Sanskrit at WLU: An Overview

Sanskrit Study @ WLU

Prof. Timothy Lubin

Sanskrit, sister to Greek and Latin and aunt to most of the languages of Europe, was used to compose most Hindu and Buddhist sacred texts, and much other literature of India, including the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics, lyric poetry, drama, fables, and many works on yoga and meditation, philosophy, poetics, law and political theory, the exact sciences, and the erotic arts. European and American scholars’ encounter with the sophisticated ancient grammar of Pāṇini (around 400 BCE) helped lead to the development of the modern science of linguistics.  

Sanskrit is offered through the Middle East and South Asia Studies Program.  The elementary course presents the basic grammar of this rich and challenging language over the course of two terms.  From the very first day, students will begin reading texts, and using simple spoken Sanskrit.  We also look at the role of Sanskrit in religious history and in Indian and Nepali society up to the present.

There is no formal prerequisite, although substantial prior study of another language is preferable.  The sequence SKT 101102201202301 provides all levels of study; normally only one level is taught at a time.  Completion of SKT 202 fulfills the FL (foreign language) requirement.  The MESA Studies Minor with Sanskrit Emphasis requires completion of the fifth term of study.

In 2013, the intermediate-level class performed a staged dramatic reading of the Matta-vilāsa-prahasanam (“Drunken Revelry, a Farce – or, A Priest, a Monk, and Yogi Walked into a Bar…”) by Mahendravikramavarman (early seventh century).  The play is a satire of sectarian rivalries between Kapalikas, Buddhists, and Pashupatas, religious groups in classical south India.

A video of the performance is available here:

The course begins with:

देववाणिप्रवेशिका: Devavāṇipraveśikā: An Introduction to the Sanskrit Language, by Robert Goldman and Sally Sutherland Goldman

augmented by Andrew Ollett’s University of Chicago course materials, including video lessons and reference grammar

as well as:

Adheesh Sathaye’s UBC site, and

A Sanskrit Grammar for Students, by A. A. Macdonell (1927 ed. or later)

The course continues with:

A Sanskrit Reader, by Charles Rockwell Lanman (Indian edition | pdf)
Sanskrit Grammar, by William Dwight Whitney (Indian edition | pdf)
An Early Upaniṣadic Reader, by Hans Hock
Scholastic Sanskrit, by Gary Tubb and Emery Boose

Other Sanskrit Web Resources

Guy Leavitt’s “Introductory Sanskrit”
Website to complement Walter Maurer’s The Sanskrit Language
Website to complement Antonia Ruppell’s Cambridge Introduction to Sanskrit
Madhav Deshpande’s Sanskrit Subodhini, with accompanying audio files

Flashcard application:  Anki 

Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary @ Köin
Köln Site’s Other Online Dictionaries
Inflected Form Lookup
Apte Sanskrit Dictionary
Halle Sanskrit Dictionaries (mostly into German)
South Asia Web Links (WLU)

A Note on the History of Sanskrit at WLU:

Although instruction in Sanskrit was not part of the curriculum at WLU until Professor Lubin first taught it beginning in Winter Term 1999, he is not the first Sanskritist on the faculty.

A century earlier, from 1893 to 1899, Edwin Whitfield Fay, a student of Maurice Bloomfield’s at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Treatment of Rig-Veda Mantras in the Grhya Sutras (1899), taught here as professor of Latin before moving to a post at the University of Texas, Austin.  Fay ensured that the W&L library acquired a number of works on Sanskrit and Indic philology, including a copy of his mentor’s now rare 1901 facsimile edition of the unique Sharada manuscript of the Paippalāda version of the Atharva-Veda, The Kashmirian Atharva-Veda (School of the Pāippalādas).  (By a happy coincidence, Prof. Lubin’s own work partly deals with Gṛhya Sūtras (manuals of Vedic household rites) and the Atharva Veda.)

For more information on Fay, see:

One source suggests that Sanskrit may have been taught here outside of the official curriculum even earlier.  The Rev. George Junkin (1790–1868), president (1848–1861) of Washington College, as it was then called, is reported to have given private lessons in Sanskrit in the evenings, as recounted HERE.  For more information on Junkin, see: or
and: The Reverend George Junkin, D.D., LL.D.: A Historical Biography (1871).
Junkin resigned his post on the eve of the Civil War, to return north.

© Timothy Lubin. All rights reserved.