By Divesh Maharaj Durban, South Africa
Partha Pratim Das, a scholarly devotee from Vrindavan, India, is currently visiting in South Africa and is staying at the Sri Sri Radhanath Temple of Understanding in Chatsworth Durban. He holds a Masters in Sanskrit from the Bangiya Sanskrit Parishad in Vrindavan, India as well as a masters degree in Mathematics from Tripura University. Among various preaching programs in KwaZulu-Natal, he also presented a well attended workshop on Sanskrit for Beginners at the temple in Chatsworth. The four hour course covered the pronunciation of Devanagri alphabets, understanding diacritic markings on Roman or English alphabets as well the recitation of various verses from Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahma Samhita and Isopanisad. The attendees were registered on arrival and presented with writing material and a well structured booklet of Sanskrit notes compiled by Partha Pratim Das. In the planning stages of the workshop, Pratha Pratim prabhu, a perfectionist by nature, highlighted to the organizers that the Sanskrit workshop is an offering to Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON and that everything should be first class and of the highest standards. He also emphasized a letter written by Srila Prabhupada to a devotee in 1970 , “I am very glad to learn that you have begun to teach Sanskrit pronunciation to our students. Please see that they can pronounce very nicely the Sanskrit verses in Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Isopanisad, and Brahma Samhita”.
The course notes covered the full spectrum of Devanagri alphabets as well their corresponding Roman or English pronunciation. The first fourteen varnas of the alphabet are called sarvesvarah. Earlier grammarians called these fourteen varnas, svaras or ac-s. These fourteen varnas are pronounced independently, and because the varnas beginning with ka (all the consonants) depend upon them for their pronunciation, they are called sarvesvarah. Partha Pratim Das explained, ” The etymology of the word svara (vowel) is “svenaiva rajata iti svarah”. A svara is so named because it shines(rajate) by itself (sva), reflecting the glory and beauty of the Sanskrit language. Just as Lord Krishna manifests Himself in the form of the fourteen manvantaravataras and restores specific universal affairs to their proper state, the vowel, assumes fourteen forms headed by a and aa, and causes specific grammatical operations. Therefore Devanagri means, the language of the gods”. He further explained that the first ten varnas of the alphabet are called dasavataras. The word dasavatara which means “one who has ten incarnations”, refers to Sri Krishna who appears as the following ten incarnations: Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Nrsimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Balarama, Buddha and Kalki. This further confirms that the Sanskrit language is deeply rooted in the Vedic tradition and culture.
Partha Pratim Prabhu then recited various scriptural verses and asked everyone to also recite after him. He then selected various persons from the audience and asked them to recite independently. Throughout the session various delegates were called out to the front to write random Sanskrit alphabets and verses on a white board. The program was very interactive and hands on, and Partha Pratim prabhu ensured that everyone had a good understanding of the course content. The workshop concluded with conversational Sanskrit and the presentation of gifts to persons who conversed fluently in Sanskrit. Attendee and principal of Summit Primary School in Chatsworth, Nitia Panday, commented, ” now that I have a basic understanding of Sanskrit, I can continue studying on my own. I enjoyed every moment of the workshop and I like Partha Pratims Prabhus eloquent teaching style and sense of humor”. His Grace Partha Pratim Das can be contacted on e-mail at email@example.com