Sanskrit is one of oldest languages still used and spoken in the world today. Sanskrit is also the
language of Hinduism, the world’s oldest religion, which is estimated to have been practiced for nearly 4,000 years. Hinduism has more than 1.2 billion followers, which makes it the third-
largest religion in the world today. Approximately 95 percent of the world’s Hindus live and
practice in India.
Sanskrit has been called “Deva-Vani,” or the language of the Gods. Hindus teach that Sanskrit
was created by the Hindu God Brahma, the first God of the Hindu triumvirate. Brahma was
responsible for the creation of the world and all its inhabitants. After creating Sanskrit, Brahma
taught it to the Rishis, or Sages, living in celestial homes. The Sages then taught Sanskrit to their earthly disciples.
Sanskrit’s written origins can be traced back nearly 3,500 years to approximately 1,500 BCE,
when the four ancient texts of Hinduism, the Vedas—Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and
Atharvaveda—were written in what is called Vedic Sanskrit. These four ancient texts are said to have come from the four heads of Brahma.
Today, Sanskrit is one of the twenty-two official languages of India. Linguists believe that
Sanskrit was the primary language of the Indian subcontinent (modern-day Afghanistan,
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) during ancient times.
Sanskrit forms the basis of many modern Indian languages but not all of them. Today, Sanskrit is spoken by less than one percent of India’s population, and only 14,000 Indians consider Sanskrit their primary language.
Sanskrit is still used by Hindu priests in religious ceremonies and texts. In recent years, the
Indian government has encouraged the learning of Sanskrit among school children and has
designated a Sanskrit Week during which school-age children learn about the language at school by reading Sanskrit literature, singing hymns, and doing Vedic mathematics developed by Hindu Monk Bharati Krishna Tirtha in 1965 from the Vedas.
Sanskrit is considered an ancient Indo-Aryan language. The Indo-Aryan languages are a
subgroup of the Indo-Iranian languages. Today, more than 800 million people in Bangladesh,
India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka speak Indo-Aryan languages.
During Sanskrit’s long history, it has evolved in the way it is written and spoken. Because
Sanskrit was developed when oral transmission, or speaking, was more important than the
written word and as part of a religion in which hymns were sung and verses were chanted, the
tonal quality, or sound, of Sanskrit was very important. The language has a musical tone. The
name Sanskrit means well-formed, perfect, or pure, suggesting this language’s harmonious trait. Perhaps, Sanskrit’s melodic qualities are the reason other religious scholars, Buddhists, and Jain scholars have used this language.
Today, Sanskrit is written primarily in Devanagari script, which has been in use since the
eleventh century and is characterized by long, horizontal strokes at the tops of the letters which
are usually joined to form a continuous line through the script. This script relies on 46 letters and symbols to denote words.
Sanskrit is a vast and descriptive language in which objects are described by their properties
rather than being given a single name. For example, instead of using a single word like “horse,”
in Sanskrit a horse can be described as a big swollen body or as strong or by its neighing sound or by a description of its fast movement. Sanskrit has more than 250 words to describe rainfall and more than 60 words to describe water. Because Sanskrit has an endless number of words and these words can be used to describe more than one idea, context is very important in understanding this complex language.
Four Fascinating Facts About Sanskrit
How are you?
(Nǐ hǎo ma?)
My name is...
(Wǒ de míngzì shì...)
Have a nice day!
(Zhù nǐ jīntiānguò dé yúkuài!)
You are welcome.
Chinese is traditionally written top to bottom in columns from right to left.
Chinese characters are created using strokes which must be done in a particular order. Usually, working top to bottom and left to right. A Chinese character can be made up of 1 to 64 strokes.
In Chinese, verbs are not conjugated, and adjectives do not agree with the words they modify.
FIONA POTH ('24)
Mandarin has the most native speakers of any world language.