Saturday, 1 November 2008

Classical language status for Telugu

November 1, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 31: Finally, Telugu gets its due recognition as a classical language. It is one of the four Indian languages to be accorded the rare status. The other three being Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada. Kannada got the recognition along with Telugu on Friday. The Centre cleared these two South Indian languages on the eve of formation day of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
After the Central government declared Tamil as a classical language a few years ago, the demand for inclusion of Telugu and Kannada in the select list gained momentum with politicians cutting across party lines bringing pressure on the Centre. But the Centre sat on the demand for more than three years and its sudden decision to accord classical status to Telugu and Kannada took everyone by surprise.
The Centre’s decision, though it comes late, has fulfilled the aspirations of Telugu lovers. Telugu is as old as Tamil and the language had developed over a period of two millennia independent of the influence of Sanskrit. Moreover, Telugu is the largest spoken language in India after Hindi-Urdu.
The demand for grant of "classical language" status to Telugu first came from Gnanpeeth awardee and eminent poet C Narayana Reddy. Even before other literary figures could take up the cause, Telugu Desam president and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu gave a political twist declaring that the party would take up a movement to achieve the goal. The TD had also raised the issue on the floor of Parliament.
The Central government’s policy is to recognise as "classical" those languages which are at least 1000 years old. Earlier, the British government had declared Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic as classical languages. The UPA government had added Tamil to the list.
"Telugu passes all the criteria fixed by the Central government for a classical language status. It's good that the government declared Telugu as a classical language. If there is any Indian language which deserves the status, it is Telugu," Narayana Reddy observed.
Like Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada, the literature of Telugu has been in vogue for over 1500 years. Some argue it is more than 2000 years old. The first Telugu words can be observed in Ikshavakula inscriptions. Nagarjuna Hill inscriptions of 250 AD contain Telugu words.
And what are the criteria for a language to be declared as "classical"? The language should be ancient; it should be an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own and not as an offshoot of another tradition. It must have a large and extremely rich body of ancient literature.
Telugu is as old as Tamil, if not older. The language arose as an entirely independent tradition, with almost no influence from Sanskrit or other languages; and Telugu ancient literature is indescribably vast and rich.
Even during the period of Satavahana rule for 500-600 years in the early part of the first millennia when Prakrut was used as the royal language in Andhra, Telugu did not die. During 1000-1100 AD, Nannaya's Telugu in Bharatam, Telugu in several inscriptions, Telugu in poetry re-established its roots and dominated over the royal language, Sanskrit.
According to historians, during 220 AD the word "Andhrapathamu" was used in the inscriptions in Ballari district. This is the evolutionary sequence of the word "Andhra". The language spoken by Andhras was given the name "Andhra Bhasha" finally, says Ramana Juvvadi, senior linguist.
In the early Andhra, different tribes used to speak different languages (dialects). The tribes of Andhra such as Dravida, Yaksha, and Naga spoke "Telugu" or "Tenugu".
Andhras from North India used to speak another language called "Desi". Telugu belongs to the family of Dravidian languages.
According to the Russian linguist MS Andronov, Proto-Dravidian gave rise to 21 Dravidian languages. They can be broadly classified into three groups: Northern group, Central group, and Southern group of Dravidian languages.
Telugu split from Proto-Dravidian between 1500-1000 BC.
It became a distinct language by the time any literary activity began to appear in the Tamil land. Kannada split from Proto-Dravidian around 0 BC.
The oldest Telugu inscription is from 633 AD, and its literature begins with an 11th-century translation of the Sanskrit classic Mahabharata.
Telugu words appear in the Maharashtri Prakrit anthology of poems (the Gathasaptashathi) collected by the first century BC Satavahana King Hala. Telugu speakers were probably the oldest peoples inhabiting the land between Krishna and Godavari.


Anonymous said...

Great post sir! I enjoyed reading it.


Anonymous said...

Happy to hear. Congrats to Telugus !
Pls post other related articles about AP as well

San Jose, CA

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