Tour of the Vishwa Konkani Centre

Konkani is the mother tongue to 7.5 million people and one place where the entire population irrespective of religion can call home is the Vishwa Konkani Centre. Located in the city of Mangalore, this centre deals with the revival and promotion of the language which lost glory years back due to various reasons. In this post, we will be touring the Vishwa Konkani Centre through my lenses.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Vishwa Konkani Centre — Entrance

 

A bit about Konkani

 

Konkani is spoken as their mother tongue by 7.5 million people along the coastal belt starting from present-day Maharashtra, along Goa and Karnataka with slight Konkani speaking populations found in the northern border of Kerala.

 

According to the legend, the land for the Konkan people was given by Lord Parshuram who shot seven arrows to raise a land submerged in the sea, very fertile for cultivation for the Konkan people along with Tuluvas, Havyakas, Virata, Marata, Kerala and Karkata about 12000 years ago.

 

The language and the religion followed by the Konkanis have changed along the years due to the influence of Muslim rulers of the region and Portuguese influence in the culture, thereby making changes in the type of Konkani spoken by the native speakers.

 

Why Vishwa Konkani Centre?

 

As mentioned above, the people who use Konkani as their mother tongue don’t have a common dialect of speaking like other languages because of various reasons, which were beyond control of the population then.

 

Konkani spoken can be divided among three regions, namely North Konkani who are located on the coast of Maharashtra with an influence of Marathi dialect, Central Konkani who are located in Goa, influenced by 450 years of Portuguese rule, both in language and religion while South Konkani are the people located on the Karnataka coast influenced by Kannada language.

 

With this, there are different religions followed by the Konkani speakers and the way Konkani is communicated differs from people following it in different religions, castes and even sub-castes.

 

For example, I am a Saraswat Brahmin who forms a group of five different sub-castes and all the castes have their own way of speaking the language.

 

The Vishwa Konkani Centre also focuses on uniting the people on the basis of one language, along with collecting books and journals in Konkani, promoting books in Konkani and in-turn working on helping Konkani regain its lost glory.

 

Tour of the Vishwa Konkani Centre

 

Entry

The Vishwa Konkani Centre is located approximately 6 km from the Mangalore Central Bus Stand (dubbed as State Bank – because of the State Bank building adjacent to the Bus Stand). To get to the Vishwa Konkani Centre, I took a bus from Udupi to Mangalore and then took a local bus to reach the varsity. Located in Shakti Nagar, I took a bus (route number 6) to reach the Vishwa Konkani Centre.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Google Map route to Vishwa Konkani Centre

 

Walking down 500 metres from the Shakti Nagar bus stand, a 3 storey building was spotted just opposite to the famous Gopalkrishna temple in Mangalore, the Vishwa Konkani Centre is spread over a couple of acres of land, well maintained ambient green surrounding and a mud-road being the only connecting road to the building.

 

As it approached the gate of the building, which led to the reception through the steps, I felt honoured to be in the place. As I reached the reception, a huge wording which reads “Konkani Language and Cultural Foundation” with details of the laying of the foundation stone and the Inauguration of the Vishwa Konkani Centre was engraved on two stone pieces placed on the left and the right side of the Vishwa Konkani Centre’s entrance.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Foundation of the Vishwa Konkani Centre

 

As I entered Vishwa Konkani Centre, on the left was a small office in which I spotted a lady working at her desk. I left my footwear at the entrance of the office and stepped in. The lady greeted me in Konkani and also told me about the outline of the Vishwa Konkani Centre. On her instructions, I guided myself to the Museum, located one level below the reception.

 

 

Museum

The museum’s entrance is developed completely using wood and glass and the entrance door was an opening of the two wooden doors. On latching open the lock, the door opened into a dark room.

 

The switches were flipped on; a magnificent lighting covered the entire museum. The lights flashed well to have a clear readability of the content pasted on the walls. The Museum spoke about Konkani culture (how did it evolve), types of Konkani people (located in North, Central and South on the Konkan Coast) and the rich heritage of Konkanis.

 

On moving deeper into the museum, a large Pedestal of the Gomateshwara of Shravanabelagola was recreated. The Konkani scripture on the pedestal was recreated along the same lines at the original site. This did fill my heart with pride knowing the fact that Konkani was among the popular languages of the medieval era.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Konkani Inscription on the Gomateshwara of Shravanabelagola

 

While guiding me through the museum, was a huge collection of various kinds of vessels, ornaments, cloth, musical instruments, etc.… which reflect the richness of the Konkan people during the medieval and pre-medieval era.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Vishwa Konkani Museum at Vishwa Konkani Centre

 

 

Vishwa Konkani Hall of Fame

As I walked out of the Museum, to the left was the Research Centre for Konkani Language. Hesitantly, I walked in the Centre to meet Mr. Guru Baliga, who was in-charge of the Research Centre at the Vishwa Konkani centre.

 

While before discussing about the Research Centre, let us shift our focus to the Vishwa Konkani Hall of Fame located one level above the reception.

