This village in Karnataka speaks only in Sanskrit | Condé Nast Traveller India


In a time when regional languages are slowly fading, the villagers of Mattur in Karnataka continue to speak Sanskrit, fluently and eloquently. 

Situated in the Shimoga district of Karnataka, Mattur is a tiny hamlet that sits on the banks of the river Tunga. Here, villagers lead the Vedic lifestyle, and read and study ancient texts such as Vedas, Puranas, to keep their culture alive.

Everyone in Mattur speaks Sanskrit, from the vegetable vendors to the priest. The children of the village start learning Sanskrit at an early age of 10 after they perform a thread ceremony. They learn to chant the Vedas as part of their curriculum. Sanskrit phrases like Kaatham Asthi (How are you?), Aaham Gachami (I am going) and Shubham Bhavatu (May all good happen to me) are often heard on the streets here. Sanskrit graffiti can also be seen on the walls of the homes in Mattur.

How did a village in Karnataka start communicating in Sanskrit?

Over 600 years ago, the Sankethis, a community of Brahmins migrated from Kerala, and have been living in this town ever since. 

Mattur earned the moniker of the first Sanskrit village in the country in around 1983, when Sanskrita Bharati, an organisation that promotes classical language, conducted a 10-day workshop in the village. This workshop was attended by Vishwesha Theertha Seer of the Pejawar Mutt. He noticed that villagers conversed fluently in Sanskrit and had a deep interest in safeguarding the language. “A place where individuals speak Sanskrit, where whole houses talk in Sanskrit! What next? A Sanskrit village,” he declared, and this is how Sanskrit became the primary language

Mattur is primarily an agrarian village that cultivates areca nuts and paddy. Other than Sanskrit, they speak a rare dialect called Sankethis, which is a mixture of Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu.

They say almost every home in the Brahmin village has an IT professional, and many of them are pursuing careers abroad. They often credit their academic knowledge to their training in chanting, which helps them develop an aptitude for maths and logic.

The village, however, is not open to outsiders, according to reports. The community largely encourages people to marry within the community.

 

 



Updated: January 25, 2021 — 12:33 pm

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