Sanskrit in Malta



The Year 11 Malta trip has a legendary status in the school’s mythology, so naturally the eight of us were quite excited when our turn rolled around. However, in cold fact, once the four hours of revision a day are taken into account, it was a Sanskrit study trip.


Surprisingly, the first thing we admired in Malta was the calm efficiency of the airport, standing in contrast to our hurried departure. Our transformation to classic British tourists was simultaneous with our exit from the Maltese airline, as we began taking an extortionate amount of photos of palm trees. You would think the effect would wear off after a while, but on the contrary, it inspired a plant themed blog by my classmates.

Our study holiday started with visits to the temples  ‘Ħaġar Qim’ and ‘Mnajdra’, some of the oldest freestanding structures in the world, built around 3000 BC. Walking to the temples we felt a calm serenity sweep over us, replaced by awe upon arrival. ‘Mnajdra’ is positioned such that during certain celestial events the light shines through the temple, illuminating particular megaliths. ‘Ħaġar Qim’ was dedicated to a fertility god, and extraordinarily the shape of the temple from above is of a fat lady, a symbol of fertility. Unfortunately, I’ll never look  at spirals in the same way again, as they adorned stones around the site, depicting ovaries.

The next day we visited the truly beautiful Mdina, known as the silent city, including its cathedral dedicated to St Paul. There we hunted for souvenirs and I obtained some of the famous Mdina glass wear. Malta is particularly famous for glass blowing despite it being a practice only developed in the ‘70s. Upon our return to the hotel we enjoyed lectures from Professor Michael Zammit and his wife Maria from Malta University.

The revision hours were a tutor session preparing us for our Sanskrit GCSE, which included sandhi practise. Sandhi is the joyous process of joining most Sanskrit words together. If you had ever had the ‘pleasure’ of studying ancient Greek, imagine trying to translate it if large chunks of the words were joined up. Thatisthetraumaofsandhi. The Zammits helped us greatly through their lectures and we started to see links between the Sanskrit tradition and the Maltese temples.

Another tick off the tourist checklist was Gozo, home to the Neolithic ‘Ġgantija’, dating back to about 3,600 BC . The name translates as ‘Giants’ Tower’, who were rumoured to have built them; not an unreasonable assumption we discovered. The UNESCO World Heritage site has a mesmerising calm to it, as well as classic 18th century graffiti. We also travelled all the way to Valletta to see some of the artefacts discovered there, including the beautiful statue fragments (of fertile ladies, of course).

All that was left was one last evening of taking countless photographs of the golden hues of the sunset along the coast, and with that we concluded our stay on the magnificent island of Malta.



By Tanya Kovatchka

St James Senior Girls’ School

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