Background to Sanskrit (Sam’skrta)

Background to Sanskrit (Sam’skrta)

From Internet Open Resources
Shri Shri P.R. Sarkar founded the Samskrta Vidyapiitha at Anandanagar, India. It was his great hope that Samskrta language should be studied and propogated due to its rich history and cultural legacy. Through his works such as Ananda Sutram, Shabda Cayanika and Prabhat Samgiita, he has further enriched this classical language. He also gave directions for Roman Samskrta so that Samskrta can be easily written in Roman script and does not have to rely on Devana’gari script.

Sanskrit is the oldest and richest language of India. The study of this language has continued for about five thousand years. The oldest form of this language is found in the Rgveda. The composition of the Rgveda is supposed to have taken place in 2500 BC. This language was called a Vedic language from the time of the Rgveda to the upanisad. In ancient times the language, used only in the public domain was called bhasa. When it passed through a process of reform or purification, it was called Sangskrta (Sam -kr + ta).

There are two stages of Sanskrit from the chronological point of view, eg Vedic and later Vedic (or Laukika). The later Vedic language is also called Classical Sanskrit. The main difference between these two languages is in their instinctive accents. In Vedic vowel sound there are three kinds of pronunciation, eg udatta (high), anudatta (low) and svarita (mixed), but in Sanskrit this distinction is not maintained.

Panini’s Astadhyayi is the main Sanskrit grammar book. In a later period, Astadhyayi became even more authoritative through the contributions of Vartikakara Vararuchi (or Katyayana) and Bhasyakara (the commentator) Patanjali. So the complete Astadhyayi is called Trimunivyakarana (contribution of three grammarians). The rules, which have been compiled in Astadhyai, are considered to be essential for Sanskrit language and literature. Besides Astadhyai there are many other famous grammars in Sanskrit. Among them Katantravyakarana by Sharvavarman (100 AD), Chandravyakarana by Chandragomin (c 700 AD), Vakyapadiya by Bhartrhari (700 AD), Katantrasutravrtti by Durgasingha (900 AD), Siddhahemachandranushasana by Hemachandra (1050-1100 AD), Mugdhavodhavyakarana by Vopadeva (1200-1250 AD), Jaumaravyakarana by Kramadishvara (1200-1250), Saupadmavyakarana by Padmanabha Datta (1300-1350), Harinamamrta by Rupagosvami, (c 1470-1559), and Siddhantakaumudi by Bhattojidiksita (1700 AD) are worth mentioning.

Sanskrit is a language in the Indo-European family of languages. It belongs to a sub-branch of Indo-Iranian. From the philological and geographical point of view, Indo-European languages are divided into two groups Satam and Kentum. Sanskrit falls under the satam group. It has some startling similarities with Greek and Latin. For this reason, it seems that these languages originated in the same place and they are thus known as basic Aryan or basic Indo-European languages.

The Sanskrit language has no particular alphabet. Wherever the language studied, the alphabet of that area is adopted for it. But the Nagari or Devanagari alphabet is widely used and internationally accepted for Sanskrit.

Sanskrit is also known as an Old Indo-Aryan language. The Aryan language is divided into three stages: Old Indo-Aryan Vedic and Sanskrit; Middle Indo-Aryan pali, Prakrta and apabhrangsha and New Indo-Aryan languages- Bangla, Odia, Hindi, Marathi etc. The use of Sanskrit as a language was first observed in the ramayana (Sundarakanda, 30/17-18).

Sanskrit is an inflectional language. In this language the role of case-ending, and of suffix and prefix is very significant. A word used in a sentence with an inflection is called pada. A word without inflection cannot be used in a sentence. For this reason, the change of the position of a pada in a sentence does not alter the meaning, and for this reason there is no rigid rule for the positioning of a word in sentence constructions.

There are three genders in Sanskrit (masculine, feminine and neuter) and are three numbers (singular, dual and plural). In the verb form there is no change of gender but it has three numbers and three persons (third, second and first). To indicate the tense and mood (including past, present and future tense), there are ten classes of verbal forms. In brief these are known as ten la-karas. The roots are divided into three groups- parasmaipada, atmanepada and ubhayapada. Sanskrit is an ornate language and numerous metres are seen in Sanskrit verse. Since it was regularize according to the grammar of Panini, no noticeable change of this language has taken place for a long time now.

Initially, the geographical area of Sanskritic studies was confined to the northern part of India and then it extended to western and eastern India. Gradually its use spread among the neighbouring Dravid, Austric and Sino-Tibetan peoples. Its influence also spread to the neighbouring countries, eg China, Tibet. Sumatra, Borneo, and even to neighbouring Western countries. Sanskrit is related inseparably to ancient Indian religion, philosophy, literature and culture. A knowledge of Sanskrit is very essential for analysing the structural nature of the language of the region and for searching the origins of new Indo-Aryan languages.

At present the study of Sanskrit is mostly confined to India. In Bangladesh Sanskrit has been studied from the ancient period, though at present its study is limited to a few areas. In many schools and colleges under the Board of Dhaka, Chittagong, Barisal, Jessore Sanskrit language and literature are studied. In the University of Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi, Sanskrit is studied in BA (Hons), MA, MPhil and PhD courses. In the National University too there is provision for study of Sanskrit in BA and MA classes. Moreover, in various tols and chatuspathis under the sanskrit and pali education board Sanskrit is studied according to the traditional system. In this Board there is provision of examination in Adya, Madhya and Upadhi in different branches of Sanskrit.

Sanskrit literature All branches of literature including poetry, prose and drama are to be found in Sanskrit. Innumerable books have been written in Sanskrit on different subjects, eg philology, comparative grammar, philosophy, rhetoric, logic, physiology, astronomy, astrology, chemistry, algebra, geometry, medical science, zoology, social welfare, sexology etc.

