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DevaNaagari or Latin/Roman???

Just for a name like this, “देवनागरी ” I would stay with status quo!

Why some think otherwise I wonder; go with a script that does not even have a name for itself and has to take the help of Latin/Roman?

Recently we see Hindi being written using the Latin Script (lipi). It is being used for names of movies, on the internet, some people who know Hindi even correspond this way on emails or even SMS. Some known personalities have suggested that this script be adopted for our National Language Hindi. I am completely against this way of thinking. In this article, I want to begin proposing reasons for not ever thinking of adopting any Script other than the present देवनागरी that we have been using for a long time!

I am an Indo—American Hindu living in the USA for nearly fifty years. It so happens that I am knowledgeable in seven languages. Bengali is my मातृ  भाषा , both Punjabi and Hindi come easily to me, may be, I can call one my पितृ भाषा and the other, our राष्ट्र भाषा and of course English which is our colonizing भाषा ! My father studied Urdu and Farsi; that was the result of another colonizing effort by Turki, Afghani, Mongols and a bunch more marauding hordes who came thru and found too much luxury to ever leave. Result was that my father and my uncles on both sides of the family read and spoke these languages. My father used to read Urdu books to all of us when we traveled or even sat together during vacation times. Television had not yet encroached on our lives! In recent years, I have picked up some Spanish because any house help, garden help, snow help; here in the US has changed from all white to almost all Latino who are all Spanish speaking because of guess what —- Colonization by Spanish Europeans!

Nearly 27 years ago I became seriously interested in the Hindu tradition and studies as an अंतेवासी with my Guru श्री स्वामी  दयानंद सरस्वती of Tamil Nadu. Here, I was exposed to the पाणिनियन grammar as well as reading the ब्रह्मा सुत्रास in संस्कृत. Though I will not claim any great scholarship of these, yet it was a good exposure to various ways of thinking that produces various languages! I found संस्कृत and the grammar stunning. Stunning personalities can be produced by simply studying this language in the देवनागरी script; those two are made for each other like a marriage made in Heaven (presuming there is such a thing - my doubts are because all who are anxious to send us to heaven do not go there, rather rush to hospitals whenever threatened). The medium of study was English as many students from USA and S. America were present. For me a person knowing and loving Hindi it was so much easier because the संधि rules were the same as Hindi! I am presuming that other indigenous languages of भारत find the same similarities. This gives us natives advantage over others, just like English or Spanish gives a certain advantage to those who know only one of this and it is their मातृ भाषा. This alone has been a big advantage for the Anglos for at least 200 plus years! So any change we make now onwards should keep our own wellbeing in mind!

As भारतियास we love languages and learn easily - this fact is now obvious to the World! We are a functioning, surviving tradition (only one out of 46 of the ancient cultures), with 17 plus official भाषास and innumerable dialects. Amazing and something to be proud of!

I am well aware of the use of the Latin/Roman script for संस्कृत श्लोकस  and even the भगवद गीता is presented in this way. Since I learnt the diacritical marks developed for the accurate writing of our scriptural materials, I can and do read this form too. However, that is a whole other way to read, which is not difficult but takes getting used to and I find myself preferring देवनागरी for proper pronunciation. उच्चारण (pronunciation) is paramount in संस्कृतम. English is a very non-phonetic language of borrowed words which have been mixed up in a strange way to my way of thinking. It contains many exceptions which non-native speakers have to memorize and often find illogical.

When I was in 3rd or 4th standard, I remember my teacher telling us that laugh was spelt –L-A-U-G-H, so I memorized that ‘gh’ made a ‘f’ sound; next time in class she wrote, “High” up went my hand confidently and excitedly I said, “Hif”. Of course she corrected me; asked me to pronounce it as “Hi”. My 3rd or 4th standard mind told me not to question anything in English, instead keep walking up and down and memorizing the whole darned language.

Spellings still give me trouble, especially the e’s and the a’s confusion or when does it become necessary to stick a ‘s’ and ‘c’ together for no apparent reason or why exactly ‘ph’ has to be used when ‘F’ or ‘S’ could be used for philosophy and psychology!!!

Now let’s see what happens to Hindi when we try writing in the Latin/Roman script. Let us begin with the स्वरा and then व्यंजनस; for English vowels and consonants.


Hindi वर्णमाला has 13 स्वरस English has 5 so first problem is to know when will the letter ‘A’ be equal to Hindi ‘a’, or ‘aa' or ‘e’ or ‘ai’? The case of the व्यंजनस and consonants is even more uneven. There are so many व्यंजनस that have no equivalents at all— भारतियास possess an extremely accommodating temperament, so soon after coming into contact with this funny language, tried to learn and also attempted to come up with some संयुक्त letters like ‘gh’ for Hindi ‘घ’, ‘jh’ for Hindi ‘झ’, ‘cch’ for Hindi ‘छ’; this may have helped us Hindi speakers but did little for the knowers of English alone. Let me explain with an example. We who grew up in भारत do not hear the difference between the letter V and the letter W. In fact in Hindi, both will be written as a ‘व (va)’. However there is a difference: the ‘V’ is a labio-dental sound, the teeth touch the lower lip; in case of the ‘W’, it is a labial one, in which the lips are rounded while pronouncing. Once used to hearing, we can tell the difference.



Now to get back to what actually happens when someone reads Hindi in the Latin/Roman script is that they read totally wrong; unless the diacritical marks have been provided and the person knows what they mean. People who know Hindi do fine as they do not try to read phonetically but will revert to the correct sound though in a long text it will cause one to be slower. This is my personal experience with my children who have grown up here in the USA. They know a certain level of reading and speaking Hindi, but not enough to know if it is written in a Romanized script.

Looking at all this, I do not see any reason to mess with our own राष्ट्र भाषा , it is very phonetic (meaning we write what we say, there are हलंत letters to make them half sound). Let the English make efforts to change and teach their language differently.

Before we conclude, let's see what श्री जग्गी वासुदेवजी tells us about संस्कृत and देवनागरी :

संस्कृत is one language where form and sound are connected. In English for example, if you say “sun” or “son,” in utterance it is the same, only in spelling it is different. What you write is not the criteria. The sound is the criteria. When you realize what sound is attached to a particular form, you give this sound as the name for that form. Now the sound and the form are connected. If you utter the sound, you are relating to the form – not just psychologically, but existentially, you are connecting with the form. संस्कृत is like a blueprint of the existence. What is in form, we converted into sound. A lot of distortions have happened. How to preserve it in its right form has become a challenge even today since the necessary knowledge, understanding, and awareness is largely missing.
-सध्गुरु जग्गी वासुदेव

देवनागरी या लैटिन/रोमन???


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Monday, 08 August 2022