Mattur – A tiny hamlet with one foot in Vedic times and another in the 21st century

Sanskrit is said to be the very foundation of our Indian culture. Known as ‘the mother of all languagesSanskrit was the language of our mathematicians and astronomers like Aryabhata and Bhaskara, famed names in Indian medicine like Susrutha and Charaka, scholars like Panini and Patanjali, poets like Vyasa, Valmiki and Kalidasa and a number of philosophers, scientists and scholars in every other field. Despite it’s deep roots to Indian culture, its a pity that very little attention is given to this language though Sanskrit is chosen as a second language in many schools. Back in my schooling days, I was asked to choose Sanskrit as my second language because of the scope of scoring more marks in the public exams. Unfortunately, this is how schooling works in major parts of our country and students in state board are tuned to score more marks over learning things in a resourceful way.

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After changing over from Hindi to Sanskrit, for five years, I had to memorize the Sanksrit slokas and grammar lessons and it wasn’t as easy as I could write my own essay in Hindi. Though I was explained the meaning of most slokas on the whole, there was a huge difference between how I learnt Sanskrit and how I learnt Hindi and the explanation offered was of very little help for me to remember my Sanskrit lessons. After getting the top score in Sanskrit in the state level in our public exams, I was told that the ultimate goal of choosing Sanskrit and improving the total score has paid off and that’s where the Sanskrit lessons stopped. When I read and enjoy the verses of Sundarakandam with it’s detailed meaning in another book today,  I feel disheartened that there was no teacher / text book / google or you tube tutorials in my school days to explain me these things in an interesting way and learning the very same verses in my school had been a herculean task.

The vintage cycles that still occupy the majority of homes of Mattur village

During our visit to Shimoga, one of our distant relatives (a staunch follower of Mattur) drove us to the Mattur village, which has been in news for being a Sanskrit speaking village and for practicing a vedic lifestyle. Few minutes into a house inside this village, someone greeted me and asked ‘तव नाम किम्’ (What is your name?) and I was amused to hear from the villager that every person in the village from a grocery store owner to a priest in the temple was capable of conversing fluently in Sanskrit.

With Shyama ji, a teacher in Yajur Ved patshala & renowned Sanskrit scholar in Mattur

I was introduced to the Shyama ji of the Ved Patshala as someone who had studied Sanskrit in school. The very next question was – ‘अपि स्मरसि संस्कृतं? अवगतम् ?’ (Do you remember Sanskrit? Did you understand?’) and as I replied ‘किञ्चित्’ (little bit), another flurry of questions followed as I fumbled to reply with all the Sanskrit words I could remember. Shyama ji explained us that the best way to learn a language was bringing it language into everyday use. He said that in the beginning, everyone may make mistakes, however people get better with practice and become fluent in speaking Sanskrit after a few days.

Veda Patshala near the banks of Tunga river

Shyama ji told us that the journey to Vedic roots started in 1981 when Sanskrita Bharati, an organisation that promotes this classical language conducted a 10-day Sanskrit workshop in Mattur. After seeing the villagers eagerly take part in the unique experiment to preserve Sanskrit, the seer of Pejawar mutt in Udipi (who had also attended the workshop) initiated a thought process of a Sanskrit speaking village and so Mattur adopted a Vedic lifestyle and Sanskrit became the primary language of the village alongside Kannada.

The Tunga river where the villagers carry out their morning and evening rituals

Perched in the banks of Tunga river, the Ved Patshala offers various courses on Sanskrit. The children go through a five year course for mastering the Yajur vedas. The patshala also conducts crash courses in Sanskrit between 10 to 45 days. According to Shyama ji, learning Sanskrit helps the students develop an aptitude for maths and logic.

The lush green trees leading to the farms in Mattur

Mattur is an agrarian village and the roads leading to this village are all decked up with fields inter-cropped with coconuts, bananas, jack fruits, areca nuts, pepper and paddy. Shyama ji proudly told us that their harvest is from sustainable agriculture and chemicals don’t get added to their fields. As we drove through the farmlands of Mattur, we could see the farm workers preparing and applying the eco-friendly dye for the colouring of the areca nuts. The farming practices were indeed sustainable and in accordance with the vedic norms.

Almost every home in Mattur village has a vegetable garden in their backyard inter-cropped with trees and spices

Mattur village also has a Rama temple, a Shivalaya, Someshwara and Lakshmikeshava temples.

Stones and concrete idols narrate the tales from puranas

Hoshalli (sister village of Mattur) and Mattur are well known for their effort towards preserving an ancient tradition called gamaka, an unique form of singing and storytelling practiced in Karnataka.

Hoshalli village as seen from Mattur

Over the years, many Indians from abroad have also stayed and underwent crash courses for learning Sanskrit. Shyama ji told us that a number of IT engineers, doctors and NRIs have returned back to this village to experience and lead a spiritual and vedic lifestyle.

Shruti Shankar Sanskrit Sanshodhan Pratistanam offers a number of spoken Sanskrit courses and extensive Yajur veda learning

There is a misconception about Sanskrit that it is a language solely used for chanting prayers during religious ceremonies while 95% of the texts in Sanskrit are nothing short of an encyclopedia for various fields like astronomy, medicine, mathematics, literature, grammar, (the list just goes on..) and have very little to zero reference to religion. While Harvard and other foreign institutions are busy reverse engineering the works in Sanskrit texts in various fields, Sanskrit has unfortunately become a subject of communalism and vote bank in India. Kudos to Mattur and few other Sanskrit speaking villages in India for their effort in keeping this devbasha (language of gods) alive and passing on the ancient wisdom to future generations.

Samskritha Bharathi offers video/correspondence/online courses in Sanskrit. Details could be viewed by clicking here. 

Reaching Mattur village:-
Mattur is about 300km from Bangalore and 8 km from Shimoga. In NH206, there is a diversion towards right to Mattur road. Mangalore is the nearest airport (about 195 kms from Mattur). Few buses ply between Shimoga and Mattur throughout the day.

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2 thoughts on “Mattur – A tiny hamlet with one foot in Vedic times and another in the 21st century

  1. Wowwwww Sandhya…..mind blowing article. I wish your article gets shared enough for as many ppl to get awareness about. One more place added to my wish list. And ur article is aptly titled!


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