New life,old death for Sanskrit in Uttarakhand

New life,old death for Sanskrit in Uttarakhand

People in two of its villages can now converse in Sanskrit after the former BJP government made it the second official language of the state. But what next?

What strikes you as you walk into Bhantola village in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region are the Sanskrit slogans on its walls. The fronts of all houses bear ‘Sanskrit griham’,while a shop calls itself ‘apnnah’. Bathrooms are marked out as ‘snanagrah’.

In January 2010,the then BJP government gave Sanskrit the status of second official language in Uttarakhand,the only state in the country to do so. Three-and-a-half years later,from state government offices to the jobs that would have sustained this dying language,little has changed on the ground. Two villages—Bhantola in Kumaon and Kimotha in Garhwal—were named ‘Sanskritgram’ with much fanfare. Here,people learnt to speak the language with much hope and now wait in vain for the gains that were to follow.

“Yogen jayate muktih (Yoga ensures salvation)” declares a slogan on some walls,while “Sanskrit bhasha newa klishta na cha kathina (Sanskrit language is neither enigmatic nor tough)” says another in Bhantola.

“We have done it on our own,” says pradhan Chandra Joshi. “We have not got any contribution from the state government for this wall campaign.”


Joshi,who herself has a Masters (‘Acharya’ degree) in Sanskrit,says the state government has neither started the primary Sanskrit school nor the library it promised at the time of making Bhantola a Sanskritgram.

Such was the initial enthusiasm that even women who had otherwise not received formal education beyond Class V enrolled to learn Sanskrit. “I had not touched a book after my marriage,” chuckles Haripriya (42),who has been married nearly 20 years. “I saw the enthusiasm among the women of my village to learn to speak Sanskrit and joined them.”

One of the reasons Bhantola was picked to be a Sanskritgram was that its men belonging to the Brahmin caste have traditionally performed rituals such as solemnising weddings,namkarans (naming of infants) and tying of the sacred thread.

Manoj Adhikari had been selected at the time as ‘Acharya’ to teach the villagers Sanskrit. Adhikari took his assignment seriously,regularly visiting even the Dalit basti of the village to teach its residents a language once considered a preserve of the upper castes. In Bhantola,there is a lot of respect for Adhkari’s work.

However,it was after the completion of the first stage that the entire enterprise got stuck. Sources in the government said the Bhantola villagers who learnt Sanskrit were supposed to be appointed as teachers (Acharya) in other villages that were to be given the status of Sanskritgram. Since no other village was given that status after 2010,Bhantola’s new Sanskrit speakers had no avenues left. With the BJP government giving way to the Congress’s,there is no expectation of the project being revived.

So far,precious money and resources have been spent on the scheme. The annual expenditure of the state government on Sanskrit is about Rs 21 crore,including the salary of teachers in

Sanskrit schools.

There is a separate Sanskrit Education Department,88 government-aided Sanskrit educational institutes,and 47 Sanskrit colleges giving ‘Shastri (BA)’ and ‘Acharya (MA)’ degress. The government’s plan to open at least five primary schools in Sanskrit medium in every block is still to see the light of day.

Besides,while the Sanskrit Shiksha Pariksha Parishad came into existence in April 2010,it is yet to start conducting examinations for the schools it controls. The board,in fact,functions from a rented house in Dehra Dun,without a regular director. Assistant Director Rashmi Badauni refused to comment on the state of

Sanskrit education.

Another reflection of the state government’s empty promises is the absence of Sanskrit nameplates bearing the names of the CM,ministers and bureaucrats in the corridors of power.

Lalit Farshwan,the MLA from Kaptok of which Bhantola is a part,said he would communicate the grievances of Bhantola villagers to the state government. “They have become sentimental for Sanskrit,” he says.


Manju Updhayay of Bhantola agrees. Like others in her village,she doesn’t regret learning the language. As she says,in jest,her only regret is that “Gaali nahi sikhenge hamare bachche (Our children will not know learn how to abuse).” However,as the government leaves it in limbo,Bhantola’s anger may find an outlet in other ways.