Preserving Konkani, Goa’s Mother Tongue

Iris C F Gomes

Konkani Bhasha Mandal is one of Goa’s largest NGOs working in the area of promoting the language of Konkani through education, literature, and art and culture activities. The organisation was established in 1962 and has over 2500 members to its credit. The founder president of Konkani Bhasha Mandal was Pedro Correia Afonso.

In 1979, Konkani Bhasha Mandal set up a Konkani medium primary school called Vidyabhuvan Konkani Shalla. The school has earned a good reputation for providing a well-rounded education and the scholastic achievements of its past students at the board exams. Ravindra Kelekar Dnyanmandir, an English medium secondary school, is also an educational initiative of the NGO, begun in 2012. The influence of Konkani culture is deeply embedded in the teaching at this school. Named after acclaimed writer and Dnyapith Award winner Ravindra Kelekar, the school has a record of high passing percentages with a 100% in 2019 at the tenth standard board exams.

Creating an environment that was conducive to the learning of Konkani was essential in the years after Goa came under Indian rule. Konkani Bhasha Mandal produced a plethora of Konkani textbooks and other material required by students and teachers. Research books, anthologies and three Konkani grammars have been published by the organisation as well. Konkani Bhasha Mandal has five albums of children’s songs and two albums of patriotic anthems in Konkani. One of the NGOs biggest projects has been the audio production of children’s rhymes. These were originally published in book form, but later 120 songs were recorded with more than 50 child singers from Goa.

While working widely in the area of children’s literature, Konkani Bhasha Mandal joined forces with national level organisations like NCERT and Pratham Books from New Delhi, Ektara from Bhopal, Jyotsna Prakashan from Pune and others to generate Konkani language children’s books.

Aside from conventional books, the organisation strives to disseminate knowledge from these books in various formats such as Braille, animated e-books, audio and others.

Konkani Bhasha Mandal has been hosting one of Goa’s biggest storytelling competitions with the Shenai Goembab Kathamal. In 2018, about 5000 students participated in the school level competition. The Goa Yuva Mahotsav, one of Goa’s most prominent youth festivals, is part of the organisation’s many cultural events. This year (2019) it was held at Dharbandora with 23 teams taking part in the festival.

The organisation is known for its two lecture series held, namely Vijayabai Sarmalkar Lecture Series and Manohar Rai Sardesai Lecture Series. Here, Goan litterateurs and young people have had the opportunity to listen to and interact with India’s eminent personalities such as Gulzar, Nandita Das, etc.

Petul is an annual programme of Konkani Bhasha Mandal where educational and literary materials produced through the year are released. The release is accompanied by an entertaining and lively performance by students of several schools in Goa.

Konkani Bhasha Mandal’s second Bal Sahitya Parishad (Children’s Literary Festival) was held in Margao in 2018 with celebrated personalities in the field of children’s literature such as Sushil Shukla, Dr Sonika Kaushik, Geeta Ramanujam, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Jerry Pinto, N S Madhavan, Swayam Prakash, and Taposhi Ghoshal.

Among other events held by the Konkani Bhasha Mandal are the Radha Mukund Naik Elocution Competition, the Adv Arun Singbal Memorial Quiz Competition, workshops for teachers and writers, book exhibitions and so on.

Konkani Bhasha Mandal has worked extensively and passionately to keep Goa’s mother tongue alive, even distributing books to schools in Goa and story books to children for free. However, limited funding has affected its ability to publish books and produce educational materials in large quantities. The thought behind this move is to sacrifice quantity to maintain the quality of production. More could be done in this area which would encourage the learning of Konkani and safeguarding the Goan cultural heritage innately connected with the language. With the mainstay of philanthropic individuals and organisations, Konkani Bhasha Mandal’s efficient team could ably foster a love for Konkani that will preserve the language for posterity.