ancient Indo-Aryan language of South Asia

Sanskrit (/ˈsænskrɪt/; संस्कृतम् saṃskṛtam [səmskr̩t̪əm], originally संस्कृता वाक् saṃskṛtā vāk, "refined speech") is the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, a philosophical language in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and a literary language that was in use as a lingua franca in the Indian cultural zone. It is a standardised dialect of Old Indo-Aryan language, originating as Vedic Sanskrit and tracing its linguistic ancestry back to Proto-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Indo-European. Today it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand. Sanskrit holds a prominent position in Indo-European studies.

The literature of India makes us acquainted with a great nation of past ages, which grasped every branch of knowledge, and which will always occupy a distinguished place in the history of the civilization of mankind. - Count Magnus Fredrik Ferdinand Bjornstjerna.
CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links


Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F

The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin and more exquisitely refined than either: yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs, and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all without believing them to have sprung from some common source which perhaps no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family. - William Jones
A poem in Sanskrit of the ancient Indian poet Vallana on a wall in the Netherlands - [Sanskrit is] the great spiritual language of the world. - Joseph Campbell.
  • Of Sanskrit, Sri Aurobindo writes: Every one of its vowels and consonants has a particular inalienable force which exists by the nature of things and not by development or human choice; these are the fundamental sounds which lie at the base of the Tantric bija-mantras and constitute the efficacy of the mantra itself. Every vowel and every consonant in the original language had certain primary meanings which arose out of [some] essential Shakti or force, and [these] were the basis of other derivative meanings.
    • Aurobindo, Hymns to the Mystic Fire , 1996: 449). in Malhotra, R., & Infinity Foundation (Princeton, N.J.). (2018). Being different: An Indian challenge to western universalism.
  • Sanskrit should be deleted from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution because it is a foreign language brought to the country by foreign invaders - the Aryans.
    • Frank Anthony, a Christian former Member of Parliament, quoted with strong approval by Razia Ashraf, a Muslim protester against the Sanskrit news service on All-India Radio, in a letter to Indian Express, 9-2-1991., quoted in Elst, Koenraad (1999). Update on the Aryan invasion debate New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • A language, Sanskrit or another, should be acquired by whatever method is most natural, efficient and stimulating to the mind and we need not cling there to any past or present manner of teaching: but the vital question is how we are to learn and make use of Sanskrit and the indigenous languages so as to get to the heart and intimate sense of our own culture and establish a vivid continuity between the still living power of our past and the yet uncreated power of our future, and how we are to learn and use English or any other foreign tongue so as to know helpfully the life, ideas and culture of other countries and establish our right relations with the world around us. This is the aim and principle of a true national education, not, certainly, to ignore modern truth and knowledge, but to take our foundation on our own being, our own mind, our own spirit....
    • Sri Aurobindo, November, 1920 (From an article entitled "A Preface on National Education."), quoted from Sri Aurobindo, ., Nahar, S., Aurobindo, ., & Institut de recherches évolutives (Paris). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de Recherches Evolutives. 3rd Edition (2000). [1]
  • The attempt to render in a European tongue the grand panorama of the ever periodically recurring Law -- impressed upon the plastic minds of the first races endowed with Consciousness by those who reflected the same from the Universal Mind -- is daring, for no human language, save the Sanskrit -- which is that of the Gods -- can do so with any degree of adequacy.
    • Helena Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine
  • It was in India, however, that there rose a body of knowledge which was destined to revolutionize European ideas about language. The Hindu grammar taught Europeans to analyze speech forms; when one compared the constituent parts, the resemblances, which hitherto had been vaguely recognized, could be set forth with certainty and precision.
    • Leonard Bloomfield source: Grammar, Leonard Bloomfield.Quoted from Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
  • Lord Monboddo, (1774), for example, felt that he would "be able clearly to prove that Greek is derived from the Shanscrit" (322). Halhed stated: "I do not ascertain as a fact, that either Greek or Latin are derived from this language; but I give a few reasons wherein such a conjecture might be found: and I am sure that it has a better claim to the honour of a parent than Phoenician or Hebrew (Letter to G. Costard, quoted in Marshall 1970, 10). Schlegel, (1977 [1808]), who played a leading role in stimulating interest in Sanskrit, especially in Germany, developed the concept of comparative grammar wherein "the Indian language is older, the others younger and derived from it" (429). Vans Kennedy (1828) felt the evidence demonstrated that "Sanscrit itself is the primitive language from which Greek, Latin, and the mother of the Teutonic dialects were originally derived" (196). These ideas were picked up by intellectuals outside the halls of academia: Blavatsky (1975), the theosophist, claimed that "Old Sanskrit is the origin of all the less ancient Indo-European languages, as well as of the modern European tongues and dialects" (115).
    • quoted in Bryant, E. F. (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture : the Indo-Aryan migration debate. Oxford University Press. ch 1
  • The creation of Sanskrit, the “refined” language, was a prodigious work on a grand scale. Grammarians and semanticists of genius undertook to create a perfect language, artificial and permanent, belonging to no one, that was to become the language of the entire culture. Sanskrit is built on a basis of Vedic and the Prakrits, but has a much more complex grammar, established according to a rigorous logic. It has an immense vocabulary and a very adaptable grammar, so that words can be grouped together to express any nuance of an idea, and verb forms can be found to cover any possibility of tense, such as future intentional in the past, present continuing into the future, and so on. Furthermore, Sanskrit possesses a wealth of abstract nouns, technical and philosophical terms unknown in any other language. Modern Indian scholars of Sanskrit culture have often remarked that many of the new concepts of nuclear physics or modern psychology are easy for them to grasp, since they correspond exactly to familiar notions of Sanskrit terminology.
  • The majesty and grandeur of the Sanskrit language, the sonorousness of the word music, the rise and fall of the rhythm rolling in waves, the elasticity of meaning and the conventional atmosphere that appears in it have always made it charming to those for whom it was written. ...The wealth of imagery, the vividness of description of natural scenes, the underlying suggestiveness of higher ideals and the introduction of imposing personalities often lead great charm to Sanskrit poetry.
  • The introduction of the use of Sanskrit as the lingu-franca is a turning point in the mental history of the Indian people. The causes that preceded it, the changes in the intellectual standpoint that went with it, the results that followed on both, are each of them of vital importance.
  • Macaulay's policy was implemented and became a resounding success. The pre-Macaulayan vernacular system of education was destroyed, even though British surveys had found it more effective and more democratic than the then-existing education system in Britain. The rivalling educationist party, the so-called Orientalists, had proposed a Sanskrit-based system of education, in which Indian graduates would not have been as estranged from their mother civilization as they became through English education, and in which they could have selectively adopted the useful elements of Western modernity, more or less the way Japan modernized itself.
    • Koenraad Elst. Decolonizing the Hindu Mind (2001)
  • Old India had a high rate of literacy, particularly because of its educational system, its Sanskrit and its gurukulams.
    • David Frawley, Preface in Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections.

