An ‘epic’ translation preserved in Portugal

Irony played its part when conquerors preserved the very language they attempted to destroy.

The Konkani language reached its Zenith — of prose, grammar and vocabulary — in the 16th-17th century. The flourishing language had its literature, either oral or partly written on palm leafs, cloth, copper plate and stone before the advent of the Portuguese in 1510. Some writers and researchers are in awe of its richness during the medieval period. With Konkani said to have possessed a far more sophisticated vocabulary than Portuguese and Marathi then, it is heartening that Konkani versions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana existed in the pre-Portuguese era.

Religion, holy texts and classical epics form part of the people’s cultural traditions. “We had the Mahabharata and Ramayana in all Indian languages. These epics in Konkani reflect the oral history of that period when not much was written, and are a testament that our literature is very old,” says Konkani writer Ramesh Veluskar.

The history of Konkani has been one replete with interesting facets, highs and lows, contradictions and setbacks. The language has been a victim of various circumstances, says Dr B Sheikh Ali, former vice-chancellor of Goa University. A vacuum of sorts, in long phases of the 18th century and later, seems to have affected its growth.

Read more: Times of India

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