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Durable Link to this BlogFriday, June 20, 2008

Basti Pundalika Shenoy

Basti Pundalika Shenoy (1903-1991)

Basti Pundalika Shenoy was born in a poor Goud Saraswat family on August 05,1903. He studied up to III standard in Kannada and compelled later to work as an assistant to a tailor in sewing buttons. Then he became a full-fledged tailor. But he kept up his reading habit after working hours. Listening to Gandhi's lectures, he was drawn to India's freedom struggle at a very young and was jailed for his prominent role in local Satyagraha. During his prison days he studied and practiced the Hindi language learning from fellow prisoners.

After his release, he specialized in Hindi, appeared for examinations and qualified as a teacher. He became a Hindi Teacher in Bantwal High-school and in addition also worked as a librarian. He had a flair for languages, and taught himself dialects of Hindi, English, Marathi, Bengali, and Gujarathi languages. His primary schooling was in Kannada and mother tongue wasKonkani. He also studied Sanskrit and Pali. Thus he was master of ten Indian languages!

In 1952, Madras Government's ruling came that minimum qualification for high-school teachers should be S.S.L.C. (Secondary School Leaving Certificate Examination) even for teachers with higher qualifications in languages. Thus Shenoy appeared for his school final examination at the age of 50. South Kanara district was part of Madras Presidency at the time.

He was a temperamental person, and after a tiff with the school management, he quit the job and started preparing writing ink and French Polish on a small scale to maintain himself and his family. Now he could find more time for his writing and research. He purchased a number of books from his meager income. He used to takeout abundant notes.

He was the first person to establish that the Konkani Language is older than Marathi and never was its dialect. He wrote a book on comparative study of both languages in Kannada which was followed by a history of the Saraswat Community. He also tried to establish evolution of Brahmi Script from Indus script. "Brahmi Lipi Mattu Sindhu Samskriti" (Brahmi script and Sindhu Valley civilization), and study of Rigveda from historical perspective are, his other important works.

He was a staunch follower of Gandhiji's teachings, which included propagation of Hindi, Khadi, upliftment of Harijans (Dalits) and fight against the caste system. He practiced, wrote, spoke, what he felt.

His love of Konkani was limitless. Those were the days when Marathi protagonists had tried to establish that Konkani was not an independent language. It was a dialect of Marathi, they said. Shenoy took cudgel against them with his pen.

Due to religious and Political compunctions Konkani people remained divided over centuries, in differently ruled regions and they had no united voice. He wrote a series of articles in "Saraswat" a weekly brought out by late V.S. Kudva from Mangalore. He wrote history of Konkani language and a monograph on Swastika.

He breathed his last at his daughter Sumati Subraya Bhat's house in Mangalore on March 16, 1991.

He was a free soul. He did not ask anybody for monetary help for his study or research and published some books on his own. His huge personal library consisting of valuable volumes is worth a fortune.

Some of his books are posthumously published. A compilation of Konkani words in spoken Konkani of Karnataka (Konkani Shabda Sangraha) is one.

His comparative study of Konkani and Marathi languages is a very interesting one. He has given more than hundred words from "Jnaneswari" which are in vogue in present day Konkani. Scholars call the language of Jnaneswari as old Marathi. Pundlik Shenoy has come to the conclusion that Saint Jananeswar wrote his famous commentary on the Bhagawad-gita in the language familiar to him, which was akin to Konkani.

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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