In a modern, well-equipped conference room nestled in a building on the seashore of Puducherry throbbed the pulse of an ancient language. A motley crew of 16 from all over India and different walks of life closely felt this pulse from 2nd to 8th June 2013.
SPANDANA—a weeklong, intensive Sanskrit learning course organized by Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC), a unit of Sri Aurobindo Society (SAS), Puducherry, made it possible for the lovers of the language to take a step closer to learning, knowing and understanding this Devabhasha. The vision behind SPANDANA is to sow the seeds of curiosity for Sanskrit in those who have just begun to nurture their inner sapling, and also for those who are already grown trees, to take firm root in the Indian soil and share its fruit with mankind. Led from the helm of this initiative, SPANDANA has been conceived, created and conducted by Dr Sampadananda Mishra, Director, SAFIC.
The syllabus for the workshop was planned in such a way that it helped participants grasp the complexity and nuances of the language in a simple yet fun way. It seamlessly spanned the different aspects of Sanskrit—from the alphabet and sound structure to grammar and its usage; from stories and nursery rhymes to mantras and chanting; epic Sanskrit and an overview of the Bhagavad Gita to spoken Sanskrit.
The first session every morning (6:00–7:00 am) was Mantra Yoga where select mantras, verses and compositions were read, explained and then chanted in unison. The energy created in this session was unique in that it not only helped elevate the mood and morale but also the participants’ excitement and preparedness for the day ahead.
A lot of time and effort were devoted to the Sambhashanam (conversational Sanskrit) sessions wherein basics like the alphabet, phonetics, sentence construction, everyday concepts like time, relationships, actions, etc., were first taught and then put into practice. Everyone was encouraged to use what he/she had learnt in sentences and conversations to help imbibe the flow, feel and form of the language in his/her mind.
Sanskrit is a lyrical language. Various chandas (patterns of sounds and rhythms) were introduced to the eager ears of the learners along with their origin, structure, type and personality followed by examples. It was certainly an uplifting session that helped lift the veil off the enchanted shlokas and mantras to make them more reader friendly.
Vyakaranam or in simpler terms grammar covered aspects like sandhi, samasa, karaka, tenses, etc. Each aspect was briefly explained along with its various forms, usage and application.
There were two project assignments for which the class was divided into four groups. For the first project, all teams had to discuss and make presentations on a common topic: ‘Demystifying Sanskrit’. For the second, each group was to select its own topic. The four topics that were dealt with here were ‘The Sea’, ‘Temples’, ‘Gratitude’ and ‘A Dialogue Between a Modern-day Arjun and Krishna!’ This activity really brought out the best in all as working with others helped each one gain multidimensional insights other than one’s own and enriched teamwork.
The most awe-inspiring session was that on the Bhagavad Gita. Dr Mishra has put together an epic multimedia presentation on the revered Indian epic. This again is a perfect result of sincerity and hard work that help bring the great scriptures and Sanskrit literature within reach of the common man.
Shivakumar, a member of the Integral Education section of the Society, gave an overview of SAS and the work it is involved in in the fields of health, education, rural development, etc. This was followed by a brief visit to some of the Society departments.
Each day ended with a Shubhashita—the thought for the day.
Having been touched by the magic wand of SPANDANA—each participant went away with a feeling of elation and a will to learn more. This was not only the beginning of a lifelong romance with Sanskrit but also a step forward for all the participants on their spiritual journey.
The detailed feedback from the participants of SPANDANA provides a glimpse of the wonderful experience most people had attending this workshop.