Sanskrit: The Mother of All Languages
This article was compiled from, “The True History and the Religion of India” by Dharm Chakravarty Swami Prakashanand Saraswati. This landmark encyclopedia of authentic Hinduism gives detailed information on related topics such as the perfection of Sanskrit grammar, the origin of Sanskrit grammar, and the history of the languages of the world as well as the writing systems. © 2005 The Vedic Foundation
The one which is introduced or produced in its perfect form is called Sanskrit. The word Sanskrit is formed from “sam + krit” where (sam) prefix means (samyak) ‘entirely’ or ‘wholly’ or ‘perfectly,’ and krit means ‘done.’ Sanskrit was first introduced by Brahma to the Sages of the celestial abodes and it is still the language of the celestial abode, so it is also called the Dev Vani.
Sanskrit was introduced on the earth planet, by the eternal Sages of Sanatan Dharm along with the Divine scriptures such as the Vedas, the Upnishads and the Puranas. A famous verse in Sage Panini’s Ashtadhyayi tells that the Panini grammar that is in use now is directly Graced by God Shiv.
Once, at the end of His Divine ecstatic dance induced by the enthralling effects of Krishn love, God Shiv played on His damru (the mini hand-drum which God Shiv holds in His hand). Fourteen very distinct sounds came out of it. Sage Panini conceived them in his Divine mind and on the basis of those Divine sounds, reestablished the science of Sanskrit grammar which already eternally existed.
Since the start of human civilization on the earth, people and the Sages both spoke pure Sanskrit language. The historical records indicate that three public programs of the recitation of the Bhagwatam and the discourses on Krishn leelas had happened in Sanskrit language in 3072 BC, 2872 BC and 2842 BC in which Saints and the devotees participated. Later on when the population increased, the prakrit form of speech with partly mispronounced words (called apbhranshas) was developed in the less educated society and became popular.
The Manu Smriti says that the ambitious chatriyas of Bharatvarsh went abroad to the neighboring countries to establish their new kingdoms and, as they were cut off from the mainstream of the Bhartiya civilization and culture, they developed their own language and civilization as time went on. Natural calamities (such as ice ages) totally shattered their civilizations but still the survivors, in the spoken form of their primitive languages, held many apbhransh words of the original Sanskrit language which their remote ancestors had retained in their memory. As a result of this affiliation with Bhartiya culture and the Sanskrit language, Sanskrit became the origin of the growth of the literary development in other languages of the world.
The phonology (the speech sound) and morphology (the science of word formation) of the Sanskrit language is entirely different from all of the languages of the world. Some of the unique features of Sanskrit are:
The sound of each of the 36 consonants and the 16 vowels of Sanskrit are fixed and precise since the very beginning. They were never changed, altered, improved or modified. All the words of the Sanskrit language always had the same pronunciation as they have today. There was no ‘sound shift,’ no change in the vowel system, and no addition was ever made in the grammar of the Sanskrit in relation to the formation of the words. The reason is its absolute perfection by its own nature and formation, because it was the first language of the world.
The morphology of word formation is unique and of its own kind where a word is formed from a tiny seed root (called dhatu) in a precise grammatical order which has been the same since the very beginning. Any number of desired words could be created through its root words and the prefix and suffix system as detailed in the Ashtadhyayi of Panini. Furthermore, 90 forms of each verb and 21 forms of each noun or pronoun could be formed that could be used in any situation.
There has never been any kind, class or nature of change in the science of Sanskrit grammar as seen in other languages of the world as they passed through one stage to another.
The perfect form of the Vedic Sanskrit language had already existed thousands of years earlier even before the infancy of the earliest prime languages of the world like Greek, Hebrew and Latin etc.
When a language is spoken by unqualified people the pronunciation of the word changes to some extent; and when these words travel by word of mouth to another region of the land, with the gap of some generations, it permanently changes its form and shape to some extent. Just like the Sanskrit word matri, with a long ‘a’ and soft ‘t,’ became mater in Greek and mother in English. The last two words are called the ‘apbhransh’ of the original Sanskrit word ‘matri.’ Such apbhranshas of Sanskrit words are found in all the languages of the world and this situation itself proves that Sanskrit was the mother language of the world.
Considering all the five points as explained above, it is quite evident that Sanskrit is the source of all the languages of the world and not a derivation of any language. As such, Sanskrit is the Divine mother language of the world.
A Glimpse of the Perfection of Sanskrit Grammar
Sage Panini conceived fourteen very distinct sounds from God Shiv’s damru (small hand-drum which God Shiv holds in His hand) and created the entire Sanskrit grammar called Ashtadhyayi. Those Divine sounds are:
There are total of 52 letters (16 vowels and 36 consonants).