G - L

Sanskrit means “complete”, “perfect” and “definitive”. In fact, this language is extremely elaborate, almost artificial, and is capable of describing multiple levels of meditation, states of consciousness and psychic, spiritual and even intellectual processes. As for vocabulary, its richness is considerable and highly diversified. Sanskrit has for centuries lent itself admirably to the diverse rules of prosody and versification.... - Georges Ifrah.
There are many points of great interest to the student of language, in the long history of the speech [of India]; and it has been truly said that Sanskrit is to the science of language what mathematics is to astronomy. Friedrich Max Müller
...The works of Kalidasa (Shakuntala, Meghdoot, Malavikagnimitra, etc.), Bhavabhuti (Malti Madhav, Uttar Ramcharit, etc.) and the epics of Valmiki, Vyasa, etc. are known all over the world. These and countless other Sanskrit works kept the light of learning ablaze in our country upto modern times. - Justice Markandey Katju.
  • I called up the Devil and he appeared .... He is an able diplomat and speaks eloquently of Church and State. He is somewhat pale but small's the wonder. for he is now studying Sanskrit and Hegel.
    • Heinrich Heine. "Heimekehr" (which dates from 1823-1824): quoted in Poliakov, L. (1974). The Aryan myth : a history of racist and nationalist ideas in Europe
  • The fact is that Sanskrit is more deeply interwoven into the fabric of the collective world consciousness than anyone perhaps knows. After many thousands of years, Sanskrit still lives with a vitality that can breathe life, restore unity and inspire peace on our tired and troubled planet. It is a sacred gift, an opportunity. The future could be very bright. ... In ancient India the intention to discover truth was so consuming, that in the process, they discovered perhaps the most perfect tool for fulfilling such a search that the world has ever known — the Sanskrit language. ... With the Muslim invasions from 1100 A.D. onwards, Sanskrit gradually became displaced by common languages patronized by the Muslim kings as a tactic to suppress Indian cultural and religious tradition and supplant it with their own beliefs. But they could not eliminate the literary and spiritual-ritual use of Sanskrit.
  • The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin and more exquisitely refined than either: yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs, and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all without believing them to have sprung from some common source which perhaps no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family.
  • Sanskrit appears to have lost far fewer items and preserves much greater organic coherence than the other branches. This supports the general idea that Sanskrit is much closer to Proto-Indo-European and that, since this could only happen in sedentary conditions, the Indoaryan speakers of Sanskrit did not move (much) from the original homeland.
    • N. Kazanas, quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.
  • The main point is that Sanskrit had long been an Indian language when it made its appearance in history.
    • F. Kuiper, Aryans in the Rigveda, 94-5, emphasis in the original, quoted from Elst, K. (1993). Indigenous Indians: Agastya to Ambedkar. New Delhi: Voice of India. p 16

