Bhagavad-Gita Language Exercise

Students in an introductory Sanskrit course practice their grammar and dictionary skills by reading and listening to a dramatic performance of the famous epic poem, the Bhagavad-Gita. Students prepared their own translations of passages in this well-known text.

Goals:

  • To rouse interest in further study of the great text
  • To develop students’ grammar and dictionary skills
  • To provide students with a memorable and gratifying end to a two-semester course.

Class: Sanskrit 101b: Introductory Sanskrit

Procedure:

  • This exercise came at the end of two semesters of grammar study. Students must know the language's script and the many rules for forming words and combining them in sentences.
  • The instructor gave the students a paper handout in class, explained the multimedia component, and directed them to the class website. Students took the handout home, listened to the audio of a musical performance of the Bhagavad-Gita, and used their dictionary to study the indicated passage.
  • Students worked on understanding the reading passage at home. By listening to a dramatic musical performance at the same time, they understood that certain verses of the text were worth extra emphasis, and they also received subtle hints, in intonation and pauses, about the correct way to parse the words and look them up.
  • In class that week, the students and instructor talked over the passages and what they had learned from the process, first in small groups, then as a class.

See previous about class discussion.

Students prepared their own translations of certain passages of a well-known text, one whose translation is very often obscured by religious and political bias.

Materials:

Handout (attached), dictionary, audio file (attached)

Comments:

  • Make sure to give students enough hints to make their homework manageable within the time constraints, given the natural difficulty in reading real samples of ancient language.
  • Pairing reading of a text with musical accompaniment not only enhances the process of studying by engaging more modalities than just pen and paper, it also suggests to students in what ways artistic and religious sentiment find expression through certain moments of this key scriptural passage.
neill_bhagavadgt_reading.pdf138 KB
neill_bhagavadgt_ch2_selections.mp34.37 MB