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Friday, September 2, 2011

Mick Jagger sings Sathyameva Jayate in Sanskrit.

It is always reverred -  the  language referred to as saskta "the cultured language" has by definition always been a "sacred" and "sophisticated" language, used for religious and learned discourse in ancient India, and contrasted with the languages spoken by the people, prākta- "natural, artless, normal, ordinary".

In the present context, the language is not spoken by many (very few know the language) – though exclusively associated with religion and religious scriptures.  Arguably, the  decline of Sanskrit use in literary and political circles was likely due to a weakening of the political institutions that supported it, and to heightened competition with vernacular languages seeking literary-cultural dignity.  Undeniably,  Sanskrit was a storehouse of wisdom which needed to be explored further by popular culture in order to bring spirituality into the life of consumerist society full of distractions.

Classical Sanskrit is associated with the  grammar of Pāini, around the 4th century BCE. The pre-Classical form of Sanskrit is known as Vedic Sanskrit, with the language of the Rigveda being the oldest and most archaic stage preserved.  The corpus of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and Hindu religious texts.  Sanskrit continues to be widely used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious rituals in the forms of hymns and mantras. Spoken Sanskrit is still in use in a few traditional institutions in India and there are many attempts at revival.

Most of us do not claim to know Sanskrit (we can only claim of knowing a few persons who know Sanskrit) – perhaps the Western World attempted for its revival more than us.  It is recorded that some of  Bharthari's poems were translated into Portuguese in 1651.  The most sacred Bhagavad Gita had been translated in to English and other European languages, centuries ago.  The works of German  Friedrich Max Müller deserves greater appreciation for his sheer efforts in the field of  Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion.  He translated Upanishads and also  published a German translation of the Hitopadesa, a collection of Indian fables.

Comparatively, this may not be worthy of any mention at all – perhaps only an attempt to get some publicity – still Mick Jagger is in news for singing in Sanskrit !

Decades ago, the English rock band – Rolling Stones was largely popular.  First popular in Europe, the Rolling Stones quickly became successful in North America during the British Invasion of the mid 1960s. Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger (1943) is an English musician, singer-songwriter, actor and producer, best known as the lead vocalist of rock band The Rolling Stones. Jagger has also acted in and produced several films.  He was controversial at times but hogged limelight.   In the 1980s Jagger released his first solo album, She's the Boss. He was knighted in 2003.

Jagger's career has spanned over 50 years. His performance style has been said to have "opened up definitions of gendered masculinity and so laid the foundations for self-invention and sexual plasticity which are now an integral part of contemporary youth culture. Now he is news in this part of the World for his singing in  Sanskrit.  It reportedly is a new album by a supergroup starring Oscar-winning AR Rahman.  In the album, Jagger sings Satyameva Jayate (Truth alone triumphs), the second single from a supergroup called SuperHeavy which also features Dave Stewart, Joss Stone and Damian Marley.  Satyameva Jayate is the band's second single.

SuperHeavy's album is expected to be released in September.  The news reports have it that AR Rahman requested his voice for singing this in Sanskrit stating that it was his long dream to raise one of the morals of Indian culture which is Satyameva Jayate and make it as a song. The album reportedly is  very wide-ranging - from reggae to ballads to Indian songs in Urdu.

As usual there are times, when we look to a Westerner to tell that something here is Good.

Regards – S Sampathkumar.

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