Rajan is providing a rare opportunity for these children, to acquire an education that their background would normally not afford them.
At the time when I was teaching, the facilities were limited. I used to teach Sanskrit to about fourteen children, but in the classes there were at least another ten, since they had no other place to stay during pauses. To my surprise, even some of the children who were sitting there in ‘stand-by’ mode, had been attentive enough to memorize a few verses. They were also quite eager to repeat them aloud.
Sanskrit and Hindi are quite close, and the students had no great difficulty in picking up a very precise pronunciation. Of all the activities, they seemed to enjoy memorization and chanting, and Rajan included some of the salutations to Ganesa (the god that removes obstacles) to their morning prayer.
Knowing some Sanskrit opens up an immense storehouse of traditional knowledge, which is often far from the reach of even many Indians. More immediately, chanting the verses puts the children, and whomsoever can hear their enthusiastic renditions, in touch with a sense of very enjoyable, cheerful sacredness. I often wondered who else will have a chance to hear these Sanskrit verses: probably their parents and relatives will be amused to hear their small kids bring home what usually only trained professional priests can.
I am not sure as to whether any of the children will go much further with the Sanskrit, but who knows? Anyhow, they seem to enjoy it. This rich language has been one of the favoured idioms of culture in India for millennia: they should access and carry some Sanskrit to their lives, if they so wish.
Ph.D.candidate and Part Time Lecturer
Dept. Of Study of Religions
SOAS University of London