A KONKAN HERITAGE

It was my grandfather Juze Pirreir Kamthi, who first told me about the Aryans coming into India around 2000 years before the recorded birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of their establishing a culture and crystallising a religion of their own in the fertile plains of the land of the five rivers and the united provinces of North India. Even before the schools taught me, it was he who told me of the two great rivers of the North, the Indus and the Ganges, and of their tributaries, on the banks of which this handsome race was believed to have settled and established a civilisation. But it is something else what he told me, that I want to talk about, which my later readings in school or elsewhere could not corroborate or enlarge upon. That is, till the other day, when for reasons you'll get to know in the lines that follow, I had occasion to delve deeper into these aspects.

Running parallel to the Indus from the Himalayas and flowing into the Arabian sea, grandfather had told me, was another river -- the Hakra. While thanks to its five tributaries -- the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and the Sutlej, the Indus remained comfortable and still kept flowing, the Hakra though had disappeared, since its own tributaries, the Saraswati and the Drishadvati, had also disappeared.

That was grandfather's introduction to me of the legend of Saraswati and of Saraswats -- supposedly our own original stock. He had gone on to tell me how Hindu mythology spoke ofSaraswati as the Goddess of knowledge, flowing as a river from the bottomless 'Kalash' (pot of knowledge) in the hands by Parvati,Shiva's consort. Legend had it that from Parvati's hands, Saraswati the river of knowledge, entered the bowels of the earth to flowsub-terrain. And most believed that it surfaced again at TriveniSangam, as the third component at the confluence of the Ganga and Jamuna rivers. But grandfather Joseph (Juze) knew better. He firmly believed that the Saraswati did flow over ground for many ages. And centuries later, somewhere down the line, dried up against the onslaught of the gradual in-roads being made by the desert sands into the fertile plains of the Indus valley and the present day land of the Rajputs.

He told me that people on the banks of this legendary Saraswati were known as Saraswats. And that particularly the Brahmins in the land between Saraswati and the Drishadvati, werethe ones who perfected the Hindu philosophy. It was here that thevedas and the upanishads were composed, giving this land the name of Brahmavarta. When the Drishadvati and Saraswati dried up, perforce the Saraswats had to migrate in search of greener pastures. While some moved closer to the Himalayas believing them to be the abode of the gods and hence would be blessed with perennial water and forests that provided food, some moved along the path taken by the mighty river Ganga, settling in pocketsat intervals on its banks till they reached its delta in the land of Vanga (Banga, sometimes also known as Gaud).

What is now material to my story is that a third component of these Saraswats, crossed the Vindhya mountains after leaving the drying plains of the Saraswati and saw the lush Konkan coast with a view to make it their new abode. They were also joined by some of those already in Trihotrapura in the regions of Gaud. At this stage, the legend of sage Parasurama, one of the ten avatars of the Lord, who is credited to have brought into existence the whole coastal area from Gujarat to Kanyakumari, by throwing his hatchet from the peaks of the Sahyadri (western ghats) to force the Lord of the Sea to recede as far back asthe present coast line of Western India, vividly comes to mind, as narrated to us toddlers then by our grand- pater.
The memory of these renderings become particularly pertinent, in the context of the recent resurgence of ethnic pride among the Konkani people of today comprising of the very Saraswats and Gaud Saraswats who inhabit the Konkan coast. Konkani was accorded in 1992 the national language status with a place in the 8thSchedule of the Indian Constitution. And Konkanis from all over the world now plan to meet at a world convention at Mangalore in South India from December 16 - 22 to initiate the rediscovery of a common Konkani identity; the tragic absence of which, has been the experience of its people over the past few centuries, due to a traumatic history that fragmented the community both socially and geographically.

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Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com



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