Peradeniya University Scholar Wins World Prize for Sanskrit Studies


Rohana Seneviratne of Peradeniya University has won the prestigious Saraswati Sanskrit Prize 2012 for his composition of a poem with a commentary in Sanskrit. The Saraswati Sanskrit Prize is a biannual award instituted in 2008 by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in India with the University of Heidelberg in Germany to recognize the contribution of students in Europe in promoting the understanding of Sanskrit and to foster deeper appreciation of the Indian heritage.

Mr. Seneviratne is currently researching at Oxford University for his D.Phil. He obtained his B.A. Honours degree in Sanskrit from Peradeniya University and served as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Classics before he went to to the UK for his post-graduate studies. This is the first time that a Sri Lankan, the University Oxford as well as the United Kingdom as a participating country has won this renowned award. 

While, for many in today's Sri Lanka, Sanskrit is no more than a dead language confined to the education of Buddhist monks, Rohana is a young scholar joining the global intellectual community valuing and disseminating its timeless significance. Before moving to Oxford in 2011, he obtained an MPhil in Indian Philosophy from the University of Liverpool, UK. His research in Oxford, one of the oldest and greatest seats of Sanskrit learning in the world, focuses on the philosophy of Sanskrit grammar in early modern

India. His research interests broadly include Vedic and classical Sanskrit grammar, philosophy of language and Sanskrit syntax. 

 Sanskrit as a spoken tongue and medium for creative writing today has been another passion of him which Rohana hopes to develop further at Oxford. He has presented papers at a number of local and international conferences including the last two World Sanskrit Conferences at Kyoto and Delhi in 2009 and 2012 respectively. He is the recipient of several competitive awards and scholarships including Overseas Research Student Award (ORSAS) from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Commonwealth Scholarship from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK.

At a time when bright your people overwhelmingly prefer to study computer science, engineering, medicine, business and so on that supposedly guarantee a job and a confortable income, Rohana has chosen to devote his life to the study of what is often described as the  'language of gods.' He says that Sanskrit is a language that cuts across spatial and temporal boundaries. In studying such a language he hopes that he would be able to serve society by stressing what unites us rather than what divides us.


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