Mattur: A Sanskrit Village of INDIA

Photo of Mattur: A Sanskrit Village of INDIA by Nishant Tyagi

Mattur, a culturally rich village on the banks of the river Tunga in Karnataka, is now famous across India as the 'Sanskrit village'. Here, even the vegetable vendor speaks in Sanskrit. Villagers use Sanskrit here for their day to day conversation and not just during poojas. Yes, Sanskrit is the language of the commoner in this village.

Photo of Mattur: A  Sanskrit Village of INDIA 1/2 by Nishant Tyagi

 Majority of Indians may think that Sanskrit, also known as Devabhasha (language of the Gods), is a dying language, but it thrives in a few pockets. Sanskrit is the language of Gods need not apply to Mattur. Enter Mattur, and your senses are assailed by a host of sights that is eccentric in its fusion of the picturesque and the quixotic. Soft and dulcet, a conversation sounds like a Vedic recital. Though it is a journey, which began about 500 years ago, Sanskrit has been modified as per the modern needs here by Samskrit Bharati. As one enters the village he is greeted with " bhavatha nam kim? (What is your name?), "coffee va chaayam kim ichchhathi bhavan? (What will you have, coffee or tea?). The pronunciation of "Hari Om" instead of 'hello' and "katham asti" instead of 'how are you?' are common here.

Photo of Mattur: A  Sanskrit Village of INDIA 2/2 by Nishant Tyagi

Everybody-men, women, children, literate or illiterate-freely speaks Sanskrit. Even the Muslim families speak Sanskrit without hesitation and as comfortably as is spoken by the Hindus. Their children are found in the streets reciting Sanskrit shlokas. Even while fighting and playing cricket in the grounds children freely speak Sanskrit. When one walks down a few places from the school where one touches the ratha veethi (car street) and graffiti on the walls what grabs the attention is: "Maarge swachchataya virajate, grame sujanaha virajante" (Cleanliness is as important for a road as good people are for the village). Other slogans like 'keep the temple premises clean', 'keep the river clean' and 'trees are the nation's wealth' are also written in Sanskrit and painted on walls reflecting ancient values. There are families who have written on their doors-'You can speak in Sanskrit in this house.' This is basically to tell the visitors that in case they are fluent in the language they can talk to them in Sanskrit.

sanskrit conversation in mattur village
This sanskrit vilaage in Bajaj Discover Bike Ad 

Yet another surprise is that many domestic articles at home are all identified with Sanskrit names - something very common in all homes in Mattur. So is the case with grocery stores, where all bottles and bags bear Sanskrit labels.

The village preserved its legacy, handed down by Vedic scholars, who were the original settlers at Palghat in Kerala. They decided to move north and found the banks of the river Cauvery and Tunga most suitable to continue their rituals and traditions. A few settled down in Hassan district, while some reached Mattur and Hosahalli. History has it that the Vijayanagar emperor gifted Mathoor and neighbouring Hosahalli, known as centres of learning for Sanskrit and Vedic studies from time immemorial, to the "people" in 1512. The gift deed inscriptions on copper plates have been preserved by the archaeology department. The journey back to its Vedic roots started for the village in 1981 when Sanskrita Bharati, an organisation that promotes the classical language, conducted a Sanskrit workshop in Mattur. It was attended,among others, by the pontiff of the Pejawar Mutt in nearby Udupi. Inspired by this village where Sanskrit survived as a spoken language, the seer reportedly exclaimed, "A place where individuals speak Sanskrit, where whole houses talk in Sanskrit! What next? A Sanskrit Village.

Study of Sanskrit in Mattur begins at the Montessori level, where children are taught rhymes and stories in the language. Sanskrit is a compulsory subject in both primary and high schools of the village. A Sanskrit school has been set up to teach the language to a large number of outsiders who flock to the village to learn. Apparently, it has given birth to more than 50 software engineers, most of who had come back from the 6 hour journey to their new homes in India's silicone city, Bangalore (Bengaluru). Mathoor has produced over 30 Sanskrit professors who are teaching in Kuvempu, Bangalore, Mysore and Mangalore Universities, besides many software engineers. Among the illustrious personalities from the village are Mathoor Krishnamurthy of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore, violinist Venkataram, and gamaka exponent H.R. Keshavamurthy.

Isn't it amazing Mattur is in Karnaataka and people speak sanskrit instead of karnataka's local language Kannada. That's the reason we call our country as " Incredible India".

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