Proposal to host the 9th World Hindi Conference in 2012 in Gauteng, South Africa
Submission to representatives of the “Indian Delegation” on “The Promotion of Hindi Language in South Africa” on November 10, 2011 at the offices of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, 110 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg, Gauteng
(Edited and finalized by Professor Rambhujan Sitaram; Professor Usha Shukla and Mr Rajish Lutchman)
Hindi and Indian Arrival
The arrival of our forefathers in 1860 on the ship Truro, paved the way for the establishments of Hindi Pracharni Sabha’s to promote the Hindi Language and Literature. These Sabhas were in community halls, garages, sheds, outhouses and verandahs, private home lounges, dining areas or under tress. Interested people at these schools were taught Kadee Boli Hindi through Devnagri scripts so that they could be prepared to read the Ramcharita Manas, the Bhagwad Gita, conducte their prayers – poojas, or even be eligible to join music classes.
The “panchayat” with a “Choudhree” to conduct community meetings were common in the Indian settlement areas. These meetings were conducted in Hindi. The communities’ members attending these “panchayats” also responded or deliberated in Hindi.
Many of these initiatives found were in the coastal belt of KwaZulu-Natal, in the coal mining areas – Northern KwaZulu-Natal and in Gauteng – then known as Transvaal. We still find photographs of these excellent attempts with families of yester years. The coastal belt was the area where many of people was employed on the sugar cane field and were managed through “Sardars”. Hence, the sugar cane field became synonymous with Indian.
In the Northern Kea-Zulu Natal area our people settled around coal mines and in animal farming areas. They rendered their labour in these mines as labourers and sardars.
In Gauteng – a small group Indian settled around gold mines rendering labour in these mines and also a small number of them engaged themselves in growing cash crop – vegetables and flowers for the market. Gradually, these people became fixed in their way of life and were able create small business enterprises to compete with the rapid growing “Indian” business men.
Today, many of these small businessmen have produced judges, teachers, doctors, lawyers and great business men.
Particularly, in KwaZulu-Natal one found a separate Hindi dialect develop – the “Natalie Hindi”. This was a mixture of Bhojpuri, Urdu and Tamil. Many people in that arena the early 1900’s developed this dialect and become an effective communicative language. Many of these people were unschooled either in Hindi or in English but they effectively spoke or communicated to each other in Natalie Hindi. In the Gauteng – again Hindi was very dominant and many Hindi schools prevailed. The opposite occurred here in that families developed what we call the “Afrikaans Hindi.” Afrikaans was the predominant language in the region. With the settling of Indians from immigrant families – people learnt Afrikaans quite fast and began to speak it fluently. Being of Indian decent – it was easy for them to mix Hindi with Afrikaans using both Afrikaans vocabularies in Hindi and vice versa.
These indentured labourers produced Pandit Bhawani Dayal and later to Sanayas. He was born in 1892 in Johannesburg and studied Hindi under the tutorship of a Gugerati teacher in a private school. In 1904, Panditji went to India with his parents. On his return he established Hindi schools in different parts of the country. He later moved to Durban. Along his was to Durban he established Hindi Schools in Hatingspruit, Newcastle, Dannhauser, Ladysmith and Estcourt. In 1922, he launched his journal, HINDI and later became the editor of the INDIAN OPINION which Mahatma Gandhiji launched at the Phoenix Settlement, Durban.
After about 40 years of Indian settlement in the country, preachers and educators from India began to visit their people with a view to educate them in the language, education, culture and religion. Among these was Swami Shankaranandji Maharajh who visited in 1908. He held a Master’s degree in Sanskrit and was eloquent in Hindi and English. He lived in South Africa for five golden years propagating the Vedic Religion and emphasizing the importance of mother tongue languages, especially Hindi as it formed the national language of India. He established the Veda Dharma Sabha of Pietermaritzburg in 1909, and in 1912, the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and Arya Yuvuk Sabha – the parent body of the Aryan Benevolent Home Council, an organization to be reckoned with. During his missionary tour he touched many hearts and taught many of them some Hindi grammar. Many Telegu speaking also joined him to learn the Sanskrit language.
Pandit Nardevji Vedalankar and Hindi Shiksha
In 1948, Pandit Nardevji Vedalankar came to South Africa. He was born in Gujarat, India in 1915. He obtained his title as “Vedalankar” from the Gurukul Gangadi University. An Arya Samajist, with a clear vision, walked in the footsteps of his Guru Maharishi Swami Dayanandji. True to his Guru – he placed the needs of his community before his and ensured that they were well catered for in the development of their mother tongue languages, religion and culture. “Nardev” who had the will of a Mahatrma to transform the communities he worked in, in uplifting them to greater heights so that they will realize and understand their purpose on earth and chalk out their own destiny.
