Sanskrit newspapers on the verge of extinction?

Internationally acclaimed, forgotten at home

Culture

January 31, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Many Sanskrit newspapers and magazines have shut down lately owing to dip in readership and severe lack of funds

Sanskrit holds a special importance in the global family of languages ​​as it is supposed to be the mother of the entire Indo-European group of languages. Even though efforts are being made, in India and overseas, to revive the language, several Sanskrit media houses in India are on the verge of shutting down. The media companies blame the government lack of support to help them stay afloat.

It was a usual pleasant day on March 15, 1985 when the morning newspapers tossed into homes around the world created a wave of surprise. An ancient Indian language, almost extinct in its homeland, had been identified as the best one for coding programs for robotic control and artificial intelligence, by a famous NASA scientist, Rick Briggs.

Overnight, Sanskrit, the language of  Vedas  (sacred Hindu scriptures) and which had a few thousand speakers left in the world, had turned into a crucial language and a golden goose for coders, programmers, researchers and investors from across the globe.

Several internationally acclaimed universities including Harvard University, Cambridge University and the University of Oxford, started offering courses on the computer-friendly language and several research projects about the language and its scientific base kick-started.

Since then, the interest in Sanskrit in academic, spiritual and scientific world has only increased and the language seems to be thriving in its own niche around the world.

While the rest of the world is busy eyeing this jackpot, a different story is to be narrated back in its homeland. With a dramatic dip in readership, viewership and finances, shutters of many Sanskrit media houses have started shutting down leaving the industry in turmoil.

With more than half the media houses shut in the past few years, Sanskrit media in India finds itself on the verge of extinction.

Sudharma- a Sanskrit daily struggling to survive

Sudharma is one of the leading Sanskrit newspapers around the globe

Sudharma,  an internationally acclaimed daily newspaper based in the southern state of Karnataka, is one such media house battling the odds.

This newspaper, with around 3,000 copies being published per day, covers both national and international news as well as feature stories from Sanskrit literary pieces such as  Kalidasa, Meghdootam and Abhigyan Shakuntalam . Curated by an editorial team of six members, it enjoys a subscription from people of all walks of life including Sanskrit scholars, professors, doctors, and ministries.

However, in the past few decades, the media house has been facing serious financial constraints. Speaking to  Media India Group , Jayalakshmi, one of the core team members from Sudharma  decries, “The government is not supporting us at all. We have written to the government innumerable times. We are not even sure if they have received our letters. This is an endless wait. A sharp dip in advertisements has worsened the scenario. We are taking up several other jobs in the publication sector to keep  Sudharma  running. ” Team  Sudharma  has started an initiative named  Sudharma Abhiyana  (Mission Sudharma) to voice their need for support. Discouraged from unanswered pleadings and cries, the newspaper has resorted to Gandhian philosophy of evoking guilt and consciousness. “So many politicians are taking oaths in Sanskrit. They know the significance of this pure language. We have put up their information in our e-paper as well as printed copies and are encouraging everyone to write to them. Everyone is welcome to join our mission and write to these politicians. We hope, our voice reaches them and a positive change comes. ”

Srijan Vani – another Sanskrit daily on the verge of shut down

Srijan Vani is suffering due to severe lack of funds

Another such newspaper on the verge of shutdown, run by a team of 20 members including translators, writers and operators is the Delhi-based  Srijan Vani. Like  Sudharma, Srijan Vani  too covers cultural features besides national and international news.

“We have absolutely no advertisements and the attitude of the government is disheartening. We have not received a single response from the government despite several letters, and pleas. Entire funding of the paper is from our personal resources. My husband dedicated his entire life to Sanskrit and its promotion, and this is what we are getting in return. There are people who want to read Sanskrit, however without the help of government, nothing can be done, ”says Meera Mishra, the editor.

Mishra’s husband used to run Sajal Sandesh, another newspaper in Sanskrit, which had to be shut because of the lack of funds.

With a daily circulation of 14,500 copies, this newspaper is mainly read in universities, government offices and by members of social organizations like Brahman Sena. Sudharma  offers an annual subscription for INR 500.

Social media- a tool for reviving the language amongst millennials? 

Mallapa, a regular cab driver from Bangalore, shot to fame when one of his customers decided to shoot a small video of their conversation in the cab and put in online. With 10,300 views overnight, he was a star in the south Indian city. What made their conversation unique was the language that Mallapa and his customer had chosen to converse in. It was none other than Sanskrit, the language of gods.

An ardent admirer of the ancient language, Mallapa has made it a point to stick to Sanskrit for his day to day conversations.

“Sanskrit is a very easy language. I have been following it for more than 10 years now. I run the cab for earning my bread, I love to play some musical instruments including keyboard otherwise,” he shares in the video (translated).

From time to time such online trends keep amazing the netizens with the unique fusion of antiquity and latest trends.

While the traditional Sanskrit media is having a tough time, many social media platforms are taking it upon themselves to promote the language. While some work exclusively on the quotes and stories from mythology, some put on air analytical stories in Sanskrit.

One such page actively working on Facebook is SanskritShree. From parody videos on trending topics to updates about short films and theatres in the holy language, the page.

A language dating back several millennia, revered in the Hindu culture, the repository of huge chunks of Indian knowledge, history, culture and traditions and now accredited with top research institutes continues to struggle for survival in the land where it originated. While small initiatives are working to promote the language, the threat lingers on. The main question being asked by the warriors of Sanskrit is whether the current government, that claims to be particularly attached to Indian and Hindu traditions and history, care enough to move immediately and bring the language back from the brink?

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