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In the service of Sanskrit

Sanskrit language is still alive in the country through the efforts of scholars like Seshadrinatha Sastri. T. K. SADASIVAN profiles this renowned, proficient scholar who is in the city now.


SANSKRIT HAS now won recognition world over, is considered much superior to other languages and most of the major universities the world over have separate faculties for this subject. In this context it will be interesting to note that the first chair in the Oxford University for Sanskrit was set up in 1831.

Lack of impetus

However, while the West have been quick to recognise the potential and value of this language, with serious studies being conducted in this subject, it has not received much of an impetus in India. Sanskrit is one of least preferred languages in India, especially among the new generation. The erstwhile colonial rulers propagated their own languages, which stunted the growth and popularity of native languages, including Sanskrit.

Seshadrinatha Sastri, the renowned Sanskrit scholar, who is on a visit to Kochi, feels that the major set back for this language began with the fall of monarchy in the country. The erstwhile kings had always patronised Sanskrit with a passion. And the fall of monarchy almost sounded a death knell for this language.

Mr. Sastri is in the city to impart his rich knowledge in Sanskrit to Sree Samyamendra Theertha of the Kashi Mutt.

At the Kula Devatha Temple, Ambalamedu, he spends most of his time teaching Sanskrit literature, logic and grammar to Sree Samyamendra Theertha, who is to be inducted as the next spiritual head of Gowda Saraswat Brahmin community.

The beginning

A native of Kuzhalmannam, in Palakkad District, Mr. Sastri started his Vedic studies at the Veda Sastra Patasala in Noorani. After completing matriculation, he shifted to Chennai to continue his academics in Sanskrit.

He passed the Sahitya Siromani from the Madras University in 1959 and later went on to complete his Sahitya Visaradha and was a winner of the gold medal on both these occasions. In May 1967, he completed Ayurveda Siromani from the Madras University and then the Ayurveda Visaradha to become a registered medical practitioner.

Awards

Mr. Sastri began his teaching career in 1961. He taught Sanskrit at the Venkitaramana Ayurvedic College, Chennai, and then moved to the Madras Sanskrit College, where he taught Sanskrit Sahitya, Literature and comparative Philology for 20 years. He was the Principal of Madras Sanskrit College for 10 years, till he retired in 1993. With wide experience in research and publication in various capacities, Mr. Sastri has received many prestigious awards including the Dhanvantri Award.

"Although his domain is Sanskrit, Mr. Sastri is an authority in many other subjects including astrology," informs Rajagopala Prabhu, Director, Lord Krishna Bank Ltd., who was instrumental in bringing Mr. Sastri to Kochi.

Lost objectives

Mr. Sastri feels that astrology has lost its objective in the present world where everything is considered as a tool to generate money. "Astrologers in the earlier days were only counsellors who could predict the future with the help of astrological science. Their objective was to guide people for a better life, cautioning the impending dangers in consequence to the astronomical changes in the passage of time. Astrology is a light by which one could guesstimate the unknown future and astrologers guided people to acquire strong state of mind to face the uncertainties of life," says Mr. Sastri.

"Astrology is a science based on astronomy. But it is misapplied and anxiety and inquisitiveness of people to know about their future is exploited by most of the present day astrologers. The generalisation in astrological predictions will not be correct as the astrological status of each individual differ one person to another. Astrologer need not be consulted for discharging daily duties or doing the rightful things," adds Mr. Sastri.

"The impact of misdoings of past life in the present can be reduced by our virtuous actions and the power to change the course of our life is inherent in all of us. Astrology developed for this purpose and with proper guidance from an astrologer, we can mitigate many dangers of life," asserts Mr. Sastri.

Photo by Mahesh Harilal

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