Akshara (Devanagari) app

Sydney Sanskrit School is proud to launch the Akshara mobile app.

Sanskrit with fun – Akṣara (grapheme) app project is funded by the State of New South Wales by its Department of Education – administered by the NSW Community Languages Schools Program.

The primary objective of this project ‘Sanskrit with fun – Akshara (grapheme) online app’ aimed at creating learning experience that reinforces the traditional learning method with the use of modern technology create an interactive learning experience anytime, anywhere using the online application.

The app is now available to download from Google Play and App Store.

Varnas explain our feelings. Joining each akshara is similar to connecting our feelings. String of aksharas is called as varnamala. Origin of these aksharas is dated to the vedic  world when Lord Ganesha recorded the vibrations or  sounds generated from the drum played by Lord Shiva. It is said that these recorded sounds in the form of a script are known as aksharas and the formula¬tion of these aksharas is called as Maheshwar Sutram.

Further it is said that, each varna has its own meaning 64 energies in this cosmic world is represented by 64 varnas. These varnas in the form of script is called as an akshara In the vedic world there are 64 aksharas in the Devanagri script. However, in the modern world only 53 aksharas are recognized. The remaining is kept as sounds.

Akshara means ‘n-ksharati-iti-aksharam’ meaning something that cannot be destroyed is called as aksharam. These aksharas are fully detailed in Shivasutra Jalam. Learning the Maheshwara Sutrani (14 sounds) is prerequisite to learning the devanagri lan¬guage. Through these sounds we can understand the grammar very easily. However, in order to learn the grammar it is essential to know the script.
Learning to write devanagri script is very unique. While writing, all the aksharas originate from left to right or from top to bot¬tom. Writing the devanagari aksharas needs to follow this rule. Devanagri script is also known as a pictographic script. While forming a letter, the origin is always through a curve. The only lines used are the standing or sleeping lines to complete the formation of an akshara.
Bindu or poorna is symbolic of denoting the completeness of the world. Thus, we have used Bindus to form an akshara. It is also important to note that the total number of Bindus used in the formation of an akshara is always even. Odd numbers will imbalance the symmetry of the akshara. Each akshara when written properly is evenly distributed in a grid.

Akshara app attempts to help the child in learning the devanagri script in the most scientific way. To enhance the under¬standing of forming the devanagri script, we also have used the dot-to-dot approach to introduce the concept of writing the devanagari script through ‘Bindus’.

Dot-to-Dot approach for learning to write Akshara
In the early years of learning to write, working on dot-to-dot teaches chil¬dren not only improves hand eye coordination and also improve number order and help with counting. There’s a lot of concentration that goes into completing a dot-to-dot task.

Learning to write the Sanskrit aksharas using the dot-to-dot approach helps the child to improve focus and handwriting skills learn how to create shapes strengthen hand and finger muscles in preparation for writing strengthen fine motor skills while tracing letters using dot-to-dot approach focus on connecting the dots, still maintaining the big picture of forming a letter.

This app is based on the ‘Rajashree’ font created by Mr Sundar Rajan. We take this opportunity to acknowledge his commitment and also express our gratitude in up keeping the linguistic heritage.

Student feedback on the Akshara app
The development of the ‘Akshara’ application was a major turning point in introducing Sanskrit to a wave of tech savvy youngsters enabling further alignment with our motto of teaching “Sanskrit for fun”. The Sydney Sanskrit School’s Liverpool batch was the first to try the innovation, introduced by our teachers- Sumukha Jagadeesh and Rashmi Ravi. Each student was allowed to experiment with several features of the app, namely tracing the syllables.

One of our senior students, Avishant thought the application was “an interesting and helpful tool to educate junior students on the basics of Sanskrit writing and engage them in utilising technology as a means of learning development.

One of our junior students, Tara described the app as “exciting as a new way to learn Sanskrit syllables”. Our youngest student- Amudha was appalled by the fact that Sanskrit writing was at her fingertips through the means of a ‘game based platform’ that the app offered.

Students were able to identify some design defects in the app. In particular, the structures of some Sanskrit syllables were incongruent with conventional Devanagari script (for e.g. च, ञ, त्र) which was correctly pointed out students in Stage 2 and 3 of Sanskrit learning. Also, the calibration of the cursor when tracing was a point of improvement with a few students noticing lag and diagnostic problems. Moreover, the tracing required undeterred attention from the students which helped build precision, however at times, the students were disheartened as a result of not achieving the desired points allocated.
This feedback received from the students was crucial to the design team as it helped to streamline the app to meet the demands and expectations of the end users- the students.

Overall, the students and teachers believed the app had served the purpose to using technology in introducing basic Sanskrit syllable through game features to reward the student for correct structure tracing.

The app is now available to download from Google Play and App Store.

Students and committee members of Sydney Sanskrit School thank the NSW Government for their continued support to Community Languages Schools Program. Through the continued funding to this program, communities are able to engage in activities to sustain their community languages and pass it on to the next generation using the latest pedagogy and technology.