The Concept of Classical Languages of India started in 2004. Initially, Tamil became the first language, which got the status in 2004.
We are aware of the phrase “Unity in Diversity” since school time. It is not only applicable to the Physiography of India but also for the languages of India.
Hindi is the official language of the Union of India.
As per the Constitution of India, 22 languages got the Constitutional status under the 8th schedule.
India uses different languages for different purposes like the language of Union, Regional language, language of courts, and some special languages such as Classical languages.
Recognized Classical Languages of India
At present (2021), the Government of India recognized 6 Classical languages. These are,
|Language||Recognition year||Number of Speaker|
(as per Census 2011)
In 2020, Marathi-speaking people demanded classical status for the Marathi language.
Tamil (First Classical language of India)
Tamil became the first classical language in 2004.
It belongs to the family of the Dravidian language.
India, Sri Lanka, and Singapore recognized Tamil as an official language. In India, Tamil is the official language of Tamilnadu state and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
There are more than 75 million native speakers of Tamil. However, about 69 million of them belong to India.
Subsequently, After Tamil, Sanskrit got the status of the Classical language of India in 2005.
Sanskrit is the language of ancient India with a history of around 3500 years. Also, it is an old Indo-Aryan language.
Sanskrit is the sacred language of Hinduism. And, most of the works of Hindu philosophy (including some texts of Jainism and Buddhism) use Sanskrit as a language.
Surprisingly, there are only about 24,000 speakers of Sanskrit.
Telugu & Kannada
The government of India gave the status of classical language to Kannada & Telugu in 2008. Also, both of these belong to the Dravidian family of languages.
Telugu is the official language of the state of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and the Union Territory of Puducherry (Yenam).
Similarly, Kannada is the official language of the state of Karnataka.
These languages are also used in other states. but, they are minority languages.
It also belongs to the Dravidian family of languages.
Malayalam is the official language of the state of Kerala and the union territory of Puducherry (Mahe) and Lakshadweep.
Certainly, the oldest document written in Malayalam is from 832 AD.
Odia is the official language of the state of Odisha and also a second official language in Jharkhand.
The earliest known documents of this language are from the 10th century AD.
Criteria for Classical Languages in India
These are the 4 criteria as per the pib’s news article –
- High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history from 1500 to 2000 years.
- A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers.
- The literary tradition is 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 for Classical Languages
After getting the status of the classical language of India, various benefits are given to them. These are as follows-
- Financial assistance for the opening of the center of excellence for the study of the language.
- Also, it can give two major awards to the scholar of eminence.
- Central universities can have certain professional chairs for classical languages for the scholar of eminence.
If Marathi gets the Classical language status, then it will become the 7th Classical language. Moreover, it has around 73 million native speakers. It is the official language of Maharashtra and the Co-official language of Goa.