ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Lawyer’s Account of the ‘Death of Sanskrit’ Thesis

The battle around the “Death of Sanskrit” thesis has found cultural anthropologists and technologues in opposite camps. So long as the battle is political, it calls for a plurality of opinion from all disciplines and political affiliations. This comment presents a lawyer’s account and evaluation of the death of Sanskrit.

The author is indebted to Shivprasad Swaminathan for his insights and conversations.

The battle for a language is neither new nor rare in South Asia. Sanskrit—the mother of many South Asian languages—has given rise to an ideological battle. Sheldon Pollock’s “The Death of Sanskrit” (2001) has become a suitable springboard for attacking both the centre and the left-leaning political constituencies in India. Pollock’s title, declaratory and conclusive as it is, has become an easy target for technology-geeks-turned-culture-brigade. The cultivation of Sanskrit in postcolonial India, for Pollock (2001: 393),

constitutes largely an exercise in nostalgia for those directly involved, and, for outsiders, a source of bemusement that such communication takes place at all. Government feeding tubes and oxygen tanks may try to preserve the language in a state of quasi-animation, but most observers would agree that, in some crucial way, Sanskrit is dead.

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Updated On : 27th Sep, 2017
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