The Language of Gods

नृत्तावसाने नटराजराजो ननाद ढक्कां नवपञ्चवारम्।

उद्धर्तुकामः सनकादिसिद्धान् एतद्विमर्शे शिवसूत्रजालम् ॥

In response to the desire of Sanaka and other perfected ones, after the dance had subsided the emperor of Natas played his damaru fourteen times and henceforth originated the strings of Shivasutras. 

So the story goes that Sanat Kumara and other perfected beings (Siddhas) went to Lord Shiva to know the essence of language. Shiva went into a trance with his Tandava. At the end he struck his damaru fourteen times. Thus came out the sounds that became the founding blocks of Sanskrit words. That is how the great Sanskrit grammarian Panini describes the origin of Sanskrit alphabets (varnamala).

Recited together, these strings of sounds are known as Shivasutra or Maaheshwara Sutra. Maaheswara Sutra is more frequently used to distinguish this sutra of Panini from the Shivasutra treatise of Kashmiri Shaivism.

(1) अइउण् / a i u n
(2) ऋऌक् /r  l k 
(3) एओङ् /e o  ng
(4) ऐऔच् / ai ou- ch
(5) हयवरट् / ha ya va ra t
(6) लण् / la n
(7) ञमङणनम् / yan ma nga an na m
(8) झभञ् / jha bha yan
(9) घढधष् / gha  dha  dha sh
(10) जबगडदश् / ja ba ga da da sh
(11)  खफछठथचटतव् / kha pha chha tha tha cha ta ta v
(12) कपय् / Ka  pa ya
(13) शषसर् Sha sha Sa r
(14) हल् /Ha la

Apart from its divine origin there are other reasons why Sanskrit is Devabhasha or the language of Gods. Deva does not mean only celestial beings. Human beings also who refined their consciousness or became enlightened became devas. So it was the language of those enlightened beings. They conversed in this language. They infused this language with the essence of spirituality.

Vedic slokas are used in performance of religious rituals. Stutis are poetic compositions in praise of particular forms of divinity. Vedic stanzas and Sanskrit Stutis are composed in such a manner that chanting them properly or listening to properly chanted slokas activates specific energy centres in the body. These energy centres are known as chakras and activation of these chakras leads to awakening of higher consciousness.

The use of selected words to produce specific sounds following the rules of poetic composition (Chhanda) give the chanter and the listener an unparalleled meditative experience even though he may not understand the meanings of the words. I can say this from my personal experiences of listening to the chants of vedic pundits who have mastered the art of reciting the vedas.

That is the reason why I am never in favour of using local languages in Hindu religious rituals even though some are trying to do it, some out of ignorance and some out of mischief. Bhajan and Kirtan in local language is not an issue. But the basic rituals where Sanskrit slokas are prescribed should never be replaced if we wish to maintain the sanctity of the ritual.

In Odia language there are four types of words – tatsama, tadbhava, deshaja, and baidesika. I think most other Indian languages have a similar structure. Sanskrit words used without modification are tatsama. Words of Sanskrit origin used in a modified form are Tadbhava. Deshaja words are native to that region and these words evolved without any influence of Sanskrit. Baideshika words are borrowed from languages other than Sanskrit.

Any high quality literary work or literary work about higher philosophical or scientific concepts in any regional language usually have large numbers of tatsama or tadbhava words. That is how even if you are not familiar with that language, if you have a Sanskrit background you can easily understand such texts on hearing.

When reading a medical text or any scientific work on sex in your regional language, just try to replace the tatsama words with the deshaja words and see how vulgar it sounds. Sanskrit has a kind of sophistication that is not found in any other language. Sanskrit also means perfected, cultured or refined. It is very difficult to be vulgar in Sanskrit. When spoken in Sanskrit even ordinary sentences become respectful, powerful and full of energy. It is said that Devas praise or respect one another while it is in the inherent nature of demons to pull down each other.

