As a child, like millions in India, I too was exposed to Sanskrit in school. Six decades ago, Sanskrit was introduced to students in Class 6, at age 11, and taken away in Class 8, at age 13, much like today.
The pedagogy that was used 60 years ago continues to be used even today. The tables of conjugation are used as mechanical tools which serve as strict guidelines that keep away the joyous treasures of the language. As a result, neither could I learn the language too well, nor did I become fully capable of understanding the rich literature it possesses.
Despite my ignorance of the language, I felt strangely charmed when I heard Sanskrit words. I aspired to dive into this vast, unknown ocean and recover the treasures that seemed to shine in its depths. This hidden aspiration has led me to a dream. My dream is that someday Sanskrit will undergo a period of renaissance in India and, thereby, bring about a recovery of our national character and values.
For the fulfillment of this dream, our team of dedicated teachers at Seth M.R. Jaipuria School, Lucknow has tirelessly carried out an experiment for the past seventeen years, beginning 2003.
We started on the premise that just as an infant learns his or her mother-tongue effortlessly, s/he can learn multiple other languages too, spontaneously and without much effort. As the experiment proceeded, our Sanskrit curriculum and content underwent multiple improvements. Devabhasha is a product of this experimental exploration. Our dream is to empower every child with the ability to understand and converse in Sanskrit.
In Devabhasha, we attempt to avoid literary finesse but provide exercises for conversation, idiomatic expressions, paraphrasing and translation- all the main tools required for linguistic proficiency. Our aim is to reach, through rigorous experimentation, a simple and effective methodology of teaching Sanskrit.
At Jaipuria School, Lucknow, we teach Sanskrit through the direct method, i.e. through the medium of Sanskrit alone. When a student knows that the teacher will not converse in any other language than the one being taught, the student will make a greater effort to learn that language. Our Sanskrit teachers speak, teach, live, breathe and enjoy only Sanskrit. Their influence on the children is, indeed, uplifting!
When poetry is enjoyed directly, without having to resort to a translation, the joy derived is multiplied manifold. In Devabhasha, we have exposed the students to the earliest poetry written in the history of civilization, verses from the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Valmiki, Kalidasa and others. Similarly, the power of transformation of a mantra is increased manifold when not only is the pronunciation perfect, but the essence too is absorbed directly without a translation acting as an intermediary.
We have included in our text, shining examples of illumined minds, examples of people whose actions represented the strength of sheer courage, bravery and heroism, and examples of persons whose hearts displayed love, harmony and devotion of an extraordinary nature.
Human beings are generally aware of three personalities within them- the physical personality, the emotional or vital personality, and the mental personality. According to Swami Vivekananda’s ideals of ‘man-making education’ there is also a fourth aspect within us which can empower us with the strength of will to choose the right and practice it. Education regarding this aspect is indispensable. What is that fourth dimension? The fourth dimension is the dimension of the Spirit, our Soul. Devabhasha has accorded special attention to the presence of the Soul, the Spirit in man.
There are a number of verses in Devabhasha, chosen from our Sanskrit texts which beckon towards this dimension and if students are exposed to these verses over a period of several formative years, we, as parents and educators, will have ensured, to the best of our ability, an integrated and holistic growth of their personality. It is the duty of every educationist to address this important dimension in the student’s portfolio of education. Let me clarify here, that these values are universal and eternal in nature, saarvabhaumik and sanatana, and they would enrich any being, irrespective of his/her nationality, religion, class or creed.