Monday, 26 September 2016

The six Darshanas – 2

Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa

Mimamsa means to analyze and understand thoroughly.  Purva Mimamsa emphasises the teachings of Veda in the light of rituals (Karma kanda), while Uttara Mimamsa emphasises the teachings of the Veda in the light of knowledge (Jnana kanda). We shall hereafter refer to Purva Mimamsa as Mimamsa only and to Uttara Mimamsa with its emphasis on anta bhagha of Vedas as Vedanta only. 

 The Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini is the basic text of this system. The main objective of this school was to establish the authority of the Vedas. Its adherents called Mimamsakas believed that:
(1) there is a soul which survives the death of the body and enjoys the fruits of the rituals in heaven;
(2) the Vedas are infallible;
(3) this world is real;
To justify the supreme authority of the Vedas, the Mimamsa school has developed an elaborate epistemology which has been accepted by other schools also, including the Vedānta Darshana. It accepts all the six Pramanas; Pratyaksha, Anupalabdhi, Anumana, Upamana, Arthapathi, Sabda or Apta-vakhya and lays down the following three conditions for knowledge to be valid:
(1) It should yield some new information previously unknown.
(2) It should not be contradicted by any other knowledge.
(3) The conditions which generate that knowledge should be free from defects.

The Mimamsa school believes in the reality of the world with all the myriad objects in it. This world, according to it, comprises the living bodies, wherein the souls (Jivas) reside temporarily to reap the effects of their karmas, good or bad. The various other objects of the world serve as the fruits to be suffered or enjoyed. The souls are infinite and eternal but undergo transmigration due to their karmas performed when encased in bodies in the world. The soul has no consciousness of its own. Consciousness only rises in it due to its association with the mind, the sense-organs and the sense-objects, especially when the organs come into contact with their respective objects and cites the absence of consciousness in the deep-sleep state as the proof. A ritual is to be done because the Vedas command it and none has the choice not to do it or to do it in a different way. Such duties are classified into two broad groups: nitya or daily obligatory duties and naimithika or occasional (but obligatory) duties. These help in the purification of the soul through moral improvement. The ultimate goal for a person is to get mokṣa or liberation which is defined as total cessation of transmigratory existence. In this state the soul is permanently free from all pain and suffering though there is no consciousness or bliss!  Since all the materials that make up the physical world are eternally existing and since the karmas of the souls impel these materials in the process of creation, there is no need to accept any God as the agent or author of creation. So this system that champions the supremacy of the Vedas has no place for its Source! This system also discusses the science of sound and Mantra in detail.  Its influence can be seen in the performance of Hindu rituals and in observance of religious practices even today.  It was also influential and foundational to Vedanta school.

  The Vedanta system is based on Upanishads, Brahmasutras and Bhagavad Gita, referred to as Sruthi-prasthana, Nyaya-prasthana and Smrithi-prasthana respectively and Prasthanathraya collectively. While Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini tries to reconcile the various Vedic texts that seem to give different directions with regard to the same ritual system, Brahma Sutras of Vyasa attempts to make out a coherent philosophy of Brahman from the apparently conflicting statements in the Upanishads. But Brahma Sutras and the Upanishads themselves were variously interpreted by Vedanta scholars giving rise to many sub-schools. We shall see here briefly the three popular sub-schools of Vedanta viz. Advaita of Sri Sankara, Visishtadvaita of Sri Ramanuja and Dvaita of Sri Madhva

