chapter  22
26 Pages


ByMadhav M. Deshpande

The role of language in the Hindu tradition raises complex questions for a number ofreasons. Chronologically, the languages used by the Hindus for religious expression have varied for reasons of pure linguistic change over time as well as through migrations and adoption of this religion by different communities in South Asia and elsewhere. While there tends to be a greater linguistic unity at the higher end of Hindu religious and philosophic expression, as one looks at the middle and the lower levels of the Hindu society, the languages vary considerably in different regions as well as in different social strata. Therefore, it is difficult to make broad generalizations about religious language as used by all Hindus. One must look at the specific social and regional contexts. The role of language in the religious tradition also needs to be looked at from various points of view, for example, the faculty of language, the role of specific languages, ritual performance of language, particular manifestations of language in various forms of texts, their reification into scriptural traditions, and the attitudes of the religious community towards all these phenomena.