M - R

  • Many similar views were also expressed in the Sanskrit Commission Report written under the Nehru government in the 1950s. That report declares: "The State in Ancient India, it must be specially pointed out, freely patronised education establishments, but left them to develop on their own lines, without any interference or control. It says that until the British disruption, the salient features of our traditional education included: 'oral instruction, insistence on moral discipline and character-building, freedom in the matter of the courses of study, absence of extraneous control...' ... We can never insist too strongly on this signal fact that Sanskrit has been the Great Unifying Force of India, and that India with its nearly 400 millions of people is One Country, and not half a dozen or more countries, only because of Sanskrit.'
  • He (Pollock) sidesteps the rise in the funding of Persian and Arabic by the secular Indian government and by foreign sponsors, and the concurrent dramatic decline in Sanskrit funding. He does not expose the downsizing and dismantling of the institutions, both formal and informal, on which Sanskrit and sanskriti have traditionally thrived. Pollock is careful not to implicate the non-Hindu forces that have wreaked havoc against Sanskrit... Although he sees this process as politically driven, Pollock does acknowledge there were no conquering Sanskrit legions that caused Sanskritization, unlike the coercive Romanization which followed Roman military legions. Nor was there a central church-like religious institution and hence no evangelism that could have Sanskritized through religious conversion. He admits that the notion of the Sanskrit cosmopolis does not fit the Western notion of an empire. ... I wish to also point out that Dr Ambedkar, the pioneering Dalit leader, had worked zealously to promote Sanskrit. A dispatch of the Press Trust of India dated 10 September 1949 states that he was among those who sponsored an amendment making Sanskrit, instead of Hindi, the official language of the Indian Union.
  • Besides the large number of schools at that time, there were also approximately a hundred institutions of higher learning in each district of Bengal and Bihar. Unfortunately, these numbers rapidly dwindled all across India during the nineteenth century under British rule. The British also noted that Sanskrit books were being widely used to teach grammar, lexicology, mathematics, medical science, logic, law and philosophy. ....Furthermore, in the early British period in India, British officials noted that education for the masses was more advanced and widespread in India than it was in England. ....According to Dharampal, the British later replaced this Sanskrit-based system with their own English-based one, the goal being to produce low-level clerks for the British administration.
  • Sanskrit is a beautiful, powerful, resonating language, with a structure and richness not found within most modern languages. The logic and beauty within Sanskrit reflect the two levels needed to appreciate Ayurveda fully; the outer knowledge passed on from teachers and books, and the inner knowledge or intuition gained through experience, by applying what we learn to our daily lives.
...The classical Indian culture in which Sanskrit first flourished offers an immense variety of material, from romantic comedy and sensual poetry to epic, massive-word play, political science and philosophy.... - Nicholas Ostler.
...The vastness and the versatility, and power of expression can be appreciated by the fact that this language has 65 words to describe various forms of earth, 67 words for water, and over 250 words to describe rainfall. - Bansi Pandit.
  • Proposals to include Sanskrit in the course offerings were rejected numerous times by scholars who wanted to protect JNU from what they considered to be a majoritarian or Hindu Nationalist agenda. When I questioned Romila Thapar, a well known historian from JNU, about this issue in July 2000, she explained that if students want to learn Sanskrit, “there are so many Maths and Piths around where they can go”. She added that “most of the regional colleges have some kind of Sanskrit program”.
    • Rosser, Yvette Claire (2003). Curriculum as Destiny: Forging National Identity in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (Dissertation). University of Texas at Austin.

