What does Sanskrit mean


Sanskrit is a name for the different variants of the ancient Indian languages. The most original and oldest form of language is Vedic Sanskrit. Sanskrit as such is now often referred to as the sacred language of India. Translated, this language designation means "composed", "formed" or "adorned".

Sanskrit is also a variation of several Indo-European languages. The religious texts of Hinduism, those already mentioned Vedas, have been passed down orally for centuries. They met in about 1500 BC. Developed. And only 400 BC A grammar was developed by the Indian Sanskrit grammarian Panini. This is the oldest grammar in the history of language. It is a work of 4,000 rules and the foundation of classic Sanskrit. In it, the verbs and nouns are separated from the word stems and the suffixes. The representation of the language logic is achieved through the use of metalinguistic symbols. Precise terminologies have been formed through outstanding research into word roots and word formations. As a result, the grammar of Panini's Sanskrit is also interesting for modern linguistics.

Scholars and writers have always adhered to this grammar when they have used Sanskrit. Nevertheless, everyday language has had an influence on Sanskrit. For example, the distinctions in the formation of past tenses were lost. A preference for the past participle developed in the passive voice. Instead of “The teacher asked” it was mainly “The teacher asked”. Among other things, this has significantly changed the character of Sanskrit

Where is Sanskrit spoken?

In the past, Sanskrit was mainly spoken where Hinduism was most widespread. It has developed into the classical language of the Brahmins and was, especially in earlier times, the culture and language of rule in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of East Asia.

Nowadays it is mainly spoken in India; mainly in South India. However, the number of people who speak Sanskrit is quite small. Only a small part of the population in South India claims to speak Sanskrit as their mother tongue. A somewhat larger group of Indians have mastered Sanskrit at least as a second language. This is because Sanskrit is still important to Hinduism and many Hindus at least understand it.

Sanskrit now plays a role similar to that of Latin or Hebrew in the past. Texts dealing with philosophy, science, and religion were written in Sanskrit. It was the standard language of ancient India and was in contrast to the dialects spoken in central India. These included, for example, the popular Prakrit and the Pali.
In a 2011 census, only 25,000 people said they spoke Sanskrit as their mother tongue. The aim is to bring Sanskrit back to life. This should be done in such a way that words are developed that designate modern objects. It is hoped that this will encourage young people to speak Sanskrit. In parts of India where the state language is Hindi, Sanskrit is already taught as a third language in schools alongside Hindi and English. Sanskrit is also given access to the media, for example in newspapers and radio broadcasts.

Hindu nationalism has also developed. Efforts are being made to replace words with a Persian or Arabic origin with such. which have their origins in Sanskrit. This should bring about a purification of the Hindi.

The history of Sanskrit

The ancient language Sanskrit is now usually spoken by priests, the Brahmins. Scribes also master Sanskrit in order to be able to study religious texts. These texts are called Vedas. The Vedas are the holy scriptures of Hinduism. As the third largest religion in the world, Hinduism has numerous followers, the Hindus. In the past, Brahmins passed the Vedas mainly orally. Therefore it was very important to be accurate in the transmission of the texts.
The definitive age of Sanskrit is not known. It is probably 3,500 years old, as evidenced by the oldest written finds. The mantras of this time are written in Sanskrit and are still used today, probably in the same form as they were 3,500 years ago. At least that is what is suspected of the Veda mantras.

The Vedic language is the oldest in the Asian-speaking world. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family. Around 100 Indo-Aryan languages ​​are spoken by around a billion speakers. This mainly takes place in northern and central India. Speakers of the Indo-Aryan languages ​​also live in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. These are part of the Indo-Iranian language family. And this in turn is subordinate to the Indo-European language family.

Hindi-Urdu and Bengali are the main Indo-Aryan languages. Vedic Sanskrit is the archaic form of Sanskrit. The four holy Vedas of the Hindus were written in Vedic Sanskrit.

Relationship with other languages

Sanskrit and the Indo-European or, as it is also called, Indo-European language family have common roots. Today, around three billion speakers belong to the Indo-European language family. The widespread distribution is related to the migration of peoples over the past millennia as well as to the colonization of Africa, Asia, Australia and America from the 15th to the early 20th century.

Due to the numerous overlaps in the vocabulary and the grammatical constructions of the languages, one assumes an Indo-European original language. It was not exactly proven, but could be reconstructed by comparing the different languages ​​with each other. The name Indo-European comes from the fact that a distribution area between the Germanic area and India is assumed. Neither the original language nor the daughter languages ​​developed from it are particularly Indian or Germanic. Rather, the same roots can be recognized by the fact that common grammatical forms or word stems could be found. These are the indications of the degree of relationship between the languages.

