India boasts of hundreds of languages and cultures, each unique and different. One of the richest among them is Konkani – an ancient language that evolved from the Prakrits and Apabhramsas, a remnant of the old ‘Saraswati' language of the Saraswat Brahmins who lived on the banks of river Saraswati. Today, people who speak this language are settled mainly in 4 states of India, along the west coast – Maharastra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. Konkani language and culture has survived a turbulent history of many a migration, political oppression and cultural suppression.


During ancient times, migrations of Saraswats were triggered by the droughts. Later in 2500-1700 B.C. tectonic shifts and earthquakes caused splinters of river Saraswati and Saraswats scattered along the splinters of the river.

Hastening death of their mother - Saraswati, during 1700- 1300 B.C., forced them to migrate towards the south, west of the Sahyadri Mountains. This region was commonly called ‘Kona', meaning ‘a safe corner', or ‘Ankana' meaning ‘a demarcated area'. Thus, this region came to be known as ‘Konkana' and the language of the Sraswat Brahmins who populated this area became known as ‘Konkani'. ‘Devanagari' was the sript used for literary works and some minor works were written in the ‘Brahmi' script.



Though the ‘Konkana' region was known as ‘a safe corner', it didn't proved to be safe for ‘Konkanis'. Hasan Gangu Jafar Khaan of the Bahamani kingdom invaded the major settlement of Konkanis, Goa, in 1351 A.D. His son, Gazni Mohammed was a ruthless ruler and since 1357 A.D. began ruling Goa. He terrorized and suppressed the people. Later the reign of Yusuf Adil Shah, the Turkish king of Bijapur, witnessed the hights of terror and ill treatment to Saraswat Brahmins. This caused further migration of Kokanis to the south. The Muslim rule in the ‘Konkana' region caused forceful-religious conversion to Islam.


On February 26, 1510 A.D., the Portuguese Commander, Alphonso de Albuquerque and Timmanna Nayak, conquered Goa. The forceful conversion of the local populace to Christiyanity, and the brutal cultural suppression imposed through the inguisition – were an assault on the Konkani people, their language and their culture.

The ‘Vedas' and the Manuscripts that were preserved and brought by the Saraswats from their home, river Saraswati were burnt and destroyed by the Portuguese. They never wanted Konkani language to progress and survive and considered that the Vedas and the Manuscripts contain the doctrines of Hindu religion and beliefs, which they tried every means to destroy. The hostility of Portuguese caused further migration of Konkanis to Maharastra, Karnataka & Kerala. However, the Saraswats are supposed to have migrated to Karnataka and Kerala earlier than this, for which the inscriptions at Shravana Belagola (ascribed to 983 A.D) and Achapura (24 February1042 A.D.) provide evidence.

Centuries of migrations of Saraswats from the North to the South spread the Konkani language to all areas they settled in. Moreover, as these Saraswat Brahmins were shrewd, educated and were of the priestly class, they dominated the society they lived in. Hence, Konkani was transmitted to the inhabitants of coastal region, starting from Rann of Kuch to Kerala.

The rich cultural variety that is available in Konkani, could be categorised as the best that

any culture may possess. ‘Gumott' songs and dances, ‘Tonniyo' songs and dances are the most common among many communities of Konkanis. ‘Ghoddya Moddnni', ‘Divli Naach', ‘Gumtte Faang', ‘Dekhni', ‘Shigmo', ‘Zagor', ‘Damaam', ‘Duff', ‘Fugddi', ‘Zakai', ‘Dhalor', ‘Goff', - are just a few of the vast available variety in Konkani folk songs and dances that need a special mention. The ‘Voviyos(traditional songs sung at weddings and other related rituals)', the ‘Verse(sung at weddings)', the ‘Gannam(lullabies)' and ‘Gannim(children's songs)' are a part of Konkani folklore.

The wide variety that is available in contemporary music is also quite remarkable. From the Indian classical based songs among the ‘Saraswats' and the ‘Goud Sraswats' to the western-based rhythms and melodies adopted by the Christians, Konkani is musically rich. The ‘Manddo' form of music and dace, a heady blend of Portuguese romantic music and Konkani folk music, is unique to Konkani and has enriched Konkani culturally.

Konkani boasts of uniqueness in every aspect of culture – Dress and Costumes, Cuisine, Customs and Traditions, Art and Architecture. Konkani even boasts of a unique art form, ‘Kaavi Kalaa', which adorned the interiors and the exteriors of Konkani temples all along the coast.

The only drawback, one may point out, is the abscence of a script of its own. Therfore, Konkani today, is written in different scripts such as – Roman (Goan Catholics), ‘Devanagari'(accepted as the official script in Goa), Kannada(written by the most number of Konkanis), Arabic(Navayati and Daldi Muslims) and Malayalam(in Kerala).

Script has always been an issue of concern and the bone of contention

Today, we have various communities speaking the Konkani language with variety of dialects, settled mainly in 4 states of India – Maharstra, Goa, Karnataka, and Kerala. Saraswats, Gowd Saraswats, Christians, Daivajna Brahmins, Vaniyas, Vaisya Vaniyas, Chaptekars, Kharvis, Kudmis, Siddis, Navayatis, Daldi (Dalji) Muslims, Maest, Moddvoll, Kumbar, Gabit, Lohar, Mahar, Render, etc. are the different Konkani speaking communities.

Konkani Milestones

•  Sravana Belagola Inscription (983 A.D)

The undated Shravana Belagola inscription ascribed to 983 A.D has the following line in Devnagari script but in Konkani language: “Sri Chavunda Rajem Karavailem” meaning that Sri Chavunda Raya caused the statue of Gomateshwara to be constructed.

•  Achapura Inscription (24 February 1042 A.D)

An important issue stating that Sevuna, the Kannadiga rulers had some soldiers who were speaking a strange language. An inscription at Achapura dated 24 th February 1042 A.D records the appreciation at the valor of their king, some soldiers shouted: “Bhappu! Bhappu! Maja Bhappu!” which in colloquial Konkani these words may be equated with an exclamation as follows: “ Ye maja bappa!”, meaning “Oh my father!”.

•  Kendr Sahitya Academy Recognition

The Kendr Sahitya Academy recognised Konkani as an independent language with Devnagari script on 26 February 1975.

•  Konkani as Official Language in Goa

The state government of Goa declared Konkani as the state and official lnaguage of Goa, on 4 February 1987.

•  Inclusion of Konkani in the 8 th schedule of the Indian Constitution

Konkani was included in the 8 th schedule of the Indian Constitution and recognised as the national language (only 1 among 18) on August 20, 1992.

•  Establishment of Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Akademi

Karnataka Government established Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Akademy on 20 April 1994.

•  Vishwa Konkani Sammellan (The First World Konkani Convention)

The First World Konkani Convention was held in Mangalore in 1995(December 16-22). ‘Konkani Bhaashaa Manddall' was its chief promoter. The World Convention was indeed a very significant historic event, as it brought together, for the first-time ever, Konkanis of all regions, religions, dialects and communities.


Mandd Sobhann(R), Kalaangann,

Makale, Shakthinagar, Mangalore - 575016,Karnataka, India.Phone : 091-824-2230489, 2232239,

Emaill : Manddsobhann@kalaangann.com