Advaita of Sri Sankara – Sri Sankara sums up his Advaita philosophy in a nutshell as “Brahma satyam jagan mithya jivo brahmaiva naparah” - Brahman alone is Real; this world is not Real and the Jiva is verily Brahman only and is not different from Him. Apart from Brahman, which only is the absolutely Reality, all others are only transactional Realities i.e. Real only under certain conditions and circumstances and not at all times. In his essential nature which is Pure Consciousness, Jiva is one with Brahman which is Pure Consciousness infinite. Brahman has no limiting adjuncts and is Nirguna. Maya is a unique concept of this philosophy.  Maya is the power of the limitless Lord. It is anadhi (beginningless) avidya and is of the nature of three Gunas viz. Satva, Rajas, and Tamas and is superior to their effects. With His power of Maya manifest, Brahman is Saguna and is called Iswara and it is Iswara who is the, srishti, sthithi laya karanam and also the upadhana karanam (material cause) and nimitha karanam (efficient cause) for the world, without undergoing any changes Himself, like the spider for its web and ourselves for our dream-world. The multiplicity of names and forms is only an appearance, due to avidya or ignorance, even as a snake is perceived in a rope in insufficient light. This is called `adhyasa' or `adhyaropa' (superimposition). Through Vidya or discriminative knowledge, `apavada' or desuper-imposition takes place, giving the true knowledge of the underlying Reality of all objects seen and experienced as Brahman only.  Liberation is the realisation of one’s true Self as Brahman only, which is one without a second, that can be attained even when alive.  This state of liberation while alive is termed Jivanmukthi

Visishtadvaita of Sri RamanujaAs per Sri Ramanuja’s Visishtadvaita philosophy, all the three, Brahman, Jivas and Jagat, are Real. Jagat and Jivas form part of Brahman as His body.  Brahman is similar to a tree with branches, leaves and fruits. The several parts like leaves, branches etc., differ from one another while the tree itself remains as ‘one’ only. Brahman is the only one with independent Reality, while Jivas and Jagat have only dependant Reality, their Reality depending on Brahman. As per this philosophy, Lord Vishnu is the supreme Brahman who has three aspects: Ishvara (Vishnu), Cit (soul) and Acit (matter).  So Lord Vishnu is the only independent Reality, while souls (Jivas) and matter enjoy dependant Reality only.  Jivas are of three types; Nitya, eternally free, Muktha, free now but once were in Samsara and Baddha, in Samsara and not free. Jivas retain their identity even after Moksha and live in Fellowship with Lord Vishnu, either serving Him or meditating on Him.  Moksha is attained through liquidation of one’s karmas achieved through total devotion to Lord Vishnu, characterised by Saranagathi.  Visishtadvaita recognises only Videha Mukthi. 

Dvaita of Sri Madhva – As per Dvaita of Sri Madhva also Brahman is Lord Vishnu and He only is independently Real.  Jivas, sentient souls and Jada, insentient matter, are also Real but their Reality is dependant Reality, dependant on Brahman; but they do not form part of Brahman as in Visishtadvaita. The  differences between Brahman and Jiva, jiva and jada, jada and jada, jada and Brahman, jiva and jiva, termed Panchabheda, are an eternal fact. It also accepts three Pramanas only: Pratyaksha, Anumana and Sabda.  Jivas are of three clsseses; mukthi-yogas, eligible for Moksha, nitya-samsarins, subject to eternal Samsara, tamo-yogyas, condemned to eternal hell, the third group being unique to this system. Liberation is attaining the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu and this can be attained only through pure devotional service to Lord Vishnu. 

Most of the present sects of Hinduism are directly or indirectly influenced by the thought systems developed by Vedantic thinkers. So it is no exaggeration to say that Hinduism to a great extent owes its survival to the formation of the coherent and logically advanced systems of Vedanta.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The six Darshanas - 1

Nyaya,Vaisesika, Sankya and Yoga

Darshana is the name given to ancient systems of Indian philosophy as they were the visions of Self acquired by Indian mystics searching within rather than outside. The six Darshanas, grouped as ‘Shaddarshanas’ are those that belong to the orthodox group that accept the authority of Vedas and are also called  Asthika systems. They are; Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa.  Each Darshana was codified by a great Vedic sage -- Nyaya by Gautama, Vaiseshika by Kanada, Sankhya by Kapila, Yoga by Patanjali, Purva Mimamsa by Jaimini and Uttara Mimamsa by Vyasa. They all deal with Brahman or God, Jiva or individual soul, Jagat or world and Moksha or liberation, All the systems believe in the law of karma and consider this world as one created for providing us with a platform for performing our roles conforming to Vedic code of Dharma, thereby gradually improving our spiritual fibre to reach the final goal of liberation. Let us see each one of them briefly.

