Kerala

A village where Sanskrit is making a home

Karamana agraharam is making attempts to popularise the language

From a provisional store putting up menu in Sanskrit to a local tea stall giving ₹1 discount for placing orders in Sanskrit, the Karamana agraharam here is slowly edging towards becoming a region where one of the world’s oldest languages is making a steady comeback.

Located in Thiruvananthapuram, there are 18 streets in the cluster that makes up the agraharam. A whiteboard stands at the entrance of each one of them greeting people with a line in Sanskrit and a translation for the language-illiterate.

“After COVID-19, the business was low. That’s when I came up with this idea of giving a discount to those who order in Sanskrit. In Malayalam, if you order ‘vada’ you have to give ₹5. But if you order ‘masha vadakam’ (Sanskrit for vada) you will get it for ₹4,” said Mani, a tea shop owner in the cluster, who sends his children to weekly Sanskrit language class.

Mani said his business in tea stall doubled after promoting Sanskrit, basic lessons of which he learned from Janani, a teacher who offered classes in the language. Janani ‘s love for Sanskrit started when she was a student. She attended classes in the agraharam in 2001 and later went on to take a professional degree in the language.

“From being a student in Sanskrit, today I am teaching more than 50 people regularly. This includes children and elders from the locality,” said Janani.

The attempt going on at Karamana is getting many supporters who call the efforts strong enough to rekindle the growth of an old, classical and near-extinct language. “The interest in the language is spreading even among those who have not learnt Sanskrit,” said A. Adikesavan, a resident of Karamana.

The promotion of Sanskrit language at Karamana was begun in November 2018, according to Mahadevan, son of an eminent Sanskrit scholar. “The initiative is part of the programmes of Vishwa Samskrita Pratishtanam and Samskritha Padana Pracharana Kendram in Kerala,” he said.

“We started with a 20-day programme called ‘Shibiram’, where one is taught how to speak the language. It like a nursery school; they start from teaching your name. Another initiative, ‘Gruha Sambarka’, is an advanced stage where we make house visits to educate people. For the people here, the language is not a foreign one but part of their culture. There are so many Sanskrit-speaking pandits here as well,” Mr. Mahadevan said.

When the ‘Shibiram’ was planned, the organisers were not sure if there would be enough head count to get the programme going. “But on the first day itself, we ran out of the space,” Mr. Mahadevan said. “This gave us a lot of confidence. Later, a nearby hotel, Annapurna, introduced a Sanskrit menu to encourage people to speak the language,” he added. And thus began the slow but steady movement of Karamana agrahram to becoming an exclusive ‘Sanskrit Village’.

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2020 9:00:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-village-where-sanskrit-is-making-a-home/article31945998.ece

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