Classical language of India: Classical languages are languages that have a rich literary, cultural and historical tradition, often spanning many centuries, and are considered culturally significant. These languages are typically characterized by their classical texts, ancient scripts, and a substantial body of literature and religious or philosophical works. These languages have a documented literary tradition that extends back to ancient times. In the context of India, there are several classical languages, each with its own unique history and significance.
How many classical languages in India
According the record of Cultural Ministry of India, there were six recognized classical languages in India. These are: Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia.
- Sanskrit: Sanskrit is one of the oldest classical languages in the world and is considered the mother of many modern Indian languages. It has a vast body of ancient texts, including religious scriptures like the Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Ramayana, and numerous other works in philosophy, science, and literature. Sanskrit is also the liturgical language of Hinduism. It was declared as Classical Language in 2005 By the Government of India.
- Tamil: Tamil is one of the Dravidian languages and has a rich literary tradition dating back over two millennia. It was the First classical language of India declared in 2004 by the Government of India. The Sangam literature, consisting of poetry and epics, is a significant part of Tamil classical literature. Tamil Nadu is the primary state where Tamil is spoken, but it also has a significant presence in other parts of India and Sri Lanka.
- Telugu: Telugu is another Dravidian language with a long history of literature. It has classical texts like the Andhra Mahabharata, various Puranas, and the works of poets like Nannaya, Tikkana, and Errana. Telugu is predominantly spoken in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It was declared as classical language in 2008 with kannada by the Govt of India.
- Kannada: Kannada is a Dravidian language spoken mainly in the Indian state of Karnataka. It has a rich literary tradition dating back to the 9th century, with classical texts like the Kavirajamarga and works by poets like Pampa, Ranna, and Basava. It was declared as classical language in 2008 with Telugu.
- Malayalam: Malayalam was declared as classical language in 2013 by the cultural ministry of INDIA. Malayalam is another Dravidian language primarily spoken in the state of Kerala. It has a significant body of classical literature, including the Ramacharitam and the works of Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan.
- Odia: Odia, who known as Oriya also, is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the state of Odisha. It is the Latest Classical language of India declared in 2014 by the Government of India. It has a classical literary tradition that includes the Mahabharata of Sarala Das and the works of poets like Jayadeva and Upendra Bhanja.
First Classical Language of India
Tamil is considered the first classical language of India. It was declared as a Classical Language by the Government of India in 2004. The Tamil language is a Dravidian language that originates from South Asia and is primarily spoken by the Tamil people. It holds the status of an official language in Tamil Nadu, India, as well as in the sovereign nations of Sri Lanka and Singapore, and the Indian Union territory of Puducherry. Additionally, Tamil is spoken by significant minority populations in the South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, along with the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Guidelines for declaring a language as Classical Language
The recognition of these languages as classical is based on criteria such as their antiquity, their influence on other languages and cultures, their significant body of ancient literature, and their role in shaping the cultural and historical heritage of India.
- High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years.
- A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers.
- The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community.
- The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.
Benefits of Declaring Classical Language
Once a language is declared as a Classical language, the Human Resource and Development Ministry provides certain benefits to promote it
- Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languagesFor eminent researchers in the classical Indian languages, there are two significant annual international awards offered
- A Centre of Excellence for studies in Classical Languages is set up
- The University Grants Commission is requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for the Classical Languages so declared
It’s worth noting that the status of languages can change over time, and new languages may be recognized as classical in the future.