Oh Heavenly Sanskrit!

2 min read

Imagine this: more than 4,000 years ago, people from as far as the Baltic and the Russian steppes arrive in ancient India. They are a mysterious white ethnic group called Indo-Europeans because they settle in the Indus Valley, but as we’ve said, their roots are European. They begin to dominate the existing peoples by imposing their more advanced culture based on horse domestication. Well, these aristocratic Indo-Europeans spoke a language called Sanskrit.

Over time, the language of this minority of conquerors disappeared from common communication in India and became reserved for sacred texts, epic poetry, and encoding the scientific knowledge of the time. The word Sanskrit itself is quite curious because it means perfect, refined, cultivated, and sophisticated.

But Sanskrit lives not only in ancient documents or religious chants. It lives in the English we speak, in Spanish, French, or German… and this is because it is a proto-Indo-European language. That is, it’s like a distant, ancestral relative to many languages spoken today in both Europe and Asia.

Sanskrit is not the origin of them, but it is the oldest because it has not suffered breaks in those 4 millennia. Linguists confirm that it is the oldest language of the Indo-European family, which includes European languages such as the Germanic, Latin-derived or Romance, Greek, Slavic, and Celtic languages. Iranian languages and many current languages of India also come from the Indo-European trunk.

So how is this kinship between Sanskrit and languages like Spanish or English evidenced? Well, take note…

“Have you ever said ‘nirvana’? Have you referred to ‘yoga’ sessions? If you’ve uttered these words, you’ve used Sanskrit without realizing it. There’s a clear Sanskrit origin in words like new, mother, or meter. Surely your curiosity doesn’t end there. Other words that have their roots in Sanskrit are for example: avatar, karma, opal, ginger or orange.

In today’s India, Sanskrit remains a cultural treasure. It is used in ceremonies, taught as a subject in schools and universities, and continues to be a symbol of scholarship. But beyond that, it has influenced hundreds of regional languages, being the linguistic essence that unites a diverse country. Just 50,000 people speak it in the northern area of India, but it is also used in Buddhist religious ceremonies by monks in Thailand, Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh.

And since we’re talking about connections, not all European languages are related to Sanskrit. Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, or Basque have different roots, reminding us that there were enclaves in Europe that escaped that Indo-European influence. If the first three come from Central Asia, the genuinely European one, the one that was not displaced, not even by the Romans, Visigoths, or Arabs, is Basque or Euskera.

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