Sanskrit is the classical language of Indian and the liturgical language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is also one of the 22 official languages of India. The name Sanskrit means “refined”, “consecrated” and “sanctified”.
Sanskrit is a standardized dialect of Old Indo-Aryan, originating as Vedic Sanskrit as early as 1700-1200 BCE.
The most ancient documents are the Vedas, composed in what is called Vedic Sanskrit. Although Vedic documents represent the dialects then found in the northern midlands of the Indian subcontinent and areas immediately east thereof, the very earliest texts—including the Rigveda (“The Veda Composed in Verses”), which scholars generally ascribe to approximately 1500 bce—stem from the northwestern part of the subcontinent, the area of the ancient seven rivers (sapta sindhavaḥ).
One of the oldest Indo-European languages for which substantial documentation exists, Sanskrit is believed to have been the general language of the greater Indian Subcontinent in ancient times.
Sanskrit, has developed along with Vedic culture. The earliest example of Sanskrit is heard in the second millennium and it was only an oral language for constructing and reciting hymns and poems with no written form till 600-700 AD.
Most people probably think that Hindi or another North Indian language is the closest modern language to Sanskrit. Wrong. Lithuanian is the closest modern language to Sanskrit, with Latvian a close second.
Over its long history, Sanskrit has been written both in Devanāgarī script and in various regional scripts, such as Śāradā from the north (Kashmir), Bāṅglā (Bengali) in the east, Gujarātī in the west, and various southern scripts, including the Grantha alphabet, which was especially devised for Sanskrit texts. Sanskrit texts continue to be published in regional scripts, although in fairly recent times Devanāgarī has become more generally used.
Great Sanskrit Resources
We welcome students to take up the study of Sanskrit as part of their philosophical studies within the School.
You will gain insights into sound, word and meaning, and among many benefits you will find that your own language will be better utilised and understood.
Interview with Sanskrit Tutor, Johan Erasmus, who quotes from “Conversations” – a series of conversations recorded in India between School founder Leon MacLaren and Shri Shantananda Saraswati Shankaracharya .
Why do Students at the School of Philosophy learn Sanskrit?
All modern languages of the world are natural, for they follow the nature of Man in this age, not the real nature, but the corrupt or mixed up nature, devoid of purity and strength. Conversations 1973:7.2
The Sanskrit language is there, pure and clean, unhampered or distorted by anyone; and it can mirror the laws of the universe to anyone. This is the good companion, the good guide and the great friend. Journey with it and then Veda is simple and sure. Conversations 1974:7.4
What are some benefits (three) of learning Sanskrit?
Understand in depth the wisdom contained in the Vedas – Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, etc. Understand spiritual concepts which are not capable of accurate expression in English. Sanskrit is refined and truly natural, for it contains original laws and original sounds and their combinations. Only through the proper study of this language could Truth emerge. Conversations 1971:4.1
What part does Sanskrit learning play in the overall curriculum of the School’s teachings?
All central concepts presented in the curriculum provided by the school’s teaching that have been made available to us have come through Sanskrit language.