Is it ‘Sanskrit’ or ‘Samskrit’?

FPJ BureauUpdated: Friday, May 31, 2019, 06:31 PM IST
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New Delhi : The University Grants Commission has kicked off a controversy by using the word “Samskrit” for our most ancient language instead of “Sanskrit.”

Everyone initially thought a typo, spelling mistake in a circular by UGC chairman Ved Prakash on January 21, asking the vice-chancellors and heads of 126 higher education institutions to send details of faculty engaged in teaching “Samskrit.”

“The UGC is in the process of devising a scheme for further development and promotion of Samskrit teaching in the country. As part of this endeavour, the UGC, in order to coordinate the work of universities, proposes a database of teachers engaged in teaching and learning in Samskrit,” the circular said.  The UGC officials, however, said it was not a typo but deliberate “to correct a historical wrong” because of a wrong spelling picked up by the Britishers two centuries ago and nobody objecting.

The UGC took the decision to use the 13th letter of the English alphabet after a panel on promoting the sacred language unanimously agreed that the change was necessary.  EX-CEC CREDITED: In fact, credit for correcting the historical wrong should go to former Chief Election Commission N Gopalaswami, a Sanskrit scholar who headed the panel. He convinced everyone on the panel that the letter “n” didn’t reflect the “anuswar” that is used when the word is written in the Devnagari script. The panel held a meeting on January 18 that the UGC chairman had attended. Sanskrit scholar and Jnanpith award winner Satya Vrat Shastri said it was the British who got the spelling wrong.  “The word has been spelt as Sanskrit by the British. We don’t know the linguist or litterateur who spelt it that way but, for the last 200 years, this spelling has been accepted the world over,” he said. Shastri said the correct spelling should be “Samskrita” as the word has three components – Sam (the preposition), kr (the root), ta (the suffix) and an “s” between Sam and kr as “refinement.”

In the Devnagari script, he said, the “m” becomes the anuswar. “When written in English, ”m” reflects the anuswar, not ”n”,” he added.  Prof. Umashankar Sharma Rishi, who taught the language in Patna University, said it was correct that the word has the suffix ta. “I agree with Shastriji about the suffix. But Samskrit should be accepted as the correct spelling since people speak that way.”

Prof. Ramesh Bhardwaj, head of the department of Sanskrit in Delhi University, said scholars were aware of the wrong spelling but no attempt had been made to correct the mistake.

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