2020 is a remarkable year in the world history. In India too, it is no doubt an unforgettable year owing to the unforgivable, psychological, physical traumas that the people of India, especially migrant workers have had to undergo. This tribulation is difficult to express in words. Amidst such a massive fall of economy prior to Covid-19, the LAC issue between India and China and the Covid-19 pandemic have only hit our country’s economy further. It is during this time, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi cried big for “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India) and the famous freedom struggle slogan “Vocal for Local”. I propose it has to be applicable for every walk of life in Indian Union. I also believe, the meaning of such a slogan is giving prominence to anything that is local – be it culture or language. Thus it indirectly means every state in India is expected to preserve its local culture, language, and environment. Hence, it is believed, that the Government at Centre needs to realize the importance of regional languages too.
Language, as a power institution is an entity in hegemony discourse. It is a matter of speculation to deal with the origin of language and it is not deducible even until the current century though various studies have been undertaken, whether language began to exist five thousand years ago or fifty thousand years ago. But what strikes our mind is that primarily language is “spoken” not “written”. For example, it is mentioned in Bible, “Then God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Yeah, He ‘said’, and not ‘wrote’. Also it is not mentioned in which language he spoke, or any other details like, whether the language of the both the addresser and the addressed is same or not. But the forensic linguistic researches affirm the theory that any language must have developed from sign system to oral and from oral to written. According to this theory, it is obscure how a religion considers a particular language as its authentic one and sacred. Yet, almost all religions propose a particular language as their God’s language and is accepted as divine for centuries. While it remains ambiguous in Judaism and Christianity, the Jewish authorities maintain that the Hebrew is the language of God. In Islam, classical Arabic is accepted as the language of God. In India, the construct is Vedic Sanskrit as the language of God. Hence, it is a geographically, socially and politically constructed discourse to pray to their deity in their own language.
Why language is political here? Because when one goes through an overview of Post-colonial literature, it becomes very clear, how language (here English) has played a crucial role in discriminating the colonized, pushing them to the periphery and making them voiceless through this theory of linguistic hegemony, so much so that the fight is still going on to eradicate this English system. With an application of this discourse into the concept of divine language in India, a section of people who are very few in numbers compared to the larger Indian population, well versed in a certain language become more dominant than others in the society, and powerful enough to interfere with the political institutions. They are then able to achieve what they want and ultimately it is the majority common people who suffer a lot, not only within the horizon that the language dominates, because wherever the religion of that powerful minority spreads, the language also spreads and establishes a dominion. Thus, this concept of divine language is for mere political and material gains. For example, in England, until the English version of The Bible appeared, Latin had occupied the church as the language of God, as rites and rituals were made in Latin, and the common people were merely a flock of sheep following their masters. When the Roman empire split, Latin had become popular. Being ruled by the Romans, the English people had also acquired Latin as the divine language for many centuries, and it laid a bulwark between God and the common people. As a result of renaissance and reformation, with the help of education, the lay people wanted to have the English version of The Bible at least to save their souls, thus the dominant barricades in between God and common people were removed. Hence, it is safe to conclude that the ideology of domination and hegemonic is carried out through the concept of divine language from generation to generation.
In India, it is Hinduism that divides people based on Varna system, “Chaturvarna”, since the Vedic period. This varna system has been passed down from generation to generation through Sanskrit, its mantras and rituals which has camouflaged the hierarchy in the society. The necessity to talk about this domination at this point is due to the thrusting of Sanskrit in every sectors from education to public places by the present governing parties in India(Sanskritization). Since ancient times, many reformers like Buddha, Mahavira, and in modern times, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Thanthai Periyar have fought against this hierarchical and dominant discourse. Having participated actively in the process of this political and economic transformation, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar considered conversion of religion would eradicate the caste hierarchy, so he converted many into Buddhism, while Thanthai Periyar completely denounced the religion and proposed atheism. In their period, the platform and circumstances were different but now the Hindutva politics is rising way too fast to dominate and instill its supremacy. The minority dominant community is pushing its agenda by feeding abundant advertisement and money to develop Sanskrit and use it as a tool to spread the varna system indirectly in the young minds. One must ask this seriously as to why this government is allocating such huge money, in promoting Sanskirt particularly, while there are many Indian languages who are on the verge of becoming extinct. This will naturally lead anyone to the logical conclusion in understanding the agenda of the Hindutva politics. It is ironical to note that historically, learning Sanskrit was denied to everyone except the Brahmins, owing to its sacredness which consequently led to its demise. Now the same language is being promoted to be learnt by everybody only to reimpose the discourse of varna system in the young minds thus driving them backwards, instead of leading the youth forward in this post-modern and highly technologically sophisticated century. So, a reformation is needed at this juncture. Forsaking Sanskrit, people must return to prioritizing their mother language for rituals and ceremonies either by translating Sanskrit mantras, discarding its Caste implications or by following famous religious books written in their mother tongues by non-Brahmin sages of the past, because no other language in India promotes such disparities in the society.
For example, the books like Thirukural, Thirumadhiram, Thiruvasagam in Tamil literature, which do not preach hierarchical disparities, can be promoted as ceremonious books for chanting inside temples. The same way other states also have to look into this matter and promote such a massification which in turn will help to eradicate the varna system prevailing in our society.
The reformation against politics in divine language had taken place in India even during the period of Gautama Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira, who practiced to promote Pali or Prakrit, as the divine language as against the Vedic Sanskrit, which preaches the varna system of inequality. To annihilate the caste hierarchy masquerading in the name of Hinduism, several steps had been taken such as, religious conversion and accepting atheistic principles. One of the more important milestones in the anti-caste discourse is the appointment of non-Brahmins as priests, which has also been made into law in southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala. However, its social impacts are debatable as the non-Brahmin priests are still treated differently so much so that anyone going to temples can see them standing in the periphery. This discrimination still exists. Such disparity is due to the influence of linguistic hegemony. The Brahmin priests have been taught the mantras in Sanskrit for generation that makes them fluent and dominant.
The important issue that needs to be addressed here is that of the language of God, which is territorial in nature irrespective of its religious spread beyond its territory. The God needs to be worshiped and the mantras need to be chanted in the language the God is associated to and geographically bounded. For example, rituals and ceremonies to Lord Murugan (who is celebrated as a Tamil God and a lover of Tamil language) are done in Sanskrit, which naturally raises the question, how can he, being a Tamil God understand Sanskrit? Thus, incorporating the language of the region for rites and rituals is essential, so that both the God and the worshipper understand each other, rather than attempting to communicate in a language they both don’t know. This will consequently lead to the discourse of annihilation of caste hierarchy that has been carried through Sanskrit Mantras, for ages. This will also be helpful in achieving “Equality” in front of God.
Throughout the Indian Union, it would be remarkable if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Vocal for Local” can be practiced in its true sense by making the local languages mandatory for rites and rituals towards their Gods. This will be helpful in asserting the identity of and ensuring the due recognition to those who have still been standing beyond the sight of God.