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Sanskrit makes a comeback in Mumbai

Sanskrit makes a comeback in Mumbai

Author: Manoj Nair
Publication: Mid-Day
Date: November 4, 2003
URL: http://ww1.mid-day.com/news/city/2003/november/67869.htm

Long considered a dying language, Sanskrit is making a comeback in colleges.

At Mumbai University, the number of students registered for courses at the University's Sanskrit department has gone up from 175 to 260, a rise of nearly 50 per cent in the last four years.

The response has surprised Dr G P Mahulikar, head of the University's Sanskrit department.

"I am amazed to see the kind of response from students. When I did my MA in 1975, there were around 10 students in the post- graduate class. Now, the number of students is 30," Mahulikar said.

The number of students doing the basic certificate course at the university has grown from 73 to 101, its full capacity, in the last four years. A new post-graduate diploma in comparative mythology has attracted 25 students this year.

If the new interest spans the range from short-term diploma courses to post-graduate studies, the enthusiasm for the language also encompasses various age groups and professions.

Dr Kalplata Mahajan (56) is a general practitioner doing a diploma course. She said her love for the language prompted her to join the classes. "I learnt Sanskrit in school but could not pursue it as I took up medicine in college," she said.

Rajashri Barve, a Kathak dancer from Malad, graduated with a gold medal in Sanskrit from Ruia College and is now doing post-graduate studies in the subject. She said learning the language will help her in her future plans of taking up research in ancient Indian epics. "Since the language is also becoming popular in schools, there is a demand for Sanskrit teachers. That is another reason more students are learning the language," said Barve.

Prasad Akolkar, an Ayurveda practioner, is doing the one-year diploma in comparative mythology. "Learning Sanskrit at an advanced level will help understanding ancient Ayurveda," said this Dadar resident who has started a web site promoting Sanskrit.

The new interest in the language is not restricted to the University of Mumbai alone. The Somaiya Trust is setting up a deemed university for Sanskrit called the K J Somaiya Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, at its Vidyavihar campus. The university will be governed by Central government rules, said S K Somaiya of the Somaiya Trust.

"Though we applied for permission to set up the university in 1973, the sanction has just come. We plans to have special programmes for teaching the language, including training of Sanskrit teachers," said Somaiya.

However, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, one of the biggest organisations promoting Sanskrit, has a different story to tell.

The number of children enrolled for the Bhavan's basic certificate in Sanskrit from all over India has fallen from 50,000 to 30,000 in the last five years.

A N Chaturvedi of the Bhavan said he was not happy with the numbers, but other Bhavan officials said the fall was due to Bhavan's slackened promotion for the language. "It is not indicative of the falling interest in the language," said an official.

Career scope

School teachers, college and university lecturers, readers at university, research scholars, newsreaders for Doordarshan

Why more interest

Sanskrit is becoming popular as an optional language in schools. So there is a big demand for Sanskrit teachers.

It is increasingly being offered as a subject at the Civil Services examination since it has potential to be high scoring.

There is a new interest in studies of ancient Indian epics. Since most of this literature is in Sanskrit, it is imperative to know the language.

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