Pandits Chant New Mantra: English

June 20, 2007


Source: The Telegraph

Hyderabad, June 19: Beads of sweat form on priest Vedantacharya’s forehead as he struggles to pronounce the words on the sheet before him.

“Hi, how do you do?” he chants as if reciting a Sanskrit shloka. “Good morning, nice to meet you.”

Knowledge of the Vedas and Sanskrit are no longer enough for ambitious priests in Andhra Pradesh — the ability to speak English has suddenly become just as important.

It all began in March when job offers at Hindu temples in the West started appearing in newspapers, Telugu television channels and websites. An estimated 4,000 pandits’ positions are vacant in US, British and Australian temples, built mostly by the 50-odd NRI Telugu associations.

Hundreds of priests in the state have since then made a beeline for spoken-English centres. The rush has led several vedic schools, and even temples, to offer crash courses in the language.

“The priests will be conducting the rituals in Sanskrit, of course, at the American temples,” said Dantu Nagarjuna Sarma of Imprint Astrological and Vedic Research Centre here, “but they must be able to speak English if they are to live there.”

That, and a lot more. The priests are being taught to send emails from PCs and text messages from mobiles — in English, of course. Acharyas who have never looked beyond the dhoti are being groomed in the art of slipping into casual shirts and trousers.