Why did Sanskrit decline in India ? What were the various reasons known, for the decline of this language ?

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    This question is off-topic for this site, because it's not really about Hinduism. But in any case the answer is simply this: just as Latin gradually evolved into local vernacular languages like Italian and Spanish, Sanskrit evolved into various modern North Indian languages like Hindi and Gujarati. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 24 '14 at 8:41
  • @some student: You can ask this question here: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/98070/sanskrit-language – Amit Saxena Apr 29 '16 at 18:50

Sanskrit is not a dead language in the Western concept of a dead language. Sanskrit has not been a common spoken language for thousands of years. Even at the time of Buddha in 500 B.C., Sanskrit was no longer a common spoken language.

Nevertheless, the Vedas are in Sanskrit. The Vedas have survived as the world's oldest scriptures without any altercations for thousands and thousands of years because they have been handed down in the original Sanskrit. The Vedas were revealed to man in Sanskrit. Many important commentaries on the scriptures have been and continue to be written in Sanskrit.

Swami Vivekananda said that all the people of India could be raised spiritually and culturally by the study of Sanskrit and actively encouraged the study of Sanskrit by everyone. Brahmin pundits and scholarly Sadhus are still proficient in both written and spoken Sanskrit. I have met Sadhus whose commentaries on the scriptures are still done in Sanskrit. There are Sanskrit libraries of old commentaries that are still kept and studied in different maths.

Many orders of Sadhus require the study and knowledge of Sanskrit before sannyas is given.

  • Actually, Sanskrit is a dead language, because a dead language is defined as a language which is no one's first language. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 26 '14 at 15:06
  • @KeshavSrinivasan: That is not the only definition of a dead language, and it is a most misleading one, considering the many connotations "dead" has in conventional usage. – ShreevatsaR May 2 '15 at 19:02
  • @ShreevatsaR That is the standard definition of dead language: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_death "In linguistics, language death (also language extinction, linguistic extinction or linguicide, and rarely also glottophagy) occurs when a language loses its last native speaker." – Keshav Srinivasan May 2 '15 at 19:35
  • @ShreevatsaR And I think the connotations of the term are exactly right. Languages thrive when at least some people are using them as their primary way of understanding the world around them. So it's fair to call them dead when that process has ceased, which unfortunately has happened to Sanskrit (at least for now). – Keshav Srinivasan May 2 '15 at 20:08
  • @KeshavSrinivasan By that definition, Sanskrit has been dead since the moment of its birth (its codification into an unchanging form by Panini), and all the major works of Sanskrit literature — all the works of kavya, shastra, stotra, etc. (consider: Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Shankara/Ramanuja, the Manusmriti, the Arthashastra, the Kamasutra, the Natyashastra) -- were composed after Sanskrit had "died"; nearly everything of value in Sanskrit, an entirely literary and technical ecosystem, are from after Sanskrit's "extinction". That is a nonsensical definition in the context of Sanskrit. – ShreevatsaR May 2 '15 at 23:45

Sanskrit's decline started from around the 11th century when vast parts of India came under Islamic rule. Persian and Arabic influenced Urdu became gradually language of governance after the establishment of Islamic rule. I have seen treaties between the British and the Indian rulers in the Victoria Memorial in English, Persian and Urdu.Then during British rule Sanskrit study (and Persian and Urdu) was basically proscribed and the study of English gained in importance. The reason given for the suppression of Sanskrit as a link language was that using such a language would encourage vile superstition while the English language as a link language was an incomparably better vehicle of progressive and scientific thought. After independence the nationalists acted further against Sanskrit by removing it as a compulsory subject. The Nehru government also stopped supporting traditional Hindu schools which also caused further damage to the study of Sanskrit.

Sanskrit was still used by some even as late as the 17th century. Some of the output of the Kerala school of astronomy and Mathematics (14th to 16th century) was in Sanskrit. The famous scholar Vijnanavikshu (probably around 16th century) also wrote his original works in Sanskrit. The famous 'Sarva Darsana Samgraha' by Madhavacharya written around 14th century was in Sanskrit. Vivekananda and Abhedananda wrote some of their works in Sanskrit in the late 19th and early 20th century. Nevertheless Sanskrit in its role as a link language was finished due to lack of political support.

  • Sanskrit became a dead language long before the 11th century. Sanskrit had the same status in, say, 500 AD, that Latin had in Europe in, say, 1000 AD: it was nobody's first language, because everyone was speaking vernacular languages that had evolved out of it. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 24 '14 at 14:30
  • As you can see, by 800 AD pretty much the only Sanskrit that was being written was commentaries on older Sanskrit works: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Hindustani#Middle_Ages – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 24 '14 at 14:36
  • Ramanujacharya would have viewed Sanskrit the way Thomas Aquinas or Isaac Newton would have viewed Latin. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 24 '14 at 14:42
  • There were still a small number of Sanskrit works being written in the Renaissance time (just as Isaac Newton was writing in Latin in the 17th century), but the point is the decline of Sanskrit started long before the 11th century. By the 11th century it was no longer a living language. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 24 '14 at 15:48
  • but I don't think sanskrit is totally dead language. Many of our scriptures and dharmic scholars still learn sanskrit, and the pandit or acharya pad is given to the one who is fully qualified in sanskrit form any math or sanskrit vidyalaya. – Yogi Oct 24 '14 at 17:48

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