Sanskrit texts can be divided into literature, philosophy, tantra, scriptures, science etc. The ancient books of the Hindu religion were written in Sanskrit. Sanskrit literature can be divided into four stages: Vedic, epic, puranic and classical. Vedic literature is divided into Sanghita (rk, saman, yajus and atharvan), Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanisad. The Brahmana, relating to sacrifices or rituals, is called karmakanda, and the Upanisad is called the jnanakanda (philosophical part) of the vedas.

In the Vedic period a kind of literature was written in the form of aphorism (sutra) and was known as sutra-literature. It is divided into four parts Shrauta, Grhya, Dharma and Shulvasutra. The rules of Shrauta sacrifice were written in Shrautasutra. The subject matter of Grhyasutra is the sacrificial rites to be followed by householders. The commandments and prohibitions relating to religion and secular affairs, the rules about the four castes (chaturvarna) and four stages of life (chaturashrama) were written in Dharmasutra. The rules regarding the measurement of land at the time of making sacrifices in altars are to be found in Shulvasutra. Sutra-literature is considered as a source book for acquiring knowledge about ancient Indian civilization and social life.

There are six Vedangas that have been written for the convenience of the study of the Vedas; these are Shiksa, Kalpa, Nirukta, Vyakarana, Chhandas and Jyotisa. Shiksa is actually on phonetics. The subject matter of Shiksa is varna, svara, matra, vala, sama, santana etc. Every Veda has its unique Shiksa. Kalpa is sutra literature. Since sacrificial rites are confirmed through it, so its name is kalpa. Nirukta was composed by Yaska (c 600 BC). The words of the Vedas are collected and explained in Nirukta. Vyakarana is a very essential Vedanga. The Vyakaranarnava of Vyasadeva and the Maheshavyakarana of Maheshvara are known to be very ancient grammar texts, but none of them have been found. For the reading of metrical Vedic hymns Chhanda is essential. Vedic hymns are composed in syllabic meters; they are not like the gana-chhandas of Sanskrit. There are seven metres in the Veda gayatri, usnik, anustup, vrhati, pankti, jagati and tristubh. The jyotisa was created for learning about the planets and stars etc to determine the time of sacrifice. Vrhaddevata and Anukramani are also worth knowing. The gods and goddesses of the Rgveda are discussed in the Vrhaddevata of Shaunaka and the rsi, chandas, devata and viniyoga related to Vedic hymns are discussed in Anukramani.

The Ramayana and the mahabharata were composed in the epic period. In these two vast epics the essence of India is reflected. Valmiki is the writer of the Ramayana. According to popular beliefs Valmiki was the first creator of worldly metre and the first poet. In his Ramayana, written in anustup metre, Valmiki wanted to celebrate the glorious deeds of an ideal man. The ideal man for him was ramachandra. There are seven kandas in the Ramayana.

The Mahabharata is massive in its size and scope. Krsnadvaipayana Vedavyasa composed the Mahabharata in eighteen parvas (chapter) about the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas. In course of time, compositions of many unknown poets were added to it. More than one lakh verses can be found in the present Mahabharata. The bhagavadgita or the Gita as it called falls under the Bhismaparva of Mahabharata. The Gita, composed in eighteen chapters, is recognized as an independent and excellent book, where there is direction about the ways of jnana, karma and bhakti.

Puranic literature is very vast. But eighteen mahapuranas and eighteen upapuranas are considered as the main puranas. puranas were composed in different times but Vyasa is known as the only composer of the Puranas. Mahapuranas have been classified according to the supremacy of three gods- brahma, Visnu and Shiva. The subject matter of Puranas include the creation, existence, destruction, regeneration of the universe; the stories of the Manus, gods, kings and dynasties etc are also discussed. In addition, philosophy, scriptures, rhetorics etc are also included in the Puranas as subjects. To know the political and social history of ancient India the Puranas are indispensable.

Classical Sanskrit is mainly divided into two parts drshyakavya and shravyakavya. Dramatic literature is under drshyakavya and prose-poetry is under shravyakavya. The greatest poet of this period is kalidasa (100 BC). His predecessor was the famous dramatist Bhasa (500-400 BC) and Shudraka (300 BC) and a successor poet was Ashvaghosa (100 AD). Bhasa wrote thirteen plays including Svapnavasavadatta, Charudatta, Urubhanga. The plays of Bhasa are celebrated for the diversity of their themes and techniques, and are written based on the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and folktales. Shudraka’s Mrchchhakatika is very remarkable in Sanskrit dramatic literature.

The main works of Kalidasa are two mahakavyas Raghuvangsha and Kumarasambhava; two khandakavyas- Rtusanghara and Meghaduta; three plays Malavikagnimitra, Vikramorvashiya and Abhijnanashakuntala. The important works of Ashvaghosa are Buddhacharita and Saundarananda, the two mahakavyas and the play Shariputraprakarana. Among subsequent works, mention may be made of the Kundamala of Dinnaga (500 AD), Kiratarjuniya of Bharavi (600 AD), Bhattikavya or Ravanavadha of Bhatti (600 AD), Shishupalavadha of Magha (700 AD); Ratnavali of Shriharsa (700 AD); Uttararamacharita of Bhavabhuti (700/800 AD); Venisanghara of Bhattanarayana (800 AD), Mudraraksasa of Vishakhadatta (800/900 AD), Balaramayana of Rajashekhara (1000 AD); Gitagovinda of jayadeva (1200 AD), Naisadhacharita of Shriharsa (1200 AD), Pravodhachandrodaya of Krsnamishra (1100 AD), Chaitanyachandrodaya and Chaitanyacharitamrta of Kavikarnapura (1600 AD) etc. Some noteworthy mahakavyas based on history are the Navasahasankacharita of Padmagupta (1100 AD), Vikramankadevacarita of Vihlana (1100-1200 AD), Kumarapalacarita of Hemachandra (1080-1173 AD), Rajatarangini of Kahlana (1200 AD), and ramacharitam of Sandhyakar Nandi (1200-1300 AD). Rupa Goswami and Jiva Goswami, two famous poets of Bengal, have contributed a lot to Sanskrit literature.

