SINGAPORE, April 27, 2017 (Straits Times by Annabeth Leow): Singapore is a tapestry of languages, each with its unique syntax and history. Some are endangered while others are thriving. In the latest instalment of a weekly series, we look at Sanskrit. Dating back at least 3,000 years, the Sanskrit language has shaped numerous modern cultures in South East Asia – from Cambodia and Laos, to Malaysia and Indonesia. Even this country’s very name, Singapore, derives from a Sanskrit word: “Sinhapura”, or lion city. And “merdeka”, the rallying call when the Republic gained independence, has roots in the language.
But modern students and experts of Sanskrit, which hails from what is now South Asia, are few and far between in Singapore. Over the past few years, a small clutch of lay enthusiasts and university academics have taken it upon themselves to fan the flames of interest in Sanskrit. The Ramakrishna Mission, a spiritual organisation headquartered in Bartley Road, has held weekly Sanskrit lessons for more than 40 years, said president and monk Vimokshananda, 69. Dr Srinivasa Malladi, who coordinates Sanskrit study at the Ramakrishna Mission in Singapore, hopes to have about 100 fluent speakers here within the next few years.