A Mysuru Household’s A long time-Lengthy Journey To Preserve Sanskrit Alive


I used to be strolling down a slender avenue in Mysuru’s Agrahara locality when my telephone’s map misled me, saying I had reached the workplace of Sudharma, the one day by day newspaper on this planet revealed in Sanskrit. It was a lifeless finish, with homes stacked shoulder-to-shoulder throughout. 

A bit misplaced, I requested a passerby for instructions. “Sudharma? It is proper there,” he mentioned, pointing additional down the street. Reaching the handle, I discovered that Sudharma seemed nothing like a newspaper workplace. With its wooden-framed home windows, a small door, and yellow wall, it resembled a small, middle-class home. Stepping inside, I noticed a big printing machine tucked away past the principle corridor. It jogged my memory of a handloom machine. 

Jayalakshmi at Sudharmas office

Jayalakshmi at Sudharma’s workplace
Picture Credit score: Pankaj Mishra

Curator Of Tradition

“Namaskara.” A lady in her 60s, Ok.S. Jayalakshmi, greeted me warmly from behind her desk. Wearing a typical South Indian inexperienced cotton silk saree, she was an image of each custom and resilience. Her expressive eyes, framed by glasses, revealed a deep sense of objective. After the passing of her husband Sampath Kumar, she took the reins of Sudharma.

Based by Pandit Varadaraja Iyengar in 1970, Sudharma was born out of his want to hold Sanskrit, usually dismissed as a ‘lifeless’, historic language, alive and related. He noticed it not as a relic however as a residing, dynamic voice that might nonetheless communicate to the trendy world. “Curiously, the initiative started with educating Sanskrit to ladies in 1963, signifying a progressive method in direction of inclusive training in Sanskrit. The programme expanded to incorporate boys, but it surely primarily aimed toward encouraging Sanskrit studying amongst women,” Jayalakshmi mentioned. 

Sudharmas office

Sudharma’s workplace in Mysuru
Picture Credit score: Pankaj Mishra

Ok. Sampath Kumar Iyengar, the editor of Sudharma, managed the newspaper for many years after his father, the founder, handed away in 1990. Sampath himself handed away at 64. He was identified for his dedication and overseeing all features of the enterprise, proper from reporting to design, and was awarded the Padma Shri in 2020 alongside his spouse. His work acquired recognition from the likes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and actor Amitabh Bachchan. He additionally revealed the one Sanskrit calendar on this planet. 

“My inspiration comes from the legacy left behind by my father-in-law and carried ahead by my husband. In all of India, he was the one to start out Sudharma. It was his power and imaginative and prescient. I joined this mission and realised it is not only a obligation however part of who I’m,” says Jayalakshmi.  “They weren’t simply preserving a newspaper however nurturing a cultural treasure.” Regardless of preliminary scepticism about its viability, Pandit Iyengar’s dedication to adapting Sanskrit for contemporary occasions led to the adoption of recent phrases for modern ideas, making the language accessible and sensible. 

Strolling by means of the corridors of Sudharma’s workplace in Mysuru, it hit me that this is not nearly a newspaper. It is a combat to maintain a chunk of our previous alive. I used to be stepping right into a story that started over half a century in the past. Regardless of all odds, monetary hurdles, and the onslaught of the digital age, Sudharma stands agency, a small paper with an enormous coronary heart. “Whereas I can not be part of the military or contribute in different typical methods, working Sudharma and selling Sanskrit is my method of contributing to the nation. It isn’t solely about making a revenue; it is about giving again to our cultural heritage and enjoying a component in preserving it,” says Jayalakshmi.

Nonetheless, as I seemed round on the stacks of paper, the odor of the ink, and the outdated printing machine, I could not assist however marvel: what’s the place of an historic Indian language within the age of AI?

Sanskrit In The Age Of AI

So, how are you maintaining Sanskrit alive? I requested.  

“Sudharma is not about maintaining Sanskrit alive!” Jayalakshmi harassed. She shared an anecdote about an 80-year-old linguist from Varanasi who knew over 100 languages and was visiting Sudharma’s workplace. A language survives so long as it’s spoken or understood by even one individual, the linguist talked about. “Even those that could not consciously know Sanskrit are uncovered to it by means of prayers and rituals. As an example, generally recited prayers and verses are in Sanskrit, making the language part of on a regular basis life for a lot of Indians.”

