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Articles: Education/Training
Sanskrit at Berkeley
- Prof. venkata ramanamurty mallajosyula
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A Brief History of Sanskrit Studies at Berkeley In the millennia old history of Sanskrit, a hundred years is but a fleeting moment. For Berkeley it is an epoch. The ancient, classical language of Sanskrit is alive and thriving in Berkeley. This year marks 101 years since the launch of Sanskrit studies at UC Berkeley. The early beginnings of Sanskrit, the source of most of India's major languages, and one of the world's great classical languages, at UC Berkeley can be traced as far back as the late 19th century when Professor Benjamin Ide Wheeler, a linguist and a student of the Classics, served as the Chancellor of the young University. Berkeley lore has it that he began to offer instruction in Sanskrit informally as early as 1897. However, the official history of Sanskrit in the Berkeley curriculum must be dated to January of 1906 when Arthur W. Ryder was appointed Professor of Classics and began to teach Sanskrit along with his other duties. Ryder was a pioneering and dynamic promoter of Sanskrit studies not only in Berkeley but in the US as well. Among his extraordinary achievements are his translations of many Sanskrit works which remain among the most authoritative today. Under his aegis the first ever staging on US soil of a Sanskrit play, or indeed any Indian drama, 'The Little Clay Cart,' a ten-act epic was performed in 1907 at the UC Berkeley's Greek Theater. The reach of his influence can also be traced to J. Robert Oppenheimer's utterance of the line from the Gita, 'I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds' upon witnessing the Trinity atomic fireball in August 1945. Ryder continued to develop Sanskrit Studies at Berkeley until his death in the classroom in 1939. The colorful Professor Ryder was such a well known figure on the Berkeley campus that he became the model for the fictional Sanskritist- detective Professor Ashwin in Anthony Boucher's 1937 murder mystery 'The Case of the Seven of Calvary,' After a brief hiatus Sanskrit Studies resumed in a significant way with the appointment of Murray Barnson Emeneau came to Berkeley to succeed Ryder in 1940. He was the key person in establishing the Linguistics Department at Berkeley in 1953. Professor Emeneau trained many students,including Dr. R.K. Sharma, the founder and first Vice Chancellor of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, an organ of the Government of India. Emeneau was joined after the war by the great anthropologist David Mandelbaum and together, in 1959, they established the Center for South Asian Studies.Today, the Center is the only US Department of Education-funded National Resource Center for South Asia studies in California. It is committed to enhancing the knowledge of South Asia and South Asians by both working with institutions and individuals and by developing financial resources to support South Asia studies. In 1973 under the leadership of J. Frits Staal, professor of Sanskrit and Philosophy, the Department of South and Southeast Asian Languages and Literatures (later changed to the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies) was founded. In it were housed the Sanskrit scholar and linguist,Professor B.A. van Nooten; Professor of Buddhist Studies, P. S. Jaini; and Professor of Sanskrit and India Studies, Robert P. Goldman. Today, the latter with his wife and colleague, Dr. Sally J. Sutherland Goldman and Professor of Buddhist Studies Alexander von Rospatt constitute the core of the Sanskrit program which, we hope, will continue to develop and keep the knowledge of this ancient linguistic heritage alive at Berkeley into the new century. Currently, the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies offers programs of both undergraduate and graduate instruction in the languages and civilizations of South and Southeast Asia from the most ancient period to the present. More than fifty faculty members teach nearly fifty courses related to South Asia at Berkeley. PROF: Venkata Ramanamurty Mallajosyula

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