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Home» Feature» Period» Gujarati pride lacking for its gyankosh

Gujarati pride lacking for its Gyankosh

Masooma Bharmal Zariwala | August 02, 2012, 07:45 PM IST
gujarati pride lacking for its gyankosh

Rajkot :

If someone tells you that the Gujarati word ‘kala’ (art) has 62 meanings, ‘ek’ (one) has thirty meanings or ‘purush’ (male) has 42 meanings, it may come as a surprise. But a collection of 2,81,399 such words with 5,40,455 meanings is a part of the biggest and the most prolific work done in Gujarati Language - Bhagwadgomandal.

 

A masterpiece, for it encapsulates every known Gujarati word, Bhagwadgomandal is the brain child of the visionary Maharaja Bhagwatsinhji of Gondal state.

 

Considered as an encyclopedic dictionary, Bhagwadgomandal provides in-depth information on subjects like art, religion, science, culture, tradition and the likes. It includes resources like thesaurus, proverbs, antonym, usage of words and much more.

 

When the Maharaja referred to the Webster’s dictionary (1828), he yearned for a similar work in his mother-tongue. A learned man himself, he decided to convert this dream into a reality. He began making notes of new words he came across while meeting people, travelling and through reading. So immense was his passion, that in the absence of paper, he was seen to note down words on the clothes he wore.

 

Exactly a hundred years after the Webster dictionary was first published, began the official compilation of Bhagwadgomandal in October 1928. A special 'kosh kacheri' (administrative office for the dictionary) was established to ensure perfection in the work.

 

The project demanded every conceivable input from scholars, writers, poets, including from the literary communities like Gadhvi/Charan, eminent people, and even the uneducated. Every nook and corner of the state was explored for 16 long years.

 

Thousands of books, newspapers, magazines, religious books provided reference; while pamphlets requested people to contribute quaint and uncommon words to this mammoth project.

 

Scholars, writers, researchers, educationists, teachers, poets and language experts offered valuable contribution towards proper meaning and grammar for the collected words.

 

The project demanded every conceivable input from scholars, writers, poets, including from the literary communities like Gadhvi/Charan, eminent people, and even the uneducated. 

Edited by Chandulal Bechar Patel, education minister of Gondal state, the first volume of the dictionary comprising 902 pages saw light only by August 1944, and the ninth volume was published in March 1955.

 

“Only 500 copies were published then, and gifted to libraries, schools, friends, writers and literary organizations,” informs Gopalbhai Makadia, Managing director of Pravin Prakashan.

 

The importance of Bhagwadgomandal for the future generation and lovers of Gujarati language compelled Pravin Prakashan to reprint 3000 sets in 1987 at the cost of around 42 lakh rupees. “With permission from Gondal Nagarpalika, we used offset printing to ensure an error free copy,” says Makadia.

 

For an exhaustive and rich Gyankosh (dictionary) that left even the Mahatma Gandhi stumped, the sets ironically sold out only by 2002.

 

When Chandulal Bechar Patel approached Gandhiji to write a foreward for the masterpiece in 1944, he replied through a postcard which read, “Dear Chandubhai, I received your letter. I am not in a capacity to write a foreward because I am amazed by the efforts undertaken. I believe, it will serve the mother tongue in a great way.”

 

An extraordinary feature of the collection, reveals Makadia, is that no new Gujarati words need to be added during reprint, except for words pertaining to new innovations in science and technology. “It is a complete work probably no other language enjoys,” he adds.

 

It’s said, wherever goes a Gujarati, his homeland goes with him. Be it food, clothes or culture. However, Makadia is regretful of the slack attitude of the people from Gujarat towards their mother tongue. “Of over two lakh words available, we hardly use two thousand. Over the years, English has gained a lot of importance. There is no harm in learning a foreign language, but not at the cost of Gujarati.”

 

Despite being aware of the fact that there will be few takers of the hard copy, the publication house in 2008 reprinted another 2000 copies of Bhagwadgomandal priced at Rs. 10,000 for each set of nine volumes. But Makadia says, “I don’t think all the copies will sell out before 2020.”

 

Edited by Chandulal Bechar Patel, education minister of Gondal state, the first volume of the dictionary comprising 902 pages saw light only by August 1944, and the ninth volume was published in March 1955.

Noted stage artist, writer and former station director of All India Radio- Rajkot agrees with Makadia’s view. “This masterpiece has remained a mere showpiece. People have forgotten not only its value, but usage too.”

 

In keeping with modern times, Bhagwadgomandal was digitized and made available on the internet in 2008 by Pravin Prakashan.

 

Next year, Chanderia Foundation of Mumbai followed suit, providing an option to search details of each word separately.

 

Foundation’s project manager Maitriben Shah says, “Ratilal Chanderia (owner of the group now 90 years old) took up this project out of his love for the language. Brought up in Nairobi, he found it difficult to learn and understand his mother tongue. He aims to preserve Bhagwadgomandal as a part of Gujarati cultural heritage and enhance its usage among current and potential users, both in India and abroad.”

 

With an astounding one crore visitors to the website via Gujaratilexicon.com and over 13 lakh people who visited it directly, it’s difficult to understand why the state government has done nothing to keep this heritage alive. 

 

“When we approached schools and colleges of Ahmedabad to demonstrate the digitized version, we were shocked. Many students have never heard of it, and the rest were never prompted to use it. We’ve approached the government on this issue, and are still awaiting a response,” Shah said with disappointment in her voice. 

 

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