A Sanskrit newspaper struggles to survive

The Mysuru-based daily, which is ‘necessary to preserve Indian culture’, finds itself without sponsors.

WrittenBy:Chandrani Banerjee
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“It is our cultural and religious responsibility to propagate and popularise Sanskrit as a vital part of our heritage. The divine language is a dignified means of communication inspiring us with the significance of our ancient culture and civilisation. The greatness and glories of literacy creations of Indian culture are the unmatched inheritance of Sanskrit language. Sudharma Sanskrit daily, with its glorious march since the year 1970, is stepping towards the celebration of its 44th year as a mark of remembrance to Pt KN Varadaraja Iyengar.”  

These were the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2013 when he was chief minister of Gujarat.

He also said it is our responsibility to propagate the language. But Sudharma, the very same Sanskrit language newspaper, has been gasping for financial support for the past couple of years. Despite many letters to the Prime Minister’s Office, no response has been received.

Not just the PMO, Iyengar’s son Sampath Kumar, who is managing editor of the newspaper, has been writing regularly to Union ministers like Smriti Irani and Rajnath Singh. And many other prominent people who were happy to see the newspaper and encouraged him to bring it out.  

The paper started by Iyengar is published from a bylane in Mysuru, a prominent city of Karnataka. The Wodeyar dynasty supported the concept of bringing out a Sanskrit newspaper, so Iyengar started operations from the halls of Maharaja Sanskrit College, built by the Wodeyar dynasty and considered India’s oldest Sanskrit College.

Iyengar’s passion was to propagate the language in daily life. He wanted the ancient language to be recognised and respected by future generations. Those sentiments still prevail.

“Besides Sudharma, we also print bank forms, wedding cards, bill books. Whatever we earn from our printing press goes into the newspaper. I promised my father the newspaper will be published even after he goes. I’ve kept my word,” says Kumar.

“I have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief minister Siddaramaiah and to several other prominent people. The assurances have not turned into anything concrete. I need financial support to run the paper. It is not only for me: It is meant for our generations to come. They will witness that the ancient language Sanskrit has a legacy. It may create interest among the younger generation to promote and propagate the language. If the paper does not survive then the language will also not grow much in day-to-day life,” adds Kumar.   

A paper with selected readership, without a popular reader base and an ideology, without any marketing strategy to be visible in the current digital age – how will it survive? Many ask this question.

“Sanskrit is our own language,” says Professor and head of the Sanskrit department in Delhi University, Sharda Sharma. “Sanskrit gives us an identity and all languages have been derived from this basic language. All the coming generations should get to know that the Vedas, Upanishads are in Sanskrit, it is a culture that we would want to pass on to our next generation. This is the reason that the newspaperSudharma is important. There should be an assessment to look at the possibilities to save the paper.”   

Sudharma offers a range of information. One can learn many Sanskrit terms that could have never been in current use otherwise. Even if this paper could reach a limited number of readers, word of mouth would help the language be in circulation.    

With very thin infrastructure and skeletal manpower, Sudharma is being run like a cause. “I do not have a designation but I too work for Sudharma,” says Jayalakshmi, wife of the editor. “We have limited staff and there is no way that we can appoint more. We pitch in for everything ourselves, doing the odd jobs necessary. If someone is ill, there is a tacit understanding that we will take on the work and finish it. Many times, I fix postage stamps and fold the paper many a times all by myself.”

The back page of Sudharma offers puzzles, poems, stories. Scholars of Sanskrit are welcome to contribute and add spice to the newspaper while brushing up their language. It is hugely popular among readers.

Manoj Mishra of Rastriya Sanskrit Sansthan says: “This newspaper can generate interest among freshers to pursue the language at a higher level. They identify with the paper. So it must survive.”

The Sudharma administration is open to individuals or institutions supporting the paper, which is also available online.  

This article was first published in the Patriot.


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