In the remote colony of Kookanam, near Karivellur grama panchayat, the Chakaliya community faces a significant challenge—the imminent loss of its unique language, Madhika.
Last Speakers Fear Language Extinction
At 87 years old, K.P. Narayanan, along with his niece Rajputhri, are the last fluent speakers of Madhika. They express deep concern about the potential extinction of the language, which lacks a script.
Madhika’s Diverse Influences and Unpopularity Among Youth
Madhika, despite its resemblance to Kannada, can be confusing due to its diverse influences, including Telugu, Tulu, Kannada, and Malayalam. The younger generation, drawn to mainstream languages like Malayalam, shows little interest in learning this unique linguistic blend.
The Legacy Passed Down
Narayanan and Rajputhri acquired Madhika from their forebears, becoming the last living link to the past. However, with the passing of older speakers, the younger members of the Chakaliya community, particularly the youth, are uninterested in preserving the language.
Historical Background of the Chakaliya Community
The Chakaliya community, once nomadic and worshippers of Thiruvenkatramana and Mariamma, migrated from the hilly regions of Karnataka centuries ago. Initially recognized as a Scheduled Tribe, they were later included in the Scheduled Caste category in Kerala.
Social Stigma and Neglect
Social activist Muraleedharan Karivellur attributes the neglect of Madhika to the social stigma associated with the Chakaliya community. Historically considered untouchables, they faced dehumanizing treatment and were excluded from various social events. Many of the younger, educated members prefer to dissociate themselves from their linguistic and cultural past.
Threats to Madhika’s Survival
Retired Malayalam teacher N.P. Vijayan, who studied the community, emphasizes the lack of documentation as a threat to Madhika’s survival. He mentions that the language, influenced largely by Havyaka Kannada, may not survive beyond individuals like Narayanan and Rajputhri.
Malayalam’s Dominance and Language Perishment
Muraleedharan Karivellur likens the fate of Madhika to many native languages that have perished, attributing its decline to the dominance of Malayalam. The younger generation’s preference for Malayalam, taught in schools and spoken widely, contributes to Madhika’s gradual disappearance.