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I have read/heard in various places that Sanskrit is considered sacred or true or special. These sources sometimes claim that the sounds used to speak Sanskrit have a beneficial effect on the body.

Except for being the language for Hindu religious texts (scripture), does Hinduism regard the Sanskrit language as sacred/true or special in some intrinsic way?

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Is Sanskrit regarded as sacred?

Yes, Sanskrit is considered as the divine language. The sages in the ancient time realized the Vedas in the form of sound patterns. Those sound patterns expressed in language form came to be known as Sanskrit after much refinement and addition of meaning to the patterns through the use of syntax and grammar.

So Sankrit language, the way it is, creates unique pattern and sound vibrations when used, especially in the chanting of certain mantras. It is also believed that Sanskrit is the language of communication among the gods. So most hymns and mantras for gods are written in Sanskrit language.

Is sanskrit special in some way?

Yes, it is the oldest living language till today. It is the source of many other languages like Pali, Prakruti, etc. Also many other languages used in the north Indian states came into formation from the gradual corruption of Sanskrit.

Sanskrit has also close relationship with other European languages. For example, English "mother" is a cognate of Sanskrit "mātár'; likewise, father-pitár, brother-bhrā́tar, sister-svásar, daughter-duhitár, etc.

This page lists many other specialties of the language.

Wikipedia List

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It is also believed that Sanskrit is the language of communication among the gods. Not for all the gods, though. Lord Karthikeya is regarded as a Tamil god and the Lord of Tamil language. The first Tamil Sangam was led by Lord Shiva and the second one by his son Lord Karthikeya. – Dharmaputhiran Jul 23 '14 at 19:02
Sanskrit is the mother of many languages: Bengali, Hindi etc. Sanskrit words are still used in different forms. The HINDI script has been taken from the Sanskrit form. – Shamayeta Jul 24 '14 at 6:28
Actually, English is not derived from Sanskrit. There are many words which have common roots found in Sanskrit, Roman and Greek. google.co.in/… – Vineet Menon Aug 15 '14 at 7:06
@VineetMenon yes, those English words are not a direct derivation from Sanskrit. The appropriate word would probably be related or cognate. I don't know why I used the word derivation. Thanks for pointing it out. – Be Happy Aug 16 '14 at 3:32
It is also believed that Russian language also has lots words derived from Sanskrit. – Kiran Aug 16 '14 at 5:30

Yes, Sanskrit is special in some intrinsic way. The sounds of its alphabets are such that uttering them mentally causes resonant vibration with the Chakras of the human subtle body. This idea is the very basis of Mantra Sastra.

The most famous example of a Sanskrit mantra is OM. This is the reason why most mantras are in Sanskrit. Sanskrit alphabets (Varnamala) are actually worshipped by Saktas.

Next time you look at a Kali murthi please look at the garland of human skulls. This garland stands for the Sanskrit alphabets. Sound associated with Sanskrit alphabets is considered to be the source of all sounds in mantra sastra. Swami Chetananda of the Ramakrishna order mentions briefly about the importance of Sanskrit alphabet in this blog.

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The sounds of its alphabets are such that uttering them mentally causes resonant vibration with the Chakras of the human subtle body [citation needed]. Also OM can be pronounced in English (or using sounds in other languages) also, what has Sanskrit got to do with it? – user13107 Jul 23 '14 at 6:51
There are many books on mantra sastra. You may consult the series of books written by Sir John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon). Yes OM can be pronounced in English but it is not an alphabet of the English language. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Jul 23 '14 at 13:46
OM doesn't seem to be an individual alphabet as per omniglot.com/writing/sanskrit.htm It's a combination of alphabets I think. Is that correct? – user13107 Jul 23 '14 at 14:41
Yes you are right. OM is a combination of the Sanskrit alphabets A,U and M. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Jul 23 '14 at 15:01
@user13107, phonetics are not related to any language, but alphabets are. – Vineet Menon Aug 16 '14 at 4:13

To add support to the above answers, speaking sanskrit language is also meant to be as a kind of yoga for Vocal system.

From Sanskrit Sounds,

Sanskrit is an exquisite language from ancient India. There it is considered divine, originating from the meditations of ancient sages. The word Sanskrit itself means "refined, well done." The alphabet is perfectly designed for the human vocal apparatus, and is pronounced phonetically. Sanskrit shares its script, called Devanāgarī, with Hindi, India's national language.

From VagYoga,

This unique invention is from Rigvedic source through Vagyoga Kundalini. The many hours of memorization have been reduced to minimum because this technique simply utilizes the natural production of the sound & language. The Vagyoga Technique is dependent upon understanding the intrinsic logic of the Sanskrit language through principles and law of Sound-vibration indicated in earliest Vedic literature.

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"Sanskrit shares its script, called Devanāgarī, with Hindi, India's national language." Since the 19th century by standardization. The first inscriptions seem to be in Brahmi script. (Wikipedia) – Earthliŋ Jul 23 '14 at 11:45
@Earthliŋ, India doesn't have a national language, but 18 official language. thehindu.com/news/national/hindi-not-a-national-language-court/… – Vineet Menon Aug 16 '14 at 4:16
@VineetMenon Yes, I know. I was quoting from the answer, my point being that the Devanāgarī script only became the standard script for Sanskrit very recently. That Hindi is called "India's national language" is another problem with this passage of text. – Earthliŋ Aug 16 '14 at 12:50
@Earthliŋ, okay. my bad. It seems someone has correctled the wiki. – Vineet Menon Aug 16 '14 at 14:06
@VineetMenon The error was in the source cited in this answer, the source being a website called Sanskrit Sounds. I only linked to Wikipedia to show that more complete information is even available there. – Earthliŋ Aug 16 '14 at 17:47

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