Nyaya – The Nyaya school of philosophy is based on texts known as the Nyaya Sutras, which were written by Sage Gautama. Nyaya Darshana is the basis of all Sanskrit philosophical studies. The followers of Nyaya Darshana believed that obtaining valid knowledge was the only way to obtain release from suffering. They therefore took great pains to identify valid sources of knowledge and to distinguish these from mere false opinions. The Nyaya Darshana accepts four Pramanas (means of knowledge) viz. Pratyaksha, Anumana, Upamana and Sabda. The Nyāya system accepts Isvara or God as the srshti, sthithi, laya karanam for the world. However, God does not create the world out of nothing or out of Himself, but out of the paramanus,-the smallest particles of earth, water, fire and air, and substances- space, time, ether, minds and souls.  God is thus the efficient cause only and not the material cause for its creation. According to Nyāya Darsana, the jivas or individual souls are infinite in number. They are eternal and indestructible. The primary aim of life, according to the Nyāya school is the attainment of mokṣa, liberation from the cycle of birth and death. He can get this liberation only by acquiring tattvajnana or true knowledge of his soul as distinct from the body and the mind as also the senses. For this he should undergo the threefold sadhana of sravaṇa, manana and nididhyasana to destroy all mithya jnana and acquire tattvajnana. This system has provided a firm basis for the development of vast polemic literature by the later writers of many schools, especially of Vedanta.

Vaiseshika - The basic text is the Vaiseṣika Sūtras of Sage Kaṇāda. Vaisheshika system is closely associated with the Nyaya system. It states that the universe has two aspects, one eternal and one non-eternal. The eternal constituents of the universe are Paramanus, the four kinds of atoms - earth, water, fire, and air; and the five substances – space, time, direction, mind and souls. These are not subject to change and cannot be created or destroyed. Another part of the universe is non-eternal, subject to creation and destruction in a particular time and space. They accept the existence of God called Ishwara or Maheshwara which is the Supreme Intelligent Being under whose will and guidance this world is created, sustained and dissolved. He is the karmaphaladhata in respect of all living beings, The Vaiseshika concepts of God, liberation of soul, and of the path to liberation are all basically the same as the Nyaya concepts that have been discussed  earlier. Over the centuries, the school merged with the Nyaya system of Indian philosophy to form the combined school of Nyaya-Vaisesika because of their closely related metaphysical theories.

Sankhya - Sankhya  philosophy  is regarded as the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems and its basic text is Sankhya Sutras of Sage Kapila. The Sānkhya accepts only three Pramāṇas; Pratyakṣa, Anumāna and Sabda.  Its philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two eternal realities: Purusha (souls) and Prakrti (matter). The Purushas are many, conscious and devoid of all qualities. They are the silent spectators of Prakrti which is composed of three gunas: satva, rajas and tamas. When the equilibrium of the gunas is disturbed, the world order evolves. This disturbance is due to the samyoga or effective contact between the Purusha and Prakrti.  The totality of the karmas of the Puruṣas disturbs the balance of the guṇas in Prakṛti and sets in motion the process of evolution.  The main cause of bondage of the Purusha and his consequent suffering in the world is aviveka or ignorance of his own identity as pure consciousness leading to continuous cycle of birth and death. Kaivalya or liberation can come only from vivekakhyati or right knowledge. The Sānkhya Darsana accepts both Jivanmukti and Videhamukti. However, since Chaitanya or consciousness is his essence, he will ever remain in his own state. The Samkhya system has been closely associated with the Yoga school of philosophy. 

Yoga –  Though there are many schools of Yoga, the one that is counted as part of Shad-darshanas is the one systematized by Sage Patanjali, on the basis of his work, Yoga Sutras.  This Yoga system, also known as ashtanga-yoga (the yoga of eight parts), is closely allied to Sankhya system.  Indeed, ashtanga-yoga is the practical application of Sankhya philosophy for the attainment of liberation. While the Sankhya system accepts only Purusha, the individual soul and Prakrti, the nature or matter as the fundamental realities and does not accept Ishwara or God, the Yoga Darshana accepts all the principles of the Samkhya and also Ishwara or God, in addition. Also the Yoga system deals primarily with sadhanas or spiritual disciplines while the Sankhya system gives primary importance to tattvajnana or enquiry into the nature of truth. By following these sadhanas (eight steps of yoga) one realises his essential nature and is instantly freed from samsara, the cycle of transmigration, and attains kaivalya. Realization of this goal of Yoga is known as moksha, nirvana and samadhi. This realization of the Atma is nothing other than attaining the infinite Brahman. This system discusses the nature of mind, its modifications, impediments to growth, afflictions and the method for attaining the highest goal of life, Kaivalya and is highly practical. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The six Pramanas

