Mattur is a quaint village in Karnataka. It is located on the banks of River Tunga and is at a distance of about 8 km from Shimoga (Shivamogga). Mattur is famous as the ‘Sanskrit village’ of India. It is the only village in India where most of the residents use Sanskrit as the medium of communication.
It is a unique accomplishment that the residents of Mattur have managed to keep alive the ancient language through their day-to-day communication in Sanskrit even though the official and native language of the state is Kannada.
History of Mattur
Mattur is mainly inhabited by the Sankethis, a Brahmin community that had migrated from Kerala and settled down in Mattur about 600 years ago. Till the early part of the 1980’s decade the villagers of Mattur spoke in Kannada and Tamil. Sanskrit was considered to be the language of the upper caste Brahmins. Then the priest of the local religious centre asked the residents to adopt Sanskrit as their native language.
The whole village heeded to the call and started conversing in the ancient language. Since then it is not just the members of the Sankethis community but members of all the communities residing in the village, irrespective of their social or economic standing, have started communicating in Sanskrit.
Mattur – A Glimpse of Ancient India in Modern Times
Mattur is a culturally rich hamlet of 5000 people with Sanskrit as the native language. Most residents of this village, including small children, can fluently speak in Sanskrit and almost everyone understands the language. Young boys are taught Vedas from the age of ten at the local village school where English is also taught as a subject. Gamaka art, the ancient traditional art form of singing and storytelling is also practised in Mattur.
It is a unique experience to hear Sanskrit as the common language on the streets of the village. From the vegetable vendor to the priest, everyone speaks in the ancient language. The young generation of Mattur that wears jeans and t-shirts, rides bikes and flaunts mobile phones also speaks in Sanskrit.
Though Mattur is a Sanskrit speaking village, it is not detached from the modern world. This is proved by the fact that almost every house in this village has an IT professional and many of them work abroad.
Mattur – A close knit community
Mattur is a peaceful village where the residents live as a close knitted community. Thefts and land disputes are unheard of in this sleepy hamlet. Most members of this village have sound knowledge of Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures. The village is a hub for those who wish to study the Vedas, but they have to be Brahmin males.
The village holds on to its traditional values. Marriage outside the community or outside the region is not encouraged. Festivals and occasions are celebrated according to traditional rituals.
Sanskrit – The ancient language of India
Sanskrit is an Indo-Aryan language. It is considered to be the root of many Indian languages. Sanskrit was the main language of the scholars of India during the ancient times. It was considered as devabasha which means the language of the gods. It was the primary sacred language of Hinduism.
With the passage of time the use of Sanskrit diminished. Today it is spoken by less than 1% of the country’s population. It is mostly used by the Hindu priests while chanting mantras during religious ceremonies.
Under such circumstances the use of Sanskrit as a means of communication in Mattur is a rare and commendable affair. The villagers are also ready to teach Sanskrit to anyone who is interested to learn the language. Their aim is to spread the knowledge of this dying language to keep it alive among the new generation of the country.
Places to visit in Mattur
Mattur is a village where the residents are very hospitable towards visitors. One of the main attractions of the village is the small group of temples that is situated at a distance of 800 metres from the main village square. It has a temple of Lord Rama, a Shivalaya and a Someshwara temple. The temple complex is a beautifully decorated area that has a garden and a small fresh water stream flowing near it.
Best time to visit Mattur
Mattur can be visited throughout the year. But the best time is to visit from November to March when the weather is pleasant.
Information for visitors
Mattur is a small village that does not have any dining places or guest houses. The place is ideal for a single day visit. If guests want to stay in the village for a couple of days then they can stay in the local village school (pathshala). The villagers in Mattur also offer homestays for guests.
Alternatively, guests can stay in Shimoga that has a number of guest houses and restaurants.
How to reach Mattur
Mattur is located at a distance of 300 km from Bangalore, the state capital. The easiest way to reach Mattur is via Shimoga, one of the main towns of Karnataka.
The nearest airport to reach Shimoga is the Mangalore Airport that lies at a distance of around 195km from the spot. Visitors can hire taxis or cabs to reach Shimoga from the airport at Mangalore and then head to Mattur through local means of transport.
Shimoga has its own railhead. Visitors can board trains from the major cities of Karnataka to reach Shimoga. Local transport can be hired from the railway station to reach Mattur.
There are several buses that ply from Shimoga to Mattur all day long. Visitors can also hire auto rickshaws to reach Mattur from Shimoga.