A kind of padyakavya named shatakakavya has been composed in approximately hundred verses. Their main themes are niti, shrngara, vairagya, bhakti and society. Some noteworthy kavyas are Amarushataka of Amaru (700 AD), Shrngarashataka, Nitishataka and Vairagyashataka of Bhartrhari (700 AD); Shantishataka of Shihlana, Bhallatashataka of Bhallata (800 AD), Apadeshashataka of Chandramanikya (1700 AD), and Apadeshiyashatashlokamalika of Rudramanikya. Vihlana’s Chaurapanchashika is based on erotic sentiments. It was written in fifty verses and is a popular kavya.

Kosakavya (anthology) is also included in padyakavya. Poems by different poets are compiled in kosakavya. Some noteworthy books are Kavindravachanasamuchchaya, compiled by Vidyadhara (1100 AD), Saduktikarnamrta of Shridharadasa (1300 AD), Sharngadharapaddhati of Sharngadhara (1400 AD), Subhasitasudhanidhi of Sayanacharaya (1400 AD), Subhasitavali of Vallabhadeva (1500 AD), Padyavali of Rupa Gosvami, Suktiratnahara or Subhasitaratnahara of Suryakavi (1600 AD), and Shlokamanjari of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891). Other types of kavyas famous in Sanskrit literature include shlesakavya, chitrakavya, vyakaranakavya, anyoktikavya, dutakavya, and stotrakavya.

The second category of shravyakavya is gadyakavya (prose literature). The first instance of prose is to be found in Shuklayajurveda. Subsequently in Brahmana literature, some Upanisdas, vyakarana, and their commentaries were written in prose. Among prose literatures, celebrated works include Vasavadatta of Subandhu (500-700 AD), Dashakumaracharita of Dandin (700 AD), and Kadambari and Harsacharita of Vanabhatta (700 AD). Harsacharita, based on the life of Harsavardhana, is a famous work of prose.

Mammoth story books were written in to teach morals. In Sanskrit literature, a story is called Katha. The writing and the development of stories started before the Christian era. The most famous and widespread story book in Sanskrit is the Panchatantra of Visnusharman (100/200 AD). Many stories were written based on the tales of this book. Hitopadesha is the most popular story book in Bengal. A man called Narayana wrote this work under the patronage of Dhavalachandra (1400 AD). Other famous narratives are Vrhatkatha of Gunadhya (100 AD), Shlokasanggraha of Buddhasvamin (800/900 AD), Vrhatkathamanjari of Ksemendra (1100 AD), Kathasaritsagara of Somadeva (1100 AD), vetalapanchavimshati of Shivadasa (1300 AD), Singhasanadvatringshika of Ksemankara (1300 AD), and Shukasaptatikatha of Chintamanibhatta (1300 AD). At present the Vrhatkatha is not to be found. According to some, it was written in Paishachi Prakrta and has seven lakh verses. Vrhatkathamanjari and Kathasaritsagara were composed in verse.

One kind of kavya, called Champu mixes with prose and poetry. Some examples of this type of kavya are the Nalachampu and Madalasachampu of Trivikrama Bhatta (1100 AD), Yashastilakachampu of Jainacharya Somadeva (1000 AD), Ramayanachampu of Bhoja (1100 AD), Bhagavatachampu of Abhinava Kalidasa (1100 AD), Bharatachampu of Ananta Bhatta (1500 AD), Gopalachampu of Jiva Gosvami, and Anandavrndavanachampu of Kavikarnapura (1600 AD).

Sanskrit rhetoric has a very rich tradition. The oldest book in Sanskrit on rhetoric is the Natyashastra of Bharata (200 BC-300 AD). Other important books are Kavyalangkara of Bhamaha (600-700 AD), Kavyadarsha of Dandin (600-700 AD), Kavyalangkarasutravrtti of Vamana (800 AD), Alangkarasarasanggraha of Udbhata (800-900 AD), Kavyalangkara of Rudrata (800 AD), Dvanyaloka of Anandavardhana (900 AD), Vakroktijivita of Kuntaka (1000 AD), Auchityavicharacharcha of Ksemendra (1000 AD), Dasharupaka of Dhananjaya (1000 AD), Kavyamimangsa of Rajashekhara (1000-1100 AD), Dvanyalokalochana and Abhinavabharati of Abhinavagupta (1100 AD), Kavyaprakasha of Mammata (1100 AD), Alangkarasarvasva of Ruyyaka, Rasagangadhara of Jagannatha, Sahityadarpana of Vishvanatha (1400 AD), Bhaktirasamrtasindhu and Ujjvalanilamani of Rupa Gosvami, and Alangkarakaustubha of Kavikarnapura.

Chhandahsutra of Pingala (c 600 AD) is the oldest extant book of Sanskrit prosody. It was followed by Vrttoktiratna of Narayana and Vrttamauktika of Chandrashekhara. Other noteworthy books on prosody are the Shrutavodha of Kalidasa, Jayadevachhanda of Jayadeva (300 AD), Vrttaratnakara of Kedarabhatta (900 AD), Chhandomanjari of Gangadasa (after 1000 AD), Suvrttatilaka of Ksemendra (1100 AD), Chhandonushasana of Hemachandra (1500 AD), and Vrttaratnavali of Ramachandra Chiranjib Bhattacharya (1800 AD).

Many fundamental books of Indian philosophy were written in Sanskrit. Metaphysics, morality, wisdom, life after death etc are some of the subjects treated in Indian philosophy which is divided into two groups theism and atheism. These divisions are based on the acceptance and denial of the Veda. The six systems of astika philosophy are the Nyaya of Gautama, Vaishesika of Kanada, Sangkhya of Kapila, Yoga of Patanjali, Mimangsa of Jaimini and the Vedanta of Vadarayana; the nastika systems are Bauddha, Jaina and Charvaka. In Bengal the Navyanyaya and the Vaisnava philosophy (based on Radha-Krsna) were widely studied. Tantra is a different stream of literature. Its various divisions are mantra, jnana, yoga, kriya, charya etc.

