Mattur – The Sanskrit Village

This write-up is specially for those who think that speaking Sanskrit is next to impossible. In Karnataka, a few kilometres north of Shimoga town, lies a small village Mattur. Enter Mattur, and your senses are assailed by a host of sights that is eccentric in its fusion of the
picturesque and the quixotic. While a set of Smartha Brahmins recite
Vedic hymns by the riverside in the morning cold, a couple of young
men with tufts zoom past on a black Pulsar — the unstitched folds of
their white uparivasthras flapping in the breeze.


Sanskrit dominates the life of Mattur, and not just because half the
populace speak the language — with varying degrees of fluency.
The journey back to its Vedic roots started for the village in 1981
when Sanskrita Bharati, an organisation that promotes the classical
language, conducted a Sanskrit workshop in Mattur. It was attended,
among others, by the pontiff of the Pejawar Mutt in nearby Udupi.

Inspired by this village where Sanskrit survived as a spoken language,
the seer reportedly exclaimed, “A place where individuals speak
Sanskrit, where whole houses talk in Sanskrit! What next? A Sanskrit
village!”. It’s a call Mattur took to heart.

Sanskrit is reputedly a tough nut to crack, but is it that different
from picking up any other language? In some rather important ways, it
seems it is. When a student leaves for school and says “Aham
vidyalayam gachhami” (I am going to school), he will know that
gachhami is very much like gamanam — which means movement. Both words
come from the root class gam, from which a fluent Sanskrit speaker can
dig up words for all kinds of movements and for things that move. Like
gau for cows and khagah for birds. But khagah is not merely something
that moves. It is that which it moves in khagam (sky). From a few
basic classes (root words), Sanskrit creates an endless chain of words
— all linked to each other.


Interesting ?? Well, Sanskrit is not only interesting but also tends to occupy the mind entirely once a person takes the initiative to get acquainted with it.



Lalitha Ramakrishnan

MA Sanskrit, Mumbai University