Classical Languages

Practice Question: What is the basis for declaring a language as a classical language? What are the steps taken by the government to promote the ‘classical languages’ in India? – 250 words

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

(i) High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years;

(ii) A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers;

(iii) The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community;

(iv) 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.”

Once a language is notified as a Classical language:

i) Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages.

ii) A Centre of Excellence for studies in Classical Languages is set up. (For example, The Center of Excellence for Studies in Classical Telugu, among others, propagates and preserves the classical language inside and outside of its speech territories. It undertakes and encourages research and documentation in India and abroad and also makes documentaries on scholars of eminence who are well versed in classical texts and explores linkages of classical language with classical music and dance forms.  The Center also translates classical texts into other Indian languages, English and selected European languages.)

iii) 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.

The University Grant Commission (UGC) also awards research projects for promoting these languages.

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