Dharmashastra and Smrtishastra were written based on religious and social rituals, and dealt with atonement, caste-system, king’s duties, and different laws. It is also known as smrti. Dharmashastras composed under the name of Gautama, Vaudhayana and Vashistha are worth mentioning. These books were composed in approximately 600 BC-300 AD. Among the smrti books Manusanghita and Yajnavalkyasmrti are worth mentioning. Among smrti-writers of Bengal Raghunandana’s name stands out.

In science and other subjects some remarkable books are Vatsyayana’s (c 300-400 AD) Kamasutra on sexology; Charaka and Sushrutasanghita on medical science (called as Ayurveda), and Arthashastra on political science by Kautilya or Chanakya. In addition, many books were written on chemistry, botany, astronomy, mathematics, music, learning of theft, cooking, agriculture, elephant breeding, animal breeding etc.

Sanskrit study in Bengal It is difficult to ascertain when the study of Sanskrit began in Bengal, but it is certain that its history is very old, as is proved by an inscription found around 350 AD in the Gupta period. A clear picture of the study of Sanskrit in the region can be traced from 700 AD. The writing style of Bengal scholars was known as Gaudi to rhetoricians.

Sanskritic studies developed considerably in the Pala and Sena periods. At the beginning of Muslim rule, Sanskrit study faced some checks, but in later periods its development was once more worth mentioning. In particular, the practice of Nyaya that centred around Navadvipa is noteworthy. Bengal was very famous for navyanyaya from 1500-1700 AD. At the time of British rule in 1800-1900 AD Sanskrit study revived again. However, in the last part of the twentieth century, the study of Sanskrit declined in popularity although it is still studied seriously.

Pala period (750-1161 AD) Though the Pala kings were Buddhist, during their reign the practice of Sanskrit language and literature is noteworthy. The Venisanghara of Bhattanarayana (800 AD), Mudraraksasa of Vishakhadatta (800/900 AD), Ramacharita of Abhinanda (900 AD), Anargharaghava of Murari (900-1000 AD), Kaulajnananirnaya of Matsyendranatha (first part of 1000 AD), of Noakhali, Chandakaushika of Ksemishvara (c 1000 AD), Bodhimargapanjika and Bodhipradipa of Atisha Dipankara (980-1050 AD), of Vikrampur, Chhandomanjari of Gangadasa (1000-1100 AD), Herukasadhana of Divakarachandra (1000-1100 AD), Chikitsasarasanggraha of Chakrapani Datta (1100 AD), Kichakavadha of Nitivarman (1100 AD), Ramacharita of Sandhyakara Nandi (c 1084-1155 AD), Shabdapradipa and Vrksayurveda of Sureshwara (1100-1200 AD), and Subhasitaratnakosa of Vidyakara (c 1200 AD) are notable works of the period.

Sena period (1097-1260) The Sena kings were Hindu. In this period Sanskrit language and literature as well as the texts of the Hindu religion were studied widely. Many people believe that this was the golden era of Sanskrit studies in Bengal. vallalasena (1159-1185) and laksmanasena (1185-1206), were both scholars and fond of literature. In the court of Laksmanasena there were the five celebrated Sanskrit poets, Jayadeva, Umapati, Dhoyi, Govardhana and Sharana. Vallalasena himself wrote Danasagara, Amrtasagara, Pratisthasagara, Acharasagara and Vratasagara. Other books of the period that can be mentioned Vyavaharatilaka, Karmanusthanapaddhati, Prayashcittakarana of Bhavadevabhatta (1100-1200); Naisadhacharita of Shriharsa (1200 AD); Aryashaptashati of Govardhanacharya, Pavanaduta of Dhoyi, Gitagovinda of Jayadeva, saduktikarnamrta of Shridharadasa (1200 AD), Haralata and Pitrdayita of Aniruddhabhatta, a preceptor of Vallalasena; Brahmanasarvasva, Mimangsasarvasva, Vaisnavasarvasva, Shaivasarvasva, Panditasarvasva of Halayudha Mishra, the court-judge of Laksmanasena; Bhasavrtti, Haravali, Ekaksarakosa of Purusottamadeva (1200 AD); Durghatavrtti of Sharanadeva (1200 AD) etc. Kalikapurana (1000-1100), Vrhannandikeshvarapurana (1100-1400) and Devibhagavata were also composed in this period.

Muslim Period (1206-1757) In this period Sanskrit was widely studied. Many books were written in every branch of literature and philosophy. The main books were written by the Vaisnava poets. Navadvipa, the sacred place of the Vaisnavas, became the main centre of Sanskrit study. Some notable books of this time are Padyavali, Harinamamrtavyakarana, ujjvalanilamani of Rupa Gosvami; Shrikrsnachaitanyacharitamrta of murari gupta (1500-1600); Vrhadbhagavatamrta, Vaisnavatosini of Sanatan Gosvami (c 1465-1555); Danakelichintamani of Raghunath Das (c 1490-1577); Suktimuktavali of Vishvanath Siddhantapanchanan (1500-1600); Bhramaraduta, Pikaduta of Rudra Nyayavachaspati (1500-1600); Satsandarbha, Harinamamrta of Jiva Gosvami; Chaitanyacharitamrta, Chaitanychandrodaya, Gauraganoddeshadipika, Alangkarakaustubha of Kavikarnapura; Shurjanacharita of Chandrashekhar (1600-1700), Padyamuktavali of Govinda Bhattacharya (1700 AD); Vikhyatavijaya of king Laksmanamanikya (1600-1700); Vaikunthavijaya of Amaramanikya, Apadeshashataka of Chandramanikya; Kautukaratnakara of Raghunath Kavitarkika, the court poet of Laksmanamanikya [these Manikyas are the kings of bhulua, the present Noakhali of Bangladesh]; Anandalatikachampu of krishnanath sarvabhauma and his wife Vaijayanti (1700 AD); Shyamarahasya of Priyangvada (1700 AD); Shrikrsnabhavanamrta of Vishvanath Chakravarti (1700 AD), Padankaduta of Shrikrsna Sarvabhauma (1700-1800) etc.

