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Panini, Sanskrit and software development

BBC Radio 4 is currently exploring aspects of Indian history based on biographies of 50 important Indian historical figures: Incarnations: India in 50 Lives. Yesterday’s programme happened to be on the Indian grammarian Panini, whose grammar—according to this programme—played a pivotal role in making Sanskrit the lingua franca of South Asia for more than a millennium.

If you like Sheldon Pollock, you will enjoy the episode on Panini, as Pollock briefly speaks about Sanskrit and cosmopolitanism. Towards the end of the programme he suggests that Sanskrit’s role in developing literacy contributed to India’s success in software development, contrasting this with China as a hardware developing country. I am not entirely convinced by this, but it is interesting thought nonetheless.

You can catch up with the episode on BBC Radio 4.