Sankethi Heritage

By Dr. K. Krishnamurthy, Mysore

The Sankethi is the name of a very small community within the larger group of brahmins of old Mysore State, with their ancestral home,located in tiny villages mainly in Hassan, Mysore and Shimoga districts. They speak a mixed ‘sankethi’ dialect of tamil though residing in the heart-land of Karnataka. Till the other day, the women had their own style of wearing the saree. Young ‘Balabrahmacharis’ with their distinct forehead mark (Gooti Nama) were a common sight in their villages, some fifty years back.

Up to the beginning of this century, this community as a whole – may be a thousand families including the branches termed ‘Kowshika’ ‘Bettadapura’ and ‘Malanadu’ was generally averse to take up any kind of servitude either in Government or in private sectors, because of its extraordinary passion for leading an independent life. It was allergic to modern education too. Perhaps their strong liking for an independent and self-sufficient way of life lead to their choosing the agriculture profession involving tough physical labor. Thus, in those days every sankethi had a cultivated areca garden, besides other lands.

The most outstanding aspect of this community was its intellectual eminence in the tradition of Vedic learning. The age-old ‘Guru-Shisya Parampara’ method was scrupulously observed in imparting the Vedic education to the community boys after ‘Upanayanam’ up to the time of marriage. The sankethis in those days were known for their straight forward and independent nature, for hard and sincere work, robust health, indomitable spirit, sense of self respect and mental poise. They were a close knit community blissfully away from the storms and stresses of the outside world. If our children are outstanding even today in their educational performance, it is due to their rich heredity more than anything else. Awareness of ones cultural heritage is an important element in the making of a well developed personality. The ideal way of life placed before us by the ancient sages and maintained as a living tradition by ancestors till the other day can inspire us even today in our own chosen field, if only we have an open outlook.

In the human personality there are spheres which lie beyond the purview of modern sciences and which are inaccessible to the senses and to the mind. That man has an inmost spirit or concealed divinity within himself and that its realization or actualization is the highest goal of man is the basic value of all Indian thought. This helps cultivation of all moral values and cement human relationships with fellow-feeling. The vedic way of life envisages several religious celebrations to shape one into a perfect individual. Also there are ceremonies prescribed as funeral rites to be performed dutifully. When performed in the proper religious spirit, these destroy sin and confer merit, both being unseen categories and demanding faith.

The Mantras used are many on these occasions. A proper understanding of even a fraction of them is enough to convince us that ‘man held converse with the sun and the stars’ in the past and canalized his inner potentiality to expand to cosmic proportions. May that undimmed Vedic vision help us in seeing light, away from darkness! Traditionally, adolescence coupled with wealth, power and indiscretion is looked upon as the gateway to a life’s ruin. A proper self-discipline or self-restraint is the only antidote to it. Will our youth have patience to pursue self-discipline as a ritual? Today, as never before, we are faced with the danger of community’s disintegration and extinction. Posterity will not pardon us if we allow this to happen in our craze for modernity. What has been zealously preserved up to our time by the sacrifice of numberless ancestors over centuries deserves promotion and preservation. Otherwise, we become the victims of frustrated feelings that mark people who have lost their cultural identity and have become rootless. A close cultivation of contacts with brethren as well as a pursuit of shared social and cultural ideals in our lives is the only remedy to keep off the danger. Respect for women and elders, affection extending to even distant relations in the joint family, cooperative spirit and devoted performance of duties are some of the inherited traits that keep the sankethis going as a single community even today. Don’t they deserve to be cherished? If they are to be cherished, the younger generation should take it up as a challenge in a big way and strive hard for the upkeep of the community and continuity of its great traditions.


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