Notable books about Navyasmrti are dayabhaga of jimutavahana (c 1050-1150), Prayashchittaviveka of shulapani (c 1375-1460), Smrtisagara of Kullubhatta (1500 AD), Krtyatattvarnava of Shrinath Acharyachudamani (1500-1600), Astavingsatitattva, Dayabhagatika of raghunandan bhattacharya (1500-1600) etc. These books influenced the Hindu society of that time deeply. Some of those books are studied even now.

Important books on philosophy are Anumanapariksa of Vasudeva Sarvabhauma (c 1430-1540), Pratyaksamanididhiti, Anumanadidhiti of Raghunath Shiromani (1500-1600), Nyayarahasya of Ramabhadra Sarvabhauma (1600 AD), Advaitasiddhi, Vedantakalpalatika, Advaitamanjari of madhusudan saraswati (1525-1632), inhabitant of Kotalipara, Gopalganj (the greater Faridpur); Vijnanamrtabhasya of Vijnanabhiksu (1600-1700) etc.

On Vyakarana notable books are Mugdhavodha of Vopadeva, Sangksiptasara of Kramadishvara (1500 AD), Katantrapradipa of Pundarikaksa Vidyasagara (1500-1600); on the lexicon Abhidhanatantra of Jatadhara (1500 AD), of Chittagong, Padachandrika of Vrihaspati Rayamukuta (1500 AD), Ekavarnarthasanggraha and Dvirupadhvanisanggraha of Bharat Mallick, Trikandaviveka of Ramanath Vidyavachaspati etc are books worth mentioning.

Noteworthy books on rhetoric and prosody are Kavyavilasa and Vrttaratnavali of Chiranjiv Bhattacharya (1700-1800); on tantra the Tantrasara of Krsnananda Agamavagisha (1600 AD), Shaktanandatarangini of Brahmanandagiri (1600 AD), and Shyamarahasya, Satkarmollasa, Tattvanandatarangini of Purnananda Paramahangsa Parivrajaka (1600 AD) are considered important.

British Period (1757-1947) In this period, a revival is noticed in Sanskrit studies that accompanied the renaissance in education, society and culture, not only in Bengal but also in the whole of India. Though only a few fundamental works were written, the reading, teaching and translation of Sanskrit works were evident throughout the period.

Navadvipa was well-known in history for the study of Navyanyaya. In addition, Bhatpada or Bhattapalli, Guptipara, Burdwan, Triveni, Bali of Howrah, Vishnupur of Bankura in West Bengal and Vikrampur, Kotalipara, Chittagong, and Sylhet in East Bengal were famous for the study of Sanskrit. A centre for the study of Sanskrit was traditionally known as tol. From various Government reports it can be ascertained that there were many tols in Bangla and sufficient students studied in them.

Bengalis made major contributions to the study of Navyasmrti. During this period many scholars contributed significantly to smrti. Jagannath Tarkapanchanan (1694-1807), son of Rudra Tarkavagisha, an inhabitant of Triveni compiled a large book of smrti, titled Vivadabhangarnava. Sir william jones (1746-1794) inspired him to write this book. In 1796 Colebroke (1765-1837) translated some parts of this book in English. This became known as Colebroke’s Digest. This book was very much useful in solving disputes involving Hindu Law all over India.

Vivadarnavasetu is also a famous collection of smrti pieces. Vaneshvara Vidyalangkara (c 1700-1788) compiled this work with the help of ten more Bengali pundits at the request of waren hastings. This book proved to be very useful in solving the disputes according to Hindu Law. It was first translated into persian. Then Halhed (1751-1830) translated it into English from Persian (A code of Gentoo Law, London, 1776). In addition, smrti, Vaneshvara also wrote Chitrachampu, Rahasyamrta, three Khandakavyas and a play titled Chandrabhiseka.

Kasichandra Vidyaratna (1854-1917) was a famous scholar of Navyasmrti. He was born in a Brahmin family at Vikrampur, near Dhaka. Uddharachandrika is his most important book. The subject of the book is about the re-entry of a Hindu into society, who has travelled to a western country on ships. He wrote the commentary of twenty Dharmashastras including Manusanghita.

Mahamahopadhyaya chandrakanta tarkalankar (1836-1910) of Sherpur (greater Mymensingh) wrote some major books on Navyasmrti. His Udvahachandraloka is well known among scholars of Bengal. Two other books by him are Shuddhichandraloka and Aurdhvadehikachandraloka. In addition to smrti he also wrote books on grammar and literature. The name of his grammar book is Katantrachhandahprakriya.

Beginning in the last part of the nineteenth century and continuing to the second part of twentieth century, Haridas Siddhantavagish (1876-1961) contributed significantly to the study of Sanskrit. He was born at Unashiya, a village of Kotalipara in Gopalganj district. Haridas wrote Smrtichintamani. Navyasmrti includes a Bangla translation containing directions for following all kinds of rules and regulations of the Hindus governing conduct from birth to death. Besides smrti he had masterd kavya and grammar. He had also translated many Sanskrit books and provided them with his own commentaries.

In the study of Navyanyaya and Navyasmrti some other works worth mentioning are Krsnakanta Vidayavagisha (1800 AD), Golokanath Nyayaratna (1806-1855), Harinath Tarkasiddhanta (1829-1889), Mahamahopadhyaya Krsnanath Nyayapanchanan (1833-1911), Mahamahopadhyaya Kamakhyanath Tarkavagisha (1843-1936), the famous Naiyayika of Navadvip, Kamalakrsna Smrtitirtha of Battapalli etc. Nyayaratnavali, Nyayapatri, Nyayaratnaprakashika, Tarkamrtatarangini of Krsnakanta; Nyayaprakasha, Vedantaparibhasatika, Arthasanggraha, Tattvakaumudi of Krsnanath; Sangkhyadipani, Nyayatattvavodhini, Nyayasaptapadarthi, Nyayakusumanjalitika of Kamakhyanath; Danakriyakaumudi, Krtyaratnakara, Rajadharmakaustubha (edited by Kamalakrsna) have had a remarkable influence on the study of Nyaya and Smrti.

