Thursday, 5 March 2015

Only Sanskrit is spoken here !!- Mattur village, Karnataka, S. India - revival of lost glory of Sanskrit - India's Strange places

Sanskrit, an ancient language of India well researched by Scholars like Max Muller and William Jones in  the past centuries, is a recognized classical a language of India whose written form ( earliest manuscript is in Vedas) has been in existence for more than 1800 years. It is more or less a cultural language of historical and ancient India. The other classical language of yore widely spoken in Tamil  Nadu is Tamil, which has wonderful poetry, drama, setc. Many of the literary giants in Tamil centuries ago  were equally proficient in Sanskrit.

Sanskrit is the primary liturgical language of Hinduism - temple worship, etc. Not only is this a unique and philosophical language of Hinduism but also of other faiths such as, Buddhism and Jainism; a literary language that was in use as a lingua franca in the Indian cultural zone. It is a standardized dialect of  Old Indo-Aryan language, originating as Vedic Sanskrit and tracing its linguistic ancestry back to Proto-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Indo-European; hence a member of the Iranian languages Avestan and Old Persian.

Sanskrit is an important area of research  in Indo-European studies representing a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and dharma texts. Sanskrit continues to be widely used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious rituals and Buddhist practice in the forms of hymns and mantra.

Unfortunately the spoken form of this languages is not popular; in 2001 census 14,000 plus people  declared Sanskrit as their mother tongue. Reasons attributed to this less popularity are:

Sanskrit pandits from Mattur village at Chennai discussion on spoken Sanskrit., Tamil
Tunga river near Mattur, Sjhimoga, Karnataka, India.
Mattur Sanskrit village, a street playing cricket.Karnataka,India
  01. The misconception that Sanskrit is the mother tongue of Brahmins only and is not for other community.

02. Difficult and tongue-twisting pronunciation of Sanskrit words.

 03. Unsuitability for  a technically developed modern world or technical wonders.

04. It is more a worship and ceremonial language.   

05. Political interference of regional parties in states like Tamil Nadu and their bias towards this ancient heritage on the wrong assumption Sanskrit will overshadow the regional languages  

In the past several decades  with the emergence of  a few regional political parties in S.India that openly preached parochial and linguistic chauvinism with respect  to Sanskrit, which is believed to be the language of only the upper casts. In Tamil Nadu except at temples, the divine sound of Sanskrit is seldom heard in any other  part. Very few schools offer courses in Sanskrit. However, in Tamil Nadu at some selected places there are veda patasalas being run by the Acharyas of Sringeri, Kanchi,et al  and by private trusts.,etc

Indian newspapers have published reports about recent revival of Sanskrit in many places:

 Mattur,   Shimoga district, Karnataka
 Jhiri,  Rajgarh  district, Madhya Pradesh
 Ganoda,  Banswara  district, Rajasthan
 Shyamsundarpur,  Kendujhar  district, Odisha
Mathur village (one may call it a hamlet), 4 km from the town of Shimoga is located amidst lush coconut and arecanut groves  lined along the banks of the river Tunga, has a quiet and rural ambiance often broken by the melodious  musical chants in Sanskrit.

Once you pass through the fertile place into this small village (population 5000) your are in for a surprise. Wherever you go, you hear Sanskrit spoken. For more than 25 years this unique village has been spearheading a movement to revive India's ancient language Sanskrit and the local people's cooperation and interest is a major factor that  has drawn the attention of the media. 

The villagers also take keen interest in Vedas and Vedanta and manage to converse  in Sanskrit every day. Regardless of religion or faith they follow,  they are being encouraged by their parents. Some Muslim students in a local school recite slokas effortlessly along with their classmates. Even off school at play ground and at home they converse in Sanskrit.

Even the  graffiti on the wall is different. if you understand the meaning you will be amazed, nothing rubbish, no non sense or emotional political slogans written on the wall. Nor do they smear or paste posters in all public places on the walls as you will find in many parts of India, in particular Tamil Nadu. Thought- provoking slogans for societal improvements such as : 'Maargaha swacchataya viraajithe, gramaha sujanai viraajithe'- meaning (Cleanliness is as important for a road as good people are for a village). Other slogans such as 'Keep the temple premises clean', 'Keep the river clean' and 'Trees are the nation's wealth,' in Sanskrit are painted. 

Some interesting facts of Mattur village:
  . Efforts to revive  spoken Sanskrit began in 1982,

 .  At the local Sharada Vilasa High School, Sanskrit is made compulsory till Class VII and it is the first language from Classes VIII to X.

 .  From morning 4 am till evening the villagers are active.They go to the nearby Tunga for bathing and evenings are spent in prayers and recitation of Vedas.  

. Here the local community 'Sanketis'  speak Sanskrit at home and also make their young kids speak it at the tender age - two  so that by the time they reach the school age they speak and write in Sanskrit effortlessly. 

. It is the first village  in India to have Light Emitting Diodes (LED) street lamps. At least 250 houses and 75 streetlights use LEDs. Thanks to KREDL- Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited.

. The educated elite of this village - numerous men and women, who work in IT companies, believe in preservation of ancient heritage and speak Sanskrit at home. 
. Mattur and Hosahalli, where Sanskrit is spoken as a regional language, are known for their efforts to support Gamaka art, which is a unique form of singing and storytelling in Karnataka.