गुरुवार, 8 सितंबर 2011

Using Modern Media for Promotion of Sanskrit

Using Modern Media for Promotion of Sanskrit

Abstract: Sanskrit is today at cross roads. Mentioned in the Indian Constitution as one of the Modern Indian Languages, the Sanskrit speaking population in the country was only 10,000 as per the 2001 population census. Yet there is a need to sustain the currency of Sanskrit at various levels given that it is the Mother language of a majority of Indian languages, its rich literature could still hold attraction for many a readers, it is a fountainhead of much of our culture and, most important, its study at a deeper level has a lot to offer to modern Indian knowledge, be it Ayurveda, Yoga, Music, Grammar, Philosophy, Mathematics and even IT.

Traditional methods of retaining the currency of Sanskrit, let alone enhance it, have their own limitations. An essential feature of these methods is their insulation from modern tools and communication avenues. This article therefore strongly argues in favour of using these techniques and methods and looks at the policy initiatives that will be necessary to support such efforts. These techniques will have follow to parallel processing approach given the diverse nature of the audience interested in Sanskrit e.g. those engaging with it at a very basic level, those doing it at a deeper level of understanding and enjoyment, those using it in livelihood mode and those engaging with it in a professional manner leading to research and enhancement of the state of current knowledge. At one level the scholars of the language may have to learn the state of the art IT methods while at the other those at the forefront of professional pursuits will have to be fast-tracked into acquiring knowledge of the language with nuances relevant for their purpose.

While methods like telecast or broadcast will address certain issues, use of tweeter, U-tube, audio-visual learning and archiving, specialized blogs catering to various subjects will address more nuanced requirements. What we need is a policy and support environment that maximizes such efforts and a facilitating structure that takes modern communication methods to this ancient yet living language.

It is expected that this article will generate a vibrant debate on the use of modern IT and communication tools for increasing the usage of Sanskrit and inform the policy-makers of the concrete steps needed in this direction.
Sanskrit is not just a language but an inexhaustible treasure of knowledge. If we allow this to be lost we will be swept backward in the pursuit of knowledge. Sanskrit is mentioned in the 8 th schedule of Indian Constitution as one of the Modern Indian Languages. According to the 2001 census, the Sanskrit speaking population was only 10,000 which is far less than population figures in 1951. The language is classified as non-regional. So, theoretically, it is the heritage of everyone and belongs to everyone, but in practice it belongs to none. Such a reality should start worrying anyone who is keenly associated with Sanskrit. Govt. of India as well as many state governments have found it fit to close down or de-subsidize erstwhile Sanskrit institutions on the ground that it is a dwindling language.

There is a redeeming feature though, for us to cash upon. If we pick up the dictionaries of All Indian languages, (and also the dictionaries of few other Asian languages such as Nepali, Sinhali, Thai, Combodian Indonesian) we find that 70-80 percent comprise Sanskrit words. The number of Sanskrit manuscripts collected from all over India and of the available Sanskrit texts is humungous. Thus there is a huge treasure of knowledge that we need to explore. But then, are we at the brink of losing this invaluable treasure for non-availability of Sanskrit scholars, adequate Sanskrit speaking population and adequate efforts and funding from Govt.?
Inclusion of the language in the 8th schedule list meant that the language was entitled to representation on the Official Languages Commission and there is an added significance that the Government of India is under obligation to take measures for the development of the language, such that "they grow rapidly in richness and become effective means of communicating modern knowledge." But no adequate efforts, plans or schemes are in sight.
In addition, a candidate appearing in an examination conducted for public service at a higher level is entitled to use Sanskrit as the medium in which he or she answers the paper. Over the last 20 years such a number has dwindled too. However, there is no Govt. department or Institution whose mandate includes promotion of Sanskrit. The CIIL, Mysore (Central Institute of Indian Languages) has a mandate to “Work for Integration of Indian Languages Except Sanskrit and Hindi.
Recently Uttarakhand has emerged as the only state to declare Sanskrit language as “Other officially recognized languages”.

This much for the legal and official status of the language. What is the position of teaching-learning?

The traditional methods available for promoting Sanskrit are scholastic, syllabus-oriented and formal. There are 18 Sanskrit Universities in India, and one Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthanam which runs as an Apex organization for nearly 40 school-level and partly college-level Sanskrit institutions. However, with Sanskrit getting out of the syllabus of most of the Matriculation Examination Boards, the adequate feeder population will not be available.
Thus in last 10 years we have come to a peculiar situation as in this graph which indicates a mismatch between infrastructure for higher and feeder levels

This brings us to the need of supporting the academic methods by informal methods, particularly use of media, such as TV and Radio channels, Internet, U-Tube, Social Networking Sites, Portals, Events and Print Media.

This article discusses these methods, with questions such as --
Why use the modern media and How ? What policy guidelines will be needed /helpful ? What are the Do’s and Don’t’s ? What is the importance of effective Feedback and how to ensure that ?

People interested in Sanskrit are of 4 categories –
· Peripheral learners, students etc who want some shlokas, some quick-learning lessons, a bit of grammar, and vocabulary so that when they read a small passage, they can savor its beauty and contents. This emotional attachment is the key to preserve our Unity in Diversity and must be adequately catered to.
· Somewhat deep learner, not very keen on language itself but wanting to know from the vast treasure of knowledge-contents in Sanskrit. Such knowledge is sometimes found preserved and available only by a select few. Hence the need to address a larger audience.
· Great scholars, keen on attaining further heights as well as giving their acquired wisdom to others, researchers, institutions etc.
· Those who can combine this treasure of knowledge with modern sciences to generate and carry out Research Ideas.