Pramana means “means of knowledge”.  In respect of any knowledge three things are present. They are called Prameya, Pramata and Pramana respectively. Prameya is the object of knowledge, Pramata is the knower and Pramana is the means of knowledge. When Pramata in the right state of mind employs right Pramana in respect of a Prameya, right knowledge, Prama, arises; otherwise there is only delusion or wrong knowledge, Brama. As per Advaita Vedanta philosophy there are six Pramanas which we employ consciously or unconsciously to gain the knowledge of various things we come across.  They are Pratyaksha, Anumana, Upamana, Arthapathi, Anupalabdhi, and Sabda. Let us see each one of them in a little more detail.

Pratyaksha (Perception) - This stands for direct, immediate cognition. This can be external and internal.  The external perception implies cognition of sense objects through our sense organs. The internal perception means the direct & immediate cognition of emotions like pain, pleasure etc., and knowledge or ignorance of various objects etc. in our minds. External perception arises from the interaction of five senses with worldly objects. Each of our five sense organs has a unique and exclusive field of application: In the visual field, eyes have the unique capability to give information and knowledge of colours and forms and of all things visual. Similarly, ears have the sole and exclusive right in the field of sound, nose in the field of smell and fingers in the field of touch. All the five sense organs work as a single team and provide complementary information/knowledge of objects that we encounter, and they do not work at cross-purposes. In direct perception the knowledge is extremely clear but its scope is very limited. What we can directly see not only constitutes an extremely small iota of the wide spectrum of things existing in this universe, but many a times that which is directly cognized is far from truth. But this is the most important and common tool at individual level to obtain knowledge in an unfamiliar field.

Anumana (inference) –  Anumana literally means ‘knowing after’.  It means the method by which knowledge is derived from another knowledge. So the knowledge thus gained is not direct, immediate and is gained from the prior knowledge of invariable relationship between two things.  On the basis of the earlier direct knowledge the present knowledge is deduced.  For example we have the direct knowledge from kitchen that smoke arises from fire and that where there is smoke invariably fire is also there as its cause.  So when we see smoke coming from a distant hill we deduce that there must be fire in the hill causing the smoke.  This is inferential knowledge or the logical deduction. In this case Vyapthi, the universal statement of invariable concomitance, is; ‘Where there is fire there is smoke.’  On this basis we make the Anumana that there must be a fire in the distant hill when smoke is Prathyaksha in the distant hill.  Thus Anumana is made on the basis of Pratyaksha based on Vyapthi

Upamana (Comparison) – Upamana means comparison and analogy.  Upamana is the process by which the knowledge of B is gained from the perception of B’s similarity to A, which has been noted elsewhere.  The subject of comparison is formally called upameyam, the object of comparison is called upamanam, while the attribute(s) are identified as samanya. For example when a person going to Australia is told that Dingo is a wild dog found in Australian outback, and he goes to an outback area and finds a creature similar to dog in the wild, he by comparison has the knowledge of that as Dingo.  Upamana is a distinct means of knowledge, and is not clubbed under Anumana.

Arthapathi (Postulation) - Arthapathi means postulation, supposition or presumption of a fact.  It is knowledge arrived at by circumstantial implication. The classic example of this method of knowledge is: a fat person says that he never eats in the day, then we can easily postulate that he eats in the night, for the simple reason that without this assumption his fatness & also his getting fatter cannot be explained. Arthapathi can either be from what is seen or from what is heard.

