What writing system(s) does this language use?
Sanskrit is written in the Devanagari script, one of the oldest writing systems in the world. Some other languages such as Hindi and Marathi are also written in Devanagari, but Sanskrit is the first language to use this writing system. Originally Sanskrit was not a written language, and when it started being written, a number of different scripts were used initially, until Devanagari became the standard.
How many people speak this language?
A little more than two hundred thousand (200,000) people in the world can speak Sanskrit very well. Sanskrit is an old language and is mostly used by priests and scholars of old texts including many religious ones. Many people know at least a little Sanskrit because of the importance it has to other Indian languages and the Hindu religion.
Where is this language spoken?
Sanskrit was used widely in ancient times, but nowadays there are very few areas in the world where this language is spoken. It was invented in India, and some communities in India still speak in Sanskrit. Many Asian Buddhists can also speak Sanskrit. It is found in Hindu holy writings and hymns. It is known to be used regularly in some areas in South India, though. In many remote villages in India Sanskrit is spoken even today. Sanskrit is the official language of the Indian state of Uttarakhand.
What is the history of this language?
There are many theories to how Sanskrit came into existence. One of them is about an Aryan migration from the west into India who brought their language with them. Sanskrit is an ancient language and is comparable to the Latin language spoken in Europe. The earliest known book in the world was written in Sanskrit. After the compilation of Upanishads, Sanskrit just faded due to hierarchy. Sanskrit is a very complex and rich language, which has served to be the source for many modern Indian languages, just like Latin is the source for European languages like French and Spanish.
Sanskrit was considered a high-level language and was spoken by officials, kings, noblemen, etc. It was difficult for the common man to comprehend Sanskrit. Sanskrit eventually became almost extinct, but it was kept alive by holy men, scholars, and Buddhists.
Many ancient writers such as Vyasa, Valmiki, Kalidasa, Bhasa, Bhartruhari, and Chanakya wrote in Sanskrit. It is a rich language and they became famous for enriching it further. The great Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, are written in Sanskrit, as are the Vedas, Upanishads, and Subhashitratnani.
What are some basic words in this language that I can learn?
What is a simple song/poem/story that I can learn in this language?
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोस्त्वकर्मणि॥
In English letters
karmany evadhikaras te ma phaleshu kadachana
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur ma te sango 'stv akarmani
—Shri Bhagvatgita (Chapter 2 verse 47)
Your right is to work only,
But never to its fruits;
Let not the fruits of action be thy motive,
Nor let thy attachment be to inaction.
—Shri Bhagvatgita (2:47)
- karmani—prescribed duties
- te—of you
- phaleshu—in the fruits
- kadachana—at any time
- karma-phala—in the result of the work
- te—of you
- astu—be there
- akarmani—in not doing.
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