“You will have Sanskrit Day only in Paris!” cheerfully replies Shri. Pierre-Sylvain FILLIOZAT to a friend on why one should stay in France when compared to U.S. or South Korea. We couldn’t agree more especially when it’s a Sanskrit scholar of French origin who says so. For it is undeniably rare to find such a pearl in the world of linguistics as you will see Sanskrit language does have a special French connection with Paris. Paris as a city is indeed one of the true melting pots of various cultures as is India. For me, it is one of those human connections that influences one’s decision to call a foreign land their home.
The Hazy Future of Sanskrit
Considered the language of Gods & once-a-dominant language of Indian sub-continent, today Sanskrit is sadly on the verge of extinction. I call it the “Latin of Asia” as it is aka the “mother of all languages”. The numbers are dwindling rather too quickly. Sadly yes! When Mr. FILLIOZAT told us that during the 2011 Census in India he declared himself to be a Sanskrit speaker, it did make us wonder as to how many Indians still have Sanskrit as their mother tongue. Upon research, I found out that only 14,135 people in India constitute “Sanskrit speaking population”. And these statistics are of 2001 Census. As per Indian Express, 2011 Census is yet to release its verdict on the survival status of Sanskrit. Soon a dead language in India or will Sanskrit get a fair chance of revival is something we will have to wait & watch.
However, it’s interesting to note that Western world has always been attracted to the spiritual treasures of Asia in general and by Buddhism in particular. Everyone is surprised whenever I ask my “Did you know?” trivia on Jacques Chirac, the former President of France. He made an effort to learn Sanskrit as he dreamt of reading Mahabharata with the help of a former Russian Ambassador to India exiled in Paris. This explains why it is essential for the Westerners to learn Sanskrit. A language is the heart of a culture. It is as simple as the relation of the cuisine to a culture. India is even the second home for many French friends who are learning Asian languages like Hindi & Sanskrit.
The FILLIOZAT Family
Thanks to the efforts of FILLIOZAT family, the Sanskrit culture is very much alive in France, a foreign land over 7,000Kms away from India. Sanskrit is recognized & appreciated absolutely for its literary richness & beauty. The FILLIOZAT family has a wonderful Franco-Indian history united across the oceans by Sanskrit. A family that always draws more admiration & respect for their contribution towards Sanskrit literature.
Mr. FILLIOZAT needs no introduction as a renowned Sanskrit scholar. I would like to mention however that as a recognition of his contribution, he was honoured by India with the Presidential Award of Certificate of Honour in 2014 along with 3 other Sanskrit scholars from French Institute of Pondicherry.
Mrs. Vasundhara FILLIOZAT, Indian by origin from the state of Karnataka, is happily married to Mr. FILLIOZAT for half a decade now. She has many feathers in her arc. She has published 26 books on Indian history & her 27th book is in the pipeline while I am editing this article.
I met what was for me the “lady from the newspaper” in person a year later in Paris. I knew Mrs. Vasundhara FILLIOZAT from a Kannada newspaper article while I was packing my bags in India for France. It is a small world indeed!
I am sure with the efforts of families like those of FILLIOZATs, Sanskrit will continue to survive in all its grandeur.
Sanskrit Day 2017
The Sanskrit Day in its 6th successful year of celebration in Paris took place in June 2017 with a tribute to Krishna, one of the most beloved Gods for Hindus in India. This successful continuation of Sanskrit tradition in France only shows how profoundly people are attracted to a true linguistic richness. Apart from the literary discussions & recitals, best of the Indian artists make their way into the hearts of the people in France every year.
This year saw the gracious visit of Mrs. Vasundhara DORESWAMY, renowned Indian Bharatanatyam dancer along with three of her students who stunned the audience with their extraordinary performance. We also witnessed the brilliant act of Yakshagana by K. Venkatesha MOORTHY.
Apart from glimpses of classic Indian dance, devotional songs & instrumental music, the highlight of the day was a theatre performance based on Balacharitam (Krishna’s childhood & adolescence) by a unique group of Indians who spoke in French and the French who spoke in Hindi & Sanskrit. The common thread binding all of them together into this unforgettable intercultural journey was their love for Sanskrit & its culture. And I am proud that I got to be at least a small part of this theatrical act.
The Sanskrit Day was indeed a very rich intercultural experience for me. When I ponder about it now, I find it to be one of the most insightful gifts of Paris I have ever received. Here’s why. Through my association with the Sanskrit Day celebration, I found a way of being connected to my Indian roots and also get to know what is Indian culture for others. When you are abroad, a part of you is missing. And Sanskrit Day filled my soul with such content that I am sure of never missing India being in Paris. When I heard the flute playing in Paris after over a year, I cannot tell you in words how much happiness it filled my heart with. Life was even more rejoiceful with the Indian touch to the French capital.
That was a coup d’ceil of Sanskrit Day 2017 for you. The next time you are in Paris in the month of June, I hope I have given you enough reasons to make it to the Sanskrit Day and indulge in a day filled with Indian flavours. The Indian food served during the program is simply delicious 😉