Monday, June 29, 2009

saraswati namastubhyaM सरस्वति नमस्तुभ्यं

Salutations to Sarasvatī - the divinity of learning.

सरस्वति नमस्तुभ्यं वरदे कामरूपिणि ।
विद्यारम्भं करिष्यामि सिद्धिर्भवतु मे सदा ॥

saraswati namastubhyam varadé kāmarūpiṇi |
vidyārambham kariṣhyāmi, siddhirbhavatu mé sadā || (IAST)
saraswati namastubhyam varade kAmarUpiNi |
vidyArambham kariShyAmi, siddhirbhavatu me sadA || (ITRANS)

O Saraswatī, salutations for you, O Giver of boons, O Kāmarūpiṇī
I am going to start studies, may success be mine, always.

[See also Saraswati Stuti ]

Small kids are taught this shloka (verse) when they start school. Maybe not anymore in English medium schools in India. But in the Sunday School (culture/heritage schools) abroad, Indian families still teach this. Maybe they miss the culture more than those in India. It is always true that most of us do not know the value of something unless we don't have it. Going out of India, parents feel the need of self-identity, and focus much more on the culture.

But there are some questions that arise if you think a bit about this shloka -
  1. Why is the divinity of learning, knowledge called Saraswatī सरस्वती - the name of a river, whose literal meaning is 'one with flow'?
  2. Why is she called boon-giver?
  3. Why is she called Kāmarūpiṇī ? Shouldn't that be Lakṣhmī लक्ष्मी - the divinity of prosperity?
Think about it.

Check out the book Attitude Shift - Sanskrit Maxims for Contemporary Life and Leadership.

1. Why is the divinity of learning, knowledge called saraswatī - the name of a river, whose literal meaning is 'one with flow'

The words saritā (सरिता = river), sarovara (सरोवर = lake), sarī-sṛipa (सरी-सृप = reptiles), sarpa (सर्प = serpent) all have the same root - to flow.

Water flows. That is its dharma (धर्म) - defining quality. Actually the generic term for liquid is the same as for water! That is another digression in 'what is dharma?' The defining quality, that quality which upholds the identity of the entity. For example, the dharma of student is to study. If s/he is not studying, it is just enrollment in the class, not studentship.

Now, knowledge is free flowing, for all. For example, if you tune off your TV or radio, do the broadcasting waves not exist? They do. Just that you are tuned out of them. Similarly, to learn you need a radio, and a tuner to tune in. The laws of nature, physics, gravity have always been there, only Newton first formulated the laws in the western world. From where do great scientists make discoveries and invention? At the forefront of research, it ultimately comes from one's own brain! From inside, not outside!

So it is all up for grabs. Patent etc. are modern ways to stop the flow of this perennial knowledge. How did they do this earlier? Using codes, secret knowledge was passed on selectively, or not telling the recipe but giving the medicine. In Hitopadéshaḥ हितोपदेशः there is a shloka that says to keep many things secret - recipe of a medicine, financial loss, net worth, past affairs, etc.

The other reason suggested is that in the Vedic times the river Sarasvatī (of the Sarasvatī-Sindhu Civilization, also known as Indus Valley or Harappa Civilization) had lot of activity going on along her banks. Centers of learning abounded. The later day Takṣhashilā (Taxila of modern Afghanistan) had the world’s first recorded University with boarding dorms, hundreds of teachers and thousands of students from much of the known world that mattered at that time. With time the river’s name itself became synonymous with knowledge.

2. Why is she called boon-giver?
People all over the world ask their form of divinity for blessings, favors etc. give me money, give me health, give me this, that. But ultimately who does anything? We, ourselves. It is the knowledge that gives us the boon we desire. Knowledge is surely power! If we know about hygiene, nutrition, exercise etc. we will remain healthy. If we know about how to make and manage money, we will become wealthy. So the boons are realized through acquiring of relevant knowledge. Through the boon of knowledge, you can get whatever you wish. If you know how to cook, your boon of not going hungry is fulfilled! Or if you know how to dial the number to the delivery store :)

3. Why is she called Kāmarūpiṇī ? Shouldn't that be lakshmI - लक्ष्मी the divinity of prosperity?
The word kāmarūpiṇī can be understood in the three ways.
First, "One who has a desirable, form (rūpa)." She is beautiful indeed. But these adjectives are used in praising any divinity that a devotee might choose. So to Shiva devotees, Shiva is everything; to Viṣhṇu devotee, Viṣhṇu is everything. The Dévī has three forms – Sarasvatī, Lakṣhmī and Shakti. All are beautiful. Then there is tripura-sundarī, and Viṣhṇu in Mohini avatāra.  So this doesn’t give her any special meaning.