During colonial rule, many native kings and zamindars made significant contributions to the study of Sanskrit. Among them were krishnachandra roy, the king of Nadia; Kirtichand and Tilakchand, the kings of Burdwan; Ramakanta and Bhavani, the king and queen of Natore respectively; Gopal Singh, the Malla king of Vishnupur; Rajavallabh Sen of Rajanagar, Dhaka etc. Krishnachandra Roy donated money for the study of Sanskrit in different parts of Bengal.

The accounts of Sanskrit study in tols, chatuspathis and colleges of Bengal are recorded in various Government reports of that time. Among these, William Adam’s Report (1835-1838) and Reverend James Long’s Report (1868) are worth mentioning. A clear picture of the study of Sanskrit in Bengal can be deduced from these reports.

The study of Sanskrit by Europeans During the Company and British rule in India, foreigners felt that to run business and administration knowledge about native language and literature was very essential. For this reason and to satisfy the eagerness of many about oriental language and literature, a new era started in the field of Sanskrit studies. In this area the contribution made by some European administrators, scholars and linguists is very significant. Among them are Sir William Jones, Sir charles wilkins (1749/50-1836), henry thomas colebrooke, horace hayman wilson (1786-1860) and James Princep (1799-1840). Through research, translation, collection and editing of manuscripts, and archaeological surveys they performed an important role in preaching and spreading Sanskrit and introducing Sanskrit to the world.

William Jones came to Kolkata as a judge of Supreme Court in 1783. Expert in many languages, Jones noted for the first time that the Sanskrit language had a unique relation with Greek and Latin and that all these languages originated from one language. Under his leadership in 1784 the asiatic society was established in Kolkata for research on Oriental language, history and culture. Through Asiatic Researches, the journal of this institution, he attracted the attention of the western world to the education, culture, history, philosophy etc of India. In 1789 he published Abhijnanashakuntalam, a Sanskrit drama by Kalidasa, from Kolkata, titling it Fatal Ring.

Colebrooke came to India as a writer of the Bengal service in 1783. In 1786, at the time of his employment as a collector at Trihut, he was attracted to the study of Hindu religion and culture and begun to learn Sanskrit. After Jones, Colebrooke’s contribution to Sanskrit study must be mentioned. He read Vedic and Puranic literature and Sanskrit grammar carefully. He wrote Grammar of the Sanskrit Language and compiled the Sanskrit Dictionary. By reading his book The Translation of Two Treaties on the Hindu Law of Inheritance, foreigners were able to get a clear idea about Hindu Law. He played an important role in the institutionalisation study of Sanskrit and its spread as president of the Asiatic society and as Professor of Hindu Law and Sanskrit in fort william college.

Horace Hayman Wilson came to India in 1808 as a physician of the east india company. Within a short period he acquired expertise in Sanskrit language. In 1813 he translated Kalidasa’s Meghadutam in English. The two great achievements of Wilson were the composition of Sanskrit English Dictionary and the discovery of the Sanskrit historical kavya Rajatarangini. On the basis of Rajatarngini he made a chronological history of Indian kings. He tried to glean historical information on the basis of his research of Puranic literature. At that time the ‘Boden Chair’ was created at Oxford University. Wilson was appointed to this position and left India. Another of his achievements is the translation of the Rgveda into English.

After Wilson, Princep, the auditor of the Kolkata mint, became the Secretary of the Asiatic Society. Wilson attracted him to oriental studies. Princep gave special importance to the study of history and archaeology. Particularly through his research on ancient coins and scripts, information about many kings and dynasties came to the light. In this respect it can be said that information about Emperor Kanishka came from a coin. Through the deciphering of the Allahabad inscription, essential information about the Maurya and Gupta dynasty were deduced. The work of J Stevenson, WH Mill, Cuningham and Wilson as well as that of Princep is worth mentioning.

In the spread of Sanskrit studies, the name of Wilkins is significant for a number of reasons. He came to India in 1770 as a writer of East India Company. He earned proficiency in Persian, Bangla and Sanskrit and became an expert in making types of these languages. He established a printing press at Hughli and made Bangla and Sanskrit types. So he is called the founding father of printing in Bengal. He translated the Sanskrit Hitopadesha into Bangla and deciphered some copper and stone inscriptions composed in Sanskrit. In 1785 the Bhagavadgita translated by him was printed in England. He published many valuable essays in Asiatic Researches. Among them are: A Grammar of the Sanskrit Language, Radicals of the Sanskrit Language, Compilation of Jones Manuscripts etc. He also translated some portions of Manusanghita.

Fort William College Sanskrit study got institutional shape through the foundation of fort william college (1800). Here the teaching of Sanskrit got special importance. Within a short period Sanskrit scholars like Colebrooke wrote Sanskrit grammars in English. Mugdhavodha, Siddhantakaumudi, Amarakosa and Sanskrit-English Dictionary of Wilson were published. Mitaksara, Dayabbaga, Manusanghita, Dattakachandrika, Dayakramasanggraha and other texts relating to native law were also published. In addition to grammar and law texts literary works, eg Nitishataka, Shrngarashataka, Vairagyashataka, Ramayana, Gitagovinda, Meghaduta, Shishupalavadha, Kiratarjuniya, Hitopadesha, Dashakumaracharita, Nalodaya etc were also published.

Sanskrit College Governor General Hastings founded sanskrit college in 1824. The contribution of this college to the study of Sanskrit is remarkable. Pundit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was appointed Principal of the college in 1851. After taking charge, he made radical changes in teaching methods. While in the past only descendants of Brahmin and Vaidya clan could get an education here, through the efforts of Vidyasagar descendants of the Kayastha family and children of respectable Hindu families got educational opportunities here.