After his arrival in South Africa Panditji discovered that the Hindi language, like Gujarati, was not being promoted systematically. On April 25, 1948, with the help of two national organizations serving the religious needs of the Hindi community, viz. the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha (S.A.) and the Sanatan Dharma Sabha (S.A.), Panditji called a meeting of the Hindi speaking people to discuss the plight of their mother-tongue and possible solutions. The Hindi Shiksha Sangh (S.A.) was launched at this meeting and he became its first President, nurturing the organisation for twenty-seven years. The newly formed body organized a Hindi literacy conference on October 17, 1948. 35 Hindi Patshalas joined the Sangh at that function. When the Sangh realized that many Hindi teachers in the school were not adequately qualified. It started Teacher Training classes with Panditji as the lecturer. During the last fifty-six years, the Sangh has been the only non-governmental organization in this country promoting and teaching of Hindi on an organized basis. The Hindi Shiksha Sangh is the legacy that Pandit Nardevji Vedalankar has left behind. One refers to this period of Panditji’s leadership as the “Golden Era of the Resurrection of the Hindi Language.”
Aims of the Sangh
The main purpose of establishing the Hindi Shiksha Sangh was to provide an umbrella body that would co-ordinate the teaching of Hindi and to provide guidance and direction to institutions that were engaged in the promotion Hindi as a language. The principal aims and objectives of the Sangh as enshrined in its constitution are threefold:
- To promote and encourage the learning of the HINDI language in all its aspects, more especially in the written and oral traditions;
- To create an awareness of, promote and propagate the rich traditions of Indian Cultures with special reference to North Indian music, dance, drama and the arts; and
- To promote the academic study of Hindi literature and Hindi religious scriptures
Administrative Structure of the Sangh
For a number of years, a Board of Management administers the affairs of the Sangh with a president, a vice president, a general secretary, a treasurer and a Public Relations Officer as officials (Executive Committee) with a number of Conveners each responsible for a specific area of work such as academic programme. The Sangh also has a Mahila Mandal (Ladies’ Committee), which engages in various activities to promote and support the Sangh’s activities and institutions that promote the Hindi language affiliated to the Sangh. There are approximately thirty such schools throughout KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. The Sangh also established Branches in other regions; hence we have the Hindi Shiksha Sangh – Gauteng Branch. In KwaZulu-Natal – we have the Midlands, North Coast, South Coast and Central Durban branches.
Headquarters of the Sangh
Since its inception, the Sangh operated from the premises of the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha in Carlisle Street, Durban. Since 1985, however, as its workload increased, the Sangh established administrative office in Kharwastan, Durban. It continued to conduct its various activities from community owned halls and other premises including state schools, but the idea for a permanent “home” for the Sangh had already taken root. This was realized in 1990 when a site was purchased at 30 Oak Avenue, Kharwastan, Durban. On 8 December 1992, Pandit Nardevji Vedalankar performed the Shilanyas ceremony (foundation stone laying ceremony). Thereafter, building operations began. On 25 April 1995 (47th Anniversary of the Sangh) – Hindi had its home in South Africa when the Sangh moved into its own permanent headquarters, the Kasieprasad Pattundeen Hindi Centre.
Syllabi and Examinations
Pandit Nardev spearheaded the initial efforts involved in preparing students who wrote examinations set by Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti of Wardha, India. He prepared syllabi and held workshops and orientation courses periodically to assist teachers. He also acted as their liaison officer between Wardha and the different centres where students were prepared. The major centres included Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Stanger, Port Shepstone and Johannesburg. Later when the need arose, he wrote textbooks, which the Sangh published for use by the students. Up to 1983 more than 5000 students had written Hindi examinations of the Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti. The Sangh also introduced its own examinations alongside those set in Wardha. In 1984 the Sangh streamlined its curriculum as well as its examinations procedures to eliminate the existing dual examination system. This change resulted in an increased number of students who came forward to write the examinations in general and more students began to enroll for the secondary grades as well. For the period 1984 to 1997 more than 7000 students sat for the Sangh’s local examinations.
Over the years many of the Sangh’s students have been appointed as teachers of Hindi in mainstream schools of the Department of Education and Culture – Kwazulu-Natal.
Teacher Training Workshop, Orientation Courses and Seminars
Preparation of teachers has been of primary concern of the Sangh since its inception. Panditji drew up a Teacher’s Training programme and regular seminars have been held both to provide teachers with updated information on the teachings of Hindi as well as to present papers of general nature related to the Hindi Language.
Debates in Hindi
In 1951 the Sangh under the guidance of Panditji introduced a Hindi Debating programme to augment the Hindi. Only adults participated and they competed for the Swami Bhawani Dayal Trophy. This competition went on for 20 years until 1971. It was re-introduced 20 years later in 1991. The youth compete for the D G Satyadeva Trophy.