The script (lipi) in which Sanskrit came to be written starting from the classical period is known as Devanagari. Of course nagari literally means related to the city. But in those days there was a script known as nagari and it is possible that nagari was a generic name for any script. That makes Devanagari the script of Gods.

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This is the alphabet L post of Blogchatter AtoZ Challenge 2021. My theme this year is ‘The beauty of Sanskrit and Sanskrit texts’, where in I explore selected compositions in Sanskrit and also some unique aspects of Sanskrit language and texts. Join with me in my journey to understand India’s spiritual and intellectual heritage. All the posts of AtoZ Challenge 2021 can be accessed here.

19 thoughts on “The Language of Gods

  1. I always learn a lot from your posts.

    However, after reading the post today, I’m left wondering if Sanskrit (as it was the language of the ruling classes) was somehow responsible for the demise of ancient languages like Prakrit.
    I’m no scholar, so my query comes from a place of finding out. It’s not an accusation.

    I’m reading ‘The Absent Traveller’ a collection of (translated) Prakrit love poetry (from the Gathasaptasati of Satvahana Hala) which is written mostly by women, in which the poets express their views about Sanskrit which to them sounds less musical than their own language.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Prakrit is not a single language and there were many types or branches of Prakrit. There was a time when Sanskrit, Prakrit and Pali – all three languages were thriving. If Sanskrit became the language of the Hindu religious and philosophical literature, Prakrit became the literary language of the Jainas, and Buddhists preferred Pali. Later on Jainas themselves abandoned Prakrit in favour of regional languages. For example most of the classical works in Kannada are written by Jaina monks.

      These days even Sanskrit is no more a living language. I mean there are hardly any native or regular speakers or day to day users of the language. Of course the interest shown by the western Indologists in Sanskrit beginning from the nineteenth century has revived the interest of even the Indians in this language. However still in Today’s India, the day to day use of Sanskrit is restricted to just religious / temple rituals, or the news bulletin by Doordarshan.

      Coming to the rhythmic quality of poetry it depends upon the poet or the composer irrespective of the language. The advantage of Sanskrit is that, the word order in a sentence can be arranged in any permutation and combination without causing any change in meaning. Its grammar is structured in such a way. While its complicated grammar structure is an advantage to the poet, it becomes too complicated for the common men to master the rules of grammar.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question with such clarity and patience.
        As I’ve said earlier, I learn so much here.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. There is so much to learn.
    I feel overwhelmed trying to write my interpretations on such topics – first, I never know if I am spelling correctly or if my understanding about “tatsama, tadbhava, deshaja, and baidesika” is right.
    What is “deshaja” according to a scholar, is a word of another language for another scholar! have seen multiple representations of “Rasagola” in dictionaries. Hope to publish the findings, no matter what the reception!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had no idea about the origin of Sanskrit. It is so beautiful. I agree with your opinion that if the priest is reciting the shlokas in the cadence it is supposed to be in, then you can reach a meditative state, even if you don’t understand the meanings. I do prefer the arya samaji way of doing rituals in which they explain the shlokas in local language along with the sanskrit

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In Odia language there are four types of words – tatsama, tadbhava, deshaja, and baidesika. This is a very new information apart from all the vital information shared in the post. Your posts make an intellectual impact on me every time I read your writings.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A plethora of enlightening facts about Devbhasha, some of which I was completely unaware of. Right from its origin from Lord Shiva’s damru, its usage by the enlightened souls, activation of chakras by chanting in this language, to the sophistication, it offers to the text, every point is a self-explanatory and convincing reason for it to be called the language of Gods.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I didn’t know that it is believed Sanskrit was originated from Lord Shiva’s Damru sounds… That’s very interesting to know. Yes, I truly agree that the language Sanskrit has different level of sophistication which cannot be replicated in any other language or form… No Wonder it is known as the language of the Devas.

    Liked by 2 people

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