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Where Sanskrit is a way of life

Rajasthan village switches to ancient language

Ganoda, Banswada, March 10: From the walls of Shambhunath Jha’s house, plastered posters vie for attention. But the one that catches the eye is a conversation chart that goes something like this: ‘‘Welcome. Please sit down. Would you like some water? Nice to meet you. See you again. Goodbye.’’

The chart doesn’t just tell you how to make polite conversation. It also tells you how to do it in Sanskrit.

Jha’s little daughter rapidly replies to her father’s questions, all in Sanskrit. Near the kitchen, the Jha household has put up another chart, this time listing the name of cooking ingredients and food items.

‘‘We use it as a regular glossary. Sanskrit is not our mother tongue, so sometimes we need to look up the chart. But most of the time, we manage without it,’’ says Jha proudly.

The professor is one of the many residents in Ganoda village who are confident that they can carry on an entire conversation in Sanskrit without a problem. The grocery shop owner claims he can rattle off shlokas in Sanskrit while in the adjoining utensil store, the owner informs that he helps his children with their language homework.

‘‘Almost everyone can speak or understand the language here,’’ Naresh Doshi says. ‘‘I studied only till class VIII but I still manage in Sanskrit. We don’t speak it at home all the time, but we understand and if someone comes to my shop and asks for something in Sanskrit, I’ll know what to give.’’

In this tribal-dominated village, Sanskrit is slowly becoming a way of life. Slogans in Sanskrit make the village walls, the language spoken in practically every house and every school-going child rattling off a few sentences.

The entire process actually started by default. Until about 10 years ago, Ganoda village was like any other in Banswada district of Rajasthan. Tribal dominated, average literacy levels and a non-descript entity.

But the growing number of students passing out of the government Sanskrit college in Ganoda changed all that. Over 1,000 students in the three Sanskrit institutions of the village — a primary school, middle school and the college — have joined hands with a group of their teachers to try and make Sanskrit the second language of the Wagdi-speaking population.

In 14-year-old Dharmesh Joshi’s house, almost everyone understands a smattering of the language. ‘‘My mother can’t speak very well but everyone else manages. Now I have attended a few Sanskrit camps and we are slowly trying to teach others.’’

Kanhaiya Lal Yadav is a first generation learner from his tribal household in Dukhvada. ‘‘We speak Wagdi at home but with my friends I often debate in Sanskrit,’’ says the undergraduate student.

Jha adds: ‘‘We decided recently to try and take the language to as many people as possible. There’s already an atmosphere of learning that has been created over the years. Now we are trying to reach out to people in remote villages and initiate them into the world of Sanskrit.’’

And to spread the good word, the teachers and students are practically going door-to-door, teaching, putting up posters and impressing many with their synchronised recital of shlokas.

For the motivated Sanskrit-speaking lot of Ganoda, the ulitmate aim is to make it a unique and model Sanskrit village. Their punchline is ‘‘don’t say hello, say Hari Om.’’






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