Sanskrit (or samskrutha, as we call it here) is a really old language that more than a few Indians take pride of. Especially from the brahminical traditions, let me add. Sanskrit has rich tradition, literature, and more, and people with the right knowledge (/attitude) have often spoken too well of all that. Of course I am not here to speak about how Sanskrit is all great or otherwise. My problems are more basic.
Sanskrit forms the core language of any ‘puja‘ that we typically do at temples and homes. Now, if one wants to learn more about anything beyond the tantra and the vibrations from the mantra, where does one find that information? Yes, asking the person conducting the puja is one way. But it is often the case that you may not be successful in that endeavor, or worse, end up offending someone due to the lack of your own knowledge. The problem is complicated by the fact that Sanskrit is traditionally taught verbally – from guru (master) to the sishya (disciple). Though there are books including Sanskrit – English dictionaries, I feel that they are not that search-friendly for this age. In this time of need, one of course turns to the Internet, a friend and confidante, for help.
There are excellent websites that do a lot more than help. Given below are the top 4 websites (and then one) that I have found useful.
- If you are an absolute beginner, you have to start from the very beginning. That is not really my territory (as I can humbly put it :), but the way the below sites are structured provide a nice way to get through the initial difficulties
- http://easysanskrit.chinfo.org: An initiative from Chinmaya mission, you would have to pay for the content. At the time of this this article this is Rs. 2000. Do take note that Chinmaya mission offers the course as a certification program jointly with IGNOU and that costs Rs. 1500 (more information here)
- http://learnsanskrit.org: Easier once you get a hang of it, and free, the content here is in a traditional book form and is easy to follow. The grammar pages have really good content, and get you through the basics, including pronunciation.
- If you are looking for something specific, try the dictionaries. Not only they accept the English scripts for words that you are looking for, there is lot of intelligence in “recognizing” the nearest words as well.
- http://www.spokensanskrit.de allows you to quickly find meanings of words and is my favourite just because I found it first. I tend to use it even to find meanings of a few uncommon names. I find it really convenient to let the application decide whether I am quoting English or Sanskrit, and get to the meaning quickly. Truly outstanding job.
- http://www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de/monier/: Monier Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary is well-respected, and has been a go-to reference for quite sometime now. This dictionary is free, and has been a standard reference point for others
- If you are not looking for either, but want to speak Sanskrit – one of the places to start will be http://www.acharya.gen.in:8080/sanskrit/tutor.php. The site is not well maintained, but it excels in the material available to know how Sanskrit can be used for conversations. Be warned though, you require knowledge of Devanagari script and the basics of Sanskrit to make use of the content.
- http://sanskrit.samskrutam.com is another resource which takes upon itself the difficult task of dealing with Sanskrit right from beginning to the way the language can be used in conversations.
- One another resource worth mentioning is http://www.chitrapurmath.net/. If you don’t mind references to the Guru, and are interesting in advancing your knowledge, this is a good place to go to. But following the lessons are harder, and you do require more than basics to start with.
That is all for the beginners folks, we might touch upon advanced topics only later.
Do you care to know/learn Sanskrit? Do you know of any useful resources that can help others? Do share in comments, and I will try to maintain this as a go-to list for Sanskrit beginners.