Sanskrit was considered as ‘DEV BHASHA’ or ‘DEVAVANI’, the Language of the Gods by ancient Indians. The script is called DEVNAGARI which means used in the cities of the Gods. The earliest form of Sanskrit language was Vedic Sanskrit that came approximately around 1500B.C, a period when knowledge was imparted orally through generations.
In many places of India, Sanskrit is considered a dead language or at best a dying language. People no longer speak this language. Some historians and linguists blame this because Sanskrit is considered as the language of Brahmins. They feel that common people have stopped talking in this language because Brahmins used to speak this language.
However, there are still few villages in modern India where people, irrespective of their castes, speak in Sanskrit. They speak Sanskrit even in their home.The villagers also insist the visitors converse in Sanskrit with them. Banter, greetings, quarrels on the streets, teaching – it’s all in Sanskrit here.
1. Mattur, Karnataka
Mattur is a quaint village in Karnataka that lies some 300 km from Bangalore. It is located on the banks of River Tunga and is at a distance of about 8 km from Shimoga (Shivamogga). It is a village widely known for the usage of Sanskrit for day-to-day communication. Mattur has a Rama temple, a Shivalaya, Someshwara, and Lakshmikeshava temples. It is one of the rare villages in India where Sanskrit is spoken as a regional language. Sanskrit is the vernacular of a majority of the 5,000 residents of this quaint, sleepy hamlet, as shopkeepers, laborers, and even children speak it fluently. Mattur is famous as the ‘Sanskrit village’ of India.
It is a unique accomplishment that the residents of Mattur have managed to keep alive the ancient language through their day-to-day communication in Sanskrit even though the official and native language of the state is Kannada.
Mattur is mainly inhabited by the Sankethis, a Brahmin community that had migrated from Kerala and settled down in Mattur about 600 years ago. Till the early part of the 1980’s decade the villagers of Mattur spoke in Kannada and Tamil. Sanskrit was considered to be the language of the upper caste Brahmins. Then the priest of the local religious centre asked the residents to adopt Sanskrit as their native language.
The whole village heeded to the call and started conversing in the ancient language. Since then it is not just the members of the Sankethis community but members of all the communities residing in the village, irrespective of their social or economic standing, have started communicating in Sanskrit.
2. Jhiri, Madhya Pradesh
Jhiri village is located in Sarangpur Tehsil of Rajgarh district in Madhya Pradesh, India. It is situated 30km away from sub-district headquarter Sarangpur and 50km away from district headquarter Rajgarh. It is a remote settlement, situated 150 km north of Indore. 1000-odd residents of this village hardly speak the local dialect Malwi, for it is the Indian ancient language Sanskrit that has replaced it in the last 16 years.
Jhiri comes under Rajgarh district of Madhya Pradesh. The total population of the village is 976 and all the people including small children, women, elder people and school-going children, literate and illiterate speak fluently in Sanskrit. Samskrit Bharati had started conducting Samskrit Sambhashan camps in the village in 2002 through an activist Vimla Tewari. She had come here only for one year. But in that one year, she developed so much interest of the villagers to the divine language that everybody in the village turned to learn Sanskrit
3. Sasana, Orissa
Sasana, a remote village in the coastal Gajapati district of Orissa, boasts of having a pundit of the ancient language in every home. Most of the dwellers in this community are Brahmins and the village has around 50 households with 300-odd members.
In all the households of the village in the Shyamsundar gram panchayat, one will come across Sanskrit pundits employed in government-run Sanskrit-medium educational institutions.
76-year-old Baishnav Charan Pati, a Sanskrit pundit who has retired from his teaching job, says, “We are proud patrons of Sanskrit. The ancient language is very much alive at the village”. Mr. Pati said that they made sure for generations that at least one child in every household had been taught in the Sanskrit medium of education.
4. Baghuwar, Madhya Pradesh
Baghuwar Baghwar village is located in Kareli Tehsil of Narsimhapur district in Madhya Pradesh, India. It is situated 5km away from sub-district headquarter Kareli and 21km away from district headquarter Narsimhapur. Baghuwar is the gram panchayat of Baghuwar Baghwar village. Sanskrit is the prime language spoken by a majority of the people in the village.
5. Ganoda, Rajasthan
Ganora is a Village in Ghatol Tehsil in Banswara District of Rajasthan State, India. It belongs to Udaipur Division. It is located 37 KM towards North from District headquarters Banswara, 18 KM from Ghatol and 448 KM from State capital Jaipur.
In Ganoda village at Banswara district of Rajasthan, the people converse with each other in fluent Sanskrit. A little over a decade ago, the villagers spoke only in their local language Wagadi. Things changed after a Sanskrit school with classes up to the college level was set up in the village. Nearly all the children joined the school where the teachers encouraged the children to talk only in the Sanskrit language to gain fluency. The children got so used to talking in Sanskrit that they stopped talking in Wagadi even to their parents. As the result, the elders started learning the language from their children and today everyone in the village speaks Sanskrit.
6. Mohad (Madhya Pradesh)
Mohad is a village panchayat located in the Burhanpur district of Madhya-Pradesh state of India. It is situated 25km away from sub-district headquarter Maheshwar and 60km away from district headquarter Khargone. Sanskrit is the language spoken by most of the people in the village.
7. Hosahalli, Karnataka
Hosahalli, along with Mattur, is known for its usage of Sanskrit as a primary language and for its efforts to support Gamaka art, which is a unique form of singing and storytelling in Karnataka along with Sangeetha (Carnatic music).
It lies on the banks of the Tunga River in Karnataka state, southern India. It lies in an agricultural region where the main crop is the Areca nut. The village is situated a little over 5 km from Shimoga city and around 4 km from Gajanur Tunga Anicut (dam).