The initiative of the Mauritius Sanatan Dharma Temple Federation to translate Sanskrit hymns into Bhojpuri for Divali festival is quite puzzling. To say the least, there has been significant loss of Indian languages up to now. Sanskrit has a mystical quality which will disappear through translation into vernacular languages. Similarly, Christian mass, which was formerly held mostly in Latin, lost its mystical essence through translation into several European languages.
We guess that the aim of the proposed translation into Bhojpuri is to make the hymns accessible to a wider audience. We should think that efforts oriented at promoting the learning of Sanskrit among Hindus would be a wiser decision. We are not aware that there has been a serious study on the number of Sanskrit literate Hindus over the past decades, which might bring useful information on the progress made in this field ever since our ancestors set foot in this country.
Currently, it seems that there are more European linguists who are specializing in Sanskrit in India than Hindus themselves. This is how probably old civilizations start losing their blessings for the benefit of other cultures. In the case of India, we should recall that serious budget cuts hit Sanskrit departments in universities, a most stupid measure taken by the Congress-UPA government headed by the Italian Gandhi family whose respect for Hindu civilization is questionable.
Listening to prayers in Sanskrit is soul elevating, and saying prayers in the language of the gods is a most exalting mystical experience. We would be better advised to transmit Sanskrit at an early age so that children might grasp the keywords which will enable them to understand prayers.
Pundits used to refrain (recoil would be a more appropriate term!) from using any other language than Sanskrit and Hindi during a ceremony. Creole was considered as highly polluting, as Mr Soobarah once reminded us. Today, pundits utter a few words in Creole at the end of a ceremony just to make sure that everyone understands, and they look quite uncomfortable while doing so. Pundits should totally ban the use of Creole during religious ceremonies.
Right now, a serious challenge is the daily use of Bhojpuri among Hindus in the towns and villages and among Muslims, mostly of Bihari origin, in the villages. The promotion of Hindi amid the Hindi group, and of other Indian languages, mainly Tamil requires due attention. Since languages are appropriated in early childhood, there should be an awareness campaign to sensitize people of Indian origin to use their own languages in daily interaction.
Language is the backbone of a culture, and if religious and cultural associations really care about the mental and spiritual development of the community, serious attention should be given to revive the use of the above-mentioned languages in daily communication and avoid linguistic genocide.
Any time that we have the opportunity to speak what we consider as our own language, Hindi or Bhojpuri for most of us, we have a feeling of wholeness and completeness. Speaking any other language or even writing in those languages conveys a feeling of being split. Even worse, it sounds as treason against one’s Dharmic culture.
We were brought up with a sense of duty towards our culture, the duty to sustain the language, and the duty towards the community, including the broader Mauritian community.
The modern infrastructure, the sprawling road networks and the new airport are not sufficient to make our ancestors rise from their ashes and hail ‘Marich Desh ki Jai’ on November 2.
The issues of alcoholism, rape, wife-beating and crime, which are increasingly rampant among Hindus mostly should be seriously addressed.
Socio-cultural organizations and other associations are certainly aware of the priorities that they should address as regards loss of values, language policy and the preservation of cultural blessings that should not be thrown away. Having assumed the responsibility, they must act accordingly, roping in all components of the community to define a shared vision and, based on it, core goals that must be pursued.
* Published in print edition on 31 October 2013