The Berkeley Sanskrit Initiative

Sanskrit Studies logo Sanskrit is the classical language of the Indian subcontinent. The oldest stage of the language is that of the Veda, the fundamental scriptures of Hinduism which date back to some twelve centuries BCE. The classical stage of the language, from some five centuries BCE onward, is the vehicle of a vast and varied literature from epics and poetry to Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religious and philosophical texts, and scientific treatises on everything from astronomy and architecture to law and linguistics. Sanskrit was carried outside the Indian subcontinent to adjacent regions which came under the influence of Indian culture, Tibet and China, and Southeast Asia from Thailand to Indonesia. Hindu tradition heralds it as "the language of the gods." Today Sanskrit continues to be the primary language of Hindu rituals; traditional scholars, or pandits, still hold debates and write treatises in this medium; and poetry in Sanskrit continues to be cultivated. What ancient Greek has been for Greece and the Mediterranean world, and what Latin has been for Rome and Europe, Sanskrit has been for India and vast sections of Asia, but Sanskrit literature vastly exceeds Greek and Latin literatures combined, and with more enduring resonance today. In addition to being required to access this tremendous literature, a knowledge of Sanskrit is essential for comparative linguistics. Sanskrit represents one of the oldest branches of the family of languages known as Indo-European, which extend from India to Western Europe (and, with European expansion, to the New World).

Courses Offered

Elementary Sanskrit (SANSKR) 100A
  • Course Format: Five hours of lecture and one hour of laboratory per week.
  • Description: Elements of Sanskrit grammar and practice in reading Sanskrit texts.
Intermediate Sanskrit (SANSKR) 101A
  • Course Format: Four and one-half hours of lecture per week.
  • Prerequisites: 100B. 101B may be taken before 101A with consent of instructor.
  • Description: Selected readings readings vary each semester. In addition, students are required to memorize verses, read selected secondary scholarship, and lead an in-class discussion. Grammatical review will be provided as necessary. Grading is based on class performance, mid-term, final, and translation project.
  • A. Epic Sanskrit: Course readings focus on Epic Sanskrit and commentary. Selections are taken from Valmiki Ramayana and Mahabharata.
  • B. Kavya and Sastra: Course readings focus on Kavya and/or Sastra.
Sanskrit Literature (SANSKR) 200A
  • Course Format: Three hours of lecture and one hour of discussion per week.
  • Prerequisites: 101B or equivalent.
  • Description: Formerly 200, 201 and 202. Advanced readings in Sanskrit literature, including Sanskrit ornate poetry with emphasis on the canons of poetic analysis of the Indian aesthetic tradition.