'English Devi' set to find more devotees in India

Last Updated 29 October 2010, 11:09 IST

"We have received requests from our sister organisations in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra for setting up this novel 'English Devi' temple," said Chandrabhan Prasad, a researcher at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who is the brain behind the move.

Prasad chose the nondescript Banka village of Lakhimpur-Kheri district, about 170 km from Lucknow, to undertake his dream project of an 'English Devi' temple simply because of his old association with the place.

"Way back in 1991, I had started a 'Dalit Shiksha Andolan' - a campaign to promote education among Dalits; and Lakhimpur-Kheri was among those few places where the response was tremendous," he said.

"Even now, when I mooted the idea of setting up a temple with a view to promoting knowledge of English among Dalits, one of my old associates promptly offered to undertake the project in his native village Banka," Prasad added.

If Banka is in the spotlight because of this unique effort, it is the Nalanda Public Shiksha Niketan there which gets all credit for making Prasad's dream a reality.

Amar Chand Jauhar and his wife Nisha Pal Jauhar, who have been running the only intermediate college under the banner of Nalanda Public Shiksha Niketan in Banka, happily gave away 800 sq feet of land of their institution for building the only temple of its kind.

The 'English Devi' deity planned for the temple is as unique as the concept of the temple. The "Dalit Goddess English", as the deity is referred to, is cast more on the lines of the Statue of Liberty.

"It is three-feet tall, attired in a British gown and sporting an English hat while standing atop a pedestal in the shape of a computer, with a pen in one hand and a copy of the Indian Constitution in the other," explained Jauhar.

Said Prasad: "We were hoping to complete this temple latest by October 25 when we had planned to hold a grand ceremony that would simultaneously mark the birth anniversary of Lord Macaulay, the architect of promotion of English language."

Jauhar added: "However, the work could not be completed, so we are now hoping to see 'English Devi' installed in the new temple latest by the end of November."

Jauhar feels very strongly about English because he considers lack of knowledge of the language as the biggest handicap to growth.

"You may have the best of degrees but unless you know English, you cannot grow in today's modern world; and that is what I perceive as the reason for continued deprivation of Dalits, who have been losing out on account of poor English," he pointed out.

The temple building that is now being given a final cladding of black granite all around will have steps matching a computer keyboard. Jauhar's wife Nisha Pal proposes to later have the granite walls engraved with popular English sayings, besides a few physics, chemistry and mathematics formulae to convey that this was a complete temple of learning.

Asked why they chose this way to promote teaching of English among Dalits, Nisha replied: "Well, in any case we lay a lot of emphasis on the teaching of formal English, but we could not think of a better way to promote English learning than by making it a religious mission."

"And you can see for yourself how the idea is being lapped up by the entire media - local, national and even international! Don't you believe that well begun is half done," she added.

(Published 29 October 2010, 11:09 IST)

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