Introduction to Sanskrit – José Carlos Calazans (PhD)

José Carlos Calazans (PhD)

Historian and Orientalist. Teacher at the University “Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias” (Lisbon) in Political Science and International Relations; Teacher of the Science of Religions Course (2007-2013). Investigator of the “Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud (CNRS-EHESS), founding member of the Association “Portuguesa para o Estudo das Religiões” ; partner of the “Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa” and the association “Portuguesa de Estudos Orientais” (“Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa”) . JC Calazans has devoted several years to the comparative study of religions and Oriental Languages ​​(Sanskrit and Pali), the teaching of Eastern philosophies, to the history of South and Central Asia.


 Sanskrit Origin

When we seek the origins of the Sanskrit the name of William Jones invariably appears in all textbooks and dictionaries, and we are left with the distinct impression that were the British (as always) , to “discover” the oldest Indo-European language, the most well organized and the most perfect.

However, the history of men is made of logs, and even though the Nations always overvalue the achievements of their actions, exaggerating the reality of events distorting them, it often takes time before historians find out the truth or falsity of the information.

Despite the disappointment of the lovers by the Anglo-America power , they will have to accept the fact that the Portuguese were the first to arrive in India, the first to circumnavigate the Earth and the first to discover the similarities between Sanskrit, the Greek and Latin.

When William Jones landed in India in 1784 to assume the post of Judge of the Supreme Court of Calcutta, already the Portuguese Jesuits of Goa and Malabar had made this identification, discovering the similarities of Latin languages ​​with the Indo-Iranian. The reason for this interest was simple: the Christian mission in the Indian subcontinent led to the production of the first grammars and textbooks, so that the missionaries learn the language of the Indian priests, in order to better refute religion, theology and philosophy (Calazans. 2009) . We may add that the Portuguese missionaries were the first to study and write about the Konkani language (Konkan / Goa), from which Fr Lourenco Peres produced the first grammar in the XVI century , and the Bengali language from which Fr Manuel da Assunção wrote the Mysteries of Fee Compendium .

But it is the Sanskrit language that stands out among the translations made ​​by Portuguese missionaries, and that being the first made ​​by Europeans only to be discovered in the XX century among the Eborense Public Library manuscript spoil . From this collection of manuscripts belonging to the mission of Goa stands out the “Notícia Sumaria do Gentilismo da Azia” , a description of Vishnu eight incarnations , including 11 colored drawings in perfect condition , and particularly the Portuguese translationof the Hindu classic Bhagavatam, which leads to the inevitable conclusion that the translator had at his disposal an original in Sanskrit.
Sanskrit (classical) was and still is India sacred language , wherein all the original and oldest texts of Hinduism are written. Among the Brahmin tradition is the language revealed by the gods (initiatory and liturgical language), the world’s oldest and best composed according to the exact rules dictated by a grammar, which is still used as a reference for all Indo-European languages​​.
But if his accuracy is equivalent to a science of language and its alphabet a phenomenon of phonetic and the art of sounds , not always presented the fixed characteristics of a dead language as it happened between the I century and BC and VII AD. According to Bholanath Tiwari (1995) during this period there were four main dialects, and may have been more that are unknown today: pashcimottari, madhyadeshi, purvi and dakshini.
Prior to language attachment by the grammarians Hindu , Sanskrit has gone through its own dialectal developments of the self-styled families “Aryan” or “Aryans” (arya). At this level belongs the Sanskrit called Vedic from Rigveda to the texts from the collection of the 19 Brahmanas, where it is noted which is designated the purest linguistically, the Kaushitaki Brahmana. There was, therefore, three stages of the Sanskrit language: Vedas Sanskrit, Brahmanas Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit.
When Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras c. II century BC , Sanskrit had already reached maturity in hes classic form, but it is not clear that the Devanagari consonant alphabet, as it is known today, had another aspect. His phonetic perfection is as remarkable as the anatomical structure of the vocal apparatus, which glimpses in the pronunciation of all consonants. The knowledge of the peculiarities of each vowel element became early on a true initiatory art, revealed through generations of masters over thousands of years of meditation.
From here it is understood as the Mantra Yoga emerged, as the power of the Verb (Vac) stated in the human race, as the lexicon of Yoga also followed the rules of mother grammar , compounding the well known names of Hatha, Raja, Samkhya, Tantra (etc.) practitioners, but broadly of the whole language of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism

Sanskrit is both the key to the Indo-European languages ​​as a semiotic of the Self

1 Sanskrit is also used by Buddhists and Jains. Today is the official language of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, established in 2000.
CALAZANS, J. C. (2009). As primeiras traduções ocidentais de textos indianos na língua portuguesa, in Babilónia, Revista Lusófona de Línguas, Culturas e Tradução. Lisboa: Edições Universitárias Lusófonas, n°. 6/7, pp. 87-92.

TIWARI, Bholanath (1955). Bhasha Vigyan. Allahabad: Kitab Mahal.