Anupalabdhi (Non-apprehension) - Anupalabdhi literally means ‘non-perception’. Non-existence of a thing is apprehended by its non-perception. By not seeing a jar on a table one knows that it is not there. We use this method of knowledge also very often, and this is evident from statements like : ‘There is no teacher in the class-room’, There is no sound here’, ‘This flower has no fragrance’ etc.  It is different from Anumana as there is no concomitant relationship between non-perception and non-existence, as in the case of non-perception in the dark. However, it is to be noted that if a thing would have been perceived under given circumstances, but not perceived, then only it is Anupalabdhi.

Sabda (Verbal testimony) – Sabda Pramana is verbal testimony which is also called ‘apta-vakya’ (statement of a trust-worthy person’), and agama (authentic word). Hiriyanna explains Sabda Pramana as a concept which means reliable expert testimony.  A verbal statement conveying valid knowledge must have an authentic source which must be free from defects. Only a competent person possessed of knowledge can impart accurate knowledge. Such a knowledge needs no verification, unless of course there is doubt about its reliability. It is man’s most potent instrument for transmitting and gaining knowledge.  Books, magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, phones etc. all use or depend on words

Advaita Vedanta accepts all the above six as valid Pramanas while Visishtadvaita and Dvaita subsets of Vedanta school accept only Pratyaksha, Anumana and Sabda as valid Pramanas. Vaiseshika school considers only Pratyaksha and Anumana as valid Pramanas, while Nyaya school accepts four Pramanas viz. Pratyaksha, Anumana, Upamana and Sabda as valid.  Sankhya and Yoga schools rely on the same three Pramanas as Dvaita and Visishtadvaita.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Kalidasa, his works.

Kalidasa, the great Sanskrit poet and dramatist, is said to have adorned the court of Chandraguta 2 as one of the nine gems. But of his time and origin there is no certainty. Dr S. Radhakrishnan says, `Whichever date we adopt for him we are in the realm of reasonable conjecture and nothing more. Kalidasa speaks very little of himself, ---. We do not know any details of his life. Numerous legends have gathered round his name, which have no historical value.'  One of them regarding his early life runs as follows.

