Three separate aspects are to be distinguished: (1) the process of learning of an ancient language, (2) the actual reading of ancient texts (either in Sanskrit, or accompanied by a good modern translation), and (3) an understanding of the ancient texts (discussed in modern languages). Learning and Teaching Sanskrit he present discussion in India whether one should learn an old, 'nearly extinct' classical language or not has also raged in other countries, and for decades.
All over Europe and America, the teaching of Latin (not to speak of Greek) has been slashed, though each larger town usually still has Latin in at least one high school, and some offer classical Greek as well.
In India, most of them have been composed in the classical language, Sanskrit, which is important for the traditions of more than 80% of the population.
However, Sanskrit is followed on its heels by early Tamil Sangam literature and early Tamil inscriptions date from the second century BCE, as will be seen in the forthcoming edition by Iravatham Mahadevan (2001).
In fact, there has been a secret Sanskritization of all languages of the Indian Union since independence.
At that time some scholars, such as Raghu Vira, strove to have Sanskrit instituted as the national language.In both Asian subcontinents, the European and the Indian, the classical languages also have a number of other functions.Importantly, they provide building blocks for forming neologisms for new inventions, such as television, exactly copied as dura-darshana 'far-seeing' in Sanskrit, Hindi, etc.The man in the street in Mathura, Chennai or Gopalpur village looks at the world in a way markedly different from that of a trader of the Gupta period or a Panjab Vaishya of Rigvedic times.Both China and India have also kept their old language and literature intact, in differing ways and for different historical reasons.Even in communist China, Mao wrote classically inspired poems which were prominently posted.Not to speak about other countries with a deep appreciation, indeed a love of their past, such as Japan, Israel, Greece or Italy.Like some other great civilizations such as those of China, Japan or Europe, Indian culture can look back to several thousands years of continuity.Other early civilizations, such as those of Old Egypt and Mesopotamia have undergone great changes, starting with the influence of the ancient Persians and Greeks and then notably Islam -- changes that have largely overlaid the old indigenous foundations as to render them almost invisible.This began with the Persians and various Central Asian steppe peoples.But, both cultures have managed to keep their inherent structure intact, modified as it may have been by each encounter.