Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages in the world, a language considered to be that of the gods, the basic language used in majority of cultural and religious scripts in India, is sadly on the verge of disappearance in its own homeland. While languages such as Hindi use the Sanskrit alphabet (Devanagari script) and most Indian languages still maintain Sanskrit grammar structure, not many can read, write and speak the language fluently. It is spoken by less than one percent of Indians now and the only daily usage of the language is by Hindu priests for ceremonies. For a country that once boasted a majority of knowing this uniques and special language, and where it was the dominant native tongue, the position of Sanskrit now is shocking.
One reason for not many people in India learning Sanskrit is approaching Sanskrit as a tool to get a job. For those who study Sanskrit as their major subject, the only opportunities career-wise are becoming a teacher in Sanskrit schools and colleges or learn to perform religious rituals.
Another reason is the issue of breaking through regional language barriers that have developed in order to teach Sanskrit through each region's native tongue, and the barrier of fear that Sanskrit may replace regional languages and therefore displace regional traditions permanently.
There is also the reason for people not showing much interest in learning Sanskrit being the misconception that Sanskrit was only for the elite (i.e nobles, artisans, poets, etc.) and was never really for the masses. Given the country's ancient history where the majority of people knew Sanskrit then as a primary or secondary language, this is hard to take in as a valid reason. The fact that Sanskrit is not being used as widely today in the nation has (instead of getting a major revival movement) raised concern for those studying it, especially students, in that students should be prepared for the real-world and taught only courses that would be applicable to their future jobs. Isn't the main job of any country preserving its tradition and culture though? Especially the language that teaches about its tradition and culture? A school principal at Delhi puts this question into perspective very well.
Delhi's Laxman Public School principal, Usha Ram, said in an article for BBC News, that "[Sanskrit] is our mother language, the root of all our languages...All over the world people try to preserve their traditions. Why not in India?" Similarly, lots of others have spoken out about the need to preserve and teach Sanskrit as not only does it let one learn about the religious texts of India but it is the language for many non-religious texts as well (i.e. poems, plays, histories, etc.). For instance, Markandaya Katju, a retired Supreme Court Judge, says "People have a misunderstanding that it is the language of the Hindus...Ninety-five per cent of Sanskrit literature has nothing to do with religion." Sanskrit scholar Girish Jani challenges the misconception of Sanskrit as irrelevant, saying "Why should we read Shakespeare? Why should we read Sartre? Are they connected really with the life in the first attempt? No... We, at our own level, want to be refined, to be cultured, to be a better person and this is here, we need Sanskrit." But not all hope is lost for the language.
Sanskrit is the official language of the Indian state of Uttarakhand (north India) and there are still very few villages (such as Mattur, located in Karnataka, south India) in that have Sanskrit as their first or second language along with the regional language. The current party ruling the government in India has also made a move in bringing back Sanskrit to schools and encouraging people to learn the language as a necessary part of Indian culture and tradition. There are also independent Sanskrit revival movements happening in India and around the world currently, some even led by non-India based college students who have learned the language before hand.
India needs Sanskrit, the world needs Sanskrit. Without this language, entire pieces of world history are lost. More than that, actually. An entire nation, along with its people, its cultures and traditions and values all become lost. It's time more Indians take charge of their own backgrounds and heritage and start to learn the language that was once the mother tongue of their forefathers who were a part of their culture-rich motherland. It's time to not let Sanskrit lose its battle for survival in its own home.