Monday, August 11, 2008

Sanskrit dictionary - the biggest work in lexicography

A marathon lexicography work

by S. Rajendran


Scriptorium of one crore Sanskrit words includes those from Rig Veda

S.M. Katre

BANGALORE: It has been described as one of the world’s biggest lexicography work having commenced in 1948 and expected to be completed in another 50 years from now.

The Sanskrit dictionary project undertaken by the Deccan College of Pune has already seen three generations of lexicographers at work and many more to go.

The only other comparison to such a gigantic project in the field of lexicography is the work undertaken by the Oxford English dictionary which sometime ago brought out a 20 volume dictionary in English.

But the Sanskrit dictionary project is much different with a scriptorium of one crore words — from the Rig Veda to texts written until 1800 AD — to be studied and their etymological meanings provided.

Eighth volume of Sanskrit Dictionary

While it was originally contemplated to bring out the dictionary in 20 volumes, the scriptorium utilised so far is expected to result in the publication of 50 volumes.

Unlike conventional dictionaries which deal with word meanings as static, one-item entries, this dictionary adopts a historical approach, a special feature in the field of lexicography.

Budget grant

Part three of the eighth volume of the dictionary is scheduled to be released on August 17, the foundation day of the Deccan College, founded in 1821.

Incidentally, the Deccan College is the third oldest educational institution in the country and was granted the status of an autonomous deemed university in 1994. Given the nature of its work, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in the last budget provided a grant of Rs. 5 crore for the institution.

The prestigious project which has drawn the attention of eminent scholars from across the world (particularly Germany and Russia) was initiated by S.M. Katre, the first Director of the Deccan College. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research, will officially release part three of the eighth volume and also deliver a lecture on “Indian Civilisation.”

Covers 65 fields

K. Paddayya, Director of the Deccan College and V.P. Bhatta, an eminent Sanskrit scholar and general editor of the dictionary project told The Hindu that only around 10 per cent of the project has been completed with the first 26 years (1948 to 1976) having been spent in scanning over 1,500 Sanskrit texts resulting in the identification of around one crore words.

“The larger purpose of the project, apart from conveying to the people on how the meanings of some Sanskrit words changed with history, is to highlight the ancient Indian knowledge encompassing nearly 65 fields — like science, music, geography, history, religion, astronomy and architecture.

“While planning this project, Katre clearly visualised that the scope of the dictionary would go much beyond the Sanskrit-Woerterbuch (dictionary in German) prepared between 1852 and 1875 by Otto Von Boehtlingk and Rudolph Roth, which was published in seven volumes from St. Petersburg (Russia).”

Prof. Paddayya and Prof. Bhatta said “it is gratifying to note that the published volumes of the dictionary have received excellent response from Sanskrit scholars both in India and outside the country.

Worldwide attention

The famous Indologist, A.L.Basham had said: “The Poona Sanskrit dictionary, which, when completed, will probably be the greatest work of lexicography the world has seen. And true to this observation, the work done so far has already drawn attention worldwide.”

First volume

The first volume of the dictionary titled “an encyclopaedic dictionary of Sanskrit on historical principles” was published in 1976 under the general editorship of A.M. Ghatge and at least one part of a volume has been released every two to three years.

With the recent advancement in information technology, the Deccan College has also commenced computerisation of the dictionary.

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