Multi-lingual education in Odisha and Kosli language

January 8, 2012 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

Following messages were sent by Dr. Arjun Purohit to different e-forums:

Part I

Dear all,

As a preamble to what I going to comment,please read Dr.Debi Patnaik’s article in Sambad which appeared in Sambad  around December 9,2011, which can be translated:*Multi-lingual education in Odisha :Plenty of opportunities taking leadership in bi-lingual/multi-lingual education in Odisha”. Earlier Dr.Patnaik vehemently argued about unilateral linguistic character of Odisha, and was opposed to recognising relevance and identity of Koshali language as a separate language. This was in response to our posting(Purohit and Karmee) in this forum about the advisability and possibility of inclusion of Koshali in the 8th schedule. I wrote a four part series as rebuttal to Dr.Patnaik’s assertion. So here is my response to Dr.Patnaik’s posting under question.

First of all, I heartily appreciate Dr.Patnaik’s  main themes in this article(1)Odisha is multi-lingual state, with two major languages,Odia and Koshali, and(2) Odisha should provide education  through the languages prevalent in the state. I also applaud Odisha government’s recent announcement re provision of instruction through some of the Adivashi languages. This is good. I hope Dr.Patnaik will  join me and fellow Koshalis in our quest for inclusion of Koshali in 8th schedule as soon as possible. I understand that recently Odisha government has recommended Ho to be included in the 8th schedule.As to why Odisha government is reticent in recognition of Koshali as a language in its own right is beyond me. This as you can imagine has caused severe bitterness in Koshal or Western Odisha region.As you know when in 1993 High level Commission was established, Indian government specifically asked the commission to exclude Bodo from deliberation because it had already promised Bodo people that Bodo would be included in the 8th schedule to quell the agitation of the students of the area.In the words of the Parliamentary committee,”3.2 However, in the light of the Bodo Accord signed between the Government of India on the one hand and All Bodo Students Union and Bodo People’s Action Committee on the other on 20 February, 1993, the Government decided to delink the matter of inclusion of Bodo language in the Eighth Schedule from the issue of setting up of High Powered Body for evolving criteria for inclusion of more languages in the Eighth Schedule”. Eventually Bodo along with Maithili,Dogri and Santhali were included in the 8 th schedule.So what one expects the Koshalis to do ? Become militant ? Violent ? Rasta Roko,Rail Roko? Learn a few pointers from Naxalites ? Is that the only way ? In what way,claims of these languages are any better than Koshali ? Is not the government indirectly encouraging Koshalis to go the way Bodo people took ? So far Koshalis are going through all the civil channels,such as, writing memorandums, providing documents of authenticity of our claim,producing literature, making movies,conducting seminars, engaging in debates, launching newspapers and periodicals and everything imaginable but to no effect. Odisha government should listen to Dr.Patnaik and act on his advice to have a dialogue with Koshalis re use of Koshali in primary and secondary education. or democracy to survive in India, population needs to be literate and all the impediments must be eliminated. The primary goal of education must be to prepare the population for the 21st century. As it stands now, aggressive Odianisation with a missionary zeal has resulted in putting huge part of population in  a disadvantage in education and consequent huge drop out rate in schools.Many provinces have more than one recognised language, and such measures enhances the cultural mix because of mutual respect between the language groups. Behind the opposition to recognition of Koshali, there is an oft repeated assertion that Koshali is nothing but a dialect of Odia. This is patently not true, and worse,it is paternalistic.Most coastal Odishans cant speak Koshali, nor they are familiar with any Koshali literature.They are much more familiar with Bengali in northern coastal area and with Telegu in southern area. So why this pretence ? Why not celebrate the linguistic diversity in Odisha in stead ?

Dr. Patnaik has given a hint of the ontogeny of Odia. In my next part I will elaborate on it  and will try to give a very brief idea of roots of Koshali.

 Part 2

Dr. Patnaik writes in his article: “Odisha is the meeting place of Ashtrik (Austroloid ?),Dravidian and Aryan languages.” I presume he means Adivashi languages as Ashtrik or Austroloid languages. True, but it can be said the same for all central Indian languages, which may differ significantly from Odia. Since Ramayana period Aryan language and culture has been spreading from northern India to the tip of southern India including Sri Lanka. Legend has it that it was Agastya rishi who was the first significant Aryan to cross the Vindhyas to establish his hermitage in the south. Nevertheless, all languages evolve in specific context of geography with its idiosyncratic features,unique experiences,historical dynamics,adjacent languages,religious nomenclature, and even climate among other things. I will try to provide a contrast between evolution of Odia and Koshali, though they are contiguous in geography.

