By Harshmeet Singh
There aren’t many better examples of India’s diverse culture than its linguistic diversity. The country is home to 780 languages with over 120 of them holding the ‘official’ status. But the other side of the story is that India currently heads the list of UNESCO’s world’s languages in danger.
The constitution, in its eighth schedule, lists 22 languages as the official regional languages in the country. This series of articles is an attempt to focus on these 22 languages, their pasts and present, and cherish our linguistic diversity. After discussing about Assamese, Bodo and Koshur in the previous write-ups, today, we shift our focus towards Konkani.
- Konkani has close to 7.5 million native speakers spread across the western coast of the country in the states of Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, and the Union territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
- A number of Konkani scholars claim that the older version of the language was in fact Prakrit.
- According to the legends, Parashurama, the sixth avtar of Lord Vishnu, shot an arrow in the Sea and instructed the Sea Lord to retreat to the level where the arrow was placed. The new land that came into being was called ‘Konkan’ – corner of the earth. The language of this land was called Konkani.
- With Goa being a thriving commercial centre in the ancient times, a number of Turks and Arabs visited the place frequently. As a result, multiple Persian and Arabic words came into the Konkani language. Some of them include dusman (enemy) and karz (debt).
- Konkani is written in multiple scripts, viz. Devanagari, Roman, Kannada, Malayalam and Perso-Arabic.
- Marathis have always been very critical of Konkani. Their common view is, “It a branch of Marathi; it has neither script nor literature; it is not a language.”
- When the Portuguese invaded Goa, they tried to force their language and culture on the local people. All the Konkani literature was burnt in 1548 and the use of the local language was banned. To safeguard their language, a number of locals fled to nearby states and provinces. As a result, the language developed different forms.
- The Konkani Wikipedia project took off in 2006 and the site has close to 100 articles now.
So the next time you are holidaying in Goa, greet the locals by saying, “Dev Boro Dis Dium”!
To read more in this series –
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