Graphically these 4 categories can be represented on a IE-graph –

Let us look at a parallel from Agriculture and Forestry where a “broadcasting method” of sowing is often used. What does it mean? It means that when you have a vast area to cover under sowing, your man-power and time at hand are limited, and you can afford to suffer some wastage of seed, then rather than sowing each seed separately, in a carefully dug and prepared pit, you just throw millions of seeds, thereby covering vast areas in far less time and leave it to the exigencies of land and weather conditions to decide how many seeds will germinate.

The methods of TV and Radio are like this broadcast technique of sowing.

Now we come to those 6 questions –
Why use the modern media
and How ?
What policy guidelines will be needed /helpful ?
What are the Do’s and Don’t’s ?
What is the importance of effective Feedback and
how to ensure that ?

I am ignoring the question why promote Sanskrit -- for its obvious answers such as
1. If Indians don’t promote it then who will?
2. Sanskrit has a huge treasure of knowledge waiting to be explored.
3 People are emotionally attached to it and hence it is the symbol of our national integration.
4. A large number of Western scholars are learning it, collecting manuscripts and carrying out research. So we must not be left behind.
etc etc.

I first go to the question “Who is using modern media, to What extent and How?”
For Sanskrit, the most widely used medium today is that of blogs and Web-site. They are available in large numbers and even blog-catalogues and blog-aggregators are being created. Web-site is another tool used by almost all reputed institutions. These are also being inventorised.

Proposal 1 -- Can we have frequent events such as bloggers’-meet, seminars, blog-competetion, etc?

However we need a much bigger platform where all the scholars and institutions can network and achieve a free exchange and rapid spread of this knowledge. This can be provided only by broadcasting channels.

Among TV channels, Doordarshan has a few programs such as daily 5 min. news bulletin and a weekly program of school level Sanskrit learning produced by RSS (Occasionally supported by Sanskrit Bharti). The All-India Radio has more hours – by way of news, teaching programs and literature appreciation. The news bulletins are getting archived on web-sites and are good tools for preparing future batches of news-readers. On private Radio and TV, the presence of Sanskrit is almost nil.

The presence of Sanskrit on TV-Radio media needs to increased many-folds. A far more effective approach is of a serial. A weekly serial ensures continuous presence before viewers offering tremendous flexibility to them, thus avoiding to make demands on their time – they may find it very interesting and hence participate or show a lukewarm interest or relish the entertainment and forget or ignore to see, but it will all be their wish. They can revert to it at any future occasion.
The serial would establish a network among all those who are doing good work for Sanskrit. and ensure flow of the treasured knowledge to appropriate recipients. It can also discover knowledge-treasures lying in some hidden corners and hitherto unavailable.

A typical weekly serial for 1year duration will cost a modest budget of about Rs 2 crores.

An associated portal offers archival and participatory support. For feedback, SMS and emails are quick-response, short-time methods whereas portal has a long-term potential for feed-back.

Here is a schematic diagram showing the possibilities. Programs based on Dharohar (Heritage), and Career-progression, those promoting events like Stotra-Gayan, and those generating research ideas, revalidation-experiments and networking are some suggestions.

Why would the youth learn Sanskrit? With MNCs wanting to capture Indian market and also trying to source their raw-material and production from India, they need a middle-management that can deal with both customers and workers in Indian languages. They would need to use icons, symbols and philosophies which are essentially Indian. Hence the knowledge of Sanskrit and its treasures of wisdom is necessary. Even from a sheer view-point of market-economy, promoting Sanskrit on Media makes sense.

Involving Senior citizens to once again establish the tradition of story-telling to build up the bond between them and their third generation is yet another strategy which we can begin with the stories of Mahabharat and Ramayan, the world’s largest epics.

For the input side of the TV-Radio media as well as on their own, we must use following techniques more frequently
a) Events b) Writer’s workshops c) Seminars d) Print media e) Publishers f) Liabraries etc.

Proposal 2 – Plan for a far bigger presence on the channels. Ensure that they are
a) Informative - about the treasure of knowledge and the experts working on them.
b) Educative - giving lessons in a creative and entertaining way.
c) Archival
d) Guides about career avenues .
e) Identifies research ideas, the laboratories and sources of funding.

Among other modern techniques, video and audio conferencing are in use in a small way – mostly where the recipient group is located abroad. But there is no cataloguing of these, so the benefit is restricted to a small number - say 10 or 20 per session.
Proposal 3 – With little support these lessons can be uploaded on U-Tubes and an effective networking among all the conferencing groups can be achieved.
The tradition of text communication through the Shruti method has been practiced in this Country for many thousands of years. The practice of communication through written text has come much later but with an advantage of retaining for much longer period and random accessibility at any time even to third parties who is not part of the “Teller-Listener” theme. The possibility of putting audio text on internet combines the advantages in both the methods of communications namely the Shruti Parampara and the Lekhan Parampara. We have yet to make full use of this technology to revive our age-old Shruti Parampara. Such a revival is very necessary because the communication losses in the Lekhan Parampara are far more. In Shruti Parampara the losses are kept at a minimal through such practices as a “Ghanpaath”. But the real advantage of shruti parampara is the proximity of Guru and possibility of instant correction of error by Guru. Audio storage of the Sanskrit text on the internet will have a trade off between quick-time approach and errors in learning. On a TV serial the errors can be corrected by a Guru-Shishya team. The possibilities are enormous.
Above are some details through which I have tried to emphasize the need of using modern tools to promote Sanskrit. They will no doubt need a strong support from community which, undoubtedly, will be available once this perspective is clear. With that expectation and hope, I close this article.
-- Leena Mehendale
Chief patron of kaushalam Trust and Member Central Administrative tribunal, Banglore bench

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