The Gondi Language and the Revival of a Culture



Gondi language is spoken across six states in India and in spite of that only hundred people know how to read-write in it. Efforts to revive it are motivating.

Vinay Iyengar is a linguist – based in Mumbai.

India has a great diversity in terms of culture and the presence of languages. It is said that wherever you go in India, people speak an altogether different language and have a completely diverse culture. This diversity has made India a rich cultural site and has allowed several traditions to prosper side by side.

While most languages would have a defined script, a large number of people who know it, a body of literature, a dictionary there may be some languages and dialects that do not have such infrastructure. The case of the Gondi language is fascinating to see in this regard. The language of the Gondi people called Gondi is spoken by about two million people across the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.

Indus Seals
Gondi Pictographs and the Indus Valley Script

It is fascinating to know that Gondi language has more number of people who know it than many other languages that are part of the Eight Schedule of our Constitution. In spite of the fact that so many people know the language, the UNESCO has recognised the language to be one that is endangered. It is because of this declining status of the language that some individuals have decided to join hands and make a dictionary of the Gondi language.

The project is being done by a foundation called Swara which has been working to bring the language into revival. The language is spoken largely in states that have been affected by Maoism and so when the language is kept revived it would also lead to better understanding with the state. It has been seen that Gondi is spoken in several states and so the main language of that state has also influenced the language.

The need to create a standardised version of the language became important so that people who spoke it in different parts of the country could now stand at an equal platform. For educational and administrative purposes also the project is of importance. The task of making the dictionary is interesting and full of hardships, so far over 3000 words have been collected but it is too less to be termed as a dictionary. The volunteers from local areas are helping to take the project ahead and make their language more organised.

Pictograph Gond
This innocuous sounding statement could actually be a revolutionary find linking the adivasi Gond tribe to the Indus Valley civilisation, which flourished between 2500 B.C. and 1750 BC.

They hope that the state and government will support them and this project will bring hope to those who speak the Gondi language. The tribal people who speak the Gondi language have kept oral traditions to keep alive their heritage of songs and folklore but once the language is more organised, it would lead to a better situation for them. The project is a wonderful initiative to revive a language and it is hoped that the government will also ensure that many other languages are also revived in this way. Languages are the heart of our diversity and we must conserve them always.



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