Across South Asia, Inner Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia for nearly 2000 years Sanskrit was the language of influence and traditional order. Sanskrit meaning “refined speech” is mainly a sacred, philosophical language in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Dating back to early 2nd millennium BCE Sanskrit was used in poetry, philosophical, religious, drama and technical texts. Though it is in the list of the 22 scheduled languages of India, nowadays it is restricted to only Hindu religious rituals, or in hymns and chants. A lot has been done to preserve and popularize this language but the efforts of a twin village in Karnataka are remarkable.
Mattur – India’s Last Sanskrit Speaking Village
On the banks of river Tunga, around 8 kms from Shimoga, Mattur Village which is inhabited by only 5000 people, mostly Brahmins, is known for the people speaking Sanskrit even for their daily day-to-day talks. Also, this village has one software professional from almost every family. Till the age of 10 years, children are taught Vedas, in Sanskrit, by the elders of the village.
Around 600 years ago an ancient Brahmin community, Sankethis, migrated from Kerala and settled here. Primarily they cultivate areca nuts and paddy and speak a language – Sankethi, which is a mix of Kannada, Tamil, bits of Telugu and Sanskrit. It is claimed that the “Seer of the Pejawar Mutt”, during a 10 day Sanskrit workshop in this village, by seeing the interest shown by villagers to learn the language, exclaimed – “A place where the whole family speaks Sanskrit”!
The villagers took it to heart and as a result of today, each and every person from a vegetable vendor to a Graduate speaks in Sanskrit. Even when children fight, row, the quarrel is also in Sanskrit. Sign boards, graffiti, slogans, are written in Sanskrit. So much so that the village has produced 30 Sanskrit professors who are teaching in Mangalore, Mysore and Kuvempu Universities.
Ancient Tradition living in Modern days
It is not that these followers of Sanskrit, clad in dhoti and white drapes, chanting Vedas in “pathshala” are not connected to the modern world. People wearing T-Shirts, riding bikes, handling Sanskrit palm leaves in one hand and expanding the script on a computer in another hand can be very well seen. From practicing Gamaka Art, the ancient art form of singing and storytelling, to wearing Jeans, flaunting mobile phones go side by side here. It is very evident that the village not detached from outside world, from the fact that a lot of IT Professional from here work abroad.
Sanskrit considered being deva basha- means the language of the Gods, once considered to be the scholars of India, and the root of many languages, is spoken by less than 1% of the population today in India. Under these circumstances living Sanskrit each day, each second of the minute and forwarding the legacy to the next generation is really commendable. The villagers are even ready to teach the language whosoever is interested. The goal definitely keeps the flame glowing and not let this ancient language of India Die.
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