In The Passing Away of Sampath Kumar, A Passionate Crusader For Sanskrit Departs
Mysore, July 6 (TNA) With the passing away of the 64-year-old frail and humble editor Sampath Kumar, Sudharma, undoubtedly the world’s only Sanskrit daily newspaper, the glorious pride of Mysore, has lost a passionate crusader for the Sanskrit language.
When I first met him in his office at the Agrahara, almost a decade ago, I was truly impressed by his sincere commitment and devotion to the language of gods. Despite all odds, including his failing health he kept publishing Sudharma.
Every time I visited Mysore later on I made it a point to meet the dedicated couple at their office. The two page tabloid is a living testimony of the grit and determination of both Sampath Kumar and his wife Jaya Lakshmi, who continues to run the paper with adorable passion to promote a language that is considered divine by many.
Sheer love for Sanskrit and the heritage and culture it represents fuels the publication of this modest newspaper uninterrupted for over nearly half a century. Seeing them work relentlessly from a small printing press in their 150 year old house in Ramchandra Agrahara in Mysore was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.
In the summer of 2019 when I visited the press, Ms Jaya Lakshmi Sampath Kumar regaled me with tales of yore and the birth and evolution of the newspaper over the years.
The story of her meeting an octogenarian from Chennai who has saved every single newspaper, from Sudharma’s first edition to now, who is bed-ridden but reads Sudharma every single day and who was a pen pal and a fan of late Shri Varadaraja Iyengar, Sampath Kumar’s father who started the newspaper way back in 1970, were some of the heart-melting stories narrated by her.
Jaya Lakshmi Sampath Kumar is one empowered lady and she floored me with her management skills and abundant knowledge of a variety of subjects. Due to her husband’s restricted physical activities because of health issues she almost single-handedly manages the team and leads from the front. She definitely is a trend-setter in her own right.
It fills us with pride when we see students in the UK and Germany learning Sanskrit, when it is revered as the most scientific language amongst all other languages, and when yogis from across the world chant shlokas in Sanskrit. But the worrying question is how are we planning to keep the ‘divine language’ that connects us with our past and is a treasure house of ancient wisdom, not only alive but also growing?
The union government and some private organizations have taken steps to popularise the "language of the gods," which previous External Affairs Minister, the late Sushma Swaraj, claimed was a modern language fit for computers.
But unfortunately, the only Sanskrit daily of India, Sudharma, being published from Mysore is struggling for survival. Sudharma was started by Pandit Varadaraja Iyengar, a Sanskrit scholar, on July 15 in 1970, to reach out to those who loved the language and were interested in promoting it. After his death, his son late K.V. Sampath Kumar and his wife Jaya Lakshmi struggled all these years to keep the legacy alive.
The newspaper, an-A3-size, two-page and five-column-sheet, has around 3,000 subscribers, mostly institutions and public libraries, who receive the copies by post. The e-version has around a lakh readers.
Jayalakshmi, who is well versed in Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, English and, of course, Sanskrit, had told me two years ago “Sanskrit is a great language. Hindus, not in India alone but all over the world use it from birth to death for conducting Vedic rituals and religious ceremonies. In most temples the priests conduct the daily puja in Sanskrit.”
India is united by Sanskrit, which is the “mother” of most Indian languages. It is growing, and now, even IT professionals are finding it is useful, she said.
Credit for starting Sanskrit radio bulletins on Akashvani goes to his father, who successfully persuaded the then Information and Broadcasting Minister I.K. Gujral to start daily news bulletins in Sanskrit.
Priced at Rs 2, the paper mostly contains articles on Vedas, yoga, religion as also on politics and culture, among others. Sudharma's modest office in Ramchandra Agrahara has been visited by Ministers, Governors, Shankaracharyas, and other dignitaries.