Work in progress:
Until about a year ago, most of these ‘scientists’ in the digital sphere had pursued plush tech jobs in IT majors.
In the prime of their careers, they have have stepped back to give Sanskrita thrust. Over the last few years, these techies, while simultaneously working on their MNC jobs, earned doctoral degrees in Sanskrit.
They then began to focus their technical prowess on creating a strong digital database for Sanskrit. That effort resulted in Sanskrit Wikipedia, an online project that could become the Sanskrit version of the popular free encyclopaedia.
What is more, the project is reviving interest in the language with more and more ordinary people signing up to learn the language.
“Prior to the invention of the printing press, there were about 6,000 languages of which 4,000 vanished because they could not adapt to print and printing technology,” said Chamu Krishna Shastri, a renowned scholar of Sanskrit and a founder of the NGO Samskrita Bharati, which supports Sanskrit Wikipedia.
“In this digital age, everything has to have a digital presence. If a language does not have a presence on the Internet or the digital world, it will not survive for long. This is what inspired Sanskrit Wikipedia project. It will bridge the gap between Sanskrit and technology.
More than anything else it is Sanskrit for ‘Screenagers’ as everybody picks up lessons from screens these days!” Sanskrit Wikipedia, says Dr Sumana Koundinya, the leader of the project, marries an old language to modern techniques.
“Those who studied Sanskrit knew very little about (modern) sciences,” Koundinya said. “Similarly, scientists in various disciplines had no knowledge of Sanskrit and its ancient wisdom. Sanskrit Wikipedia is a medium which bridges the gap between these two extremities.” Koundinya quit a plush job in Oracle a couple of years ago to devote herself completely to popularising the language.
She says eight people — techies and Sanskrit scholars — are working full-time on the project. It hasn’t been easy though. “We are thankful to the Department of Kannada and Culture which pumped in initial funds to kick off the project,” Koundinya said.
“We have grown with contributions and voluntary services of various people from across the globe. The Wikimedia Foundation based in New Delhi helped us with orientation and insight into content development.
Resource persons like Siju Alex and Arun Ramanathan gave us technical assistance to meet the challenges of Unicode. Today, not just Bangalore and India, but people from Germany and the US contribute articles.”
The group receives about 125 articles on an average every month from people across the globe. And while they are trying its best to generate original content, it relies heavily on the conventional Wikipedia for contemporary topics.
The group also teaches ordinary people to speak and write Sanskrit. Their work is available at www.sa.wikipedia.org.