It is difficult, I understand. Sanskrit is a literary language, not really spoken anymore. Perhaps not much understood either. But there it is, invading our daily life, not letting go of its hold on us Indians. It has always had a firm foothold in our languages, whichever we choose to speak, as so many of our words are derived from Sanskrit. As Hindus, we cannot be named, get married or even die peacefully without someone droning on in this so called ‘dead’ language. If we are the temple going types, we will be faced with some rapid-fire Sanskrit which will make us blink. And if we happen to be Carnatic Music fans, we are forever being subjected to Sanskrit poetry and song. Even with all this, do we give in and learn the language? But no! We are a stubborn lot, are we not!
So we don’t. This is not about us but by those who are on stage. Surely it behoves that they learn at least to pronounce correctly the songs they sing? Tamilians have a great learning curve, I understand. After all, there is the case of the missing consonents. The Sanskrit consonents क ख ग घ (ka, kha, ga, gha), and sometimes ह as well, are all transcribed in Tamil by a single letter க . Poor ப has to take the load of प फ ब भ (pa, pha, ba, bha) . ச has an easier job with only च छ स (cha, chha and sa) to give one more example. Of course the reverse is also true; one cannot transcribe the Tamil ற ழ ள (R, zha, La) easily though the rather unused ळ exists. But my gripe is about Carnatic Musicians learning Sanskrit songs transcribed in Tamil or another language which doesn’t offer the equivalent consonents. What a minefield it would be to guess what the pronunciation should be! Why not simply learn the Devanagari script? I don’t understand!
We do it in our daily life too, we Tamils. At my parental home, we used to refer to water as தீர்த்தம் (tIrtam) but of course it should have been तीर्थम् (tIrtham). We use words like சுத்தம் (suddam) in our daily life, which have morphed from the Sanskrit शुद्ध (shuddha). But I am not picking on these. Such is the life of words and languages, when they pass from people to people, they morph.
Of course, it is not just the Tamils who do this. Recently Aamir Khan has started a well-watched program called सत्यमेव जयते . For Hindi speakers, with the same script, one would assume that there would be no problem, isn’t it? Yet I cringe when I hear them pronounce it as सत्यमेव् completely ignoring the ‘a’ at the end, as Hindi speakers tend to. My dear husband is a Bengali and so I often keep company with Bengalis. Many are the times I have been subjected to ब or even भ instead of व , क्ख instead of क्ष and the rounded अ . That is Bengali and we can accept it as is even if the original word is Sanskrit. But when it comes to prayers, for example the mantra pushpanjali during Durga Puja, should not the correct Sanskrit pronunciation be used?
So this is my rant for the day. Let us all try to pronounce Sanskrit the way it should be pronounced, especially those on stage or on air and who have the job of teaching future generations to speak correctly. We owe it to our heritage.