sanskrit enthusiasts live, study, teach, and speak only Sanskrit. Camps are held there year round, run by Samskrita Bharati, an organisation devoted entirely to propagating spoken Sanskrit “in every home and in every village” (grhe grhe graame graame). This motivating ideological force extends to “every city in every nation” as well (nagare nagare deshe deshe).

Samskrita Bharati is a part of the Sangh Parivar, a collection of nationalist, political, social, paramilitary, religious, and cultural organisations devoted to the furthering of its particular version of ‘patriotic’ Hinduism. The Sangh is determined to create an ideal utopian Hindu nation and world with the lingua franca being, of course, Sanskrit. Samskrita Bharati’s role in this movement is linguistic and cultural; however, it is enmeshed in the political, religious, and para-military preoccupations of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), respectively. Sanskrit is a symbolic vehicle for the ideology and practices of the Sangh Parivar. Samskrita Bharati’s mandate is to undertake the “Revival of Samskrit as a mass communication language (jaanabhaashaa) and facilitation of common man’s access to its vast knowledge treasure.”

Patrick McCartney is a PhD student at the Australian National University, Canberra. His research focuses on the manufacturing of legitimacy within a conservative Hindu organisation and their relationship to the nationalist project. 

Learning Sanskrit (Flickr/ Avanish Tiwary)

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