Dr. P. Nandakumar – A great academician dedicated to the renaissance of our ancient language ‘Samskrit’.
Mrs. Moli Divakaran ; Photo: Anwar Sadath Thalasserry
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
A Vachaspathi (PhD) in Samskrit, a rank holder in Samskrit Literature from University of Calicut, and now an accomplished master trainer and coach in spoken samskrit, Dr. Nandakumar is approved by the Government of Kerala as a resource person for Samskrit training program. He worked as co-ordinator for many National and International Seminars and workshops like Prajnanam – an Exhibition on Ancient Science, World Sanskrit Book fair and for many such prestigious endeavors.
Currently Dr. Nandakumar is in Kuwait with a mission to enlighten the people about the significance of Samskrit and its relevance in present times and to conduct Samskrit Spoken Classes. I spent a few hours soaking in the richness of the language when I met with him and his wife Mrs. Vandhana for this interview.
Both have dedicated their life towards this noble cause. Here are some of the excerpts from the interview.
MD: Sanskrit has been called as a vedic language, sacred language, holy language, liturgical language, ceremonial language; adjectives that no other languages enjoy? Yet, Sheldon Polloc in a book called “The Death of Samskrit” has called Samskrit as a dead language? When such a notion exists, what is the relevance of this ancient language in this modern time?
Dr. N: Development is everywhere but there is a lacuna. Development without a philosophy is the reason that even environment is in danger these days. The only solution to this is knowledge with strong values. Samskrit is the only language that encompasses rich human value system in its literature. This is where Sanskrit comes into relevance of filling this lacuna. Sanskrit is a language that propagates the concept of “Vasudheiva Kududumbakam” which means that the whole world is a single family. This philosophy is the panacea to all the modern days problems.
MD: Samskrit is perceived to be a language of mantras. What do you have to say about this?
Dr.N: This is a misconception. To give you a simple example, the very fact that NASA uses Samskrit to program artificial intelligence shows the versatility of the language. Imagine poetically explaining mathematics. This was done in Samskrit. ‘Lilavati’ is a poetical treatise on mathematics.
In Rig Vedha ‘velocity of light’ has been simply explained in a couplet.
Yojanaanaam sahasrae duveshathae duvecha yojanae
Ekaena nimishardhena kramamaana namosthuthae.
There are many such examples that show that a vast body of scientific information is hidden in Sanskrit literature. Take any branch of science: Astronomy, metallurgy, medicine, transportation, mathematics, biology, chemistry and the list goes on where Samskrit has left a substantial mark.
MD: Samskrit was known as a marker of social class and educational attainment? How did it loose its prominence?
Dr. N: Yes, Nalanda and Takshasheela were oldest higher learning institutions which saw people from all over the world engaged in serious study such as “Swam swam charithram seekshaena” – Who am I?
Another example that shows women and their prominence in society is the famous intellectual debate between Adi Sankaracharya and Mandana Misra in which Mandana Misra’s wife served as the referee.
With the multiple invasions that India faced and the change in governance during British rule, Samskrit suffered. For example, Sanskrit teachers under British rule were the least paid. Internal class system also contributed to the hindrance of Sanskrit flourishing. A lack in global outlook also contributed to this loss.
During Vaideeka Kaalam, people believed in ‘Sarvam Brahman’ and lived accordingly. Over a period of time the number of such people who lived for truth and highest knowledge diminished. However, Samskrit has been studied by many western universities. Probably they understood the treasure hidden in its language and its literature.
MD: What movement is happening in India and abroad towards the revival of Samskrit?
Dr. N: Our former President APJ Abdul Kalam in his book India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium mentions that he wants India to be the number one nation in the world on all fronts and that only a “knowledge driven society can drive the world”. This knowledge is in our manuscripts and 75% of it is written in Samskrit. With the revival of Samskrit, India can once again emerge as the super power which can guide the world through peaceful measures. It is our duty to realize this dream and therefore, India has woken up. There are 15 universities in India where Sanskrit is being taught. There are 6 villages in India where only Sanskrit is spoken. Schools now teach Samskrit starting from primary schools. Print and visual media houses, NGO’s and Educational establishments, have come up with many measures to propagate Samskrit. Over 10 million people are experts in Samskrit and most of them are engaged in activities all around the world towards this noble cause.
Over 37 countries all around the world teach Samskrit. APJ Abdul Kalam was received in Germany with a greeting in Samskrit. “Thatra bhavathaam yavanadesha swaagatham”! When asked why he was received in Samskrit he was told that it was befitting to use India’s language for an Indian dignitary. So Sanskrit is reverentially known as India’s language. The same reverence was felt when I was asked to teach Samskrit to a group of westerners. Sanskrit
MD: Your passion for Samskrit is evident in your answers. How can common man help you in your endeavor?
Dr.N: There is a “Sanskrit phoebia” that it is a difficult language and only caters to a particular section of the society. Such untruths need to be eliminated by showing the benefits of learning Samskrit. It not only opens up a treasure chest of knowledge, but also has deeper benefits. Samskrit pandits who are above 90 years of age, have immaculate memory. Samskrit is known to work on your subconscious mind and therefore is finding relevance in the treatment of Alzheimer and Autism. Other than the therapeutic benefits, because of its precision, it teaches a child learner to pay fine attention. It gives an uplifting feeling due to its scientific precise structure and the beauty of sound. It is a language that can be learnt in just 20 hours.
MD: Having travelled across the length and breadth of India and abroad in association with Samskrit, what are some of the finer moments that you have experienced?
Dr. N: Every occasion has been a humbling experience. While in Odissa, a very old blind gentleman after the Sanskrit discourse approached me and attempted to prostrate. With tears in his eyes he touched me and said that he was compelled to pay his reverence for having had the opportunity to touch Samskrit.
Mr. Sreedaran popularly known as the ‘metro man’ recently on one occasion on hearing about the presence of a samskrit scholar, stood up in reverence to the language.
The famous south Indian actor Mohanlal recently spent his valuable four days on recording to perfection an introduction in Samskrit for a CD that we had developed. During the lengthy recording, the whole time Mohanlal remained standing. He said that in front of Sanskrit he could not but only stand in reverence. He politely refused remuneration for that job saying that he had received immeasurable grace and was immensely grateful for the opportunity of being able to do something for Samskrit.
These and many such instances reveal the acceptance of society towards Samskrit. This is my motivation.
MD: What kind of revival is happening with regards to Samskrit?
Dr. N: Decoding of the language is helping common man see the fineness of the language. For example the word Hrudhayam (Heart) has the whole function of the heart beautifully
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