Classical Languages of India : Criteria and List

Why in News ?

The proposal for grant of classical status to Marathi language is under active consideration of the Culture Minister (Government of India).

Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, passed a resolution demanding the declaration of Marathi as a 'Classical' language.

List of 6 Classical Languages of India

What are Criteria for Classical Languages ?

The criteria povided by the Ministry of Culture in the Rajya Sabha in 2014 to determine the eligibility of a language for granting classical language status, are as under :

i. High antiquity of its early text/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.

List of Classical Languages :

Currently, there are six languages that enjoy the 'Classical' status in India :

1. Tamil (declared in 2004)
2. Sanskrit (declared in 2005)
3. Kannada (declared in 2008)
4. Telugu (declared in 2008)
5. Malayalam (declared in 2013)
6. Odia (declared in 2014)

Note : The Government of India has been criticized for not including Pali as a classical language as expert argue that it fits all the above mentioned criteria.

6 Classical Languages with Specified Region

Which is the First Classical Language of India ?

The Government of India declared first classical language is Tamil in 2004. Tamil is one of the Dravidian and Regional language of India. It's belong to beautiful Sangam literature.

4-Dravidian and 2-Indo-Aryan in Six Classical Languages :
Out of Six Classical Languages, Five are regional language and Sanskrit is not specific to any region.
There are Four Dravidian Languages - Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam and 
Two Indo-Aryan - Sanskrit & Odia in the Classical Languages of India.

 Constitutional Status of Classical Languages :
 All the Classical Languages are listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India.

Classical Languages & their Scripts :
Sr. No.Classical LanguagesScripts
1.Tamil Tamil
2.Sanskrit Devanagari
3.Kannada Kannada

What are the Benefits to Classical Languages ?

The Human Resource and Development Ministry in the Lok Sabha noted the benefits to Classical Languages are -

• Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages are given.
• A Centre of excellence for studies in Classical Languages is set up.
e.g. Centre of excellence for studies in Telugu and Kannada at the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) established by HRD Ministry in 2011.
• The University Grant Commission (UGC) awards research projects for promoting these languages and create a certain number of Professional Chairs for the Classical Languages in the Central Universities.
• The UGC  also awards research projects for promoting these languages.
e.g. According to Ministry of Culture, UGC released funds worth Rs. 95.67 lakh in 2017-18.
• Under National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), all Classical Languages will be widely available in Schools as options.

The Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today called for preservation and promotion of classical languages saying that they provide the window to our past and the civilizational values of ancient India.



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  1. With respect to the "6 Classical Languages with Specified Region" photo:

    I wonder why only Andhra is portrayed for Telugu. Telangana?

    1. Telugu (old name Tenugu)is official language of Telangana.Telugu is called north of south and south of north. Telugu language words dating back to 400 BC to 100 BC have been discovered in Bhattiprolu in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Hence, it is about 2000 years old language. Telugu script is an abguida which came from the Brahmic scripts and is used to write Telugu language.
      *Please refer Criteria of Classical Language*
      President Ram Nath Kovind will land in Hyderabad on Tuesday to attend the valedictory session of the World Telugu Conference in the city. The five-day event is being conducted by the Telangana government for the first time since its bifurcation from Andhra Pradesh in 2014 to celebrate Telugu language, literature and culture after it was accorded the classical language status last year.
      The conference is being seen as one of the many attempts by Telangana to create a separate cultural identity for itself. Post the split with Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana government has been striving to revive local art and dance forms and rewrite history text books to assert its individuality, claiming that they were overshadowed and suppressed for decades.


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