As a lay man with passing interest in history let me try to give a brief snapshot of major influences on the evolution of Odia as a language.   Coastal Odisha,primarily parts of old Kalinga,parts of old Utkala,  Udra and Kangoda is in the temperate zone facing the sea to the east and Koshal to the west. It has been subjected to floods and usual turbulences associated with being near  the sea. Original inhabitants were different tribes, with their own languages. According to Sarat Behera,chronicler of Kongoda (Rise and Fall of Sailodbhabas),significant  Aryanisation of central coastal area,especially Kongoda area happened during Sailodbhaba period. Nevertheless, Brahmins always acted as intellectual mercenaries serving different kings; therefore they  must have entered the territories at various times even before that. Most of the coastal area was entered by various armies primarily through the north to south route along the coast line,such as,Nandas,Mauryas,Bhaumas,Gangas,Afgans,Moguls and British etc.except perhaps, Meghvahana and Somavanshis from Koshal in the west. Marathas entered by Mahanadi.

In the wake of these invasions,languages,religions,fashions,customs and what not were brought in and these had significant transformative influence on the language. One of the most significant impacts on Odia language is Arrival of 10,000 Brahmins by Jajati Keshari, the Somavanshi king. These Brahmins were responsible in Sanskrising Odia language like never before.During Somavanshi’s regime, Odia’s Script which was called Bartula Devanagari evolved. For a long time, it was considered a sacrilege to write anything in non-Sanskrit,;but once this taboo was broken by Sarala Das, Odia literature flourished.Today Odia is great language with a rich vocabulary mostly of Sanskrit origin but it also has footprints of many non-Sanskrit influences. Khan in his Muslim Administration of Orissa says that nearly 2000 Arab/Persian/Urdu words embellish Odia language. Even the short presence of Portuguese  had a little mark, for instance,the word ChAbi came from them(Source,B.C.Ray: Orissa Under The Moguls). The influence of English is too obvious to merit discussion. Odia language speakers are justifiably proud of their language. It has truly evolved into beautiful one. It also has developed great and unique musical styles rivalling other great musical traditions of India. Alhough I am a Koshali, I am in love with Odia language and literature,though with a distinct  accent.

I am no historian ,nor I can claim to be linguist, but from my personal experience, I find no little semblance between the Odia which might have been in vogue centuries ago and the one in present use. During my travel in Bali in Indonesia, where I met descendants of  Kalingans who settled there more than a thousand years ago, I found very little similarity between their language and Odia as spoken now. They use the same legends(Ramayana,for instance), the same deities, like Jagannath,Vishnu,Garuda, etc. but with rituals very different from that of Odisha now. In conclusion,Odia is not a static language; it continues to evolve; and hopefully will continue to be richer. However beyond Odisha’s border, be it Sadeikela/Kharsuan or Medinipur, Odia is slowly getting atrophied because of its lack of relevance in day to day life. Some fifty years ago, I have met descendants of Odias (originally of Puri) who had settled in a few villages near Darbhanga(Mathili speaking part of North Bihar) because one of the kings of Mithila brought them to settle there centuries ago.. They claim to speak Odia but it was hard for me to understand them. Thus, modern Odia has morphed into a very different and elegant form since the days of meeting of Dravidian,Aryan and Ashtric languages.

In the next part, I will try to give a very snapshot of roots of Koshali.

