The Lodhi people are said to be the first of the military caste. History records the brave warriors in ancient times and the 1857 revolt under the leadership of their dynamic queen, Avantibai. She was martyred on March, 20 1858, while unsuccessfully defending Mandla. The Lodhi believe firmly in the Hindu scriptures and have great faith in their horoscope readings. Their staple diet consists mostly of rice and lentil soup and their livelihood is commonly derived from agriculture. Dairy farming and raising of poultry are practiced by landlords and the Lodhi will hire themselves out as labourers for seasonal wages. The Lodhi language is not used in government communications or taught at school. The education levels are very low, with many Lodhi children dropping out after primary school. 12—15% reach college, but only 2% graduate. 90% of the Lodhi women are illiterate.
Lodhi was a spoken language until recently, when in 2016, a team of consultants worked with Lodhi speakers, providing them with training in linguistic-related topics. They subsequently developed the Lodhi alphabet which is based on the Hindi Script. During a follow-up workshop, literacy materials were developed by the speakers themselves. 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 Lodhi language. Written and illustrated by Lodhi speakers, the literacy materials are based on everyday life in a Lodhi village. Once children have learnt to read and write in Lodhi, they will have a much better foundation for education in the state language.
As of January 2020
The literacy committee, project coordinator and teachers have received training and are driving this initiative among their people. The classes provide those who attend the unique opportunity to listen to become literate in their heritage language. This will boost the confidence and self-esteem of the people, because, as linguistic research has shown, ‘we are what we speak’ and when the language of a person is valued, then they are valued. The programme will be implemented in more Lodhi villages, with more teachers trained and more literature in the Lodhi language. The community ‘owns’ this work, which is crucial to ensure the success and longevity of the enterprise. As people who feel pride in their own language, this is highly motivating as well as being transformational because it enables the community to be the decision-makers and in the driver’s seat of their development.