The vowels are:
The consonants are:
A glimpse of the perfection of Sanskrit grammar can be seen by the extensiveness of its grammatical tenses. There are ten tenses: one form for the present tense, three forms for the past tense and two forms for the future tense. There is also imperative mood, potential mood, benedictive mood (called asheerling, which is used for indicating a blessing), and conditional. Each tense has three separate words for each of the three grammatical persons (first person, second person and third person), and it further distinguishes if it’s referring to one, two, or more than two people (called eakvachan, dvivachan and bahuvachan). Then there are three categories of the verbs called atmanepadi, parasmaipadi and ubhaipadi. These forms indicate whether the outcome of the action is related to the doer or the other person or both. In this way there are ninety forms of one single verb.
Sanskrit words are formed of a root word called dhatu. For instance: kri root word means ‘to do,’ gam root word means ‘to go.’ So, there are ninety forms of each of these verbs like, karoti, kurutah, kurvanti, and gachchati, gachchatah, gachchanti etc. In English language there are only a few words like: do, doing and done, or go, gone, going and went; then some more words have to be added to express the variations of the tense like: is, was, will, has been, had, had had, etc. But in the Sanskrit language there are ready-made single words for all kinds of uses and situations.
This is elucidated with an example of kri-dhatu (parasmaipadi).
As far as nouns and pronouns are concerned, there are words for all the three genders and each word has twenty-one forms of its own which covers every situation. Then there is a very elaborate and precise system of composing, phrasing, making a sentence, joining two words and coining any number of words according to the need.
Regarding Sanskrit vocabulary, there is a dictionary of the root words and prefixes and suffixes called dhatu path at the end of Ashtadhyayi. It has an abundance of words and furthermore, Sanskrit grammar has the capacity for creating any number of new words for a new situation or concept or thing.
There is a detailed system of every aspect of the grammar. All the aspects of the Sanskrit grammar along with the dictionary were received as one packet from the very beginning along with the Vedas. Moreover, from the historical and logical point of view, since the very first day the linguists have learned about the existence of the Sanskrit language, they have seen it in the same perfect form. No ‘sound shift,’ no change in the vowel system, and no addition was ever made in the grammar of the Sanskrit in relation to the formation of the words.
In the last 5,000 years, since the Sumerians uttered the communicating words in a very limited scope and their wedge-shaped cuneiform writing came into existence, there has been no such genius born who could produce a grammar as perfect as Sanskrit.
All the languages of the world started in a primitive form with incomplete alphabet and vowels, having only a few words in the beginning which were just enough for the people to communicate with each other. Even the advanced international language of today, the English language, when it took its roots from West Germanic around 800 AD, was in an absolutely primitive form. As it developed, it assimilated about 30% of its words from Latin and numerous words from French and Greek. Slowly developing and improving its vocabulary, the style of writing and the grammar from Old English (which had only two tenses) to Middle English, to Early Modern English, and then to Modern English, took a very long time.
As late as the beginning of the 17th century when its first dictionary was published in London in 1604, there were only 3,000 words. The title of the dictionary was, “A Table Alphabetical, conteyning and teaching the true writing and understanding of hard unusual English wordes, borrowed from the Hebrew, Greeke, Latine or French & c.” Somewhat similar is the story of all the ancient and modern languages which started from a very primitive stage of their literal representation with no regular grammar. Proper grammar was introduced at a much later date as their society reached a significant level of communication.
From the exacting nature of the pronunciation of its 52 letters to the science of word formation, there has never been any kind, class or nature of change in the science of Sanskrit grammar. Sanskrit has been in its perfect form since the very beginning.
The perfection of the pronunciation (of the consonants and the vowels) and the uniqueness of the grammar that stays the same in all the ages from the very beginning of human civilization and up till today are such features which prove that Sanskrit is not manmade; it is a Divine gift to the people of this world. The following six examples demonstrate some of the unique features of Sanskrit that distinguishes it from other languages of the world.
(1) The vowel-consonant pronunciation of the alphabet
The most striking feature of the Sanskrit language is the vowel-consonant pronunciation of the alphabet and the uniqueness of every consonant (or its combination) as a complete syllabic unit when it is joined with a vowel. For example: Its 16 vowels are the actual ‘voice pattern’ of the sound and 36 consonants are only the ‘form’ of the ‘voice pattern’ of the sound. So a consonant ( ) alone cannot be pronounced as it is only a ‘form’ of the ‘voice pattern’ until it is attached to a vowel. Thus, a vowel, which itself is a ‘voice pattern,’ can be pronounced alone (like,) or it can be modulated by adding a consonant to it (like,).This system was not adopted in the languages of the world. Thus, their syllables have no uniformity. For example, in come and coma ‘co’ has two different pronunciations, and in come and kind or kiss, the letter ‘c’ and ‘k’ both have the same pronunciation.
In Sanskrit, the basic structure of its vowel-consonant pronunciation is the unique foundation of the language that precisely stabilizes the word pronunciation where each letter (or a combination of consonants with a vowel) is a syllable.
The second unmatched feature is the formation of the Sanskrit words. Since the beginning there was a complete dictionary of root words called dhatu that could create any number of words based on the requirement by adding a proper prefix and suffix described in detail in the Sanskrit grammar. There are 90 forms (conjugations) for every verb to be used in the 10 tenses and 21 forms for other words. The formation, modulation and creation of words have been originally the same, in an absolutely perfect state since the beginning, as they are today.
