Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yog, Ayurved, Ramayan, Mahabharat and many more words

Sanskrit is the fountainhead of many Indian and Indo-European languages. Sanskrit is called as 'Geervanbharati' meaning the language of the Gods. It is famous for its conciseness, flawless grammar and honeydew like melodious sound of its verses. So it is no surprise that eventhough it was declared as a 'dead language' many years ago, the language still florishes.

My most favourite verse or सुभाषित (Subhasheet - means one that is in a good language) in Sanskrit is the following
अश्वम नैव गजं नैव व्याघ्रं नैव च नैव च
अज:पुत्रं बली दद्यात देवो दुर्बलघातक:

The meaning goes like this. Neither a horse, nor an elephant and never ever a tiger is sacrificed. Only a ram is sacrificed, alas, even the God harms only the weak.

But these days something bothers me. It is not very serious, but as someone who loves Sanskrit, I think I should at least try to correct it, in my own feeble attempt. As Sanskrit became more known around the world and ancient Indian traditions such as Yog, Ayurved and the epics like Mahabharat and Ramayan gained more popularity, something happened. Somehow, somewhere, someone appended a little 'a' at the end of these words. Now everywhere you look, you see 'Yoga Classes', 'Ayurveda Clinics' or Mahabharata and Ramayana. Even our Gods Ram and Krishn are now pronounced as Rama and Krishna. I can understand the cause. You see in Sanskrit, at the end of a word (masculine) you append an ':' and so Ram is pronounced as Ram-ah, Krishn is pronounced as Krishn-ah. But that does not mean that you go on appending an 'a' at the end of every word and start pronouncing them as Raama, Krishna. There is a grammatical reason why we should pronounce them as Ram, Krishn etc. In Sanskrit or Hindi/Marathi etc Indo-European languages, feminine words generally end with a 'deergh' (prolonged) 'ee' or an 'a' at the end. E.g. 'Balak' (बालक) means child or boy. But 'Balika' (baalika ) means female child or girl. Similarly, there are words like Sameer (wind) - Sameera, Patit (fallen) - patita, Veer (brave) - veera. There is one notable exception to this general rule. The word Savita (savita) means Sun. So this is a masculine word. However, you may find many girls with the name Savita.

I know it is not a big deal and I care more that people like Yog and Ayurved than I care how they are pronounced. But my concern is that in the flow of time people will forget how the words were actually pronounced. My biggest concern is that when people recite 'shloks' or religious hymns, they might mispronounce the words and in Sanskrit hymns and shloks pronounciation matter the most. After all that's how our ancestors transferred the vast knowledge in Veds from generations to generations for thousands of years.


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