In the heterogeneous nation of India, we do all sorts of experiments to bring about cohesion among the people without jeopardizing their individuality and identity. That is all right and in the true spirit of democracy too. But at the same time, there are strands running underneath the social fabric that tend to unify the nation. Such undercurrents and trends need to be solidified. Religion, language, culture, life style, rituals, traditions and many more things enjoy significance in the lives of people and groups. Do all these count for unity and solidarity of a nation? This is a moot question. Followers of western or what we call Westminster-like democracy brush aside religion as a unifying force. Reality on the ground is different than what is pontificated. Can anybody underestimate the role of Christianity, Judaism or Islam in shaping the history of respective nations?
Soon after independence, Indian leadership was face to face with some baffling questions. Future history will tell us whether their response to those questions was right or wrong. Among the stalwarts of freedom movement in our country, there were many with astute scholarship in Indian classics, religion and mythology. For them, democracy meant not only preservation of India’s traditional learning including its instruments, but also developing and streamlining these institutions and instruments in democratic atmosphere. At the same time, there were others who looked at India with a futuristic vision, focused entirely on future as the harbinger of new India. But, without meaning to decry them, they had only superficial knowledge of India’s past. Even while narrating social-political history of India, alas it was attempted without the pre-requisite knowledge of the language and literature which had so assiduously preserved her civilizational fund. We mean Sanskrit.
The step-motherly treatment meted out to Sanskrit language right from the beginning of independence has now brought out its negative results. The generations of post-independence Indians are far removed from their rich and ancient cultural moorings; they are ignorant of their civilizational fund, and hence they have lost much of the moral and ethical asset which our great saints and savants had built with endless efforts. This is also the reason why first class literature could not be produced in our country in post-independence period. The quantum and quality of literature once produced so proudly under the rubric of “Progressive movement” has now turned into trash and muck. We have not been able to contribute to the world class fund of literature. The most painful thing is that we were gifted by destiny and by history with the finest indigenous language which was immensely enriched by our forefathers. The Vedas considered oldest works known to mankind, were written and preserved in Sanskrit language. Enormously rich literature, in all forms — spiritual, temporal and empirical—- was produced and preserved in Sanskrit. Above all, we had the greatest of great grammarians and philologists, namely Panini, who wrote the immortal ashtadhyaya, the most scientific grammar of this great language. But alas instead of building a strong and lofty edifice of language and literature on this solid foundation, what our west-aping politicos did was to sideline Sanskrit language and literature in our educational institutions. Whatever could survive was owing to voluntary efforts of gurukulas and Sanskrit sansthans run by private or social organizations and that, too, against so many odds. It is true that in some states, Sanskrit language has been made compulsory up to tenth class and in other states it has been declared an optional subject. This is not the way how a historic language with infinite contribution in shaping the civilization of its people has to be dealt with it. One cannot understand India without knowing Sanskrit language. And those who claimed to have “discovered” India and posed as repository of information on India and her people without having been able to read or pronounce a single word of Sanskrit, have exposed their selves to the mockery of history.
To be pragmatic, we need to find how we can make Sanskrit study as the foundation for character building of our new generations. Social and moral values sanctified and embedded in classical literature must be brought to light to the budding generations at an early stage of life. That is how new India can be built. An Indian must be fully aware of his past with a vision for future. Language is the great cementing force and India needs to acquire this force. Going to basics in no way hinders planning for future.