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191-year-old Sanskrit College gets varsity status

The Sanskrit College and University Bill was passed in the Assembly on Thursday that will go to the Governor for signature and then a notification would be issued regarding the formation of the university.

Sanskrit College and University, West Bengal Bill 2015 will enable complete up-gradation of the 191 year-old Sanskrit College along with its properties and liabilities.

The primary objective of the University will be to create a nodal centre of study in the field of Sanskrit language, various other Indian languages, Indology, Indian philosophy, comparative literature, humanities and cognitive science, including study in various foreign languages which have close association with Sanskrit.

The tols where teaching is imparted traditionally will be retained. The initiative to upgrade the college into a university was taken by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee a few years ago. She had spent long hours discussing the possibilities with the scholars who told them that without the knowledge of Sanskrit, it was difficult to have indepth knowledge of the Indian philosophy, psychology and the country’s medical systems.  After coming to power in 1977, the Left Front discouraged students to take up Sanskrit as their third subject in higher secondary schools and honours in graduation level. From the mid 1980s, the subject was deleted from the list of those which could be taken up as the fourth subject. The condition of tols became worse and there were fewer students to study the language.

Former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was often found saying that it was a language of religion. Over the years, Sanskrit College became a place to rehabilitate teachers owing allegiance to the CPI(M). In 1949, the state government had issued a notification saying that only those who could guide students carrying out research in Sanskrit could become principal of the college. Flouting this norm, the Left Front government appointed a professor of botany as the principal.

Dr Upal Sen, principal of the college, said that the decision would invite young people to study the language whose global popularity was going up. “In many schools in England, students are taking up Sanskrit as the third language. In USA, Russia, Germany and France, many young people are taking up Sanskrit courses.”

The Sanskrit College was set up during the governor generalship of Lord Amherst. Mahamapadhyay Maheshchandra Nayaratna was the principal of the college for 18 years. When Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar became the principal of the college in 1851, he allowed non-Bramhin students to take admission. Lord Macaulay had visited the college to see its method of teaching before penning his proposal to spread English education in India.
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