Telugu gets classical status-Hyderabad-Cities-The Times of India
Telugu gets classical status
1 Nov 2008, 0245 hrs IST, TNN
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HYDERABAD: The four-year long campaign by Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka culminated in a ‘Formation Day’ gift for both the states. Union tourism and culture minister Ambika Soni announced in New Delhi on Friday the Centre’s decision to accord classical language status for Telugu and Kannada, a day before both the neighbours celebrate the 52nd anniversary of their founding on November 1, 1956.

The fight for the prestigious status for the two languages was launched by academicians and language experts in AP and Karnataka after the UPA government had accorded the classical language status to Tamil in 2004. To be classified as classical, a language must fulfil four criteria laid down by the government. Among them are that the language must have a recorded history of at least 1,500-2000 years and its literary tradition must be original and not borrowed from any speech community and must have a large and rich body of ancient literature. Till now, Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit and Tamil have been accorded classical language status.

But it is granting Tamil the status of classical language in 2004 that had Telugu and Kannada culture activists up in arms. They contended that both these languages too fulfilled all the criterion needed to be classified as classical languages. While these two states kept up the campaign, Tamil enthusiasts did their best to sabotage the Telugu and Kannada campaign insisting that Tamil is the oldest spoken language in the world and that Telugu and Kannada should not be placed on the same pedestal.

In was in July this year that the two states decided to join forces. At a seminar organised by the Karnataka Sangha from Hampi in Karnataka and the Dravidian University from Kuppam in Andhra Pradesh held in New Delhi, ministers and professors said it was unfair to deny Telugu and Kannada classical language status when the same was given to the Tamil language.

Speakers at the seminar said Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada languages have similar ancestry and, therefore, it was wrong to elevate only Tamil as a classical language and leave behind the others.

The UPA government then appointed a committee of linguistic experts under the culture ministry which recommended in August this year that the two languages too fulfilled the criteria laid down by the government for recognition as classical languages.

An elated A B K Prasad, chairman of the official language committee of Andhra Pradesh, said according classical language status would greatly boost research, preservation and spread of the language. “To begin with, the state would be given Rs 100 crore annually. With this, we will set up chairs in universities inside India and abroad, conduct research, encourage studies in Telugu, modernise and preserve ancient Telugu texts as well as encourage scholars to undertake widespread research into the origin and history of Telugu,” Prasad told TOI.

A detailed proposal as to what activities can be done by the official language committee on Telugu would be submitted to chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in a week's time, Prasad said. Malayalees are now hoping that it is time that the Kerala government begin a similar campaign to get their language accorded classical language status.
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