This reframed my understanding of Sudharma’s position – not as a preserver of a dying language however as a platform celebrating a language that could be very a lot alive within the hearts and houses of India.

And what about making income, guaranteeing that Sudharma survives and helps the livelihoods of these working it? 

Cash vs Objective

“The difficulty of revenue versus cultural contribution is a matter of particular person perspective. In fact, monetary stability is essential for everybody, and business features cannot be ignored. However in India’s context, we’re liable for contributing one thing significant to our nation,” Jayalakshmi says. 

The problem is advanced. Jayalakshmi’s insights painted an image of this wrestle. Up to now, an version of Sudharma newspaper may take six days to succeed in readers in locations like Kashmir, which was acceptable. However now, individuals need rapid information. “This demand for immediate data is altering journalism. It is turning into more durable to keep up readership as a result of everybody has a cell phone. It is likely one of the asuras (devils),” she mentioned. 

Past The Newsprint: A Cultural Campaign

Over the previous decade, a number of information experiences have flagged the crises Sudharma is going through. Jayalakshmi acknowledges the challenges however stands by her perception that the newspaper is not going to close down. “We by no means thought of shutting down Sudharma, even throughout powerful occasions. Daily introduced new challenges, however we by no means let negativity set in. There have been rumours about Sudharma closing, however they had been unfounded. We at all times aimed to maintain the paper working and even increase it. Our message has at all times been clear within the media; we’re dedicated to persevering with and rising Sudharma.”

However how does a tiny newspaper discover the tenacity to maintain at it?

“My motivation comes from understanding the significance of our work and its position in training. Mother and father normally need their youngsters to develop into engineers, medical doctors, or IAS officers, and few aspire for his or her youngsters to develop into Sanskrit students. However we see that even engineers are actually studying Sanskrit and turning into students, though the quantity could also be small.”

Extra Than A Newspaper

In at present’s media panorama, there’s usually a rush to seek out essentially the most financially viable mannequin, a relentless pursuit of income overshadowing objective. However Sudharma teaches us a special lesson. Here is a media mannequin that does not rely solely on its stability sheets. As a substitute, it anchors itself firmly in its objective, staying true to the center of its mission.”The journey of maintaining Sanskrit alive is lengthy, however simply as radio has developed over the centuries, so too will the method to Sanskrit and its research.”

Sudharma’s method to preserving Sanskrit goes past simply publishing a newspaper. They’re utilizing each software: printed calendars, books, group involvement, and offline occasions. It isn’t about survival at any value. As a substitute, it is a considerate mix of conventional and fashionable strategies, all aimed toward maintaining their mission alive. “We purpose to offer details about our tradition, geography, language, and extra by means of these calendars. This 12 months, we centered on the importance of mountains in our tradition, drawing from numerous scriptures. These calendars promote our language and tradition,” Jayalakshmi Iyengar tells me, flipping pages of a newly printed calendar. 

By partaking individuals with printed calendars that inform extra than simply dates and books and delve into the richness of Sanskrit literature, they’re making historic knowledge accessible and related. The group performs an enormous position, too. Sudharma tries to foster a way of belonging across the language by means of native occasions and gatherings. 

Language No Bar

Sudharma is not alone in its quest. Sanskrit is making a comeback worldwide, from Germany’s universities to the streets of Mysuru. “Sanskrit and yoga are intertwined, and as consciousness grows, extra individuals are drawn to study our tradition and language,” Jayalakshmi says. 

This connection between language and life-style is seen the world over. In Germany, as an example, Sanskrit’s attraction has grown remarkably. Whereas solely 4 universities train Sanskrit within the UK, Germany boasts 14. This curiosity is not a latest development. 

Rising up, I bear in mind how my late father, a Sanskrit scholar who additionally spoke German, usually marvelled on the deep connections between the 2 languages, each culturally and etymologically. 

This shared journey exhibits how individuals and establishments, separated by 1000’s of miles, may be related by their love for a language. As I wrapped up my dialog with Jayalakshmi and ready to go away, she handed me a couple of fruits – a banana, an apple, and an orange. Alongside along with her “Namaskara” as soon as once more. 

Strolling down the road with the fruits, I could not assist however really feel enveloped by the heat of the tradition round me. It was a refined reminder of how this wealthy previous touches and shapes us in lots of, usually unnoticed methods.

(Pankaj Mishra has been a journalist for over 20 years and is the co-founder of FactorDaily.)

Disclaimer: These are the non-public opinions of the creator.

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