The common origin of almost all modern European languages ​​and the Indo-Aryan languages, to which Sanskrit belongs, can be illustrated well with the following examples:

The words for mother and father in Sanskrit are: mātā and pitā. In Latin it says: mater and pater and in Old Iranian: mātar and pitar.

And there are other common Indo-European word roots. This can be recognized by the Latin verb "esse" (= to be). It has the same root word as the Sanskrit word "as".

The grammars of the languages ​​are also similar. Similarities can be found, for example, in the conjugation of verbs. In the first person plural, the ending "-mah" is added to the verb in Sanskrit. In Latin it is "-mus", in Old High German "-mes" and so on.
There are also noticeable approximations in the functions of the grammatical cases (case), the temporal structure and the gender of a noun.

Sanskrit is strongly based on the Indo-European original language. This is shown by the fact that, like Indo-European, it contains eight grammatical cases. However, this similarity was only noticed when the Europeans colonized India. When translating Indian literature, the similarities came to light. It was also found that Sanskrit contains words from other languages ​​that are not Indo-Aryan. These are terms from Austro-Asian, Dravidian and Sino-Tibetan languages.

Phonetic formation and spelling

Vedic and classical Sanskrit differ by one sound. The former has 48 phonemes and the latter 49 phonemes. Both variants use a spelling without word separation. Reading is therefore more difficult because there is no separation of the words by spaces, punctuation marks or capital letters at the beginning of a word.

Panini's Sanskrit grammar is based on the principles of spelling and grammar in spelling. As a result, Sanskrit is written as it “sounds”. The phonemes are crucial. They are divided into the following categories: sibilants, approximants, plosives and vowels. With the vowels it should be noted that they are differentiated according to where they are formed and what length they have. A long phonemic correspondence exists parallel to each short sound.
The vowels of Sanskrit are created in five different mouth positions: First on the soft palate. These are the velar or guttural sounds. Then there are sounds that are formed on the palate (palatal). When the tongue approaches the teeth and makes a sound, this is called a retroflex. If, on the other hand, the sound is formed directly on the teeth, it is called dental. And last but not least, there are the labial sounds that are made with the lips.

A short vowel forms a measure, which is also called "prosodic unit" or "matra". It's only half the length of a long vowel. There are also “very long” vowels that are pronounced three units long. This is often the case with direct forms of address.

Sanskrit has 25 consonants. These are the so-called obstruents or plosives. With these consonants, the organs of articulation form a complete closure or a constriction. This changes the air flow when the sounds are formed and a special noise is heard. A distinction must be made between the voiced obstruents ([b], [v], [d], [g] and [z]) and the voiceless obstruents ([p], [t], [k], [f], [s]). In Sanskrit, the obstruents are divided into five groups. Within these five groups there are further subdivisions into voiceless, voiced and nasal obstruction. And again within this category a distinction is made as to whether the consonants are pronounced with a lot or little breath.

In addition, there are phonemes in Sanskrit that are not vowels or obstructions, but so-called sonorants. These are the sounds with which something can be heard, the approximants and the sibilants. There are a total of eight sounds, which are divided according to where they originate in the articulatory organ.

The accents of the language can still be recognized in Vedic Sanskrit. It is spoken melodically, as the individual syllables are emphasized by those accents. The rhythm is established by the fact that a stressed syllable has a different pitch. This accentuation of the pitches has been omitted in classical Sanskrit. However, it has been passed on through the Vedic chants.

What script is Sanskrit written in?

Since knowledge was traditionally passed on orally in India for a very long time, the writing only came to be meaningful at a late stage. Sanskrit was not written down until the classical period of India. Until then, the texts that were used in Hindu worship services had been memorized by the Brahmins. Various scripts have been used during the early centuries. Devanagari has been used most often for Sanskrit since the Middle Ages. Devanagari has its roots in the Brahmi script, which dates back to the 3rd century BC. Existed. This font is still preferred today when it comes to texts with a religious purpose. Sanskrit texts that were translated using Latin characters have existed since the 19th century. And since 1912, IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration) has been used as a rule for the transmission of Sanskrit texts in accordance with the academic standard.

About the mystical origin of Sanskrit

At 3,500 years old, Sanskrit is also the oldest language in the world, still spoken by a minority today. Indian narratives even go so far as to say that Sanskrit was created before the universe was created. Because it contains original sounds that can be found in the universal space. Thus there are also myths about the origin of Sanskrit over 7,000 years ago. This is based on the belief that the universe is ultimately a form of Sanskrit.