The second meaning is “One who takes any form (rūpa) that she desires (kāma)." Here the reference would be to the Dévī taking various forms in fighting dark forces of demons, as described in Dévī-Māhātmya. There again it doesn’t distinguish Sarasvatī. She is also one who takes form as the devotee desires. That is, in whatever form you need learning, she appears in that way for you. Learning is of many kinds. If you focus on her, the solution to your problem will appear. That learning, solution is her own form, suited for your situation.

The third way to look at it would be "One who gives form (rūpa) to [one’s] desire (kāma)." This seems to give Sarasvatī, as the divinity of knowledge, a special meaning.

We think that for a project the most important thing is resources, money, venture capital. But what if there is no technology, brain power to back that project? Will a venture capitalist put his or her money in a company that has no brainpower behind it? The world had enough resources and money even 500 years back, but we went on moon only after the knowledge of rocket science developed to a certain level.

So, we may desire, but the desires turn into reality only through knowledge (of how to turn them into reality).

kAma / kāma = desire, roopa /rūpa = form. So knowledge turns desires into reality.

A simple shloka for starting students has so much deep meaning hidden in it. This is also called the Saraswatī mantra.

Hope you found it useful. 'siddhir_bhavatu té sadā' = May success be yours, always.

Now the language aspects:

saraswati = O Saraswatī / saravatI

namastubhyam / namastubhyaṃ = namaH tubhyam = salutations, for you

varade / varadé= o giver (-dA/ -dā) of boons (vara)
-da (-dA /dā for feminine) suffix means giver of, like
jalada, ambuda (giver of jala/ambu=water, i.e. clouds)
vasu-dA / vasudā = giver of wealth = earth

kAmarUpiNi / kāmarūpiṇi = o one who takes form as she/devotee desires/  o giver of form (rUpa / rūpa) to desires (kAma / kāma)

vidyArambham / vidyārambham= vidyA Arambham / vidyā ārambham = knowledge (studying) start

kariShyAmi / kariṣhyāmi = I will do

siddhirbhavatu = siddhiH bhavatu / siddhiḥ bhavatu = accomplishment, may

me = mine (me is pronounced as may, since the ee sound comes from ee / ī / I

sadA / sadā = always

Check out the book Attitude Shift - Sanskrit Maxims for Contemporary Life and Leadership.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

HP 0-0 invocation and qualities of hitopadesh

invocation to lord shiva, for blessing at the start of a project:

सिद्धिः साध्ये सतामस्तु प्रसादात्तस्य धूर्जटेः ।
जाह्नवीफेनलेखेव यन्मूर्धनि शशिनः कला ॥ ०-०

siddhIH sAdhye satAm_astu prasAdAt_tasya dhhorjaTe |
jAhnavI-phena-lekheva yan-moordhani shashinaH kalA ||

[the] deeds (siddhiH) of good people (satAM) bring fruits (sAdhye) by the grace of (prasAdAt) that shiva (tasya dhUrjaTe) [mahAdeva, lord of lords], on whose forehead the crescent moon (shashinaH kalA) [adorns] like the surf (phena) of (the river) gangA (jAhnavI) [ganges!]

siddhaH = accomplished
siddhiH = accomplishment. in special sense, there are eight specific siddhiH.
in hanumAna chAlIsA, there is one verse that says:

अष्ट सिद्धि नव निधि के दाता ।
अस वर दीन जानकी माता ॥
ashTa siddhi nava nidhi ke dAtA |
asa vara deena jAnakI mAtA ||
(remember, 'a' is short 'a' as 'u' in butter, trailing 'a' is NOT 'aa' )

i.e. hanumAna is the giver of eight siddhi and nine treasures, such is the boon that mother sItA (jAnakI - [daughter] of janaka) gave him.
jAhnavI = of the RiShi jahnu

श्रुतो हितोपदेशोऽयं पाटवं संस्कृतोक्तिषु ।
वाचां सर्वत्र वैचित्र्यं, नीतिविद्यां ददाति च ॥ ०-१

shruto hitopadesho'yaM pAtavaM saMskRitoktiShu |
vAchAM sarvatra vaichitryaM, nItividyAM dadAti cha ||

this (ayaM) hitopadeshaH (hitopadesha) [when] heard (shrutaH), gives (dadAti) expertise (pATavaM) in speaking (uktiShu) sanskrit (saMskRita), variety (vaichitryaM) of talk (vAchAM) everywhere (sarvatra), and (cha) practical knowledge (nIti-vidyAM).

shruti (श्रुति)= that which is heard [in the presence of the guru]
(also the 'veda's, because they were only heard in direct
shrutaH = that which has been heard [in class from guru, not read alone]
hita = benefit
upadesha = advice
paTu (पटु) = expert; vAgpaTu (वाग्पटु)= orator, expert at speaking
chitra (चित्र)= varied (a picture), vichitra = specially varied
vid = root of 'to know'; many word form from this
atra = here; kutra = where ; yatra ... tatra = where ... there
anyatra = else where
sarvatra = every where

so this hitopadesha when heard, will not only give you expertise in speaking sanskrit, it also gives you practical wisdom and variety of topics to discuss, never a dull conversation.

