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Hindi as a national language – Pioneering thoughts of Veer Savarkar

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Veer Savarkar (Shri Vinayak Damodar Savarkar), a name that evokes extreme reactions is was one of the greatest freedom fighters who was sentenced for two life imprisonments with extreme hardships and his endurance is something that we are in awe of.

How can someone who has been in “Kala Pani” and that too going through phases of solitary confinement continue to work for a national cause?

When someone’s physical and mental conditions are at their abyss, how can someone take care of fellow prisoners, organize them, educate them and build a nationalistic feeling all along with severe constraints and restrictions imposed by the Jail authorities and staff?

One has to read more to understand the extent of hardships that were meted out to the prisoners especially the political prisoners at the Cellular Jail in Port Blair at Andamans.

Savarkar was born in Nashik (Maharashtra) in 1883. He was sentenced for two life sentences in 1907.

This article focusses on Savarkar’s beliefs and efforts towards promoting Hindi as a national language of India.

There may be comments and corrections called out that Hindi is not the National language and that there are 22 other languages recognised by Eighth Schedule of Constitution of India.  The purpose of the article is not to understand what is / are the national / officially recognised language(s) of India but to understand the forethought and efforts and actions taken by Veer Savarkar when no other leader had taken a lead on this subject.  

Veer Savarkar had thought about Hindi as a major link language / national language as early as 1906. 

Many other tall leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi had later expressed similar views but it was later than 1906. 

While in England, he had begun to work towards making Hindi as a national language. In a country as diverse as India promoting one language as national language was and has never been easy and has been cause of discussions / debates / tensions etc.  

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and his brother Ganesh Damodar Savarkar had founded the Abhinav Bharat Society in 1904. The members of Abhinav Bharat repeated pledge every night before they retired to sleep. Few important points of the pledge were:

  • Make India independent
  • Weld India into one nation
  • Make India a republic
  • Make Hindi the national language of India and Devanagari the script in which it should be written  

While in the Andamans as part of Life Imprisonment, he always promoted Hindi. This usually was not welcome for prisoners from Bengal and the Madras presidencies. They felt that their own languages i.e. Bengali and Tamil had a very rich history and literature and could be the candidates for the national language.

While Savarkar (himself a Maharashtrian and a non-native Hindi speaker) said that one can love his mother tongue but the country needed a cultural integration which could be accomplished via Hindi. Given that the number of Hindi speaking people far exceeded the speakers of other languages, it was logically the best thread that could hold the garland of culture in India.

Savarkar agreed that next to Hindi if any other language could deserve the honor of having national language, it was Bengali. He was a nationalist to the core and way above the parochial views of language and region.

He spoke to the prisoners from Punjab and helped them understand that the best writings of Guru Govind were written in pure Hindi like his drama “Vichitra” (Bachittar Natak).

Suraj Prakash, also called Gur Partap Suraj Granth, is a popular and monumental text about Sikh Gurus written by Kavi Santokh Singh. It is written in Braj Bhasha language in Gurmukhi script, with significant use of Sanskrit words. As Braj Bhasha is a form of Hindi, Savarkar convinced Sikhs that Hindi was the language of their religion and Gurumukhi was just a script. So they realized the value of Hindi as a national language and the language of their Panth.

In the Andamans, as part of training the prisoners he had set a rule that every prisoner should first learn his other tongue, followed by Hindi and then any other language of any province (other than his own).

Savarkar had to meet the objections of fellow prisoners and had to provide facts that Hindi was a rich language with Grammar, literature and vocabulary

Hindi at that time in Andamans was written in Persian script.  Even the government records were maintained in Urdu but owing the efforts of Veer Savarkar, they started to be maintained in Hindi (in Devanagari script). Through his unshakable faith and powered by his efforts, he started a girls’ school in the Andamans, where Hindi was made a compulsory subject.

He favored learning any language including Urdu but was against imposition of it on Hindu children in Andamans. He himself was well versed with Urdu has written Ghazals as well during his prison sentence at Andamans.

Veer Savarkar was a pioneering figure that promoted the cause of Hindi and our generation should know this. When the very idea of making Hindi as national language was preposterous and the leaders ridiculed and sidelined it, Savarkar took steps to make it happen.

In his book, My Transportation for life, Savarkar himself says that only the Nagar Pracharini Sabha of Banaras and Arya Samaj were the first agitators for promoting Hindi as national language.

He himself says that the first credit of propaganda in favor of Hindi as national language goes to Swami Dayanand Saraswati founder of Arya Samaj.

Savarkar always supported Sanskrit Nishta Hindi (Sanskritised Hindi) over the mixture version Hindustani. Some examples of the words either coined or revived are mentioned below for reference. The actual list is much bigger!

  1. दूरमुद्रक – Doormudrak – Teleprinter
  2. दूरध्वनी – Doordhwani – Telephone
  3. ध्वनिक्रमांक – DhwaniKramaank – Telephone Number
  4. छायाचित्रण – Chhayachitran – Photography
  5. चित्रपटगृह – ChitrapatGruha – Movie Theatre
  6. नगरपालिका – NagarPalika – Municipality
  7. महानगरपालिका – Mahanagar Palika – Municipal Corporation
  8. लोकसभा – Loksabha
  9. संपादक – Sampadak – Editor
  10. प्रवाचक – PraVachak – Reader

References:

  1. Savarkar – Echoes from a forgotten past by Vikram Sampath
  2. My Transportation for life by Veer Savarkar
  3. https://scroll.in/article/971696/vd-savarkars-language-purification-project-was-a-precursor-to-creating-a-hindu-language
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bachittar_Natak
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suraj_Prakash
  6. http://www.robasworld.com/words-coined-by-swatantryaveer-savarkar/

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