Dhankavi belongs to the Indo-European language family. They are believed to have migrated south, crossing the Narmada River of Central India centuries ago. The earliest settlers lived along both the banks. Farming is the main occupation of this people group. They live in small villages, located mostly in the mountains. Their homes are made of baked mud with the interior walls plastered with cow’s dung. Welcoming guests with wine is a prestigious practice in their society. In marriage ceremonies and other festivals they dance, drink and party through the night. Among their most favourite and loved festivals is Holi, celebrated over fifteen days with dancing and revelry. The women wear the traditional sari, while men wear knee-length trousers, cotton shirts and turban. The Dhankavi people love their language and use it all the time, preferring not to use the state language.
With a great love for their language, the Dhankavi people are excited to have the opportunity to become literate in their mother tongue. The Dhankavi orthography (alphabet) was developed in 2016 by mother tongue speakers in conjunction with linguists. Based on the Marathi Script, it includes only the sounds that occur in their language. Once their orthography was established, mother tongue speakers produced various materials for use in a literacy programme. These were developed during a workshop where locals were assisted by linguists and literacy consultants. The materials produced, following a pre-designed layout and methodology, include: a pre-reader, books systematically teaching the alphabet with an accompanying story book, a basic mathematics book as well as teacher’s guides, a spelling guide and alphabet chart, all in the Dhankavi language.
As of January 2020
Written and illustrated by Dhankavi speakers, the literacy materials are based on everyday life in a Dhankavi village. The literacy committee, project coordinator and teachers received training and are driving this initiative among their people. The classes provide those who attend the unique opportunity to listen to and discuss stories read by the teachers in their heritage language. Through the programme, the students discover the link between reading, writing, thinking and knowing. This cognitive process takes place naturally and easily because it all happens in the language they think in and know best. The programme will be implemented in more Dhankavi villages, with more teachers trained and more literature developed in the Dhankavi language. The community ‘owns’ this work, which is crucial to ensure success and longevity.