Languages

Everyone knows that Sanskrit is one of the ancient Indian Languages. The correct form of Sanskrit is Samskrutam which means ‘Made Good’ or Refined. The common form of it spoken by normal people was Prakrut which means ‘natural’.

Every modern Indian language has both taken words from and contributed words to Sanskrit.

A few people also know that Tamil was in existence prior to Rishi Agastya’s time. Agastya studied the language and wrote a book on Tamil grammar.

Valmiki tells us that when Hanuman found Sita in the Asoka Vatika of Sri Lanka, he wondered which language to speak to her in. He was afraid that if he spoke Sanskrit, then Sita would think that he was Ravana in disguise. Ravana was a brahman on his father’s side, a son of Visrava and grandson of Pulastya Prajapathi who was a son of Brahma. Ravana was an expert in Sanskrit and he wrote the brilliant Siva Tandava Stotra. Hanuman knew that Sita would not understand his own native Kishkinda language. Hanuman and Sugreeva lived in Kishkinda which is in Hampi, Karnataka near the Pampa river. So their Kishkinda language must have been Kannada. So Hanuman decided to speak to Sita in the language of Ayodhya, Prakrut. He was sure that she would trust him then.

Just as modern educated Indians of today, speak English, educated Indians of the ancient days spoke Samskrutam.

Sri Rama had a great friend called Guha, who was a Nishada. (It is a place to the east of Ayodhya). When Rama was exiled, he first passed through King Guha’s territory. Guha made an offer to Rama to stay with him and rule the kingdom along with him, which of course, Rama did not accept. Guha also tested the intentions of Rama’s brother Bharata, before telling him where Rama had gone. They all spoke to each other in Sanskrit.

Modern movies and serials have an annoying and inaccurate tendency to depict all other Indian ancient cultures as primitive tribal cults – but this was not the case. Valmiki, himself wrote the wonderful Ramayanam and he is said to be variously, a Nishada, a Bhil, a Kirata, a Brahmarishi or an Adivasi.

There are also flavours of Sanskrit. The Sanskrit of the Vedic Mantras, is different from that of the Upanishads.  Some people think this means a temporal separation ie a separation in time. However it could just as well mean a spatial separation. People of different regions spoke Sanskrit differently, as they do … even today, with both Sanskrit and English. Much of The Veda was preserved orally. That means students would learn it by heart and teach it to their students. There could have been variations in accents. Even today, Vedas are chanted differently in the north and south of India.

The Vedas were written down only much later and then Brahmi Script was often used, instead of Devanagari. Most of the original texts are found to have been better preserved in South India.

About these ads