University of Hyderabad launches interdisciplinary programme that uses computer tools to teach Sanskrit 

The Department of Sanskrit Studies is engaged in the study of Indian Grammatical Theories with a computational perspective
University of Hyderabad | Pic: Wikimedia Commons
University of Hyderabad | Pic: Wikimedia Commons

The University of Hyderabad (UoH) has launched an innovative, online interdisciplinary programme which aims to teach Sanskrit with the help of computer tools. The goal of the Samsaadhanii Praveshika course is to develop a confidence in the minds of the student that with the help of these computational tools they can understand any Sanskrit text with some effort.

The Department of Sanskrit Studies, since its inception in 2006, has been engaged in the study of Indian Grammatical Theories with a computational perspective. The research undertaken by the students during the last 15 years has resulted in a computational platform that hosts several computational tools for accessing and understanding Sanskrit texts.

Professor Amba Kulkarni, the coordinator of the course, said, "On the one hand we are looking at how to leverage computer technology to overcome the language barrier, how to reduce the time to learn a new language, and on the other hand we are also exploring the IGT for building these computational tools." The department collaborated with a computer scientist turned computational linguist, Professor Gerard Huet from a prestigious research institute in France.

The collaboration between these two groups has resulted in a joint system that can analyse any Sanskrit text. This led to the development of this innovative course, where the traditional methods of teaching are combined with the modern technology without compromising the 'understanding' of Sanskrit texts.

A four-member team comprising Dr Arjuna of Manipal University, Dr Pavankumar Satuluri of Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth, Kochi, Professor Huet and Professor Amba Kulkarni from University of Hyderabad, will be handling the course.

The course has received good response, with 250 people registering from abroad, India and the students from University of Hyderabad. The students have varied backgrounds from Arts and Humanities to Engineering and Medicine; they range from 20 to 80 years of age, geographically from Fiji to California covering the whole world.

The Vice Chancellor, Professor BJ Rao considered the launch of this course as the celebration where Panini is being rediscovered through modern computational tools. According to him this course would be trendsetter to understand how language analysis, rigour of computation and scientific methods can be utilized for understanding thoughts as well as also understanding the construction of ideas through languages.

Professor Varakhedi, the Vice Chancellor of Kavi Kulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit University, Ramtek, pointed out that the computational platform is based on the Indian theories of analysis, generation and cognition of Sanskrit sentences that were discussed in Vyakaranam (Grammar), Nyaya (Logic) and Mimansa from about the last three millennia and acts as a testing bed to test their practicality.

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