The facts first. In a bid to revitalise one of the world's oldest living oral traditions, faced with apathy, adulteration and outright extinction, the DoC had embarked upon a UNESCO-endorsed five-year action plan to set up 15 Vedic pathshalas at a cost of Rs 5.3 crore to offer five-year courses under the traditional gurukul system of oral teaching. As part of the plan, it proposed to tap au fait gurus, form a phalanx of authoritative pundits, restore the rigour of 'pristine' Vedic articulation, resurrect near-forgotten modes of chanting, document the chants, drive refresher courses for existing practitioners and incubate common curricula.
Subsequently, the DoC approached UNESCO to get Vedic chanting recognised as an 'intangible heritage of humanity' to win foreign financial support for the cause. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, Delhi, was roped in to prepare a presentation showcasing the evanescent tradition. After much dawdling over whether any recognition to the Vedas would amount to patronising a particular religion, a UNESCO team visited India earlier this year and returned convinced about the sheer cultural wealth of the oral practices linked to the 'scriptures'.