Hindi is just as important as other languages: Professor Prajnya Shukla on Vishwa Hindi Diwas

Retired Professor, author and scholar Prajnya Shukla attending an event in Chicago. Photo provided by Prof. Shukla

“The first Vishwa Hindi Sammelan was held on January 10th, 1975 in Nagpur, India. Since then, the Vishwa Hindi Diwas is celebrated with a conference on January 10th,” said Retired Professor, author and scholar, Prajnya Shukla to News India Times in an exclusive interview. Shukla who is on a visit to the U.S., said, till date, 11 Vishwa Hindi Sammelans have taken place. The 12th one is upcoming in February of 2023 in Fiji, which she is going to attend as an academic paper writer and presenter. This year’s theme at the conference is “Hindi – Traditional Knowledge to Artificial Intelligence”.

Shukla said that Hindi is spoken in many countries and many countries in the world teach Hindi in schools and universities. Hindi films are valued as a popular entertainment in many countries. The Indian government celebrates the Vishwa Hindi Diwas to bring awareness that Hindi has spread to many countries and is spoken by a large number of people outside of India. The Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is also organized to begin on that day, Shukla said.

Shukla said that Hindi has not been given its due recognition in India, partly due to its not being India’s Rashtrabhasha, the national language. “On September 14, 1949, it was proposed to make Hindi Rajbhasha, not Rashtrabhasha,” she said. Hindi was to be fully used as the official language for governmental affairs, to assume the status of Rashtrabhasha after 15 years of continued use as government language, which did not happen due to opposition against the use of Hindi in certain parts of India, she said. In memory of that, in India, September 14 is celebrated as Hindi Diwas.

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Vishwa Hindi Diwas, different from Hindi Diwas in September, is celebrated on January 10th every year. It was on January 10th that Hindi was spoken for the first time at the United Nations. The day has been dedicated as the World Hindi Day to commemorate that. Vishwa Hindi Diwas is celebrated in many countries, sometimes falling one or two days later, with many academic activities from conferences and paper reading to poetry reading and cultural activities. “These activities are also geared towards influencing the acceptance of Hindi among the 5 official languages at the United Nations,” Shukla said. Most of the Vishwa Hindi Diwas conferences are 3-day conferences, with academic paper readings which are later printed in a booklet and made available upon request.

Shukla who is set to attend the 12th Vishwa Hindi Sammelan in Fiji, also attended the 8th Sammelan in New York. “The Sammelans are an interesting exchange of ideas and newer methods of teaching Hindi,” Shukla informed.  She spoke of innovations like author Anil Prabha Kumar’s experiments in teaching Hindi through Hindi film songs which Kumar presented at the New York Sammelan. The New York Sammelan had papers from many noted writers, educators and scholars, Shukla said.

Shukla said that she did not get a chance to visit the University in Japan where Hindi is taught at graduate level. “So does Mauritius. I did not attend the 11th Sammelan there. But on my personal visit to Mauritius, I went to the university and met the professors of the Hindi department there,” Shukla said, adding it is very inspiring to have a conversation in Hindi with people in countries so far away from home. “The celebration of the day and the Sammelans are organized in the hope that Hindi would also be given importance, just like all other languages,” she said.

Shukla, who has been a professor of Hindi for 50 years, has taught undergraduate and graduate students and has also been a guide (reader) to Ph.D. students. She has translated many literary books from English and Gujarati into Hindi. Her concentration has been in women writers and perspectives, with her research on ‘Swaatantryottar Hindi Ewam Gujarati Upanyaas Mein Stree Vishayak Chintan: Ek Tulanaatmak Adhyayan’ critically analyzing works of Hindi women writers.

Shukla’s upcoming engagements include a paper presentation at the Fiji Vishwa Hindi Sammelan, and a paper reading at the 2-day national seminar on The Contribution of Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit and Gujarati Literature in the Indian Freedom Movement. She was one of the main speakers at a virtual conference on 14th September 2021 organized by Maharshi Dayanand College, University of Mumbai.

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