Posts Tagged ‘classical language’

A moment of pride, a moment of triumph, a moment of accomplishment, a moment when all Telugus must feel honored. Yes! Our beloved language ‘Telugu’ was conferred the status of a ‘Classical Language’ (Praacheena Bhaasha) by the Union Culture Ministry on October 31, 2008, the eve of ‘Raashtra avataranotsavam‘ (State Formation Day). The Union Culture Minister, Ambika Soni, announced the approval of classical status to the language. It will now be regarded on par with Sanskrit and Tamil, the only two languages that have thus far boasted of the classical status. Tamil was the first to receive the title, in 2004 followed by Sanskrit in 2005. Kannada has also been granted classical status along with Telugu. The four year wait for those vouching for the two languages, has finally ended. Both languages have met the criteria for being graced with ‘classical’ status – antiquity and usage of more than 1500 years, original literature at least 1000 years old.

The panel of experts that convened to evaluate the claims of Telugu has been presented with substantial evidence which establishes its history of more than 2,500 years. The earliest Buddhist Prakrit inscriptions from Bhattiprolu in Guntur district, dating back to 400 BCE, contained several Telugu words, names of places, proving that the language of the natives was Telugu, while the rulers spoke Prakrit. The earliest inscription written entirely in Telugu was found in Kadapa district and dated back to 575 CE. By then Telugu had already evolved into a highly developed and sophisticated language. Although the earliest literature in Telugu can currently be traced back to the 9th century CE, many scholars and linguists believe that earlier literary works must have existed but were either lost or destroyed. Among the various reasons stated for the loss, one stood out – the revival of Hindu beliefs after a long hiatus of Buddhist domination in the region.

Telugu and Kannada did not branch off from an earlier form of Tamil, contrary to popular belief which was advocated by the likes of Periyar, Karunanidhi and other pro-Dravidian secessionists. However, it is true that all the three languages share the same linguistic base, the Proto-Dravidian Language. Tamil, which is considered the purest off-shoot of the Proto-Dravidian language, was the first to branch off and develop independently, while Telugu and Kannada split a little later. Tamil isolated itself and retained the corpus of Proto-Dravidian vocabulary and was less influenced by other languages, whilst Telugu and Kannada were greatly influenced by the tongues of the North, esp. Sanskrit and Prakrit. But all three languages still retain the basic grammatical structure and rudimentary vocabulary of the Proto-Dravidian language (PDL) – the children of one mother. Also, the PDL gave birth to 21 Dravidian languages which can essentially be classified into three groups – the Northern, Central and Southern group. The Northern branch consists of languages like Brahui (spoken in Baluchistan province of Pakistan), Malto and Kudukh (spoken by certian tribes in Central India). The Central group consists of eleven languages of which only Telugu developed into a civilized language with a literary repertoire. The other ten remained tribal languages. Finally, the Southern group consists of Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Tulu, Kodava Takk, Toda and Kota. Five of these languages evolved into modern languages spoken by large populations, while two remained within sylvan confines. Therefore, Tamil and Telugu don’t even belong to the same group to suggest that one branched off from the other. All three languages developed independently.

The great Tuluva emperor of the Vijayanagara empire, Sri Krishna Deva Raya, extoled Telugu in a poem which ends with the line ‘Desha bhaashalandu Telugu lessa‘ (the title of this post) meaning ‘Of all the tongues of the Land, Telugu is the sweetest’. The Italian explorer, Nicola Di Conti, called Telugu the ‘Italian of the East’, since all of its words end in a vowel sound (although I would prefer calling Italian the ‘Telugu of the West’, nevertheless.). The great Tamil poet, Subrahmanya Bharati, sang ‘Sundara Telunginil pattisaitthu‘ meaning ‘Sing in beautiful Telugu’.

This post neither has a structure nor a purpose. It only voices my excitement over the fact that my mother tongue has been declared a classical language. Well, to me Telugu has always been more than just a medium of communication. To me, to speak in Telugu is worship, a divine tongue that it is. It is as important to me as it is to breathe. I have savored its honey-like sweetness and the thirst is insatiable.

This post is my tribute to Telugu! To its antiquity. To its unparalleled poetic beauty. To all those great people who have contributed to it and who have died for its cause!

Jai Telugu Talli!


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