Vidyasagar worked hard to popularise Bangla and Sanskrit education. He wrote Sanskrit primers as well as books for juvenile readers in Bangla. His Sanskrit work Rjupatha proved to be very helpful for students. He composed Upakramanika and Vyakaranakaumudi for easy access to the complex system of Sanskrit grammar. He edited many famous Sanskrit books, eg Raghuvangsha, Kumarasambhava, Meghaduta, Sarvadarshanasanggraha, Uttararamacharita, Kadambari, Harsacharita, Abhijnanashakuntala etc. He made Sanskrit books attractive to the public through lucid Bangla translations. He was the first to write the history of Sanskrit literature in Bangla.

In 1877 Mahesh Chandra Nyayaratna became the Principal of Sanskrit College. He reformed the tol and chatuspathi and introduced the Upadhi examination in Sanskrit. In 1879 the first Upadhi examination was held in Sanskrit College. Of course this exam began at purvavanga saraswat samaj in Dhaka a year earlier. Excluding the previous Upadhi (title) Vidyavinoda, which has continued since 1884, the provision of conferring the Tirtha Upadhi (eg Kavyatirtha, Vyakaranatirtha etc) was adopted by the college.

Many teachers and students of Sanskrit College have also made significant contributions to Sanskrit studies. Among them noteworthy are jaygopal tarkalankar (1772-1845), Bharat Chandra Shiromani, Premchandra Tarkavagish (1805-1867), Jaynarayan Tarkapanchanan (1806-1872), Taranath Tarkavachaspati (1811-1885), madanmohan tarkalankar (1817-1858), and Pramathanath Tarkabhusan (1865-1944).

Jaygopal Tarkaratna was born in Bajarpur, Jessore. He composed a volume of verses on Krishna called Shrivilvamangala. There are 119 verses in it with Bangla translation in payara metre. In Shiksasara, another book by him, he included Gurudaksina, Chanakyashloka and Arya of Shubhankara. He was a reviewer of Mahabharata, published from the Asiatic Society in 1837.

Bharat Chandra Shiromani, a famous smarta and Professor of Sanskrit College, was an extraordinary scholar. His major works are Dayabhaga, Dattakamimangsa, Dattakachandrika, Smrtichandrika, Chaturvargachintamani etc. At first he was a Pundit of the Law Examination Committee and then he became judge Pundit of Burdwan.

Professor Premchandra Tarkavagish was adept in Sanskrit philosophy and literature. He wrote Sanskrit verse with consummate skill. Among his written and edited books, mention can be made of the annotations to Raghuvangsha, Abhijnanashakuntala, Kavyadarsha Raghavapandaviya, Anargharaghava, Naisadhacharita, Uttararamacharita, Kumarasambhava etc.

The great Naiyayika, Jaynarayan Tarkapanchanan, was a teacher of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar and Mahesh Chandra Nyayaratna. He wrote Sangkaravijaya and Padarthatattvasara. Other major books by him are Atmatattvaviveka, Kanadasutravrtti, Sarvadarshanasanggraha, Nyayadarshana, Bhairavapanchashika, Tarakeshastava etc.

Taranath Tarkavachaspati taught grammar in Sanskrit College. He edited many Sanskrit books, providing annotations and explanations for them, eg on grammar Siddhantakaumudi, Vaiyakaranabhusanasara; on literature Kadambari, Dashakumaracharita and Hitopadesha; on poetry Kiratarjuniya, Shishupalavadha, and Kumarasambhava; on drama Malavikagnimitra, Mahaviracharita, Mudraraksasa, Ratnavali, Venisanghara etc. He also wrote some basic works such as Shabdartharatna, Gayamahatmya, Tuladanapaddhati etc. His unique achievement was the compilation of two dictionaries Shabdastomamahanidhi and Vachaspatyabhidhana. He established a Free Sanskrit College in his residence and gave many students a sound education in the language.

Madanmohan Tarkalankar, of Vilvagram, Nadia, edited with annotations Atmatattvaviveka, Kavikalpadruma, Khandanakhandakhadya, Vasavadatta, Kadambari, Dashakumaracharita, Meghaduta etc. Pramathanath Tarkabhusan was a teacher of Smritishastra in Sanskrit College. He was born at Bhatpara under the district of 24-Parganas. Important books translated, explained and edited by him are Vishuddhanandacharita, Kokiladuta, Vijayaprakasha, Rasarasodaya, Purvamimangsartha Sanggrhita Tika etc.

Some renowned persons Raja rammohun roy (1772-1833), a pioneer of the Bengal renaissance, was well-versed in Sanskrit. He had extensive religious discussions with Utsavananda Vidyavagish and Subrahmanya Shastri in Sanskrit. Later, these discussions were published in book form. Gayatryah Paramopasanavidhanam and Atmanatmaviveka are two Sanskrit books written by him. He wrote many works based on the Vedanta and the Upanisad. Books written and edited by him are Vedantagrantha, Vedantasara, Ishopanisat, Talavakaropanisat, Bhattacharyer Sahit Vichar, Kathopanisat, Mandukyopanisat, Vajrasuci, the translation of Gita in verse etc. In Brahmasamaj gatherings he often was in charge of the recitation of the Vedas.

Raja radhakanta deb (1784-1867) spent a lot of money to popularize Sanskrit. Through his efforts, the Sanskrit dictionary Shabdakalpadruma was published for several years. Because of this book it has become easy to learn about Indian religion, philosophy and culture. He built many chatuspathis for the study of Sanskrit.