 Part 3

 Cntd. from Part 2

Though Koshal or Western Orissa too was the meeting ground Aryan, Dravidian and Adivashi cultural heritages, in many respects there are significant variables which are distinctly different from coastal Odisha. Koshal is full of hills and valleys, with fast flowing rivers and rivulets. And unlike coastal Odisha it is landlocked. Until it became a part of Odisha, the main and dominant connections of Koshal were with Northern India (modern Jharkhand and beyond) and Western India (modern Chhattisgarh and beyond) with significant contact with coastal region and marginal contact with Dravidian region. Mahanadi passes through Koshal originating through Chhattisgarh, a significant part of which is part of Greater Koshal, meeting the sea in coastal region. Mahanadi, being navigable year around, was the main artery of commerce as well as carrier of social contacts. Most of the significant political contacts were with west and north. Since it was the tail end of ancient Koshal of Puranic age, most of the cultural institutions are influenced by the north. The present note is not meant for delineating the long history of Koshal, but by the time Huen Tsang visited the region in 7thcentury AD, Greater Koshal was already known as Koshal  as a distinct region. British brought about 60 to 70 per cent of Koshali speaking area to the Bengal Presidency in early 1900s, which eventually became part of modern Odisha in 1936. During the long history of Koshal and Utkal/Kalinga, military conquests took place from either side. Political masters of Koshal such as Meghbahana Vansa and Somavanshis occupied Kalinga/Utkala, and Anangabhima Deva conquered Koshal. Never the less, Koshal even during brief subjugation retained its identity as a distinct region. The traumatic invasion and rule of Utkala/Kalinga by Ashoka as well as Afgans and Moguls was not experienced by Koshal region. The only attempted invasion of Muslim invasion of Koshal by Ismail Gaji, Commander-in-chief of Bengal Sultan Allaudin Hussain was routed in 1503  by Balaram Dev, who was then commander-in-chief of Koshal army.The Muslim army was defeated and eventually Balaram Dev became king of Koshal.   Koshal was briefly (5 to 6 years) occupied by Marathas but for a much longer period by Utkal/Kalinga.During British occupation, legendary armed revolt (1827 to 1864) led by Surendra Sai too well known to be detailed here. This is a very brief snapshot of the history highlighting some of the important events.

The religious scene in Koshal was dominated by Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism and Saiba/Sakta Tantrism, evidence of which abounds throughout the region. Nabin Sahu, well known historian, Padmasambhaba from Sambalpur went Tibbet at the invitation of Tibbetan monarch of 8th century and spread Vajrayan Buddhism. Voluminous writings by him as well as other Vajrayana Siddhas, like Nagarjuna (not Adi Nagarjuna), Indrabhuti, Laxminkara and Sakyamitra from Koshal suggest that Koshala was an important center of Sanskrit and Pali pedagogy. Vaishavism crept in gradually after Koshal was integrated with Odisha. Demographically, the region had twenty different tribes, some with their own language but all tribals are conversant with Koshali. Aryanisation of the area took place in drips and drabs without any sudden influx as it happened in Kalinga/Utkal. There is evidence of existence of many Srotriya Brahmins usually under the tutelage of various kings and chieftains. Balaram Dev in 16 th century  brought a few Brahmins and Karans, who took over priestly duties and administrative functions. Previous to that Gonds were the main civil servants. During Muslim occupation of coastal Odisha, more Brahmins came to Koshal probably to escape Muslim atrocity against Brahmins there. In this historical context Koshali language developed.

In the next part, I will try to highlight the main features of Koshali language.

 Part 4

Cont. from Part 3

 In this note, I will illustrate some of the features of Koshali language which are derived from some of the sources described before. My challenge is how to deal with this vast topic in the body of this note. As a starter I urge readers to be familiar with three works which will be good context to this note: 1.Koshali Bhasha Ra Sankhipta Parichaya by Pragnadatta Joshi(Ed) Dr.Dolgobinda Joshi, 2.Sambalpuri Odia Shabda Kosha by Dr.Prafulla Kumar Tripathy, and3.Sambalpuri Koshali Vyakarana by Dr.Nila Madhaba Panigrahi and Dr.Prafulla Kumar Tripathy. By necessity, I will give only samples and will not dwell on the theoretical possibilities.

From our Adivashi roots, we have inherited a vast vocabulary, especially connected to intimate connection with natural surroundings::Dangar {hill), Dungri (small hill), Jor (fast flowing rivulet), Unkia (morning light) etc. Other words; DhangrA( young man), DhAngri(young woman), Bui(young lady from a respected family).Bua(father),BhuskA, Bhuski(Fat man,Fat woman). One of the Siddhas named in Yogini Kosha (10 th Century?) is BhuskApA, probably a Koshali.

Pali source: UdurchA (Sanskrit equivalent Uddhata) to be found in Abhidharma Kosha of Trpitaka as one of the Akushala dharma.

Sanskrit: Kindrikari (to go around), Nani (young girl, Sk.: Nandini); ButA (Brutti), Bhuti, meaning wage in Koshali (Bhukti)

Northern source: Sentence structure where negative is placed before verb unlike in Odia: Ex. Mui nain Jae (Koshali) but Mu jibi nahi (Odia); Chanti (ant, pimpudi in Odia), etc.

