Romanization of Sanskrit
Aditya shares: I came across a website learnsanskrit.org and was excited about what it has to offer. On the whole the idea of creating a learners guide for English speakers who would like to learn Sanskrit seems a noble Idea. However as I went through the website certain issues came to my attention which were not quite palatable to me.
Two primary issues I had were:-
1) The Introduction section which mentions the whole question of "Origin or Sanskrit" and other arguments without enough references thus making all kinds of now controversial claims about the so called "dravidian" people being pushed south etc.2) A claim that Devanagari script can take a significant amount of time to learn so it starts off with IAST (Romanized transliteration) along with an apologetic statement "Western scholars of Sanskrit tend to prefer it to Devanagari, which is OK; after all, Sanskrit has never really had a script of its own, and the tradition of using Devanagari instead of other scripts is actually quite recent."...
"....Though Sanskrit teaching in other scripts might look good as it will become easier to teach initially. But long term result of not learning Devangari are
1) Losing the relationship between Sanskrit and Devnagari script. I can't imagine [losing] this relationship; like, the 'OM' word (symbol) in Devanagari looks majestic.
2) Not able to read original Sanskrit text as it is...."
"...I differ with the views.Telugu which is a pali script, is widely used in south and east india can convey the sanskrit sounds perfectly as it has 56 alphabets. All kirtans are in telugu script and in fact telugu is the largest
spoken language in india, if hindi dilects like maghi and bhojpuri are delinked from hindi..."
"...IAST is a standard that has been devised to write sanskrit, and is derived from the latin alphabets, with addition of diacritics (ISO 15919 is a later standard for representing all Indian languages). This does not mean it is going to be written using conventions that are used for writing english or french of german. It means it is a different set of conventions to represent sanskrit. IAST can represent sanskrit without ambiguity..."
"..I came across another article which appeared in the Indian Express today with the title "‘Romanagari’ can form system for language learning".
This study of course seems silly to a layman like me but after all I am layman and the NBRC scientist have to do some research. The fact that they are doing such research shows to me a trend which I was alluding to earlier which is Romanization of Sanskrit/Indian languages. Do we need to use Roman alphabets to learn other Indian languages apart from our mother tongue?
Regarding IAST/Devnagari I fully understand that the number of people learning in Devanagari is always going to be more, but the question is which script is being used by influential people in academia and it seems that among western academia and also western laymen at least IAST has caught on at the expense of Devanagari.
What was objectionable to me was the justification in LearnSanskri.org about IAST that "Western scholars of Sanskrit tend to prefer it to Devanagari, which is OK; after all, Sanskrit has never really had a script of its own, and the tradition of using Devanagari instead of other scripts is actually quite recent." ..
... With respect to Devanagari rather than Romanized script my larger point of interest was in securing a debate on an Indic script which is popular for Sanskrit. But don't see a reason why those who learn Sanskrit in India cannot learn more than one Indic scripts. After all most Indians speak and understand 3 or more languages. I wouldn't want this discussion to go into a language war within India. That in my view would be a wrong direction to take it to. "
"....Please understand, there is never a language war on script of sanskrit in india.I am not propagating any language but stated the facts.Sanskrit is used for dual purposes.One for communication and second is for chanting hymns as expressed in vedas and other shastras for performing various rituals.The core hindu religion firmly stands on the pillars of CORRECTLY chanting the
hymns,which involves rigorous practice and training at the vedic schools.A visit to a vedic school as well as any balaji temple in US and interaction with the priest will shed more clarity on the subject.The writer of the post being a
north indian may not be aware that few alphabets are missing in tamil and malayalam and also bengali which may be the reason devnagiri and telugu Â scripts were evolved to be compatable for chanting the hymns correctly..."
"...Roman script is quite unsuitable for Samskrutam. The foundational problem is with the loss of phonetics. The A is phonetically different from the first vowel of Devanaagari. What is the consequence of loss of phoneticity?
(1) The first victim will be Vaiyaakarna of Samskrutam. The Vaiyaakarna of Paanini is a human voice system based Vaiyaakarna. Many rules that appear natural in the human voice system (hence phonetics) and captured in Paanini will be entirely lost in non-phonetic script, and will look arbitrary rule to a learner and un-initiated. In the long run it will have serious consequences.
(2) Samskrutam is not only a communicational language. It is Yoga Bhaashya. In particular the Vaaca Yoga is completely steeped in these notions. Using Roman
alphabet will destroy the Vaac Yoga aspect and will be completely sidelined. The notion of Shabda Shareera and notion of Beeja Mantras will be adversly effected.
3) This will have consequences on the Mantra tradition of the tradition.
4) The Samskrutam phonetic sounds based speech has natural speech recognition aspects to it. I definitely know some who are working towards it. Replacement of Devanaagri will cause irreperable loss to that aspect.
To me this effort to use Roman script either arises out of ignorance of deeper aspects of Samskrutam or intentional plan to destroy the Dharma traditions. In both cases it must be rejected by Dharma tradition people.
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