The king of Ujjain had a daughter, Vidyottama, who was well learned in scriptures.  She said that she will marry only the person who can defeat her in the debate on scriptures.  There was also another condition.  If the other person was defeated, his face will be blackened; head shaved and will ride out of the country on a donkey. The scholars who challenged, failed and were humiliated wanted to wreak vengeance on her. They came upon an illiterate shepherd, who was foolishly trying to cut the branch of the tree on which he was sitting. After cautioning him not to speak they dressed him up suitably and presented him to the princess as a great scholar who will debate in sign language only. The princess agreed and started the debate showing one finger, meaning Brahman is one only without second.  The shepherd took it that she was threatening to poke his eye with one finger; showed two fingers meaning he will poke both her eyes,  She took it as his replying that as Siva-Sakthi, Brahman functions as two. She showed five fingers to indicate the five elements. He took it that she will retaliate with a slap and showed his clenched fist to tell her he will punch back. She took it that his reply was that all were really not different and agreed to marry him. Only on the nuptial night she discovered that she had been tricked and threw him out of the palace saying he can come back only when he can answer the question “Asthi Kaschit Vagarthah” ("what is there special in spoken words and their meaning?"), to her satisfaction. The shepherd boy, who was a great Kali Bhaktha went to Her shrine and prayed for Her Grace, vowing to cut his tongue and offer at Her feet, if he failed to win Her Grace. Goddess appeared and wrote the Pranava Mantra on his tongue and he blossomed into Kalidasa, the great scholar and poet. And the great Kalidasa wrote three poems starting with each of the three words of Vidyottama’s question:
with asti, Kumara-sambhava (asti-uttarasyaam dishi); 
with kashchit, Meghdoot (kashchit-kaantaa); 
with vaagartha, Raghuvamsa (vaagarthaaviva).                                                                                                  Even though the personal details including his original name and place of origin is not available, luckily his works with translations are available now.  We shall see them briefly starting with AbhijnanaSakuntalam
AbhijnanaSakuntalam (Recognition of Sakuntala) -  The story of this play involving Sage Viswamitra, Menaka, Sakunthala, Sage Kanva, King Dushyantha and Sakunthala is very well known. The original story appears in Mahabharatha as well as in Padmapurana.  The story has a special place because of the child Bharatha after whom India was named Bharathavarsha.  This is one of the first works of Indian literature to become known in Europe. It was first translated to English and then from English to German, where it was received with wonder and fascination by a group of eminent poets, like Goethe. "Here the poet seems to be in the height of his talent in representation of the natural order, of the finest mode of life, of the purest moral endeavour, of the most worthy sovereign, and of the most sober divine meditation; still he remains in such a manner the lord and master of his creation." commented Goethe. The influence of the play outside India is evident not only in the abundance of translations in many languages, but also in its adaptation to the operatic stage by Paderewski and the like.
Malavikagnimitra (Malavika and Agnimitra) - Malavikagnimitra is of special interest because the hero is a historical figure, King Agnimitra, whose father, Pushpamitra, wrested the kingship of northern India from the Mauryan king Brihadratha in about 185 B.C. and established the Sunga dynasty, which held power for more than a century. The play contains datable references, the historicity of which have been much discussed.  The play also contains an account of the Raajasuuya sacrifice performed by Pushyamitra.  In a five act play it tells of the love of king Agnimitra for Malavika, the maid of his chief queen. When the queen discovers her husband's passion for this girl, she becomes infuriated and has Malavika imprisoned, but as fate would have it, Malavika turns out to be a princess in hiding and the queen also relents and all end happily. There are many scenes of light hearted comedy, confusion and confrontation that make Malavikagnimitra one of the finest works of Kalidasa.
Vikramorvasiya (Urvasi won through valour)- Vikramorvasiya is based on the legend that occurs in embryonic form in a hymn of the Rig Veda and in a much amplified version in the Shatapathabrahmana and tells the story of King Pururavas and the Apsaras Urvasi who fall in love. As an immortal, Urvasi has to return to the heaven, where an unfortunate accident causes her to be sent back to the earth as a mortal with the curse that she will die and return to heaven, the moment her lover lays his eyes on the child which she will bear him. After a series of mishaps, including Urvashi's temporary transformation into a vine, the curse is lifted, and the lovers are allowed to remain together on the earth.  The fourth act on the madness of Pururavas with the extraordinary soliloquy of the demented lover in search of his beloved, is praised as unique.

Raghuvamsa (Raghu's genealogy) – Raghuvamsa is a Mahakavya, regarded by Indian critics as Kalidasa's best work, It talks of the life of Rama, together with a record of his ancestors and descendants.  The poem basically traces the roots of the great lineage of Lord Rama and his descendants and treats in detail the valour and strength of the great warrior Raghu. It depicts the old traditional culture of our country

Kumarasambhava (Birth of Kumara) -  Kumarasambhava is a mahaakavya that is hailed as one of the gems of Sanskrit literature, The poem narrates how Parvati Devi won the love of Lord Siva in order to bring into the world Kumara (i.e. Lord Karthikeya) to bring about the destruction of demons led by Tarakasura, who had been granted a boon that he cannot be killed by anyone other than the son of Lord Siva. Siva had curtailed the desire for love by intense meditation. Due to the efforts of Manmatha and the penance of Parvati the union of Siva and Parvathy is brought about. The majority of chapters have intimate details about the love and romance between the divine couple.  They bring about a son whom they name Karthikeya who grew up and killed the demon and restored the throne of Lord Indra. 

Meghaduta (Cloud Messenger) -  Meghaduta, a short poem of 111 stanzas, is considered one of the masterpieces of world literature and has a most original plot. The poem is a message sent by an Yaksha in exile in the mountains of Central India to his wife in Mount Kailas. The messenger he chose is the rain cloud that was going north.  The Yaksha in the message gives a vivid description of the route the cloud should be taking. The description is very captivating and the emotions portrayed are exquisitely beautiful. The description of Himalayan ranges are so vivid that there is a theory that Kalidasa must be originally from Kashmir.