The most impressive uniqueness of the Sanskrit grammar is that, along with the Sanskrit language, it is unchanged in every age because it is a Divinely produced grammar. Its conjugation system, word formation and the style of poetry formation are all unique, unchanged and perfectly detailed since it appeared on the earth planet through the descended Saints. Take a line of the Yajurved,
There is a noun janah (people), and verb gachcòhanti (to go into) which is formed of gam dhatu (to go), like, gachcòhati, gachcòhatah, gachcòhanti. All the 90 conjugations of the verb gaccòh (to go) and all the 21 forms of the noun jan (people) are used in the same way without any change in the Vedas, in the Puranas and in other Sanskrit literature as well, because they are ever perfect without any sound shift. The Sanskrit language represents the literal form of the Divinity on the earth planet.
The three styles of Sanskrit are: (a) the Vedas (sanhita), (b) the Upnishads and (c) the Puranas. All of them were reproduced during the same period before 3102 BC. But their literature has its own style. The difference in the style and the uses of words in all the three kinds of scriptures does not mean any evolution or improvement in the vocabulary.
Vedic verses do not use the full range of words as is used in the Puranas because the Vedic verses are mainly the invocation mantras for the celestial gods and that too for ritualistic purposes, not for the devotion to supreme God. So they don’t need too many words to relate a mantra. The language of the Bhagwat Mahapuran is very scholarly, poetic and rich as it explains the richest philosophy of God, God’s love and God realization along with its other affiliated theories. The language of the other 17 Puranas is less rich. The language of the Upnishads sometimes leans towards the Vedic sanhita side. The peculiar characteristic of the Vedas can be observed in the tenth canto, chapter 87, of the Bhagwat Mahapuran where the Vedas themselves are offering their homage to supreme God Krishn.
The whole chapter is like this, grammatically perfect, but it is a kind of twisted and uncharming style of language. This is the style and the character of the Vedas (the sanhita). All the chapters of the Bhagwatam, before and after this particular chapter, have elegant literary presentation but this particular chapter, which is in the style of the language of the Vedas, stands out with its own peculiarity. The difference in the literary presentation of the Vedic sanhita and the Puranas has their own nature and style and do not relate to their seniority or juniority.
In every society there are many classes of people. Some are educated, some are less educated and some are much less educated. Accordingly, the quality of their speech differs. Thus, during the time of Ved Vyas, when Sanskrit was the spoken language of India, there may have been some people who spoke a localized form of less perfect Sanskrit. As time went on a new language developed in the Bihar area of North India which was a combination of the localized dialect with the apbhransh words of Sanskrit. The pronunciation of the Sanskrit word changes when it is spoken by the people who are less educated or not educated in the Sanskrit language, and then such words permanently enter into their locally spoken language. These, partly mispronounced words, are called the apbhransh. Just like the words teen and sat are the apbhransh of the Sanskrit words trai and sapt which mean three and seven. It was called the Pali language in which the teachings of Gautam Buddh were written around 1800 BC. Still, Sanskrit remained the spoken language of the literary class of India at least up to the time of Shankaracharya.
When Shankaracharya went to have an audience with Mandan Mishra he found two parrots in two cages that were hung in front of his house. They were happily uttering Sanskrit phrases, which they had memorized by listening to the scriptural discussions that were usually happening in the house. All over India Shankaracharya debated in Sanskrit language wherever he went. It was around 500 BC.
That was the time when the Greek and Latin languages were in the course of their development. Trade communications between India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Greece were already well established. The stories of the Puranas and the Bhagwatam had already reached, in a broken form, into those countries which they then adopted in their society and incorporated into their religious mythology. The Iliad and the Odyssey in their earliest and incomplete forms were composed around 600 BC, and later on certain Sanskrit apbhransh words were added in the Greek and Latin languages.
Sanskrit is the language of Bhartiya scriptures. It is also the language of the Divine abodes. The word ‘language’ is termed as bhasha in Sanskrit. Thus, the bhasha of Vaikunth abode in its original form descended on the earth planet through Brahma in the form of the Vedas and the Puranas and all of its affiliates and branches along with its grammar. First it was called the bhasha as it was the only language of India, literary and spoken both. Later on, when its offshoots developed, it began to be called the Sanskrit bhasha (Sanskrit language) to distinguish it from the other local languages that used the apbhransh words of Sanskrit mixed with their locally spoken tongue. For convenience, these local languages were called the ‘prakrit’ languages by the history writers.
Sanskrit maintained the glory of eternal Bhartiya scriptures in its perfect linguistic representation since its appearance on the earth planet. If someone’s conscience fails to comprehend the eternal authenticity of the Sanskrit language for some reason, then at least, according to the above descriptions, one can surely understand its unparalleled perfection that had the capacity of introducing hundreds of thousands of words according to its root system since the very beginning, when even the earliest known cursive writing systems of the world (Greek and Hebrew etc.) were at their infancy and were struggling to standardize the pronunciation and to improve their vocabulary