Jharkhand muslim students to learn Sanskrit.

published on August 31, 2014
Two schools in Jharkhand have no set a unique pattern: around 100 Mulsim girls have shunned their community’s preferred language of Urdu and Persian and have chosen to learn Sanskrit. The schools are situated in Gomoh.

Donning their customary headscarves, the Muslim girls chant Sanskrit hymns from the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagwad Gita. Their parents do not object either. “In fact, they insisted that I take up Sanskrit instead of Urdu for my matriculation,” said Shalu Nisha of Class X.

Shiv Shankar Poddar, the school principal teaches Sanskrit to class IX and X students. “I am inspired by the love these children, especially the Muslim girls, have for Sanskrit. It’s completely voluntary. There is no pressure on them to opt for Sanskrit and chant the shlokas (couplets),” he said, adding, “It’s the simplicity of the language that is drawing more and more students, irrespective of their mother tongue and religion, towards Sanskrit.”

Poddar has also illustrated how Muslim girls studying Sanskrit are faring very well in exams, scoring as high as 80-90% marks in the subject.

Shammal Alam, a former Government Girls High School student who aspires to become a teacher, said, “I can proudly proclaim that I have great command over Sanskrit and it will fetch me a job.”

Anjan Minz, principal of Gomoh’s Azad Hind High School — the other school where children from Muslim community learn Sanskrit — said the school has a permanent Urdu teacher. “But if the students opt for Sanskrit, we cannot stop them.”

In India, where over 1,500 mother tongues are spoken, language has always been a hot-button issue. Only a few thousand people in India now speak Sanskrit, the standardized dialect of old Indo-Aryan languages like Hindustani, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, etc.

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