Ritu-samhaara (Garland of seasons) – Ritu-samhaara is a poem describing the six seasons of the year in all their changing aspects.  The six seasons are Vasantha ritu, the spring; Grishma ritu, the summer; Varsha ritu, the rainy season; Sharad ritu, the autumn; Hemanta ritu, the pre-winter; Sisira ritu, the winter. These seasons are described in a chapter each, through the changes that take place in the minds of a pair of lovers who experience changes in their relationship like the changing seasons. Every change has some good and some bad effects, but in totality it is a pleasant feeling. This is a work of youthful exuberance, not typical of Kalidasa and so the authenticity of authorship by Kalidasa is doubted. 

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Sanskrit, its greatness-2


Much emphasis was paid to intonation in chanting mantras.  The science of phonetics and phonology was called Siksha and we have 18 text books on Siksha, prominent among them being Panineeya siksha, Parasari siksha, Naradeeya siksha, and Mandukya siksha.  Grammar occupies an important place in the structure of the language. Being a well structured language, Sanskrit has a powerful grammar. Panini’s Ashtadyayi, consisting of 4000 verses is considered to be the most comprehensive scientific grammar in the world. This gives the mechanics of the language, including the rules for unambiguous, meaningful formation of new words.  Science of etymology was known as Niruktha.  In Niruktha, every word is explained from its root.  Yāska's Nirukta contains a treatise on etymology, and also interprets many difficult Vedic words. Chandas gives the rule for writing poems and also how every Veda Mantra is classified into various poetic styles.  The book by Pingalacharya is an authentic work on ChandasArthur A. Macdonell (1854-1930) author of History of Sanskrit Literature has remarked:"The Sanskrit grammarians of India were the first to analyze word forms, to recognize the difference between root and suffix, to determine the functions of suffixes and on the whole to elaborate a grammatical system so accurate and complete as to be unparalleled in any other country."

Linguistically, Sanskrit belongs to the ancient Indo-European family and is thus one of the ancestors of English. Maybe this helps to explain the coincidence of words that sound and mean the same in Sanskrit and English, such as bratha and brother.  Will Durant, eminent American historian, in his book, “The Case for India” calls Sanskrit “the mother of Europe's languages.”  Further, it has many a word, for which there is no exact synonym even in the richest modern languages.

Science and Technology

We have to remember that these works went under the name of Veda, a book of knowledge, or as Sastra, a work of specialized or technical knowledge.
Arthasastra – the science of politics.  Kautilya’s Arthasastra is a comprehensive treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy.  This is divided into 15 books. 
Ayur Veda – the science of medicine. The Suśruta Samhitā and the Caraka Samhitā are the foundational works of Ayur Veda.
Shilpa Sastra – the science of architecture. Sage Kashyapa is said to be the author of the work that incorporates civil engineering principles.
Jyothisha – the science of astronomy and astrology. Aryabhatta, after whom India’s first satellite was named, was an Astronomer and mathematician. His work Aryabhateeyam is a compendium of mathematics and astronomy. 
Further Ghandarva Veda, the science of music, musical instruments and dance comes under Sama Veda as an upaveda and Dhanur veda, the science of warfare and archery comes under Yajur Veda as an upaveda

As for the field of Mathematics,  Bhaskaracharya was an authority in Algebra and geometry and his books Leelavathy and Bijaganitha remain important works in quadratic equations and Algebraic calculations

