Among the first batch of Sanskrit journalism students at Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha in Delhi, there is little interest in mudrankan madhyam, or print media. Their syllabus has trained them for both print and electronic media, but most of the students say they would prefer vaidyut madhyam, or electronic media.

“For print, I think, you need better grasp of the language,” said Shweta Arya, one of the 25 students in the class. An MPhil student of Sanskrit at the Vidyapeetha, a deemed university in Delhi, she is still better off than several of her classmates who last studied Sanskrit in school. Deveshi Kapoor, for instance, is a sociology graduate from Ambedkar University, Delhi. Rashi Sharma is a second-year BA student of Delhi University’s School of Open Learning, which offers the course through distance learning. Punita Singh has an English (Honours) degree from Jai Prakash University, Chhapra.

Launched in 2016, the Vidyapeetha’s one-year diploma includes lessons in English and Hindi journalism as well. It is oddly called “bhasha patrakarita”, language journalism. Kapoor and Sharma hope this will help them find employment in Hindi or English publications or television channels. “Sanskrit was a part of our course, not all of it,” explained Kapoor. “But we were also taught how to translate.” One of them, Deepak Mishra, has already landed a job with STV Haryana, a Hindi channel. Currently, 12 students from the first batch are interning at the state-run All India Radio. Only some of them have decided on a career in journalism.

The Vidyapeetha is collaborating with the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi, to run a more advanced three-month certificate course in Sanskrit journalism, the institute’s director general announced last week. The institute, which does not have staff to teach in Sanskrit, will send Hindi journalism teachers to teach the technical aspects of mass communication. While classes will be held in the evening at the Vidyapeetha, the students will also have access to the institute’s library, studio and community radio. The Vidyapeetha will teach the language.

Punita Singh, Shweta Arya, Deveshi Kapoor and Rashi Sharma. Only Arya has studied Sanskrit after school. Photo credit: Shreya Roy Chowdhury
Punita Singh, Shweta Arya, Deveshi Kapoor and Rashi Sharma. Only Arya has studied Sanskrit after school. Photo credit: Shreya Roy Chowdhury

The programme

The programme is the initiative of Kamla Bhardwaj of the Vidyapeetha’s vyakaran (grammar) department. Although Bhardwaj included papers on reporting and editing, and brought in professional journalists and Indian Institute of Mass Communication staff to take classes, so far, actual Sanskrit journalism has been an exercise in translation. “People tune in to the Sanskrit radio and television programmes for the language, not the news,” said Baldevanand Sagar, a Sanskrit scholar who spent over four decades with All India Radio’s Sanskrit unit.

Sagar read the first Sanskrit bulletin on Doordarshan, the state broadcaster, on August 21, 1994. Twenty years previously, he had been the third Sankrit newsreader on All India Radio. Although no figures were available, Sagar could gauge the programmes’ popularity from the feedback the stations received once the text and audio of the bulletins became available online around 2006. Sagar recalled receiving mail from audiences even in Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

He is now working with Bhardwaj to compile a lexicon of terms to help the students. One of the diploma programme’s eight papers is dedicated to the language alone, more specifically to learning the Sanskrit equivalents for words and expressions such as BJP (bhajpeti dalasya), runs in cricket (dhavanank), missile (prakshyapatra) and stock-market index (suchakank). Still, students took several minutes and help from their teacher to come up with “caryan durghatan” for car accident and “marg sangharsh” or “marg vivaad” for road rage.

“There are enough words in Sanskrit to enable translation, but sometimes thinking of an equivalent term quickly can be very difficult,” said Bhardwaj. “Scientific terminology is most difficult.”

What students want to learn

The students have varied expectations from the course. Surender Kumar, a PhD student at the Vidyapeetha who is part of the inaugural journalism batch, pointed out that Sanskrit scholars can contribute content on Vaastu Shastra, the Hindu system of architecture, and draw up horoscopes, or Rashifal, based on their training in Jyotish. He sees the new websites and journals as another channel through which students can broadcast their research.

Many in the batch were already students of the Vidyapeetha – they got a fee discount – and may not take up a career in journalism at all. Sudhir Nautiyal, a PhD student who is part of the programme, wants to “focus on teaching for now”. Sandeep Senwal, who is also pursuing the Vidyapeetha’s Bachelor in Education programme, is undecided about which of the two professions he will ultimately pick.

Shweta Arya joined believing the diploma would “develop her personality and help build confidence”. Amritesh Kumar, a computer application graduate, already has a job in a digital marketing company; joined because he has “lots of family members in the Sanskrit field”. He may not take up journalism full-time but is interested in “Sanskrit content online”.

Vak and Sanskritvani are two journals the Vidyapeetha's library subscribes to.
Vak and Sanskritvani are two journals the Vidyapeetha's library subscribes to.

Sans

Despite Doordarshan expanding its Sanskrit programming – it launched Vartavali, a weekly discussion described as a “Sanskrit news magazine” last year – employment opportunities for Sanskrit language journalists are few in state-run institutions, indeed in broadcast media in general. After Sagar’s retirement from All India Radio, in 2012, no permanent employee for Sanskrit news was left in either of the two state-run broadcasters. “Now all are casual employees, taken on when required,” he said. Bhardwaj was such a reader for All India Radio and Doordarshan until 2016 – she started out at the former in 1997 and the latter in 2005 – and was responsible for sending many of her students to them, again as “casual employees”.

But those interested in continuing in Sanskrit journalism feel they can look to a number of newspapers and websites launched by private owners and organisations over the past decade. Not counting Kashi Vidya Sudha Niti (colloquially known as Pandit Patra), started in the 1800s, and Mysore’s Sudharma (started in the 1970s), there are dozens of publications in Sanskrit. There are other courses in Sanskrit journalism, too. The Uttarakhand Sanskrit University, for instance, runs degree programmes.

The Vidyapeetha’s journalism department subscribes to a 16-page Sanskrit daily called Srijan Vani, launched last year. Its library subscribes to two other publications – Vak and the fortnightly Sanskrit Vani.

Sagar mentioned several other dailies such as the Gurajat-based Sanskrit Vartaman Patram and Vishvasya Vrutantam – in print and online – and the Lucknow-based Suprabhatam. There is even a 24-hour Sanskrit radio channel, Divyavani, started in Pondicherry three years ago, which hosts a range of programmes, including news.

Sagar said the Bharatiya Sanskrit Patrakar Sangh was registered in 2011. At present, it has 80 members.

Srijan Vani's lead headline on May 29: 'In the 2019 election, we will win even more seats: Amit Shah'.
Srijan Vani's lead headline on May 29: 'In the 2019 election, we will win even more seats: Amit Shah'.

In addition to these, there are several Sanskrit news websites, including Jahnavi, Prachiprajna and Samprativartah. The last of these is building a lexicon of its own and has made at least a part of it public in the “new words” section on its website. In this lexicon, laptop is anksangankam, pen drive smritishalaka, smartphone kushaldoorvani, and black money krishnadhanam.