Priest Awarded For Work In Promoting Konkani Through Roman Script

2005-05-17 00:00:00

An academy that promotes Konkani language in the Roman script has honored a Catholic priest for his contributions to the official language of Goa state.

Jesuit Father Vasco do Rego, 80, recently received the Dalgado Konkani Academy´s first award. He has produced liturgical and biblical works in the Romanized form of Konkani.

The award is named after Monsignor Sebastiao Rodolfo Dalgado, a Goa archdiocesan priest who died in 1922. He developed Konkani vocabulary for religious texts, composed Konkani hymns, popularized preaching in Konkani and pioneered Konkani education.

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa presented Father do Rego his award on May 8 at a function marking Monsignor Dalgado´s 150th birth anniversary. The award consists of a shawl, a citation and 50,000 rupees (about US$1,155).

Addressing the function in Panaji, the Goa capital, 1,910 kilometers southwest of New Delhi, academy president Tomazinho Cardozo noted that federal and state agencies have given Konkani awards only to users of the Devanagari script. He said the academy was formed in 1988 to "cater to the needs of Konkani writers in Roman script."

Though both Christians and Hindus in Goa have Konkani as their mother tongue, they use different scripts to write the language. Christians, the majority of them Catholics, use the Roman script, while Hindus use Devanagari, the script used for Hindi and other northern Indian languages.

Archbishop Ferrao said Father Rego´s work aimed first to propagate the Gospel in a language people understand. "His second aim was to spread the language," he added.

In 1964, Father Rego pioneered Konkani-medium primary education in four schools. From 1973 to 1978, he led a team that translated liturgical texts into Konkani. One of the results is the Misa-Gronth, or missal, published in 1981.

In the Novo Korar, or New Testament, published in 1971, Father Rego translated the Gospel according to John and the letters of Peter and John. He also translated the Book of Isaiah and supervised revision work for the New Testament and translation of the Old Testament into Konkani.

Father Rego has written a number of hymns and Christmas carols. He wrote the lyrics for 333 of the 583 hymns in "Gaionancho Zhelo," the official hymnbook of the local Church. He also composed the music for 47 of these hymns, noted Jose Salvador Fernandes, a board member of the academy.

According to Cardozo, Father Rego has done "great works" in the Konkani language but has not been properly recognized for this.

Until 1987, the Kendra Sahitya Akademi, or federal academy for literature, considered Konkani books in Roman script for awards. Now they accept only books in the Devanagari script. "It is ironic that the first works in print in Konkani were in Roman script by missioners," but now "that script is set to be sidelined," Cardozo later told UCA News.

Konkani became one of India´s 22 official languages in 1987, a year after it was declared Goa state´s official language following a prolonged and fierce campaign.

A large number of Catholics took to the streets to press the federal government to grant Konkani official status. However, once the recognition came, the Church scaled down its insistence on the Roman script to keep Konkani supporters united.

Some Hindus in Goa wanted Marathi, the language of the much larger neighboring state of Maharashtra, as their official language. Another group of Hindus supported Konkani but insisted on using the Devanagari script, which is unfamiliar to Catholics. The official recognition of Konkani in Devanagari script has helped Hindus get government jobs.


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