Religious literature 

The volume of religious literature in Sanskrit is immense and we shall see it under five heads
  1. Sruthis – The four Vedas with their collective 20,000 and odd Mantras are called Sruthis as they came down from 3000 BCE by word of mouth initially.  The Mantras were given out by various rishis who divined them in their refined mind in meditation.  These were later collected, classified and codified into four volumes by Sage Veda Vyasa as Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda of which Rig Veda is in poetic form, Yajur Veda is in prose form, and Sama Veda is in musical rhythm.
  2. Sutras – The collective wisdom of Sruthis is classified and cryptically coded in aphorisms.  They give values and responsibilities for individual well-being, family welfare and social harmony in Dharma Sutras aimed at individuals, in Grihya sutras aimed at families, and in Sroutha sutras aimed at society. The two other well known sutras are Brahma sutras, which tries to establish the main theme of the various Upanishads and to resolve the apparent contradictions in certain statements of the Upanishads, and the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, which is the earliest study of a healthy mind, including the subconscious and the superconscious and ways to harness its hidden powers.  Yoga Sutra contains  words to describe states of the conscious and the subconscious and the unconscious mind and a variety of other concepts which have been later evolved by modern psychoanalysis and psycho-therapy
  3. Smritis -   These are in the form of poems which is an elaboration and clarification of the principles of Dharma stated in Sruthis and Sutras.  There are 18 Smritis including the well known Manu Smriti.
  4. Puranas – There are 18 puranas and 18 upapuranas.  These give in elaborate story form with mythological characters the principles of Dharma, concretising abstract ideas expounded in Vedas, with lot of allegories and symbolisms.
  5. Bhashyams – These are commentaries on works of philosophy, in the above four.  The importance of these cannot be overemphasised as in many instances, mere word meaning tends to be misleading and one has to look into the implied meaning to get at the substance.  These Bhashyams serve as beacon light to understand correctly the profound truth of such statements.   These can be in prose or poetry, and some commentaries have sub- commentaries and even sub-commentaries for sub-commentaries making it a voluminous literature.
This is only brief look at the wealth of literature available even today in Sanskrit, the richness of which is immense and remains in part unexplored.  In translation the works of Sanskrit evoked the supreme admiration of Western poets and philosophers like Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau, Melville, Goethe, Schlegel and Schopenhauer

Sanskrit Now

There is a great interest in the study of Sanskrit as a language in India and in West.  A school in London has made Sanskrit compulsory subject for its junior division because it helps students grasp mathematics, science and other languages better.   London, Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge have chairs for Sanskrit. Some American universities including Yale University and Harvard University have department of Sanskrit while in several others it is part of South Asian departments.  NASA and others have been looking at Sanskrit as a possible computer language since its syntax is perfect and leaves little room for error.  In Australia, Sydney University and La Trobe University offer studies in Sanskrit as part of Asian Studies.

In India in spite of the opposition of pseudo-secularists and false propagandists that Sanskrit symbolises Brahmin domination, it is a heartening fact that the efforts to revive spoken Sanskrit have been increasing.  The state of Uttarakhand in India has made Sanskrit as its second official language. There are more than 20 institutions of higher learning in Sanskrit in India. The CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) of India has made Sanskrit a third language (though it is an option for the school to adopt it or not, the other choice being the state's own official language) in the schools it governs. In such schools, learning Sanskrit is an option for grades 5 to 8 (Classes V to VIII). A daily newspaper in Sanskrit, Sudharma, is published out of Mysore   and there is a regular short news broadcast in Akashvani and in Doordharshan. Most commendable are the efforts of the Samskruta Bharati which is conducting Spoken Sanskrit workshops to popularize the language and has also chapters outside India and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan which has introduced Saral Sanskrit classes for easy learning of the language.  The first community language school for Sanskrit outside India, the Sydney Sanskrit School run by the School of Vedic Sciences, is adopting modern teaching aids and teaches the language through games, quiz, plays and rhymes among other things which plays less emphasis on grammar and more on conversation which makes learning a fun.

Such initiatives and efforts have kindled interest in study of Sanskrit as a language in young and old, in India and abroad. And rightly so for Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages has retained its pristine purity and has maintained its structure and vocabulary even today as it was in the past.  Further Sanskrit has a built-in scheme for pronunciation, word formation and grammar. Its vocabulary is derived from root syllables and is ideal for coining new scientific and technological terms. And it is found scientific principles have been hidden in the verses found in the Vedas, Upanishads and the great epics of India. Concepts and principles seen in present day mathematics and astronomy are all hidden in the compositions and treatises of many early works. It is too well known that Sanskrit abounds in Philosophy and Theology related issues and in Humanities. Moreover it is found in the west that Sanskrit helps immensely to develop cerebral dexterity through its phonetics and the Devanagari script and spoken Sanskrit are two of the best ways for a child to overcome stiffness of fingers and the tongue.  In India the present  Government under Narendra Modi is also taking efforts to formulate a 10-year perspective plan for taking the study of Sanskrit to IITs, NITs, and other science, commerce colleges across India, which augurs well for the future.