Spoken by 5L tribals in Odisha, Soura still awaits its place in 8th Schedule

Odisha is the 3rd largest tribal populated state of India, where nearly 23 per cent of the total population is tribal.


Bhubaneswar: Even seven decades after Independence, Soura, a tribal language used by a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) of Odisha, is awaiting recognition at the government level.

Odisha is the 3rd largest tribal populated state of India, where nearly 23 per cent of the total population is tribal.

Odisha is home to 62 types of scheduled tribe communities, of which 13 are of PVTGs. The Soura tribe is one of them and they reside mainly in the districts of Rayagada, Gajapati and Koraput in Odisha. They are also present in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh.

According to the local tribal community leaders, the indigenous language is being used by the tribal community from one generation to another. The idea for writing a Soura script came to Malia Gomango but was invented by his son-in-law Mangei Gomango.

It is believed that the Sorang Sompeng alphabet came to Mangei Gomango in a vision on 18 June, 1936. He also founded a religious order dedicated to Akshara Brahma, a stone scripted with Soura letters.

The Soura or Sabar community people believe that the script is God’s gift to them. Now, it has been developed as the temple of Matarabnam in Marichaguda which played a great role in the invention of the script.

Mangei Gomango was instrumental in promoting it by setting up a letterpress which produced many books. So, his community people give respect to him as their Guru and he is popularly known as Pandita Sabara Mangei Gomango. He passed away in 1980.

Support Independent Journalism? Keep us live.

Sompeng’s 24 letters

Each is named after a god or goddess of the Hindu religion. Like most native scripts of India, Sorang Sompeng is an abugida where alphabetic letters have a single inherent vowel that can be replaced by the presence of another vowel character. There are 10 digits in the language from 0 to 9.

From the invention of the script, Mangei and other leaders of the tribal community have been demanding inclusion of the language on the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India.

Former Odisha Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang, ex-minister late Bhagirathi Gamango, prominent researcher Gabriel Boya and others have contributed to the promotion of the language.

In 2020, Giridhar Gamang had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to include the language in the eighth schedule of the Constitution. The ex-CM had also raised the issue in Parliament during his tenure as a MP.

Recently, the Odisha government has taken up the issue seriously and the state cabinet led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on June 21 decided to recommend the proposal for inclusion of the tribal Soura language in the 8th schedule of the Constitution.

Usually, the children of the tribal community do not understand a language other than their mother tongue, Soura. So, they fail to read the text and are forced to drop out of school due to language problems.

The language has become a major obstacle to the development of education. So, it is time to recognize the language, said Phalguni Sabar, a language activist and local community leader.

Digasming Gomango, a Soura language expert and activist, said language has no religion or caste. Everyone should join hands for the upliftment of the Soura sompeng, he said.(IANS)

Comments are closed.