this is the main aim for me to start this blog, and to start with hitopadesha.
hitopadesha is an adaptation from pancha-tantra, and when it came out in 11th century, it became a staple textbook for starting students, since it ws made extra simple but the shloka standard was kept high enough, from many varied sources - best of both worlds.

hope you will enjoy this ride.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved.

how to read and write sanskrit?

there are many ways to write sanskrit when it comes to roman scripts. as they say necessity is the mother of invention. these inventions came for various needs.

first was the desire to write in roman script, by english scholars of gone by centuries, when they started discovering a whole new world. a world, that they quickly found was much more than they had imagined, much richer than the physical opulence of india that had drawn them here in the first place. to use an insufficient script like roman script with only 26 letters is a challenge to say the least. the letters are not enough, and sounds are duplicated. some of the letters duplicate a sound like 'k', 'c' OR 'c' and 's' OR 'v' and 'w' OR 'g' and 'j' etc.

in the pre-computer era, print media was using special characters like ā ī ś ŗ ņ ţ which were printed only in scholarly books. so shiva (third of the trinity, mahAdeva, mahAkAla, with the trident etc.) was written as 'śiva' and durgA (the unified energy of all the divine forms, riding a lion, (called The Mother by all) is written as 'durgā'

shiva -> śiva
durgA -> durgā

note the missing 'h' in siva and a single 'a' in siva and durga.

this has led to so much confusion in reading sanskrit, along with the other funny things used by scholars, but mis-interpreted by non-scholar. people writing by hand, forgot the special marks on the 's' and 'a' and wrote
shiva -> siva and durgA -> durga

and the pronunciation changed from:
shiv-uh (शिव )-> sivaa (सिवा) (use your normal english pronunciation guesses)

so all 'sh' became 's' and all 'a' became 'aa' in pronunciation.

Friday, June 26, 2009

how to study ancient works (of sanskrit)?

it is great that some people decide to read, study the minds and works of generations gone by long ago. it is amazing that lot of what ails us as a human race today, had been topic of discussion long back. and perhaps they had the advantage of being free of marketing and advertisement deals, lobby groups, mad rush hour traffic tensions, divorce, alimony, or the many other blessings of modern life.

reasons to study
why do people study ancient works? there could be many motivations -
  • agenda (affirmation to self viewpoint) - maybe we have an agenda that we want to prove or achieve, and are looking for ways to just somehow garner some support from time immemorial, sure, that will give us some weight! dead weight of millennia!
  • learn from past experience - since the biggest breakthrough of humans, apart from opposable thumbs, is the passing on of knowledge through language, there is a lot to learn from the past. some good, some bad. and if nothing else, we should know what NOT to do! sanskrit has a treasure trough of wisdom, wit, beauty, philosophy, almost something for everyone.
  • pride in heritage - this needs to be verified quickly with some real study and understanding, else turns into vanity and chauvinism.
a lot of us in india, grew up on the staple literary diet of 'amar chitra kathA' the comic books based on indian art of story telling, some call it mythology, but we don't put "chicken soup" series in fiction, do we?

while we read about atoms in 7th grade, electrons in 9th, energy levels in 11th and rutherford's experimental details in 12th, we keep visiting the same topic in further depths every year or so.

but amar chitra kathA - we read once and declare - "indian culture, mythology, religion - i know it all!"

maybe it is time to graduate from ACK and revisit some topics in deeper depths.

problems in studying

online resources for sanskrit

monier williams online dictionary - a great resource, but entries like this have abbreviations that can confuse initially:
(H1B) अर्जुन [L=15764] n. slight inflammation of the conjunctiva or white of the eye Sus3r.

the Sus3r. means सुश्रुत , the s3 standing for श

ApTe's sanskrit dictionary - the print version is a comprehensive dictionary, and being written by an indigenous scholar , it has an extra wealth of information as well.

sanskrit verb generator - this is a wonderful tool for getting the verb forms of lot of verb roots. try it out if you are not scared of 20 verb forms :)

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved.

welcome स्वागतम्


welcome to this site for sanskrit.
there are many sanskrit sites, so why this, apart from a possible kick to the ego?

well there are many sites for the scholarly, many for the tattoo translators, but i haven't found many that expound the joy of the wealth of sanskrit literature, wisdom for the modern times.

this site will try to do a simple thing - share the joy of sanskrit with the reader.
hopefully it will last more than a week :)

the aim is not to teach you the language like a language class, but through the works, their relevance today, and along the way we will pick up on the elements of the language.

more will be clear as the site progresses.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Comment टिप्पणी

if you have any comments/suggestions/requests that don't relate to any post specifically, please post them here. thanks for visiting.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved.