By Vishwamitra Ganga
The Mauritian nation should consider itself fortunate to have Bhojpuri as part of its varied linguistic heritage. Bhojpuri counts among the most colourful vehicles of the rich North Indian culture.
Bhojpuri follows on the heels of other North Indian tongues such as Braj and Awadhi in terms of beauty and sweetness. Awadhi, as we all know, was the medium in which Goswami Tulsidas composed both his Ramcharitmanas, the Ramayana of the people and the popular Hanuman Chalisa which sings the glories of Rama’s unconditional devotee. Although it is a fact that written works in Bhojpuri are not legion in Mauritius, the language has retained all its vibrancy within the folds of our intangible cultural heritage.
The popularity of Bhojpuri, especially in our urban areas, began to wane during the later decades of the 20th century. Bhojpuri-speaking parents were keen to see their children wielding refined Creole and French with ease because this asset earned them respect and a form of so-called social elevation. But it would be a mistake to conclude that these people ceased conversing in Bhojpuri completely.
Some healthy effervescence is being presently observed within certain groups eager to restore Bhojpuri to its pristine status as one of our lingua franca. That would actually be less difficult than people imagine. The majority of Mauritians still understand this language and have also garnered non-negligible knowledge of Hindustani as a result of constant exposure to Hindi movies, which will all be of much help in this endeavour. With the proposed setting up of the Bhojpuri Speaking Union and the adoption of Bhojpuri as an optional subject at school, it is felt that the language would have regained the desired foothold in Mauritius within a surprisingly short period.
It is a fallacy to believe that Bhojpuri works against the interests of Hindi. In truth, they are mutually supportive languages. As regards publications, Bhojpuri is already being written in Devnagri script in India. We have only to follow suit.
Government continues to do its part by providing institutional as well as financial support to enable all cultures to attain optimum blossoming. It is for the citizens to grab the opportunities and rise to the challenge. By the way, the onus of the revival of Bhojpuri lies, first and foremost, on the shoulders of Mauritians whose forebears hailed from North India.
Bhojpuri had been a great unifier of the people in the past as a lingua franca. Along with Creole, it is being once again called upon to promote brotherhood and intercultural harmony in our country through the medium of its legendary mellowness.
With regard to the cultural aspect, it is heartening to note that the MGI and people conversant with music and dance are conjugating their efforts to guide Bhojpuri artists on techniques of proper composition of lyrics and tune-setting. Indeed, Bhojpuri music and dance are fast losing their moorings and require some serious overhauling.
The richness and beauty of Bhojpuri cannot be grasped by those who do not speak the language. The present revival is nothing less than a boon which will not only provide all Mauritians the golden opportunity to savour the mellifluous tones of a beautiful language, but also consolidate further the roots of Bhojpuri Culture in Mauritius.
Vishwamitra Aashutosh Ganga
* Published in print edition on 9 July 2010