Bharatiya language studies

Evolving a framework and organizing for researches related to evolution of bharatiya languages



des’a bhasha integrate in existing curriculum


Des’a bhaashaa jnaanam is one of the 64 arts identified in Vidyasamuddes’a (Aim of Education) by Vatsyayana. This is specified in addition to two other language-/communication-related arts: akshara mushthika kathanam (communication through fingers and hands) and mlecchita vikalpa (copper-writing, that is, script).


The objective of this note is NOT to enter into polemics about English versus vernacular, but to elaborate on measures to enrich vernacular studies, while promoting national identity.


Such an enrichment can be achieved by providing for additions/amendments to the curriculum at various levels of schooling from elementary level to graduate studies (including non-formal education or adult education) in such a way as to promote an understanding of the evolution and interrelationships among bharatiya languages in a linguistic area in the nation of Bharatam Janam (a term used in Rigveda 3.53.12).


What is Des’a bhasha?


In Hindu tradition, bhasha is clearly identified as Samskrtam. Des’a bhasha is thus a dialect of this language. This is exemplified by des’i lexical terms by all lexicographers of all bharatiya languages. Des’i terms are distinguished from tatsama, tadbhava terms. Tatsama means ‘same as that’; tatbhava means ‘formed from that’; that being Samskrtam. Thus, Des’i terms are those which lexicographers have not been able to derive based on Samskrtam rules of grammar and dhaatu (roots).


Bharatiya languages constitute a dialectical continuum, right from Chandas (Metrics and mantra of Veda), through Samskrtam (Ashtadhyayi of Panini), through Prakrit (Ardhamagadhi of Mahavira), through Pali (Samskrtam of Gautama), through Tamil (Tolkaappiyam), through Santali (Munda-Austro-asiatic), through Dzonka (Tibeto-Burman of Bhutan) and through many other dialects such as Gandhari, Sindhi, Lahnda, Pais’aci, Bodo.


Bharata ganarajya (Indian Republic) recognizes the following as official languages in the Constitution: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipur (Meitei), Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu.


With the linguistic reorganization of states in 1956, these Bharatiya official languages have been increasingly promoted among many communities of Bharatam.


In a situation where the recommendations of Sanskrit Commission remain unimplemented, it is suggested that des’a bhasha jnaanam be made a part of the curriculum at all levels of schooling. Since education is a state subject, each state has the freedom to adopt any curriculum to suit the requirements of the citizens in that state. (For the report of the Sanskrit Commission, see )


A detailed note articulates the need for study of bharatiya languages based on bharatiya ethos and traditions.


Components of des’a bhasha jnaanam integral to a curriculum


  1. des’i lexical terms are clearly recognized in lexicons of everyone of the official languages. These can be identified and distinguished from tatsama and tadbhava. This identification will require the association of those learned in Sanskrit.
  2. Research studies may be initiated to identify and document des’i terms which are comparable to the des’i terms in languages recognized in neighbouring regions. For example, Telugu language has des’i (or, des’yam) lexical terms which have cognates in the neighbouring states of: Oriya, Kannada, Tamil, Marathi. An attempt has been made in an Indian Lexicon for over 25 ancient languages of Bharatam.
  3. Provide for graduate and post-graduate level studies in Sanskrit to enable the study of millions of texts on a variety of knowledge systems to preserve, conserve and cherish the heritage and to relate the knowledge to other disciplines in arts and sciences.
  4. Provision for researches and higher education in language studies for those students who opt to study languages as a discipline [covering facets such as itihasa (niruktam), s’ikshaa, vyaakarana] .


It is suggested that such a curriculum component on des’a bhasha can be integrated with the present-day curriculum related to areas such as 1) study of one or two official languages as first or second language, 2) study of Indian philosophy (dars’ana), yoga, aadhyaatmika or value systems, 3) study of jurisprudence, 4) study of medical systems, 5) study of astronomy, mathematics and other sciences, 6) study of art forms such as music and dance..


The suggestion will not impose any additional burden on the already existing, heavy load on the students related to studies of humanities. The suggestion is to integrate des’a bhasha as part of the existing curriculum by appropriate shift of emphasis in such a way as to encourage and enthuse the students to explore the essential inter-related nature of language evolution in Bharatam, based on the underlying cultural foundations which have contributed to the evolution of a particular language, in the first place.



S. Kalyanaraman,

Sarasvati Research Centre.

13 January 2007

Here is an article attributed to a professor as an attempt to trace the roots of Samskrtam.
I find it to be a good example of the state of Sanskrit education in Bharatam, an indication that the state of bharatiya language studies needs improvement.
The article contents and arguments are totally flawed, without any substantiation based on evidences (particularly related to the arbitrary assignments of chronologies and even specific dates) and do not even refer to the bharatiya lexical traditions of categories of: des'i (that is, words which cannot be dereived from rules of Samskrtam grammar and dhaatu), tatsama, tadbhava.
This categorisation and identification of des'i words in almost every single bharatiya language right from the days of Samskrtam (Ashtadhyayi of Panini), Prakrit (Ardhamagadhi of Gautama) and Pali (of Mahavira), surely shows a proto-Samskrtam (+ Chandas, the metrical form of Proto-Samskrtam) in vogue, as lingua franca, from pre-historic times. These times should certainly be related to the Sarasvati civilization (saptasindhu) because chandas has evolved into such an advanced stage of articulation that centuries should have preceded the use of the proto-Samskrtam to have resulted in such an exquisite form human communication referred to as Chandas. Similarly, if Panini had to write a grammar for a language, the language, that is Samskrtam, should have been in use for centuries preceding his time. There is certainly no basis to assume that Chandas and Samskrtam are distinct; there is enough evidence to emphasise that Chandas was one form of proto-Samskrtam continuum. But, this professor is deeply coloured by the indological rubbish that has been passed down to us thanks to Macaulay's English education. It appears that the learned professor also ignores the works of grammar for Samskrtam and Prakrtam by Acharya Hemachandra and his magnum opus, Des'inaamamaalaa.
If Prakrtam and Pali are closely related to Samskrtam in grammar and glosses and also contain des'i words, and if even Sangam Tamil (including Tamil grammar in Tolkaappiyam) contains such des'i words, surely, proto-Samskrtam should have contained des'i words. Has any study been done to relate des'i words across the entire length and breadth of bharatam, wherever hindu culture existed in ancient times?
After all, language is a cultural expression and cannot be independent of culture and world-view (gestalt). There are evidences that bharatam was a linguistic area (that is, an area where languages absorbed features from one another and made them their own) and this linguistic area should have evolved a mutually intelligible communication system, let us call this proto-samskrtam or proto-vedic, right from paleolithic times. Mayuresh Kelkar and I have suggested the possibility of delineating this Proto-Vedic continuum. The evolution of bharatiya languages in this dialectical continuum has to be delineated. See the initiative at Indo-European Linguistics (IEL) is a belief system; reclaiming bharatiya language studies. This starts with a recollection about Gautama the Buddha in Dhammapada (24.19): "For one who has abandoned craving and is free from grasping, who is skilled in etymology and terms, knowing the groupings and sequences of letters, this is the final birth. This one is called the Great Being, the Great Sage."
Is it possible to organize for the study of bharatiya languages based on hindu ethos, cultural traditions and civilization?