Essay Writing Competition
An essay writing competition, introduced in 1992, is yet another way that the Sangh has endeavoured to promote the Hindi language outside of the examination programme. The competition serves to help students to improve their ability in the written Hindi. The competition is held in three categories namely children, youth and adults. Trophies are awarded to candidates with the best essays. Incentives are also provided for other outstanding entries.
Panditji believed that a language must find expression in art form so that it becomes part of our everyday life. Therefore he encouraged Performing Arts. In 1951 the Sangh introduced the Hindi Eisteddfod programmes for both children and adults as part of its efforts to promote the Hindi language.
The Hindi Shiksha Sangh is the first among the Indian linguistic group to venture in to broadcasting. In October 1998, the first of a series of four-one month radio broadcasts was launched. This has proved successful in promoting Hindi using the medium of entertainment. The presentation exceeds fifty percent in Hindi and local music content. A recent survey estimated listener ship in excess of 70 000 and is expected to reach 100 000 shortly.
Hindi Kovid Mandal/Hindi Mitra Mand
In the 1960’s Hindi was prominently placed on the language curriculum. Although Snagh depended on public funding, it was able to popularize Hindi to such an extent that many students had already passed their Kovid through through Rashtrabasha Prachar Samiti – Wardha, Indian and they formed the Kovid Mandal so that communicative Hindi was kept alive. Later, there was immense interest from the un-schooled Hindi speaking persons to join the Mandal. The Mandal was then renamed as Hindi Mitra Mandal where any Hindi loving person could join and participate in its activities. Several projects were undertaken then and one of them was an intense strategy on the promotion of Hindi throughout the country. Hence, Sangh officials travelled to Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape with a view to establish Hindi patshalas and get the local communities actively involved in the language with a view that they will be able to preserve their rich heritage, tradition and culture.
Challenges for the Future
The seed sown by Pandit Nardevji Vedalankar, for the promotion of the Hindi language, has blossomed into branches that have spread far and wide in South Africa. As a voluntary organization the Sangh can reflect with genuine pride and a sense of satisfaction on the last sixty –two years. It also looks to the next millennium with hope and optimism for the future well being of the Hindi language. The Sangh is, however, no longer the only institution involved in the teaching of Hindi. The state schools have also introduced Eastern languages and the Independent Education Board also conducts Hindi as an examination subject at Grade 12. In many areas, communities consider these efforts more convenient and teachers find it lucrative. The challenge therefore is that these organizations agree that there is immense apathy among our people to study Hindi. Many students will also pass their examinations with very encouraging marks but unable to converse in Hindi or articulate themselves in Hindi.
The Department of Education in KwaZUlu Natal offers Hindi in selected school under the control of a Senior Educator for Eastern Languages. About 3000 children annually attend these classes.
Similarly, the Independent Education Board has introduced Hindi as an examination subject at Grade 12 (matriculation). Private schools are affiliated to this Board. Several students have already passed their Grade 12 studying Hindi as a second language instead of Afrikaans.
Hindi is gradually fading away although there are “die-hards” who wish to bring about a renaissance in the promotion of the language. This can be achieved provided all interested parties within the country and organization abroad who would come to the forefront to take the Hindi language issue at greater levels in the political arena, custodians of education programmes, intervention from the Government of India as to finding ways of rooting many of these initiatives with their expert advice, support and exchange of programmes and idea.
For about thirty (30) years from 1960’s to late 1990’s, Hindi was offered as a degree course at the University of Durban-Westville. Many students graduated with Bachelor of Arts Degree with Hindi as major subject. Some also studied Hindi and Sanskrit as major subject. However, the politics of the country changed and the Department of Eastern Languages was closed. We need to to relook at this an possibly apply community pressure to re-commence this division at the university of KwaZulu-Natal. There are talks that there is a Hindi chair created at the University of Witswaterrand in Gauteng. From this University of Durban – Westville and joint collaborative work with universities in India, we have the following South African academics:
Professor R Sitaram obtained his Doctorate at the University of Banares, India;
Professor Usha Shukla obtained her Doctorate at the University of Durban-Westville and university in India;
Professor Usha Desai – obtained her degree in Doctorate in Gujerati studies, University of Durban – Westville;
Dr Veena Lutchman – Master’s Degree in Hindi through University of Banares, Doctorate through University of Durban-Westville;
Dr Shobha Panday – obtained doctorate in Sanskrit through a university in India; and
Dr B Rambilass – obtained doctorate in Sanskrit through a university in India.
Other than the above there are many Bachelors and Masters student in Hindi and Kovid and Ratna students through the Rashtrabasha Prachar Hindi, Wardha, India.