MYSURU: The Solega language, on the verge of extinction, is seeing a spike in interest with a research scholar from Myanmar coming out with a Solega-English dictionary. The language is spoken by about 20,000 people spread over 40 podus (tribal hamlets) in the Biligiri Ranganatha Swamy Hills in Yelandur taluk of Chamarajanagar district.
Known for their rich culture, traditional medicines and attachment to wildlife, Soligas (Solegas) have also produced top singers like Madamma, Kali Siddamma and others. They served as marshals and accompanied the erstwhile kings of Mysuru on hunts.
Exposed to rapid urbanisation and technology, youngsters of the community have brought in a drastic change in their food habits, languages, dress and appearance, posing a threat to their heritage. Aung Si, the research scholar, took up research on ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge of the Solega, a Linguistic Perspective’ and submitted a thesis. The researcher camped in BR Hills for 11 months, and was helped by some members of the tribe -- Made Gowda, Nanjegowda, Kumbe Gowda, Jadegowda and others in Hosa podu, Bangle Podu and Muthakadagadde Podu.
Aung Si also learnt Kannada and recorded key words in the Solega language. The 445-page dictionary has 4,000 words and meanings, like ‘Alone - Utta:ra’, ‘Achieve - Doru’, ‘Angry - Koipa’, ‘Animal - Peraini’, ‘Ankle- Kailina’ etc. His work has earned a lot of appreciation from the tribal community as their language, which was fading out, was documented.
Bommaiah, a tribal, said the younger generation is not comfortable speaking the Solega language. He said the formal education system in Kannada, English and Hindi has taken children away from tribal dialects. He said that only people aged above 40 know Solega now, and it’s unfortunate that the traditional roti habba (festival) that was packed with Solega songs, dance and events, has been hijacked by disc jockeys.
Made Gowda, a PhD scholar, said that Aung Si had “put his soul into research” and got the language recorded, documented and translated into English and Kannada.
He felt it’s a great asset to their community and would inspire youths to use and preserve their language. He said the dictionary will be released at a simple function by the Soligas at BR Hills on Monday. “We want to educate youths and children on the importance of their language and culture,” he added. A few other tribals want Soliga songs, dance, medicine and culture to be recorded.
Aung Si added hundreds of pictures of BR Hills forest, wildlife, tribals and their culture, that gives the dictionary an overview and take readers on a journey of BR Hills. Anthropology teacher Chandrashekar said many see tribals as a showpiece and few research them, and universities and students should be encouraged to study neglected and scattered communities with nomadic and tribal characters.