The language of yoga

Since Sanskrit is the language in which the sacred Indian scriptures were written, it is inevitably also the language of yoga. A cosmic form of energy is expressed in Sanskrit. It is very sonorous and powerful. And this cosmic power becomes the power of the sounds that can be found in mantras. The mantras are usually chanted in Sanskrit in yoga. Sometimes people have already started to translate mantras into the respective national language. However, in most cases this is used to get an idea of ​​the meaning of the mantras. Usually the mantra is recited in Sanskrit in order to preserve and activate the mystical energy contained in the sound structure.

You have to be able to get involved in Sanskrit and, in a certain way, be open to the various possibilities of interpretation. Because depending on the sound, text in Sanskrit can have different meanings. So it is not always easy to understand this text.

The sacred texts - the four Vedas

Vedas can be translated as “knowledge” or “sacred teaching”. Nowadays, Vedic is used more in the broader sense in connection with “knowledge”. The Vedic is related to the tradition of Vedic chants. But the Vedic language is also related to religious and secular knowledge.

Even today, the Brahmins are skeptical of modern developments such as book printing. They still hold on to their tradition and have mastered the Vedas by heart. It has traditionally always been very important to recite the Vedas accurately. That is why they have been passed down orally for centuries with a careful eye for accuracy. Only from the fifth century BC They were fixed in writing. But even after that they were still treated as secret knowledge of the Brahmins.
There are four Vedas to be distinguished. The oldest part is the Rigveda. This is a collection of 1028 texts. These texts are circles of songs, also called mandalas, which are divided into ten books.

The Samaveda is the second part of the Vedas. Translated it means "knowledge of the chants". Parts of the Rigveda are recorded in the Samaveda and the melodies of a ceremony have been liturgically aligned.

The Yajurveda means "sacrificial proposition" and is another part of the four Vedas. It contains mantras that a priest performing the sacrificial ritual must master. There is a white Yajurveda and a black one. All Vedas are divided into four layers of text. In each there are mantras, ritual texts, forest texts and philosophical teachings. In contrast to the white Yajurveda, the black ritual texts are connected to the Veda text. There are different collections, which in turn belong to individual schools. In the white Yajurveda, the mantras and the ritual texts are separated from each other and there are only two schools.

The fourth collection of sacred texts in Hinduism is the Atharvaveda. It contains magical hymns and magic formulas. Atharvan is the name for fire priest. At that time the Atharvaveda was of great importance for the medical ideas of the people due to its magical content. It opens the window to the world of magical healing rites, exorcism and love magic.

Vedic and classical Sanskrit have developed from the Vedic language. The origin of the Vedic Sanskrit is dated 1500 BC. Dated. The classical Sanskrit is only around 400 BC. BC originated.

The language of mantras

Various mythologies tell of the origin of Sanskrit. The expression means “the compiled” or also the “pure sacrifice”. Because “San” stands for “together with” and “Krita” for “educated” or “posed”. There was the mantras first. And from these mantras language arose.

A myth tells of the Rishis. They are the "wise men" or the "seers" in Hinduism. The sacred texts were revealed to them in a mystical way. They received the texts as visions. For this it was necessary that the seers were put into special states of mind. These are described in the Rigveda as a cosmic drifting apart. Your own thinking is carried into the distance and from there comes the knowledge and with it the words. So it came about that the Rishis were called poets of the sacred texts.

And this is how mantras came about. A mantra is a syllable or a word, sometimes a verse, to which the attribute “sacred” is added. It represents a sound with extremely strong spiritual power. The power contained in this sound should manifest itself through frequent repetition. Mantras can either be spoken, whispered, or chanted. It is also possible to repeat mantras in your mind. "Mantram", as it is called in Sanskrit, consists of two compound words. For one, “manas” is what “spirit” means. On the other hand, it consists of “tram”, which can be translated as “protection”. “Mantra” therefore means: “Spiritual protection” or “Protection of the spirit”.Another translation would be "instrument of thought" or "instrument of spirit". The constant repetition of the mantra during meditation should have the effect that the mind connects with the positive energies and blocks negative thoughts.

There are three types of mantras. First there is the "Saguna". These are mantras that address a particular god or a divine aspect. Then there is the "nirguna". These mantras are aimed at the formless deity. The word can also be translated literally as “without a form”. The third type of mantras is the "Bija". These mantras have a monosyllabic seed. They work on a respective chakra, an energy center. "Om" is the most famous Bija mantra. In Hinduism it is the most important mantra because it includes all other mantras.