A Synopsis by Amrutha MK (Research Associate, NIAS) – on “Indian Traditions on the Vedas and Sanskrit”
Lecture given by Prof. Madhav Deshpande given on 20 January 2021

Series Title: Sanskrit Language & its Traditions: A Journey Through its History and Contemporaneity
Organised by: NIAS Consciousness Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, India
Email: niasconsciousnessprogramme@nias.res.in 

The international lecture series on “Sanskrit Language and its Traditions: A Journey Through its History and Contemporaneity” organised by Consciousness Studies Programme, NIAS began with a lecture by Prof. Madhav Deshpande (Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Linguistics, University of Michigan; Senior fellow, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, and Adjunct Professor NIAS) on the topic “Indian Traditions on the Vedas and Sanskrit”. This was the first lecture of the series and was held online on 20 January 2021.

Prof. Deshpande gave a brief outline of what we meant by the Vedas, the contents of the Vedas, and different ideas about the language aspects within the Vedas. He opened up the lecture by giving a glimpse of the prehistory of the Sanskrit language. And then he highlighted how different families preserved individual hymns in the Vedas. and how the perspectival shift of viewing hymns from the divine speech to that of goddesses occurred. Prof. Deshpande drew our attention to the purpose of the Vedas and to connect between the Vedic hymns and sacrifice. While recounting the characteristics of the post-Vedic period and the existence of vernacular languages, he spoke about the beginning of a scientific approach to language in the post-Vedic period which helped stop mispronunciation and misinterpretations. This led to the emergence of multiple variations within the Sanskrit language due to the differences in dialects. Then, he examined the linguistic trajectory of Yāska and the development of the etymological studies (Nirukta) and a new way at that time of looking at the Vedas as magical recitations formulated from Kautsa’s doctrines. Prof. Deshpande concluded the session by giving a glimpse of post-Vedic ways of using, interpreting, and defending the Vedic texts focusing on Mīmāṃsā, Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika traditions. The enlightening lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session.

(Prof. Madhav Deshpande is a Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Linguistics, University of Michigan; Senior fellow, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, and Adjunct Professor NIAS)

Click on the thumbnail below to watch the full lecture video

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