Sanskrit for Cryptography or Defence?
Sri N Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commisioner of India, makes the claim here that Sanskrit can be used for defence and cryptography. Specfically, the article says:
While Paninian grammar has been recognised as an effective tool in crypto-communication, he suggested to the academicians to pursue serious research on those lines, by involving technocrats and students pursuing M.Tech. “Sanskrit has a lot of role to play in defence research. Knowledge of Paninian grammar will certainly be a value addition for those involved in cryptography.”
While I love Sanskrit, these claims just inspire incredulity in me. Earlier, there have been lot of hyperbolic statements regarding the utility of Sanskrit as the best programming language. These statements have sometimes been made by senior politicians as well. If one tries to go a little deep, the search invariable ends at that one paper written long ago by Richard Briggs of NASA. And here is one critique of that paper. In spite of all this brouhaha about Sanskrit being the best language for programming, there is not much that has really come out of it.
Cryptography is a highly mathematical and rather complex area. And, of course, Paninian grammar is a highly specialised area too. A quick glance on Sri Gopalaswami’s resume here or on Wikipedia does not give me any indication that Sri Gopalaswami is a subject matter expert in the area of cryptography or Paninian grammar. Perhaps, as the Chancellor of Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati, he has heard of specific research done by other scholars to substantiate the claims made. I hope so. Just that, having heard the hyperbolic claims about Sanskrit being best programming language for so many years, whenever I hear such big claims, my first reaction is doubt.
Finally, I would actually love to be proved wrong here. I do believe that modern mathematics or sciences can benefit from Sanskrit studies. There are good examples for that. e.g. I have heard of Dr. S. Sundara Rajan’s work on Botany based on his study of vanauṣadhivarga in amarakośa. However, statements on the utility of Sanskrit for science that cannot be substantiated just harm the cause of Sanskrit. So, let the lovers of Sanskrit stick to facts. No hyperbole please. Else, it just ends up creating the opposite effect of what Sanskrit lovers want.
PS: I am aware of at least one serious work on Knowledge Representation which draws upon Sanskrit studies and that is Amba Kulkarni’s M.Tech thesis: “Navya Nyaya for Scientists and Technologists: A First Step”. But, I don’t think, this proves that Sanskrit is the “best” language for programming at all.
PPS: I have a M.Tech degree in Computer Science & Engineering and know at least the basics of Paninian grammar. My M.Tech thesis (submitted to IITK in 1995) was on “Sandhi Analysis using Two Level Morphology”.