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Submissions/Role of the Wikimedia movement in keeping the Sanskrit language alive

From Wikimania 2012 • Washington, D.C., USA

This is a withdrawn submission for Wikimania 2012.

Submission no.


Title of the submission
Role of the Wikimedia movement in keeping the Sanskrit language alive
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Swaroop Rao
E-mail address
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Wikimedia India
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages of the world. Scholars call it "the mother of all Indian languages"; indeed, most North Indian languages, and many South Indian languages derive from Sanskrit. But over time, popular usage of Sanskrit has drastically reduced, and the language has lesser than 50,000 speakers, most of them in India.

Today, for all the greatness of the Sanskrit language, the language is often stereotyped as being meant only for the upper castes of the society, reserved for the "Brahmins", or only the most religiously orthodox people. In a sense, the word "Sanskrit" has become synonymous with Hindu rituals, or sages, or the ancient Vedic period; people rarely associate it with anything "modern". This stereotyping is of course, wrong. Today's world revolves around Science, Technology and Economics, all of which were extensively studied by ancient Sanskrit scholars. The works of the Greeks and Babylonians, which are equally noteworthy, have been publicized quite well, whereas ancient Sanskrit scientific literature has not been publicized so well. As a result, people often get the impression that Sanskrit literature has nothing or little to do with the so called "modern" methods of scientific thinking. This is both a cause and effect of the decline of the language itself, and now it has less than 50,000 speakers. The internet, and Wikimedia, is changing this.

One of the primary reasons for the decline of the language is the lack of speaker base. This is something that governments and educational departments have to take an initiative on; there is little that the online community can do to increase speaker base directly. Another important reason is the lack of accessibility to material: This is something that the online community can do something about. By creating online information and manuscript repositories like Wikisource, the actual resources can be stored online. The third reason is the lack of speaking skills in Sanskrit; Very often, lack of speaking skills directly translates into incompetence while writing. Wikipedia can create a big change in this situation by providing users easy-to-read material on contemporary topics; students of Sanskrit and other Sanskrit-literate people often seek easy-to-read material to keep themselves in touch with the language. The last major problem that will be discussed in this presentation is the limited knowledge of computers and internet that people literate in Sanskrit usually have; this follows directly from the stereotype that was mentioned before. This presentation will be based on my research, which will follow directly from my interactions with reputed Sanskrit scholars from National Universities, as well as from the members of the Sanskrit Wikimedia community.

Along with discussion of these topics, the presentation will cover the rise of the Sanskrit Wikimedia projects, and will note its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It will note, in detail, the potential that Wikimedia projects have to keep the language alive.

Track (Wikis and the Public Sector; GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums); WikiCulture and Community; Research, Analysis, and Education; Technology and Infrastructure)
Length of presentation/talk (if other than 25 minutes, specify how long)
25 Minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Depends on scholarship
Slides or further information (optional)
Will be put up in due time
Special request as to time of presentations (for example - can not present on Saturday)

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