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Thursday, 1 May 2008

VIEWS AND REVIEWS ON KONKANI LANGUAGE IN 1923 - By Dr S M Tadkodkar

It is quite heartening to talk on Goa's mããya-bhaas i. e. Konkani. The Sun and the Moon do not speak about their own identity. Konkani speakers too, leave apart some respectable names, did not speak aloud about own distinct identity then. The most astonishing fact is that until mid-twentieth century intellectual non-Goans, in quite a large number, spoke more on existence, nature and lineage of the great traditional language of the Konkan region. The neez-goemcaars got moral and technical support from them. John Leyden (1775-1811), William Carey (1761-18340), John Wilson (1804-1875), Dr. Joaquim Heliodoro Da Cunha Rivara (1800-1879) can be named among the best lot. Some of them were viciously critical too. The Maharashtrians too were not lagging behind. But quite a few among them were interested in focusing on the opinion that Goa's mããya-bhaas was a dialect of the principal language of Maharashtra i. e. Marathi.

Among all of them Rao Sahib Dr. V. P. Chavan (some time vice president of THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF BOMBAY), Dr. Sumitra Mangesh Katre, Dr. S. B. Kulkarni, with in-depth study, maintained that Goa's mããya-bhaas has distinct and independent identity. For Rao Sahib Dr. V. P. Chavan it was a painful experience to observe that although the Goa's mããya-bhaas was spoken by over a million and a half people in 1924, it still remained neglected and uncared for. He said, "…its pristine beauty, its mellifluence, its picturesque, its natural sweetness, all these produce a homely sort of feeling. These characteristics, perhaps, have given it vigour to withstand the onslaughts of more powerful and classical languages in its neighbourhood." Dr. V. P. Chavan expected a lot, on this count, from the Press. He said, "We look to the Press to give us all sorts of news from all parts of the world. But the influence of the Press is not limited to being what is called 'Newsy'. The Press has a higher function to do, i. e. to educate the people and direct its intelligence to higher and nobler things in life." The Press did not fail him. Dr. Chavan delivered, in the presence of fifty erudite listeners (who had arrived from Pune, Thane as well), a series of lectures on the subject, titled "The Konkan and the Konkani Language" under the auspices of THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF BOMBAY during the span of three months. After the second lecture was delivered on Wednesday evening, the 5th September, 1923 (All the three lectures, later on, were printed in Volume XII of the Society's Journal), the Indian Press did shower accolades for the bravery (!) The Times of India (TOI, Bombay), 7.9.1923), a daily of esteem said that the lecture (followed by a discussion) showed that Mumbai (the then Bombay) was not quite as heedless of things of the mind as it was supposed to be. A letter written by some one, namely 'S. V. K.', and published in TOI (5.10.1923) after the third lecture was delivered on Wednesday, the 3rd October, 1923, mentioned Dr. Chavan as a member of a backward community and opined that those who had the fortune to listen those lectures, enjoyed a literary treat, which was hardly to be met with in scientific associations those days. He further underlined that those lectures revealed a depth of knowledge, considerable accuracy, high culture and hard work in the absence of any available literature.


Konkan and the Konkani Language, Dr V P Chavan
ISBN : 8120606663

This book is the reprint of a series of lectures delivered under the auspices of
the Anthropological society of Bombay in 1923 by Dr V P Chavan.





On the backdrop of these lectures, TOI (11.10.1923) was worried about the future of Konkani. Further, it suggested that the only thing likely to arrest the decay of Konkani would be a revival of that particular kind of local patriotism, which had emerged as a political phenomenon in more than one part of the world! The Prajamitra and the Parsee (Bombay, 9.11.1923) has sketched the lectures as follows: "Dr. Chavan had to break his own ground in as much as there was next no previous guide. The elementary grammar published several decades ago by Dr. Gerson Da Cunha was not available to him. He describes Konkan, traces its relation to Maharashtra, defines its geographical limits, for a moment turns aside to dilate on the castes and creeds of Konkan, establishes the proposition of Konkani as a feeder of the classical language, refers to the destructive activity of the Portuguese, comes down to the number of Portuguese words, and discusses its relation with Canaries… One cannot but admire Dr. Chavan's concentration, which helps to reveal the unknown depths of the Konkani, which one would, otherwise, have regarded as a negligible patois.''

