Reading stotras to learn Sanskrit

Learning about yoga philosophy and history often requires engaging with transliterated terms from Sanskrit – from karma, to dharma, to kleśas. Some students go further to learn Sanskrit itself. A new Sanskrit language resource by Rohini Bakshi and Narayan Namboodiri offers an improvement pathway for those students who are beyond the basics of grammar, but who would like to engage with primary texts. The Stotra Rañjanī is an independent study reader that offers the dual rewards of reading a wide range of devotional stotras, verses that are designed to be sung, with a translation methodology that provides opportunity for advancing one’s Sanskrit. Each stotra is prefaced with context and presented in several forms: firstly in devanagari and transliterated Sanskrit, then with sandhi (euphonic combination) dissolved, then rendered into prose, translated into English, and finally broken down into a grammatical analysis that follows the western academic style of teaching.

There is plenty to interest the student of bhakti traditions and yoga. Here is one verse from the ‘Bhaja Govindam’, attributed to Śaṅkara, the circa 8th-century CE philosopher and scholar:

Verse 22

rathyā-carpaṭa-viracita-kanthaḥ puṇyāpuṇyavivarjitapanthaḥ yogī yoga-niyojita-cittaḥ ramate bāla-unmattavat eva /

‘The one whose patched garment is made with tatters from the road, whose path is beyond good and bad, whose mind is fixed on yoga, that yogi indeed rejoices as a wild child.’

The book was conceived by Rohini Bakshi and developed out of a social media initiative on Twitter to promote Sanskrit, called #SanskritAppreciationHour. Rohini is a London-based Sanskrit teacher, scholar, and columnist who has an MA in South Asian Religions from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her co-author, Narayan Namboodiri, has a diploma in Sanskrit from Rastriya Samskrita Vidaypeetha, Tirupati, and teaches Sanskrit in Bengaluru. Stotra Rañjanī was published in 2016 through Juggernaut Books, New Delhi. Rohini has also made a playlist to accompany the book here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYkM4tFYw3aFXZQWXzsGX-UAaTPJeg-0Z

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