How is a language declared ‘classical’ in India, what benefits it enjoys

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    21st Jan, 2020

Context

The Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan recently demanded that Marathi be given the status of a 'classical language'.

About

  • At the recently concluded 93rd edition of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, a resolution was passed demanding the declaration of Marathi as a Classical’ language.
  • The Sammelan, an annual conference of Marathi writers, was started in 1878, and over the years has been headed by leading Marathi intellectuals, including Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda, and Prahlad Keshav “Acharya” Atre.
  • This year’s conference was presided over by litterateur, environmentalist, and Catholic priest Francis D’Britto, the first Christian to do so in history.

What are ‘Classical’ languages in India, and how are they classified?

  • Currently, six languages enjoy the ‘Classical’ status: Tamil (declared in 2004), Sanskrit (2005), Kannada (2008), Telugu (2008), Malayalam (2013), and Odia (2014).
  • Guidelines for declaring a language as ‘Classical’ are
    • 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.

How are the Classical languages promoted?

  • Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages
  • 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.
  • Ministry of Culture listed the institutions that have been dedicated to Classical languages.
  • Sanskrit: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi; Maharishi Sandipani Rashtriya Ved Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain; Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati; and Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi
  • Telugu and Kannada: Centres of Excellence for Studies in the respective languages at the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) established by the HRD Ministry.
  • Tamil: Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT), Chennai.
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