Annual Publication of Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata, India 

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From Mother-tongue to Motherland

J. L. Manwati

It has given me intense pleasure to know that the theme of the 'Vitasta Annual Number' has been perceived to be based upon our mother-tongue Kashmiri. There is no doubt that language is the most important factor for binding a community. It is the pioneer cementing agent, not only to hold a community together, but it also confers mark of identification on it.

Kashmiri Pandits have had to leave their motherland through religious / political persecution for centuries which has made their mother-tongue to relapse into near oblivion. This is more true in the present day diaspora which has scattered our community throughout the country. We at Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai have a nagging feeling that unless we make concerted efforts to arrest further relegation of our mother-tongue, we may lose our very identification as Kashmiri.

Another disturbing factor is that for quite some time now, may I say, even much before the present exodus, there has been sustained overt and covert endeavour on the part of the State authorities that be, to create an impression that Persian script has been the only script of Kashmiri language, whereas the fact remains that from the Vedic times, Kashmiri used to be written in Pali / Prakrit / Sharda, the recent off take from Sharda being the Devanagari script.

Conscious of the exigent situation, Kashmiri Pandits' Association, in collaboration with the Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust, Mumbai has already initiated many a step to inculcate interest among young and not so young biradari members in their mother-tongue, simultaneously emphasizing the need to adopt Devanagari script for the language. A delineation of the measures undertaken in this direction, shall illustrate the keenness, with which we have addressed to this challenge.

1. Mohan Lal Aima Music Award :

This award has been instituted in the year 1999 by Shri Onkar Aima in the memory of his brother Late Mohan Lal Aima, a doyen of Kashmiri Music. For this award, children in the age group of 10-18 years, having flair for singing, have to sing in Kashmiri and their performance is adjudged by a panel of professional Kashmiri musicologists and a language monitor. The emphasis is on the language. The award carries a cash prize of Rs. 2000.00 each for the best male and female singer. For the second place, male and female performers are entitled to Rs. 1000.00 each and third place contestants are given Rs. 500.00 in each category. Besides, each participant is given a certificate of having participated in the competition, which over the years, has become quite popular. The underlying idea is to create interest in the Kashmiri language through music.

2. Project Zaan :

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust, in collaboration with the Kashmiri Pandits' Asssociation has embarked upon this novel and engrossing project. Last year, under this project, information on the various facets of Kashmir land & the people, history, religion, culture, language & script, fairs & festivals, rites & rituals, saints & sages, shrines/places of woship, historical places, eminent personalities, arts and artists etc. was disseminated among the community members through periodical brochures/leaflets. And at the end of the year, these brochures/leaflets were consolidated into a small digest, and based upon this compendium of information, a Quiz Contest for various age group of children/adults, was held on 30th April 2000, wherein our enthusiastic youngsters participated in the day-long competitive events, mostly in Kashmiri language.

Another such information digest has been issued in the first week of February 2001 and a parallel Quiz Contest has been scheduled for 19th August 2001. The idea is to arouse curiosity in our youngsters about their rich heritage and their interest in their mother-tongue.

3. Kashmiri Language Classes :

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welface Trust is conducting fortnightly classes for different age groups, in spoken Kashmiri language at Vasai, Mumbai. The popularity of these classes can be gauged by the fact that not only youngsters attend such classes religiously, even the elders are making demands for short crash courses of the language.

4. A Primary Guide to Spoken Kashmiri Language :

A monumental work has been done by the Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust, in compiling an easy-to-read guide to spoken Kashmiri language in Devanagari script. The work, which is completely new in content, has been designed and styled in the easy to read and comprehensive format. The booklet amply describes in Roman accented language, the correct infliction of Kashmiri spoken language. The script used and the notations thereof, are from approved Devanagari script and there is least risk of adopting the script for both reading and writing of the language. This booklet is being released on the coming Navreh.

5. Kashmiri-Hindi-English Dictionary :

Another monographic work which is on the anvil of Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust, is a Devanagari Kashmiri-Hindi-English Dictionary. Although the research team engaged in this stupendous task is in the awe of the lexicographical legends and eminent etymologists who have done a lot of work in the field, yet the panel is sure that their research work, which might take another 3-4 years, shall prove its usefulness to the readers.

We hope readers will appreciate the work undertaken by Kashmiri Pandits' Association and Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust, Mumbai in preservation and propagation of our mother-tongue, which it is felt, can lead us to our roots Maej Kashir.

[The author is the President of Kashmiri Pandits Association, Mumbai, Kashyap Bhawan, Marol, Maharishi Road, Andheri (E), Mumbai - 400 059]
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Views expressed by authors in Vitasta Annual Number are not necessarily of Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata.


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Kashmiri Overseas Association, Inc. (KOA) is a 501c(3) non-profit, tax-exempt socio-cultural organization registered in Maryland, USA. Its purpose is to protect, preserve, and promote Kashmiri ethnic and socio-cultural heritage, to promote and celebrate festivals, and to provide financial assistance to the needy and deserving.

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