A three-day National Seminar titled ‘Children’s Literature in Sanskrit’ was organized by the Samskrita Bala-Sahitya Parishad, an initiative of Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC), in collaboration with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi Branch. The focus of this seminar held at the Ashram in New Delhi, from September 9 to 11, 2016, was to generate ideas to further the work in the field of children’s literature.
Currently, very limited material is available that introduces Sanskrit, in a methodical as well as captivating manner, to children of various age groups. We hardly find a book of rhymes in Sanskrit, a book or any other material introducing Sanskrit alphabets with a scientific approach, a book of puzzles, a set of games or flash cards introducing various aspects of the language or well-illustrated colourful books of stories in Sanskrit. There is a dearth of audio-visual materials which children can listen to and watch; neither are there any Sanskrit children’s magazines that have a wide readership. Due to the limited availability of Sanskrit reading material meant for children in the Indian market, there is a great need to bring out good quality children’s literature that can be easily available to children of all ages.
The objective behind organizing the National Seminar was to serve as a platform for various people from different parts of the county to come together and to present their views and the work they have done in the field of children’s literature in Sanskrit.
The Inaugural Function of the National Seminar was held on September 9, 2016. The presence of eminent people from the Sanskrit world included Professor P.N. Shastry (Vice Chancellor of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Delhi) as the Chief Guest and Professor Abhiraj Rajendra Mishra (Ex-Vice Chancellor of Sampurnanand University, Varanasi) as the Keynote Speaker. Other guest speakers included Dr. Prabhjot Kulkarni (Former Principal of Maharshi Valmiki College of Education, University of Delhi), Dr. Harshadev Madhav (Eminent modern Sanskrit poet and Sahitya Akademi Awardee 2006) and Dr. Baladevananda Sagara (Secretary of Bharatiya Samskrita Patrakara Sangha, Delhi). Some unique highlights of the ceremony included the Mangalaacharan by the students of Swami Virajananda Gurukul and the singing of Sanskrit shlokas and nursery rhymes by very young children of Navakriti School, Delhi.
There were 7 sessions through September 10 and 11, 2016, during which 32 paper presenters read out their research papers, accompanied by PowerPoint presentations, in three different languages – English, Hindi and Sanskrit. Though most of the participants were associated with Sanskrit (i.e., Sanskrit academicians, Sanskrit teachers and Sanskrit writers), we also had participants who are avid writers and poets in other languages such as Hindi and English. In addition, we had two foreign participants – one from St. James School, UK and the other from John Scottus School in Ireland, who showed keen interest in presenting the work they have been engaged in for children learning Sanskrit in their respective schools. This assembly of participants from varied backgrounds was significant, especially during the discussion rounds and in the exchange of ideas between seemingly different spheres of work related to children’s literature.
On September 11, Tara Jauhar (Head of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi Branch) gave a talk on the work being carried out in the various branches of the Ashram in Delhi, and responded to all the questions the participants may have had related to the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
The Seminar’s Concluding Ceremony was held on the afternoon of September 11, 2016. Professor Radhavallabh Tripathi (Ex-Vice Chancellor of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Delhi) was the Chief Guest while Dr. Rama Kant Shukla (Principal Secretary of Devavani Parishad, Delhi and Padmashree Awardee 2013) and Mr. Mahadeva Sarma (an engineer at Bharat Heavy Electricals, Bengaluru and a self-made Sanskrit scholar) were the guests of honour. A few of the participants were asked to share their feedback while a summary of the entire seminar was prepared and delivered by Mr. Mahadeva Sarma. Some of the paper presentations appreciated were those of Dr. K. Varalakshmi, Dr. Rakesh Das, Dr. Purnachandra Upadhyaya, Dr. Antonia Ruppel, Dr. Vaishnavi Nishankar and Ms. Venus Upadhayaya.
Around 25 people also attended this three-day event, some being noteworthy names in the field of Sanskrit and of Education such as Mr. Chamu Krisha Shastry (All India President of Samskrita Bharati), Mrs. Anjali Jaipuria (founder of the M.R. Seth Jaipuria School, Lucknow), Mr. R.P. Jain (proprietor of Motilal Banarsidass Publishers), Mrs. Shama Kapoor (Director of Sri Aurobindo Society, Delhi Branch), Dr. Ramesh Bijlani (an Indian author and retired doctor from AIIMS), Dr. Chand Bhardwaj (Honorary General Secretary of the Sawan Adhyatmic Satsang Society) and Mr. Chandra Kant Sharma (from Doordarshan Kendra, New Delhi).
All the participants and attendees agreed that this seminar was the first of its kind on the important topic of children’s literature in Sanskrit, and the seminar ended on a highly positive note.
Some words of the participants:
“We are really highly obliged by your hospitality, arrangements and your management. We are grateful to Sampadanand ji and all connected to the successful seminar. You all did great service for Sanskrit.”
–Dr. Harshdev Madhav (eminent poet from Gujarat).
“Thanks a lot for the golden memories of these 3 days. I will be in touch with you for Bal-Sahitya Parishad work as and when possible.”
– Ms. Aditi Madhavan (Sanskrit teacher, Mumbai)
“It is really a great experience. I feel enriched by the presentations and your dedication.”
– Dr. Saroj Kaushal (professor at a university in Jodhpur).
Here is the Detailed Schedule of the three-day National Seminar.