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Shrinivasa M | TNN | Mattur (Shimoga, Karnataka) | April 3, 2019:: Subramanya’s grocery shop, situated on the main road of the village, is buzzing with customers asking for various household items. What’s unusual is their language of communication – Sanskrit. The shop owner and his assistant, however, appear unperturbed – both are well versed in the ‘dead’ language. Just a few metres away, tea stall owner Armugam proudly says he regularly attends Sanskrit classes, organised at the Mariyamma temple. While conversing with the locals, he uses Sanskrit words liberally. Close by is a primary school run by the government. Its students are already familiar with simple Sanskrit words and sentences used in day-to-day life. Far from being dead, Sanskrit in this village is well and truly flourishing.
This is Mattur, a quaint, sleepy village located on the banks of river Tunga, about eight kilometres from Shivamogga city. Areca is the primary crop of cultivation in this village of about 3,500 people. Although technology has made inroads into people’s lives, Sanskrit continues to be the preferred choice of communication, even though Kannada is the official language of the state. Sanskrit is spoken at the only hospital and bank branch of the village, as well as its eateries, shops and three schools, where from a young age, children are acquainted with the Deva Bhasha – ‘language of the gods’.
Adjoining Mattur is Hosahalli village. Here too, Sanskrit is gaining popularity and is being taught through the Gayatri Veda Pathshala. Ruthukumar Nayak, a local, says Sanskrit classes start at around 4.30am on the banks of Tunga river and continue through the day till 7.30-8pm. “In the morning, students of Sanskrit Pathshala attend classes, and in the evening, Sanskrit scholars hold classes for the villagers till late into the night. Everyone is completely focused on learning the language.” Ex-MLC BN Bhanu Prakash, who lives in Mattur, also holds a Sanskrit class every evening. He says he’s been part of this movement ever since the first Sanskrit camp was held in the village. “People are aware of the importance of Sanskrit. They have begun to apply it in their day-to-day lives. This is how we made this possible,” he said.
Mattur has Sanskriti (culture), Sanskrit (language) and Sangeet (music). These three elements have made the village culturally vibrant and a model for all.
H N Suresh, Director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bengaluru In 1983, Mattur was declared the first Sanskrit village of the country by a noted seer from the state, and ever since, there’s been no looking back. TN Girish, headmaster of Sharada Vilasa School that’s played an integral role in this Sanskrit revolution, recalls the events from 36 years ago. “Vishwesha Theertha Seer of Pejava mutt in Udupi was visiting the village to attend an event. The entire function was conducted in Sanskrit. The villagers conversed fluently with the seer, who was so mesmerised by this that he declared Mattur a Sanskrit village.” “After this event, Samskrita Bharati, a non-profit working to revive the language, headed by Chamu Krishna Shastri, started holding Sanskrit classes in the village regularly. People from all sections of society came to learn. Slowly the villagers started getting familiar with the language. This is how Sanskrit evolved here,” he said.
Breaking Social Barriers
A tour of the village reveals how Sanskrit has been able to break social barriers to truly become the language of the masses. It even caught the attention of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who tweeted in July 2018 about her visit to this unique village where “all residents speak Sanskrit irrespective of their religion.”
To foster interest, at the government primary school, the classes are deliberately kept simple. The focus is on learning Sanskrit words, phrases and grammar. DL Lakshmi Devi, principal of the school, says the students are excited to learn a new language. “The fact that students from a government school are learning an additional language is a major step forward. We encourage our students. They are given free coaching. Our teachers are skilled.”
Only two languages – Sanskrit and English – can unite the world. This village is a model for all in this regard
Padma Shekar, Vice Chancellor, Karnataka Sanskrit University Lessons date back to the year 1914 when the first Sanskrit Pathshala was opened. Now located in the Sharada Vilasa High School premises, the pathshala (school) has produced a number of scholars over the years. “The pathshala celebrated its centenary year in 2014. At Sharada Vilasa High School, Sanskrit is compulsory till high school. We also hold Sanskrit classes at multiple venues such as community halls so everyone gets an opportunity to learn” headmaster Girish said.
Even though one member from every family has moved abroad for higher education, H N Suresh, director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bengaluru, said “despite leaving the country, these young individuals have maintained their love for the language and used technology effectively to help in the teaching process.” “Mattur has Sanskriti (culture),
Sanskrit (language) and Sangeet (music). These three elements have made Mattur culturally vibrant and a model for all,” he added. Padma Shekar, vice chancellor, Karnataka Sanskrit University, termed the Mattur experiment nothing short of a miracle. “Only two languages – Sanskrit and English – can unite the world. This village is a model for all in this regard. Sanskrit is basically a research oriented language, and is not dead. The Mattur experiment proves this. I salute the late Mattur Krishnamurthy for this revolution,” she said, adding “It’s high time we start promoting the Sanskrit language. But we cannot start from the cities. The process must begin in the villages. Mattur is a living example of how it can be successful.”
Report & Pics Courtesy: TOI. Video Courtesy: Neethu George.