Sanskrit and India are co-extensive. However much you can try, you cannot get away from Sanskrit. Our institutions are interwoven with it and values of our lives have been created out of its philosophy. All that is good and all that is valuable and all that we fight for and all that we hold precious have come from Sanskrit literature. The great personalities of Sri Krishna, the Buddha and the Father of the Nation-why do we follow them ? It is in Sanskrit that we have got the most beautiful literature, the most profound philosophy and the most intricate of sciences”
— Shri Kuladhar Chaliha, a member of the Constituent Assembly, from Assam during the discussion on National Language, Constituent Assembly Debates, September 12, 1949, Part III
Invoking some fraudulent principles and defying the basic philosophy of the Constitution envisaged by the makers of the Constitution of Bharat is in fashion. The petition filed by lawyer Veenayak Shah from Jabalpur opposing the Sanskrit prayers in Kendriya Vidyalayas on the ground of ‘Secularism’ and ‘Scientific Temperament’ is another attempt in that direction. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court bench has also accepted the petition and now recommended its hearing by a Constitution Bench. A Muslim body — Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind — has also joined the tirade and filed a petition saying that students are forced to join hands and recite Hindu prayers and therefore it is unconstitutional. Before deliberating on any such case, we need to keep in mind the thinking of our Constitution makers on the issue and what can be the possible implications if the logic of petition is accepted.
The petition by Veenayak Shah whose children also passed out of Government-run Kendriya Vidyalayas has argued that the Sanskrit prayer recitation is a violation of Article 28 (1) as it promotes ‘Hinduism’. The petitioner has also argued that making children start their day by reciting prayers created "obstacles in developing a Scientific Temperament" among the students.
Let us examine the Kendriya Vidyalaya prayer first. The prayer starts with “Asato Maa Sadgamaya Tamso Maa Jyotir Gamaya Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya,” which essentially plays for eternal self, light, Immortality and peace. The prayer ends with “Saha nāvavatu Saha Nau Bhunaktu.” That is protection, nourishment, energy and intellect for all and, at the same time, end of animosity amongst all. These have been the mantras for not just the humanity but for the entire universe, articulated by the ancient sages after spiritual experimentation. How can they be considered as promoting ‘Hinduism’ and unscientific?
If this logic is extended, then every institution of Bharat will have to change their motto. Why then the Supreme Court work with the motto, Yato Dharmastato Jayaḥ, means Where there is Truth (the dharma), there is Victory (justice), which is a quote from Mahabharata? With this absurd argument, our armed forces and even organisations like DRDO are communal as all of them have their motto with Sanskrit shlokas. As all entries in the Parliament are carved with the Sanskrit shlokas, even those will have to be removed. Even our Consitution has depictions from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Upanishads; then our Constitution can be termed as a communal document with this
During the Constituent Assembly debates, there was a prolonged discussion on the National Language, during which a proposal was made to make Sanskrit as National Language. It was supported by many including Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Even Muslim representatives like Naziruddin Ahmed while quoting the international luminaries argued that Sanskrit is ‘grandest, greatest and the best’ language. For the practical reasons though we eventually accepted Hindi and English as languages for official purpose, other languages including Sanskrit are being recognised as national languages. Unlike the word ‘Secularism’ which was inserted in the Constitution in 1976, Sanskrit has been recognised by the Constitution since its inception.
The argument of ‘secularists-atheists’ does not understand the philosophy of Hinduness, that grants spiritual democracy and therefore, pray for everyone. Viewing through the Semitic prism, they want to impose ‘secularism’ on Bharatiya mindset. The danger of erasing Sanskrit shlokas from prayer means eliminating Sanskriti of Bharat, the only long-lasting view of life rooted in the integral approach and wellbeing for all.