S - Z

To acquire the mastery of this language is almost a labor of a life; its literature seems exhaustless. The utmost stretch of imagination can scarcely comprehend its boundless mythology. Its philosophy has touched upon every metaphysical difficulty; its legislation is as varied as the castes for which it was designed. - W. C. Taylor.
God spoke once. He spoke in Sanskrit, and that is the divine language. - Swami Vivekananda.
There is no language in the world, even Greek, which has the clarity and the philosophical precision of Sanskrit. - Friedrich von Schlegel
  • The Sanskrit shall be our "devabhasha" (Deva Bhasha) our sacred language and the "Sanskrit Nishtha" Hindi, the Hindi which is derived from Sanskrit and draws its nourishment from the latter, is our rashtrabhasha (Rashtra Bhasha) our current national language—-besides being the richest and the most cultured of the ancient languages of the world, to us Hindus the Sanskrit is the holiest tongue of tongues. Our scriptures, history, philosophy and culture have their roots so deeply imbedded in the Sanskrit literature that it forms veritably the brain of our Race. Mother of the majority of our mother tongues, she has suckled the rest of them at her breast. All Hindu languages current today whether derived from Sanskrit or grafted on to it can only grow and flourish on the sap of life they imbibe from Sanskrit. The Sanskrit language therefore must ever be an indispensable constituent of the classical course for Hindu youths.
    • V.D. Savarkar quoted from B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • Our Gods spoke in Sanskrit; our sages thought in Sanskrit, our poets wrote in Sanskrit. All that is best in us—the best thoughts, the best ideas, the best lines—seeks instinctively to clothe itself in Sanskrit. To millions it is still the language of their Gods; to others it is the language of their ancestors; to all it is the language par excellence; a common inheritance, a common treasure that enriches all the family of our sister languages.
    • VD Savarkar quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • I believe that the influence of the Sanscrit literature will penetrate not less deeply than did the revival of Greek literature in the fifteenth century.
    • Arthur Schopenhauer. preface of his The World as Will and Representation.
  • It was an astounding discovery that India possessed, in spite of the changes of realms and variety, a language, the parent of all those dialects that Europe has fondly called classical - the source alike of Greek flexibility and Roman strength. A philosophy, compared with which, in point of age, the lessons of Pythagoras are but of yesterday, and in point of daring speculation Plato's boldest efforts were tame and commonplace. A poetry more purely intellectual than any of those of which we had before any conception; and systems of science whose antiquity baffled all power of astronomical calculation. This literature, with all its colossal proportions, which can scarcely be described without the semblance of bombast and exaggeration claimed of course a place for itself - it stood alone, and it was able to stand alone.
    • W. C. Taylor in the Journal of Asiatic Society quoted in: Varadaraja V. Raman Indic Visions, Xlibris Corporation, 26 August 2011, p. 68.
  • Sanskrit no doubt has an immense advantage over all other ancient languages of the East. It is so attractive and has been so widely admired, that it almost seems at times to excite a certain amount of feminine jealousy. We are ourselves Indo-Europeans. In a certain sense we are still speaking and thinking Sanskrit; or more correctly Sanskrit is like a dear aunt to us and she takes the place of a mother who is no more.
  • The great difficulty in the way is the Sanskrit language — the glorious language of ours; and this difficulty cannot be removed until — if it is possible — the whole of our nation are good Sanskrit scholars. You will understand the difficulty when I tell you that I have been studying this language all my life, and yet every new book is new to me. How much more difficult would it then be for people who never had time to study the language thoroughly!
  • The system of learning Bengalee among the natives .... their notion of learning Bengalee was by learning Sanscrit. If you make a man a good Sanscrit scholar he will be able to write Bengalee with perfect accuracy and elegance.... Bengalee is the language most akin to Sanscrit. I have taken pains to ascertain the proportion of Sanscrit in the first 500 words... they amount to 350.... Sanscrit forms the very body of most of the dialects, particularly of Upper India, and though it is not so essentially a part of the languages of Southern India, yet it enters so largely into the composition of even the language of Malabar, that four-fifths of the words are Sanscrit.
    • HH Wilson in in Shourie, Arun (1994). Missionaries in India: Continuities, changes, dilemmas. New Delhi : Rupa & Co, 1994
  • As regard the first point I am told that in an Indian University even Sanskrit is taught in English which means that only those who know the latter tongue can learn the classic language of event their own country. To me this seems an absurdity ... The Indian cannot I suppose write a grammar. Yet India has Panini, Patanjali, Patanjali's Mahabhasya, Supadma, Kalapa, the Vakyapadiya, Bhopadeva, Sangkshiptasara, Siddantakaumudi, Laghukaumudi, amongst the ancient, while the Vyakarana Kaumudi, Upakramanika of Ishvara Chandra Vidyasagara, and the Ashubodha ofTaranatha Vachaspati head the modems. How IS it that all these have been displaced? A distinguished European Sanskritist once asked me where I had learned Sanskrit, but that I had been and was still learning Sanskrit in this country. "Oh what a pity," he said, "Why" I asked? "They cannot teach Sanskrit in this country: they have no system." He replied. I laughed.

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