Maharshi debendranath tagore (1817-1905) was an expert in Sanskrit. He donated money to many teachers and students to extending the study of Sanskrit. He was eager to preach the Vedas and the Upanisad. After reading a verse of the Ishopanisad his life-style was transformed. He introduced important verses of Upanisad in Brahmadharma, a volume composed skilfully to introduce Sanskrit to his family members.

dwijendranath tagore (1840-1926), the oldest son of the Maharshi, translated Meghaduta when he was quite young. He wrote a book titled Gitapatha based on the Gita. satyendranath tagore (1842-1923) translated the Gita and Meghaduta. He took keen interest in Buddhist Sanskrit literature. jyotirindranath tagore (1849-1925) also mastered Sanskrit scholarship. He translated seventeen Sanskrit plays very successfully. rabindranath tagore’s (1861-1941) expertise in Sanskrit is wellknown. He studied the Vedas, Upanisad, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Manusanghita and the works of Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti, Vanabhatta carefully. He made the Astadhyayi of Panini a compulsory text for teachers and students of Bangla. He himself wrote Sangskrtapathah to teach Sanskrit in Ashrama-schools. He composed the Sanskrit motto of Vishwa-Bharati: ‘atheyang Vishvabharati, yatra vishvang bhavatyekanidam’. When he was conferred the DLit degree by Oxford University, he delivered his speech in Sanskrit. On 20 September 1931 Sanskrit College honoured him with the title Kavi Sarvabhauma.

swami vivekananda (1863-1902) had shown his zeal in preaching Vedanta and in propagating Sanskrit. He acquired Mugdhavodha and the Astadhyayi. He composed many Sanskrit stotra (verses) of which a large portion was written in praise of Ramakrishna Paramahamsadeva. He also wrote many letters in Sanskrit.

bhudev mukhopadhyay (1827-1894) though proficient in English, was dedicated to popularising Sanskrit. The ‘Vishwanath Trust Fund’ and ‘Vishwanath Chatuspathi’ are maintained through his donation. Bhudev was considered the spiritual guide of Bankimchandra (1838-1894) and Hemachandra (1838-1903). Bhudev termed the governing deity of the motherland as mother in his ‘Adhibharati’. In one of his stotra the seed of the famous song Vande mataram, composed by Bankimchandra, exists. Bankimchandra’s expertise in Sanskrit is well-known and can be seen in his Krsnacharitra, Dharmatattva, and in his translation of the Gita.

romesh chunder dutt (1848-1909) studied Sanskrit carefully. He translated the Rgveda into Bangla and edited Hindushastra. The noted physicist ramendrasundar trivedi (1864-1919) studied Vedic literature and wrote Yajnakatha. In addition, he translated Aitareyabrahmana into Bengali. The poet nabinchandra sen (1847-1909) translated Chandi and Gita into verse. Based on the Sanskrit Mahabharata he composed three kavyas: Raivataka, Kuruksetra and Prabhasa. Nabinchandra Das translated Sanskrit epics into Bangla verse. For this reason the chattal dharmamandali sabha honoured him with the title of Vidyapati.

Archaeologist rajendralal mitra (1822-1891) had profound knowledge of Sanskrit. He edited many Sanskrit books, eg Chaitanyachandrodaya, Taittiriya Brahmana, Taittiriya Aranyaka, Agnipurana, Gopathabrahmana etc. kaliprasanna singh’s (1840-1870) unique achievement was to translate the Mahabharata into Bangla. He also translated the Gita, Vikramorvashiya and Malatimadhava. He translated and produced the drama Venisanghara on his Vidyotsahini Mancha.

In Bangladesh the formal study of Sanskrit was concentrated in Dhaka University. In this regard the name of haraprasad sastri (1853-1931) must be mentioned first. He discovered and collected many manuscripts and edited them. Publications of note edited by him from Kolkata Asiatic Society are Vrhaddharmapurana, Chittavishuddhiprakarana, Vallalacharita of Anandabhatta, Ramacharita of Sandhyakar Nandi, Chatuhshatika of Aryadeva, Saundarananda of Ashvaghosa etc.

Prof. sushil kumar de (1890-1968) also made significant contributions to Sanskrit study. Though Dr muhammad shahidullah (1885-1969) and Dr muhammad abdul hai (1919-1969) were Professors of Bengali, they encouraged the study of Sanskrit in Dhaka University. Although the study of Sanskrit began to decline in the region during the Pakistan period and then in independent Bangladesh, Professor Rabindranath Ghosh Thakur played a remarkable role in cultivating the language in this periods. He wrote many Sanskrit text books for study in school and college. For the university level he edited Bhasa’s Svapnavasavadatta, and published it with a Bangla translation, from Dhaka University (1974). Another important book that he wrote was Sangskrta Varnamalar Itihas. It was published from bangla academy (1985).

Many manuscripts written in Sanskrit on various subjects are preserved in different institutional and personal libraries of the country including Dhaka University Library. In the 1920s and 30s of the last century Sushil Kumar De, radhagovinda basak (1885-1982) and Rajendra Chandra Hazra edited some manuscripts, eg Kichakavadha (1929), Padyavali (1934), Krsnakarnamrta (1938) and Ghatakarparakavya. After a long time in the nineteen nineties teachers and researchers have resumed work on a few manuscripts, eg Apadeshashataka (1993), Kautukaratnakara (1998), Apadeshiyashatashlokamalika (1998), Kirtishataka etc. The first two of these have been published in the book form with Bangla translations and the third one has been published as an article. At present some researchers are continuing to research on Sanskrit manuscripts in the regions.

A project for collecting and developing manuscripts was conducted from 1984-1988 under the supervision of Dhaka University Library. Then thousands of manuscripts were collected from different collections of the country and their microfilms, accompanied by short descriptions, were preserved in the library. In addition, thousands of manuscripts from the library’s own collection have also been identified briefly. All these manuscripts have been compiled in three volumes. [Narayan Chandra Biswas]

Bibliography Dinesh Chandra Sen, Vangabhasa O Sahitya (before British influence), 4th ed, Kolkata, 1921; Suresh Chandra Bandyopadhyay, Sangskrta Sahitye Banalir Dan, Kolkata, 1962; Dhyanesh Narayan Chakravarty, Bharatiya Sangskrtir Uttaradhikar, Kolkata, 1986; Yoganath Mukhopadhyay, Itihas Abhidhan (Bharat), Kolkata, 3rd ed, 1990; Sirajul Islam ed, Bangladesher Itihas (1704-1971), 3rd Vol, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, 1st pub, 1993.

Leave a Reply