Few know that there’s a daily in Sanskrit language and that too has been coming out over the past 41 years from Mysore in south India. At a time when a language, whose use declined in political and literary circuits since 12th or the 13th century, bringing out an edition in Sanskrit deserves thunderous applause.
And the man who made this possible was Varadaraja Iyengar, father of Sampath Kumar, editor of Sudharma. The four-page daily edition covers a wide range of issues like politics, India’s economic policy, sport and weather. In an interview with New York Times, recently Kumar said: “When my father wanted to start the newspaper in 1970, he met with resistance from various fronts… This might not pay, but it is something I have devoted my life to.” In a materialistic and consumer-driven age, where nothing else matters except money, such is his unwavering commitment and dogged devotion.
Who reads Sanskrit these days? “Well, we bring out 2,000 copies a day, which go to Sanskrit scholars and students across India and abroad,” says Kumar.
Iyengar, who died in 1990, believed that Sanskrit was dying because it failed to adapt to the changing times. Kumar and his editorial team have adapted the language to express the ideas of modern India: what is happening in the elections, change of governments etc. New words to express new ideas like train, bus, police and democracy have been introduced.
Kumar takes around five hours a day to edit the paper. He also translates news from other newspapers and tries to source articles from Sanskrit scholars from across the world. His wife Jayalakshmi, who was a student of Sanskrit, is the only other permanent staff.
The newspaper barely breaks even on most days, with revenue coming mainly from subscribers — Indian subscribers pay Rs 400 ($7.20) a year, while overseas subscribers pay $50 and donations, given largely by Sanskrit scholars. Sometimes the paper is solely funded by the Kumars, who bring out the paper from the basement of their home in Mysore.
The paper has begun a free online edition that can be accessed without a registration. (http://sudharma.epapertoday.com/)
Like Greek and Latin, Sanskrit belongs to the category of oldest language. It is an essential tool for anyone who wishes to understand India’s rich and varied history.
The Kumars deserve kudos for carrying out this awesome task.