Western Source: Gudi (temple) as used in Marathi/Bidarbhi, etc…

Tantrik Heritage: The word Puja used sometimes with added meaning, sacrifice (BaLi). In verb form, Pujidemi means I will chop the head off; from the same word, Pajei means sharpening the cutting instrument.

There are many words which are used with different meaning Koshali and Odia, such as NanA (father in some parts in coastal Odisha but father’s sister in Koshali), ChhenA (cheese in Odia but dried cow dung in Koshali.

Thus, archeological dig into Koshali language reveals stamp of most of roots of Koshali heritage. But vocabulary by itself does not make a language. It has to be means of communication in all day to day affairs. Koshali language has been shaped over centuries and has adequately served this purpose. It has different tone, timbre and rhythm, which distinguish itself from Odia, just as Odia has its own stylistic features… The rhythm of Koshali songs is markedly different from Odia.  For instance, Champu fits so well to Odia, just as Dalkhai fits to Koshali. Singing Champu in Koshali will sound bad as Dalkhai in Odia.

How resilient is Koshali? In spite of aggressive Odianisation of Koshal region, Koshali not only survives but also thrives. Odia remains as second language for Koshalis who invariably speak Koshali at home as well as in their day to day social intercourse.

In 1969,Rajendra Lal Mitra argued in Cuttack: if Bengali could successfully replace Odia in the district of Midnapore then why it could not do so in the other three districts of the Orissa Division under the Bengal Presidensy as well which comprised of a population of barely 20 lakhs ?(Source:A.K.Mishra in The Raj;Nationalists and Refrorms). Well, he was wrong, just as the attempt to extinguish Koshali in Koshal region has proved to be wrong. When Orissa was formed in 1936, it started with a population of 8,043,681 including the then undivided Sambalpur district but excluding princely states. Now the Koshal region has about 15 million people. So if less than 8 million or so people can be a linguistic unit, why 15 million people will have to be deprived of the similar status?

I will conclude this series with a last part.

Part 5

 Contd from part 4

 In the body of his essay, Dr.Patnaik says,”There should be Orissa wide policy on languages. It is essential that regions should develop their own identity. Such identity should be respected…..” This is a welcome suggestion. He continues,” In Odisha, there is plenty of opportunity for leadership in being involved in the educational field of bi-lingual and multi-lingual education.” This is a wise observation, and the Odisha government should take it seriously. In a democracy, access to education as well as all the public services should be accessible to all citizens irrespective of language spoken; geography lived in, religion adopted, or any other similar barriers. For generations Koshalis have been disadvantaged in more ways than one, especially in the field of education, simply  because they speak a different language, and live in different region Persistent efforts have been made to marginalise Koshali language, and it has been disconnected with education. So Dr.Patnaik’s suggestion should be taken seriously by the policy makers.

I do have concern over his statement when he says,” If such regional identity leads to division of the state, this tendency should be vigorously resisted”. For far too long due recognition of Koshali has not been given to Koshalis because many well- known coastal intellectuals have argued that such recognition will lead to regionalism, and eventual division of the  state. Koshali was simply relegated as a dialect of Odia. Right now there is a growing movement for separation because of serious inter-regional imbalance combined with non-abating continuous trend to concentrate most of the resources in the sixty mile zone in the coastal area. Non-recognition of Koshali language is one of many reasons why separation movement is gaining momentum. Unless this issue is resolved, there would be continuous state of turmoil in the province.

So Quo Vadis  from here ?  In my humble opinion, once one accepts the obvious reality that Odisha is a multi-lingual state with two major languages, then one should give Koshali the same stutus as Odia and adjust the delivery of public services including education not only in Odia and Koshali but also in indigenous languages where these two major languages are not spoken. The government should also move fast in facilitating the inclusion of Koshali in the 8th schedule.

Thank you for your patience.

Season’s Greetings

Arjun Purohit

PS: Forgive typos


Entry filed under: Athmallik, Balangir, Bargarh, Boudh, Deogarh, Grammer, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Kosli language and literature, Language, Nuapada, Region watch, Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Sundergarh.

Khariar College is now an autonomous institute Evolution of language and Kosli grammar: An article by Prasanna Kumar Karabara

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