Sanskrit at the University of Toronto
Considered as the language the Hindu and Vedic gods speak, Sanskrit is not only the idiom Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain literatures have been composed and handed down in. It has also been formative for most contemporary South and Southeast Asian languages and cultures, from the Silk Road to Bali, from Japan to Sri Lanka, with its influence on religious, political, and intellectual life unbroken for about 4000 years. Studying Sanskrit will not only allow students to access the Vedas, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata, the Bhagavadgītā, Yoga and Vedānta, and the history of Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava literature. It will also open up the worlds of South Asian courtly elites and the role Sanskrit poetry and grammar played for them, of Buddhist philosophy and Tantra, Jain storytelling and doxography, as well as the astrological, medical, and political literatures of South Asia that reach across religious affiliations and modern political borders. The enduring relevance of Sanskrit is apparent in its relevance for Hindu daily worship, its culturally unifying power across India and Nepal, modernist moves to popularize spoken Sanskrit, as well as in the more recent controversies surrounding the language’s role in the assertion of an Indian national identity.
Research and teaching in the religious traditions that use Sanskrit as a medium are particularly strong at UofT. Arti Dhand covers the Hindu epics, ethics, gender, and sexuality. Christoph Emmrich works on Nepalese Vajrayāna and Śaivism, Jainism, ritual, gender, and childhood. Reid Locklin engages with Vedānta, Christian missionary history, and the Hindu-Christian dialogue. Libbie Mills is a specialist of Tantric Śaivism, consecration practices, and vāstuśāstra. Srilata Raman is a scholar of Vaiṣṇavism, Śaivism, the Tamil-Sanskrit interface, Bhakti, and theological commentary. Ajay Rao focuses on Vaiṣṇavism, Persianate Hindu-Muslim relations, theological commentary, and aesthetics. Michael Stoeber conducts research in Hindu-Christian comparative spirituality, theological anthropology, and philosophy of religion.
UofT can look back at a prestigious past in the study and the tuition of Sanskrit. Former UofT faculty such as Professors Jeffrey L. M. Mason, Bimal K. Matilal, and Arthur K. Warder have made key contributions to the understanding of ancient and medieval South Asian languages and religions. Currently, UofT offers Sanskrit courses at all levels (beginners, intermediate, and advanced) at the Department for the Study of Religion. Courses are taught by a team of faculty consisting of Christoph Emmrich, Libbie Mills, Srilata Raman, Ajay Rao, and aided by Joel Tatelman, well-known for his research of Newar Buddhist narrative literature. Read more here.
Textbook used in Sanskrit courses at UofT: Robert Goldman & Sally J Sutherland Goldman. Devavāṇīpraveśikā. An Introduction to the Sanskrit Language. 3rd ed. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, 2002.