“You will have Sanskrit Day only in Paris!” cheerfully says 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 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 one of those 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”. Sadly the numbers are dwindling rather too quickly. When Mr. FILLIOZAT told us that during the 2011 Census in India he declared himself as 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 0.0013 % of Indian population i.e., mere 14,135 people out of 1.02 billion 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 between cuisine & 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. 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 5 decades now. She has many feathers in her arc. She has published 27 books on Indian history.
I met Mrs. Vasundhara FILLIOZAT in person who was for me the “lady from the newspaper”. I knew Mrs. Vasundhara FILLIOZAT from a Kannada newspaper article while I was packing my bags in India for France in 2016. A small world indeed!
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 made their way into the hearts of the people in Paris like every other year.
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 an inter-cultural & multinational group of Indians who spoke in French and the French who spoke in Hindi & Sanskrit. The common thread binding them together in this unforgettable intercultural journey was their love for Sanskrit & Indian culture. Such a proud moment for all of us !
Sanskrit Day 2018
Thanks to patronage of Mr. & Mrs. FILLIOZAT, 7th Edition of Sanskrit Day, La Journée du Sanskrit, was once again a great success this year. In the 21st century, we took part in the French translation of the play « Ratnavali » originally composed in 7th century in Sanskrit in India by King Sri Harsha; with a multinational collaboration team that came together investing their passion for the language, culture, friendship, generosity & most importantly contribution towards sustaining an ancient language & its legacy. This year’s participants for Sanskrit Day activities came from India, France, Portugal, Algeria & Cambodia. A wonderful international collaboration indeed!
Have you realised how a language can bring people closer & help build peace & friendship among nations? Such is the power of languages. Different yet united we stand.
With every passing year, Sanskrit Day has been a rich intercultural experience for me. It is one of the most insightful gifts of Paris I have ever received. Here’s why. I found a way to stay connected to my Indian roots and a way to understand what is Indian culture for others.
When you are abroad away from your nation, a part of you is missing in your heart which will always be in your home country. When I heard the flute playing in Paris after a year, I cannot express in words how much happiness it filled my heart with. An Indian touch to the French capital. Thanks to Filliozat family!
Next time you are in Paris in the month of June, I hope I have given you enough good reasons to make it to the Sanskrit Day at Maison de L’Inde in Paris and indulge in a day filled with Indian flavours. The Indian food served during the program is simply delicious 🙂
©Anusha Sakkari | All images in the article may be subject to copyright