 

Vishwa Konkani Hall of Fame

Vishwa Konkani Hall of Fame

 

As the name suggests, the Vishwa Konkani Hall of Fame is an exhibit of all the important people who have left a mark on the society, who belong to the Konkani community.

 

Leading names like Nandan Nilekani, K V Kamath, T V Mohandas Pai, Anant Pai, Girish Karnad, George Fernandes, Karnad Sadashiv Rao, Suresh Prabhu, Gurudutt, etc… have done tremendous work in their respective fields and the Vishwa Konkani Hall of Fame has recognized them for their work. A magnificent display of the diversity of the Konkan people who have done well for themselves and made the community proud.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Vishwa Konkani Hall of Fame

 

World Institute Of Konkani Language

 

Mr. Gurudutt Baliga welcomed me to the Research Centre and spoke about the digital library in place. The Konkani Centre is focusing on converting all books in Konkani to be converted as Digital books, to be accessed across the globe through the web. For this, they have installed a digital scanner (a two camera scanner), which automatically clicks the pictures of the books and converts them in digital format.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Shashank Kamath with Gurudutt Baliga

 

Smt. Laxmi Narayan Kamath Vishwa Konkani Library

 

Mr. Gurudutt Baliga, then guided me to the Vishwa Konkani Library located on the ground floor, on the right of the entrance.

 

As we entered, I saw a Bhandsaal, which is a store for ethnic Konkani products, as it has transformed over the years, while on the other side was a huge collection of magazines and newspapers in Konkani from various publishers across the Konkan Coast.

 

The Vishwa Konkani Library welcomed me with a rack full of books in Konkani language. Mr. Gurudutt Baliga told me about the richness of the collection of books at the library. Almost all books printed from 1900 till 2000 have been preserved in the library, while books which cannot be stored in the way received during sourcing of the physical books are reprinted and kept in the library.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Smt. Laxmi Narayan Vishwa Konkani Library

 

 

From 2000 after Konkani receiving patronage from the Goa government, over 20000 books have been published and found their place on the shelves of the library which is spread over two floors.

 

Sonnaparant, the Konkani Newspaper founded in the year 1987 closed its operations, citing financial constraints and lack of support from the Goa government in 2010 have donated all the copies of the newspaper from 1987 till 2010 to the Konkani Library.

 

Meeting with Basti Vaman Shenoy

 

As we walked out of the library, Mr. Gurudutt Baliga guided me directly to the cabin of the founder of the Vishwa Konkani Centre, Basti Vaman Shenoy.

 

Basti Vaman Shenoy is a Konkani activist popularly known as the Vishwa Konkani Sardar (World Konkani Leader) was instrumental for the First World Konkani Convention in 1995 and under his able guidance the Vishwa Konkani Centre came into existence in the first decade of the 21st Century and his vision has kept the institution reaching newer heights.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Shashank Kamath with Basti Vaman Shenoy

 

A brief interaction with Mr. Shenoy made my day. A very down to earth person, he interacted like any person with such knowledge and humility would do. A person’s humility speaks a lot about his character and his vision is imbibed in the betterment of the Konkani people and the language.

 

Language Lab, Mini Convention Centre and Seminar Hall

 

As the name speaks, Language Lab is a 30 desk computer lab in which students and scholars work on converting words of various types of Konkani into one library such that it can be converted from one form of Konkani to another, i.e., it can transliterate information from one type of Konkani to another. Konkanverter is an online tool which transliterates words from one form of Konkani to another in Devanagiri script.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Mini Convention Center and Seminar Hall

 

While besides the Language Lab, the Vishwa Konkani Centre is working hard to help Konkani regain its lost prominence. Scholarships are offered to all Konkani students (T V Mohandas Pai is the man instrumental for this) irrespective of any degree pursued by the Konkani students with a family income less than 4.5 Lac irrespective of caste or religion. These students are only requested to visit the facility for a 3-day workshop during which they are expected to work and understand more of the Konkani language and its heritage during their holidays.

 

For which, the Vishwa Konkani Centre developed Hostels and ambient living spaces in the campus with utmost privacy and priority given to girls who visit the centre during the workshop. The Hostel has over 10 rooms and dorms, with food provided during their stay at the Vishwa Konkani Centre. This handles over 10-15 batches of students during the vacations of Engineering and Degree college students and the timetable is prepared according to their vacation of students from different universities spread along Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.

 

The Government of Karnataka has sanctioned for Konkani as a third language in 3 coastal districts and 15 schools currently offer Konkani as the third language of preference to the students. But due to lack of B.Ed courses for teachers under any University in India, teachers are trained to teach Konkani selflessly by the Vishwa Konkani Centre.

 

While the students are hosted and taught in the Mini Convention Centre, which can house over 50 people comfortably and the Seminar Hall is used for teaching using Audio Visual facilities to the students during the workshop.

 

On the insistence of Mr. Gurudutt Baliga, we had lunch at the Vishwa Konkani Centre hosted by Basti Vaman Shenoy. While there cannot be another perfect end to such an amazing experience at the Vishwa Konkani Centre.

 

Vishwa Konkani Centre

Artistic Impression of Vishwa Konkani Centre

 

 

 

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