Instantly, one would remember Itihasaachaarya Vishwanath Kashinath Rajwade, who had mentioned that the literature written, during the 17th century, by the catholic missionaries in Goa was in Paishaachee language and great scholar Prof. Anant Kakaba Priolkar proved the contention as a wrong one. The Bombay Chronicle (Thursday, 21.2.1924) had to take cognizance of the lectures delivered by Dr. Chavan. It observed them as follows: "The innate conservation of the people of India has given a vitality to some of the dialects, which is truly wonderful. Take, for example, the Konkani dialect, which is spoken at present by at least a million and half people in Western India. Though it has had no alphabet of its own and no literature worth mentioning, it has continued to live even in a vigorous condition at times, for nearly 1500 years, and this, in spite of the fact that a sister language very closely allied to it, namely Marathi, with an alphabet and a literature of its own, has been trying to crush it out of existence by the sheer force of its wider popularity with the governing class. The study of the origin, growth and vicissitudes of such dialect, therefore, cannot be lacking in interest to the students of anthropology, and Indian history." An evening periodical Advocate of India (Wednesday, 27.2.1923) complimented Dr. Chavan for his learned paper and passed on some remarks as follows: "Though the dialect has held the field for fifteen hundred years, Dr. Chavan, is not sure that it will survive a century more, since Konkani-speaking Christians are taking more and more to the use of English or Portuguese even at home…Still, to philologists the charm of this dialect, which has shown such a wonderful vitality for a thousand years and more will never cease."

The Voice of India (Tuesday, 4.3.1924) had appreciated Dr. Chavan in the following words: "There is no tawdry exterior betokening laboured vacuity in Dr. Chavan's studies. The disciplined thinking of a scientific man, this – he imports into the letters…Unless we are greatly mistaken this scholar and medicine man, in more senses than one, is the author of those enlivening letters contributed to the Times of India under the nom-de-plume of Kunbi. …broad-minded appreciation is reflected in Dr. Chavan's pages, which gives ample evidence of how the apparently insipid pursuit of antiquated dialects can be translated into refreshing studies infusing in the reader a desire to hear more and more from author." The lectures delivered by Dr. Chavan convinced The Indian Mail (Thursday, 20.3.1924) about the distinct quality of Konkani language. As such, this periodical wrote, "People in these days are inclined more or less to adopt a language, which has the greatest utilitarian value, and it is therefore a significant feature of the Konkani language that, in spite of its not being a written language, it is still a live one." While exclaiming kudos to Dr. Chavan, The All India Saraswat (April 1924) said, "Dr. Chavan has an interesting explanation to offer regarding the origin of the words Konkan and Canaries. He suggests that the former is derived from kim kinnwam – what is this drug? The drug being the intoxicating beverages derived from palm trees abundant on the west Coast. As to the latter word, Dr. Chavan shows that it has no connection with Canaries language as such. The expression Lingua Canarina used by the Portuguese to denote Konkani was only meant to suggest that it was the language of Canarins or Christians born of Indian parents." The Goan World (May 1924) expressed a sense of gratitude for Dr. Chavan's onerous but fruitful research, saying, "As Goans, we consider it to be our duty to convey to Dr. Chavan our deep sense of indebtedness for the invaluable work he has done on behalf of the language of our forefathers, and we feel sure that the highly appreciative words in which the leading news and political organs of this city have spoken of his scholarly achievements. "We, as Goans, have it in our hands to contribute something to the great national movement that is now being spiritedly carried on, by cultivating our purely Indian tradition and by making an organised effort to save our mother-tongue from its present state of stagnation."

All these views on Konkani language and reviews on the lectures delivered by Dr. Chavan in 1923 form into a significant documentation for the students of history and languages.

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© Dr S M Tadkodkar
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2 comments:

Who Am I said...

Hi Roshan,

You are so inspiring by taking so much of efforts in saving our language. I appreciate you and also Dr. S.M. Tadkodkar for the above article.

Anonymous said...

Could not find a suitable section so I written here, how to become a moderator for your forum, that need for this?

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