[INDOLOGY] Sanskrit speaking villages in Andra Pradesh

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at uni-muenchen.de
Mon Jan 5 12:15:17 EST 2015

Dear List,

Here I have to repeat my usual message for whenever the semi-hoax of the
“Sanskrit village in Karnataka” is mentioned (which seems to be about
once a year). It thrills the romantic leanings of Sanskritists across
the world, and it needs to be seen in proper perspective.

Mattur is a village near the city of Shimoga in which a significant
segment of the population consists of brahmins of a particular caste,
the so-called Sanketis. They speak a Dravidian language of their own,
closely related to the Tamil and Malayalam of the region where their
community originated. Once upon a time, Mattur was known for its
Sanskrit learning. Two generations ago, there were still some noteworthy
traditionally trained pandits living there. The next generation felt
attracted to ‘modern’ education so that they might get modern jobs in
the big cities, and Sanskrit was neglected. Still later, it was
regretted that so much traditional learning had been lost, and with that
the reputation of Mattur as a learned village. Then came a
re-Sanskritization along the lines of the popularizers of ‘spoken
Sanskrit’ in Bangalore (the simplified / modernized kind of Sanskrit in
which most verb forms are not used, nor the dual number, nor the second
person, etc., which classical Sanskritists punningly call ‘vāntaṃ
saṃskṛtam’ [‘Sanskrit that has vā at the end (of questions, as a
question marker)’ or ‘Sanskrit that has been vomited’]. I remember an
article in a Kannada newspaper many years ago with photographs from the
village, where the mistresses of the houses had lists hanging in their
kitchens with Sanskrit names of vegetables etc., so that they could
learn Sanskrit while carrying out their daily household work.) I got
this background information from a Sanketi brahmin from Mattur (in other
words, straight from the source) who worked as a teacher of (real,
classical) Sanskrit in a college in Bangalore.

So is Sanskrit spoken there? Well, ‘sort of’. Just as you can find
‘Sanskrit-speaking people’ who did the ten-day crash course which the
Bangalorean enthusiasts offer in various towns and cities.

I do not wish to sound disrespectful about these present-day enthusiasts
(in fact I think they have something sympathetic. I imagine that I would
have joined in the fun, had I lived there); but I do want to erase any
possible romantic, false impression that we are dealing here with
Sanskrit mother-tongue speakers or representatives of an unbroken
tradition of Sanskrit learning.

Robert Zydenbos

Nagaraj Paturi wrote:

> The article does not mention names of any Sanskrit speaking villages in
> Andhra Pradesh.
> It even says, "In recent times, the popularity of Sanskrit has increased
> in the North and some parts of the South, except in Andhra Pradesh"
> Even the Muslims of Mattur converse in Sanskrit.Mattur, a village close
> to Shimoga in Karnataka. [...]

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