Sanskrit is considered to be the oldest language in human history. Sanskrit is the progenitor and inspiration for virtually every language spoken in India. Sanskrit has a tradition going back at least 5,000 years and is the language in which every ancient Hindu text, devotional or otherwise, is written in.
The word "samskrata", in the strictest sense, means "purified, consecrated, sanctified". Sanskrit, usually referred to as "Samskrata Vāk", would mean a "refined language". Sanskrit has, by definition, always been considered to have been a language chiefly employed for religious and scientific discourse and is assumed to have contrasted with the languages spoken by the people. The oldest surviving example of the tabulations of the rules of Sanskrit grammar is Panini's "Astadhyavi" (literally translating to "Eight-Chapter Grammar") dated to have been written around the 5th century BC. The "Astadhyavi" is essentially a prescriptive set of grammarian principles, which defines (rather than describes) the correct usage of Sanskrit. However, it is replete with descriptive sections, chiefly to account for those Vedic forms of Sanskrit which had already phase out by the time Panini wrote the book.
It has always been believed that Sanskrit was created and then refined over many generations, typically over more than a thousand years, until it was considered complete and perfect in all respects. Sanskrit was not conceived as a specific language set apart from other languages, but as a particularly refined manner of speaking. This could analogized to the same relation that "Standard" English bears with respect to dialects of English spoken around the world. The current form of the language is believed to have evolved out of the earlier "Vedic" form of Sanskrit and certain scholars often classify Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit as separate languages. However, both forms of Sanskrit bear remarkable degrees of similarity with each other, with points of difference occurring mostly in the areas of phonology, vocabulary, and grammar.
Vedic Sanskrit is titled so due to its usage in the Vedas, the earliest sacred texts of India and the foundations of Hinduism. The earliest of the Vedas, the Rigveda, is estimated to have been composed in the 2nd millennium BC. The Vedic form of Sanskrit existed as a primary language until the middle of the first millennium BC. It is assumed that Sanskrit made the transition from the state of a primary language to the form of a second language of religion and learning after this period, thus marking the initiation of the Classical Period in Sanskrit's history. Another form of Sanskrit that developed in the same period has been titled Epic Sanskrit and is evident in the language employed in the Mahabharata and other prominent Hindu epics. Epic Sanskrit employs a higher number of "prakritisms" (borrowed words from common speech) than from the more refined form of Classical Sanskrit. Another form of the language discovered by linguistic scholars is called "Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit". Essentially a Prakrit language form, the language is replete with Sanskritized elements, which are assumed to have been used for the purposes of ornamentation of the language.
The word "Prakrit" (Prakrta in Sanskrit translates to "natural, usual") refers to the broad family of the Indic languages and dialects spoken in ancient India. The Prakrits were literary languages, generally patronized by king. The earliest extant usage of Prakrit available are the inscriptions of Emperor Ashoka, with the various Prakritic languages intimately associated with different patron dynasties and kingdoms, along with different religions and different literary traditions.
Scientific and Systematic Language
The Sanskrit alphabet is called "devanagari" and literally means "cities of the gods". Rishis discovered Sanskrit and used it to create the mantras. These mantras were made up of a combination of sound vibrations, which when recited had a specific effect on the mind and the psyche. In the times of the rishi,the main aim was to attain the truth, and Sanskrit - the perfect tool was found to be the best medium. Due to its specificity and purity, this seemed the best language with which to understand God's creation and as such is called "the great spiritual language of the world" (Joseph Campbell).
Sanskrit is the common language of the texts. It is the oldest language in the world. It is the language of the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata , Ramayana and the Puranas. Sanskrit literature is easily the richest literature in the history of mankind. The word Sanskrit literally means "Perfected Language" or "Language brought to formal perfection". This is quite an appropriate name since NASA declared it to be "the only unambiguous language on the planet".
Sanskrit is a scientific and systematic language. Its grammar is perfect and has attracted scholars worldwide.
Recently well-known linguists and computer-scientists have expressed the opinion that Sanskrit is the best language for use with computers. Sanskrit has a perfect grammar which has been explained to us by the world's greatest grammarian Panini.
Language of Mantra
Sanskrit is the language of mantra—words of power that are subtly attuned to the unseen harmonies of the matrix of creation, the world as yet unformed. Vak (speech), the "word" of Genesis, incorporates both the sense of voice and word. It has four forms of expression. The first, para, represents cosmic ideation arising from absolute divine presence. The second, pasyanti (seeing), is vak as subject, seeing which creates the object of madhyama-vak, the third and subtle form of speech before it manifests as vaikhari-vak, the gross production of letters in spoken speech. This implies the possibility of having speech oriented to a direct living truth which transcends individual preoccupation with the limited information available through the senses. Spoken words as such are creative living things of power. They penetrate to the essence of what they describe, and give birth to meaning which reflects the profound interrelatedness of life.
Language of Enlightenment
The extraordinary thing about Sanskrit is that it offers direct accessibility to anyone to that elevated plane where the two —mathematics and music, brain and heart, analytical and intuitive, scientific and spiritual— become one.
A Structured Language
Lakshmi Thathachar's view of Sanskrit's nature may be paraphrased as follows: All modern languages have etymological roots in classical languages. Words in Sanskrit are instances of pre-defined classes, a concept that drives object oriented programming [OOP] today. For example, in English 'cow' is a just a sound assigned to mean a particular animal. But if you drill down the word 'gau' — Sanskrit for 'cow' — you will arrive at a broad class 'gam' which means 'to move. From these derive 'gamanam', 'gatih' etc which are variations of 'movement'. All words have this OOP approach, except that defined classes in Sanskrit are so exhaustive that they cover the material and abstract — indeed cosmic — experiences known to man. So in Sanskrit the connection is more than etymological.
It was Panini who formalized Sanskrit's grammer and usage about 2500 years ago. No new 'classes' have needed to be added to it since then. "Panini should be thought of as the forerunner of the modern formal language theory used to specify computer languages," say J J O'Connor and E F Robertson. Their article also quotes: "Sanskrit's potential for scientific use was greatly enhanced as a result of the thorough systematization of its grammar by Panini. … On the basis of just under 4000 sutras (rules expressed as aphorisms), he built virtually the whole structure of the Sanskrit language, whose general 'shape' hardly changed for the next two thousand years."
Every 'philosophy' in Sanskrit is in fact a 'theory of everything'. [The many strands are synthesized in Vedanta — veda + anta —, which means the 'last word in Vedas'.] Mimamsa, which is a part of the Vedas, even ignores the God idea. The reality as we know was not created by anyone — it always was —, but may be shaped by everyone out of free will. Which is a way of saying — in OOP terms — that you may not touch the mother or core classes but may create any variety of instances of them. It is significant that no new 'classes' have had to be created. Thathachar believes it is not a 'language' as we know the term but the only front-end to a huge, interlinked, analogue knowledge base. The current time in human history is ripe, he feels for India's young techno wizards to turn to researching Mimamsa and developing the ultimate programming language around it; nay, an operating system itself.
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