Home Dehradun  Much of Sanskrit’s treasures still unknown to the world: Bibek Debroy

 Much of Sanskrit’s treasures still unknown to the world: Bibek Debroy


By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun, 23 Nov:  The Second Edition of the annual ‘Valley of Words Literature and Arts Festival’ got off to a flying start with Governor Baby Rani Maurya inaugurating it, here, this morning. It was a good day for book lovers, in particular, with many debates, conversations, discussions and book launches on the first day of the festival.  At the inaugural session, well known economist and author Bibek Debroy called upon the people of India and, in particular, people of Uttarakhand to learn Sanskrit. Besides being an economist, he is also a scholar, writer, leading columnist on economic and financial matters. Debroy is currently, also, the Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister as well as a member of the Niti Aayog.

Having translated several books and epics from Sanskrit to English, he focused his address on the importance of Sanskrit in the modern era. He highlighted the fact that, while the total number of publications ever since the beginning of printing of books began, according to the United Nations, was estimated to be around 130 million, the total number of currently available manuscripts in India alone were more than 40 million, of which roughly-thirds were in Sanskrit, which was evidence of the wealth of this language. The world’s first thesaurus or dictionary was also in Sanskrit called Amar Kosha compiled by a Buddhist scholar. He added that there were around 2000 verbal roots in the Sanskrit language. The language of Sanskrit and the languages which were derived from Sanskrit paid more importance to verbs rather than noun or pronoun and the words “I”, “Me” and “Mine” receded because of the stress on verbs, he claimed. He said that nouns and pronouns were also derived from the verbs in Sanskrit and cited the example of the word Ajgara which literally meant someone who swallowed and that was the word used for a python. The total vocabulary in English consisted of around 1,70,000 words even though only around 1,50,000 words were generally used by the people. In contrast, the vocabulary in Sanskrit was infinite because of combination of words which imparted different meanings to the words.

He lamented the fact that more than 95 percent of Sanskrit manuscripts had never been translated and the world did not know what was contained in them. Unfortunately, such treasures were being lost without any measures being taken to preserve them. In addition, there were oral manuscripts which were transmitted from generation to generation but much of that had been lost and was being lost every day. He reminded those present that Kautilya’s Arthshastra had also disappeared till Shyama Shastri discovered it and translated it in 1905 AD. It ought to be everyone’s concern who would translate these manuscripts and how would they be translated, and stressed that the responsibility of translating and preserving the manuscripts ought not to fall on foreign institutions and universities.

Calling upon everyone to learn, read Sanskrit, and teach it, he added that Sanskrit was an amazing corpus of literature – not just a bhasha or a language, but an entire dharma, and it was the duty of all Indians and not just the government to preserve the language since it was the dharma that upheld everyone.

Earlier, the Governor inaugurated the festival. Speaking on the occasion she reminded everyone of a famous Sanskrit saying that without the literature, music and arts, a man was equivalent to an animal. Lamenting the fact that the younger generation was drifting away from books, she called upon the writers and authors to come up with books and literature that suited the interests of the younger generation and would be useful for them.  She also stressed on the importance of translating literature from one language to another and said that, had RN Tagore’s Gitanjali not been translated into English, the world would not have come to know of the greatness of the poetry and he would not have secured the Nobel Prize. She added that, had Premchand’s works been translated when he was living, he would also have got similarly recognition throughout the world.

A special stamp by the Postal Department to mark the occasion was also released by the Governor on the occasion. Senior bureaucrat Sanjeev Chopra compered the programme while writer Laxmi Shankar Bajpai also addressed the gathering.