University of Sydney Handbooks - 2018 Archive

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About the minor

The study of the Sanskrit language, the most important classical language of the Indian subcontinent, is the gateway for exploring the various intellectual, literary and artistic traditions - associated especially with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism - that have shaped South Asian civilisation, and which have played a profound role in forming Asia as a whole.

The Sanskrit minor is designed to foster a sophisticated grasp of developments in religion, literature and philosophy throughout South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan), Central Asia, South East Asia and Tibet, as well as an understanding of the broader social and historical contexts in which these developments took place.

On completion of the minor, you will find yourself well placed to adopt a critical yet self-aware and balanced ‘big-picture’ perspective upon South Asian society and culture (and more broadly, Asian society and culture). Your background in seeing South Asian civilisation as a whole by way of your exposure to formative Sanskrit texts such as the Mahābhārata, Rāmāyana and Bhagavad Gītā, will enable you to see beyond stereotypes and media hype in forming sophisticated and insightful responses to critical issues in both ancient and contemporary South Asia, such as, caste, inter-religious tension, dowry and arranged marriages.

Requirements for completion

A minor in Sanskrit requires 36 credit points from the Unit of Study table, including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level units

First year

In first year Sanskrit - SANS1001 Sanskrit Introductory 1 and SANS1002 - Sanskrit Introductory 2 - activities and assessment tasks aim to ensure that students can read and write Devangari script, command the basics of grammar, can pronounce Sanskrit correctly, are able to read and write basic sentences, and have acquired sufficient vocabulary to do the latter independently of a dictionary. By the end of the first year students will be reading selected passages from original Sanskrit texts, such as the Bhagavad Ghita. Students are also introduced to the most important terms and concepts necessary for understanding South Asian religions, philosophical and literary traditions and social norms and assumptions. Students are encouraged to take Indian and Buddhist content units taught by the Department within the Asian Studies program such as ASNS2626 Religious Traditions of South Asia, as a means of furthering their understanding of South Asian civilisation.

Second year

In second year, SANS2601 Sanskrit Intermediate 1 and SANS2602 Sanskrit Intermediate 2 build on the basics introduced in first year. Students will read original Sanskrit texts, such as the Bhagavad Gītā, Mahābhārata and Jātakamālā, consolidating their understanding of the grammar, building a greater vocabulary, and gaining competence in reading Sanskrit. They will also be introduced to the major stylistic and poetical features of Sanskrit texts of different genres and to resources available for the study of the Sanskrit language and Sanskrit literature, both print and digital. In the course of providing translations of original texts, they will be required to not only provide a close linguistic analysis, but also to present a more sophisticated analysis of religious, philosophical and cultural issues arising from the texts being studied.

Third year

The third year units SANS3601 Sanskrit Advanced 1 and SANS3602 Sanskrit Advanced 2, which are offered through the ANU flexible delivery program, are differentiated by the increased level of difficulty of the Sanskrit texts being studied (e.g., the Rāmāyaṇa, Buddhacarita, the Upaniṣads and Yogasūtras). Students are required not only to provide translations and close linguistic analysis of these texts, but are also afforded freedom to conduct more extensive independent research into religious, philosophical and cultural issues arising from the texts. Students are also introduced to indigenous Sanskrit theories of commentary, hermeneutics and exegesis, literary meaning and aesthetics.

Contact/further information

Department website:

For further information, contact Dr Mark Allon:

Pathways through the minor

The minor pathway follows a 2-2-2 model: 2 language units at 1000-level; 2 language units at 2000-level; and 2 language units at 3000-level.

Year 1: SANS1001 + SANS1002
Year 2: SANS2601 + SANS2602
Year 3: SANS3601 + SANS3602

Learning Outcomes
  1. Read and analyse a diverse range of Sanskrit texts in the Devanagari script and demonstrate a confident and extensive knowledge of the phonology, morphology, grammar, and syntax of the Sanskrit language and of the poetical and stylistic features of Sanskrit texts.
  2. Demonstrate a confident and extensive knowledge of Sanskrit literature, its genres and indigenous classifications, the historical and cultural contexts for its production.
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of the status, influence and employment of the most important Sanskrit texts in South Asian societies as well as in other Asian societies where Sanskritic culture was influential.
  4. Demonstrate an intimate familiarity with grammatical concepts and terminology commonly used in indigenous discourse and contemporary scholarship to discuss the Sanskrit language.
  5. Demonstrate a solid grasp of developments in religion, literature and philosophy in South Asia, Central Asia (pre -Islam), Southeast Asia and Tibet where Sanskrit and its related languages were important mediums for the transmission of ideas, as well as an understanding of the broader social and historical contexts in which these developments took place.
  6. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the history of modern approaches to the study of Sanskrit language and literature, both academic and non -academic, and of the resources that have been produced to aid that study, including digital resources and electronic databases.
  7. Display an ability to engage in independent research, critical analysis and cross -cultural dialogue at a sophisticated methodological level.
  8. Display awareness of wider issues and developments in the field, and an ability to provide a critical and insightful appraisal of these developments.