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‘Story of Sanskrit’—Special Lecture Programme of SAFIC
WHEN Jul 14, 2015
WHERE Society House, Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry

“Namaste, and a very good afternoon to you all in this auspicious gathering in which we all are going to do the rasasvadana or relishing of the story of Samskritam. The very word ‘Samskritam’ means well done, refined, sculpted to perfection. One feels amazed looking at the flawless physical structure of this language, the high resonating power and purity of its sounds, the musicality and rhythmic nature of this language, the rich thought content expressed in its vast and incomparable literature, the richness of its vocabulary, and the story is unending. Sanskrit, indeed, is a language with immense potential, which has a lot to contribute towards the progressive evolution of the humanity. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother both wished that it should become the national language of India. And you know that the very soul of India has expressed itself through this language. The notion of India is inconceivable without Sanskrit.
 
Unfortunately this great language has been neglected to a great extent in its own land in the last century or so. Today, however, the situation is changing and there is again a growing interest and increasing demand for this language especially because of its deep connection with the computer and its implementation in the field of computational linguistics. No doubt Sanskrit is going to make a comeback. It is in this context that SAFIC has organized this special lecture programme, and we have the honour of having Professor Bijoy Mishra and Shri Martin Gluckman to address this gathering and share with us their contribution in building up and enriching the story of Sanskrit.” 
 
With these words of Dr Sampadananda Mishra, Director, SAFIC, laid the foundation of the Special Lecture Programme held at Society House on July 14, 2015. 
 
Professor Bijoy Mishra (Physicist and Educator of Astrophysics and Space Physics formerly at Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] and currently at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA) was the first speaker who shared his thoughts on various dimensions of Sanskrit’s personality. He spoke elaborately on the ‘Story of Sanskrit’ project, which proposes to record all useful information on evolution and use of Sanskrit language and organize them in print and audio-visual formats for public education in promoting future research. In his talk, he highlighted the importance of Sanskrit phonemes, words, prosody, grammar, literature, and the place of Sanskrit in the present world. He also mentioned about the importance of studying Valmiki’s Ramayana, and urged everyone to read at least a few shlokas of Ramayana every day. He also briefed about Bhartrihari and his contribution in the field of the philosophy of Speech.
 
Professor Bijoy Mishra’s talk was followed by a presentation by Martin Gluckman who shared information about the innovative tools that he has created to facilitate the learning of Sanskrit. He explained about the online Sanskrit Dictionary that he has prepared. ‘Sanskrit Dictionary’ is a project to make the love and learning of Sanskrit easy and available to all. It offers to the world at large an online dictionary that is intelligent and which is constantly growing and improving, that brings all existing sources together from Vedic to classical Sanskrit to a learning and research tool for scholars worldwide to explore the Sanskrit language and see its beauty through diverse methods of exploring the language. One can access the dictionary by visiting www.sanskritdictionary.com. This tool also facilitates searching multiple sources like Panini’s dhatupatha, amarakosha, Sanskrit dictionaries of Monier-Williams, V.S. Apte, MacDonnell and the Sanskrit Heritage Dictionary. It also searches through MacDonnell Vedic Dictionary, Vedic Index of Names and Subjects and Bloomfield’s Vedic Concordance. This helps students to understand and find the clear meaning of what they are looking for, as each existing dictionary has its own strengths. Martin is also planning to add more intricate material, including pre-verb combinations with words to increase the strength of the dictionary to millions of searchable words. The dictionary provides multiple search options: the users can search in an input encoding they feel comfortable with —International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST), Harvard-Kyoto, Indian languages TRANSliteration (ITRANS), Sanskrit Library Phonetic Basic encoding scheme (SLP1) or Devanagari. 
 
Martin also shared details of Sanskrit Writer software he has developed. He said: “There have been many attempts to type Sanskrit on a computer but none of them have been adopted completely as they have steep learning curves and require learning a completely new system. Our solution does not require learning of anything new as long as the user knows how to type and is familiar with IAST they can type Sanskrit at the same speed as any other language within 1 minute of understanding the system.” He also mentioned that his current work and further vision is to get people e-mailing each other in spoken Sanskrit, so he is building a spoken Sanskrit dictionary into the Sanskrit Writer software, which will be released for all to use, enjoy and e-mail each other in Sanskrit on a daily basis. 
 
Martin also presented the various posters that he has prepared. The posters include: Sanskrit alphabet with sound position; learning to read Brahmi, Tamil and Sanskrit sound and script; Greek and Sanskrit; ancient Indian fruits, etc. 
 
Both the sessions were very well appreciated by the participants. 
 
Finally, the Dr Sampadananda Mishra summarized the programme and also took the opportunity to mention about a few tools prepared by others to facilitate Sanskrit learning, such as Sandhi machine, conjugation machine, declension machine, etc. The programme ended by the collective recital of ‘OM’. 
 
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