SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Languages of South Asia at SOAS: Sanskrit

Sanskrit functioned for over two thousand years as the basic vehicle of classical Indian literature. It is the key to a first-hand understanding of the vast field of classical Hindu religion and philosophy, being the language of the Vedas and Upanishads, the great epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavadgita), and the texts of Vedanta and Yoga. Sanskrit is an important language for the study of Buddhism, and is indispensable for the student of Indo-European comparative philology. It also possesses a rich secular literature, embracing court poetry, drama and romance, while a knowledge of Sanskrit also opens the way to a direct appreciation of the achievements of the classical civilization of India in such wider fields as aesthetic theory, linguistics, law and political theory, medicine, mathematics and astronomy.


Dr James Mallinson ( or Dr Lidia Wojtczak (; or the Language Centre (

Suggested reading

  • T.Burrow, The Sanskrit language (3rd edn), London 1973.
  • A.B.Keith, History of Sanskrit literature, Oxford 1928.
  • L.Renou and J.Filliozat, L’Inde classique, Paris 1947-1953
  • V.A. Smith, ed. Percival Spear, The Oxford history of India, Oxford 1958.

Please Note: Not all modules and programmes are available every year