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Much knowledge has been passed through millenia via oral transmission–especially before paper was widely available but, when written, there were several forms of literary transmission in India, including Prakrits, that were there from about the 4th c. BCE onwards, Tamil from the first few centuries CE, and early forms of modern languages from the more recent centuries of the first millennium CE. Sanskrit, however, is the main language through which Vedic knowledge has been transmitted and what we consider here.

Ideas have been condensed into Sanksrit sūtras (literally, “threads”, rules or short sentences) from which the tapestry of a subject can be learned. Learning sūtras has been the standard way of organizing knowledge in India for several thousand years. That four of the 14 vidyās are related to Sanskrit underscores its importance.

Of the 14 vidyas, there are 6 vedāṅgas, 4 of which relate to Sanskrit:

  1. śikṣā –relates to proper articulation, phonetics and pronunciation of Sanskrit, to ensure correct recitation of the vedas.
  2. chandas –relates to poetic metre, also to assure the correct recitation of the vedas.
  3. vyākaraṇa –relates to proper grammar to assure correct understanding of the vedas; includes the famous work, Aṣṭādhyāyī of Panini. (5th-6th century BCE).
  4. nirukta– explanation of difficult Vedic words; also to ensure correct understanding of the vedas

Note: Saṃskṛta or samskṛta, meaning, “well-constructed”, is the correct spelling for Sanskrit but since, “Sanskrit” has become a word in the English language, we will use this.

Resources & courses: for an introduction to śikṣā with Shantala Sriramaiah

Upcoming Batches

5th May 2022