July 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination



THE CONTEXT: The Indian government is set to modify the criteria for granting classical language status, a significant change that comes amid ongoing demands from various linguistic communities.


  • The move is particularly pertinent for languages like Marathi, which has been under consideration for this prestigious recognition for over a decade.

The Linguistics Expert Committee’s Recommendations

  • On October 10, 2022, the Linguistics Expert Committee of the Union Culture Ministry submitted a report suggesting changes to the criteria for designating classical languages.
  • This development followed a directive from the Centre to reassess the existing rules.
  • The proposed criteria will be officially implemented following approval by the Union Cabinet and subsequent gazette notification.
  • Composition of the Committee
    • The committee includes representatives from the Union Ministries of Home and Culture, alongside four to five linguistic experts.
    • It is chaired by the president of the Sahitya Akademi.
  • Existing Classical Languages
    • India currently recognizes six classical languages: Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Odia.
    • The last language to receive this status was Odia in 2014.

Demand for New Classical Languages

  • The demand for classical language status for Marathi has been pending for more than a decade.
  • In 2014, the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan established a committee led by Prof. Ranganath Pathare, which concluded that Marathi met all the criteria for classical status.
  • Despite repeated assurances from the Centre, including statements by Union Culture Ministers over the years, the proposal has yet to be approved.
  • Other languages such as Bengali, Assamese, and Maithili have also seen significant lobbying for classical status.
  • However, Marathi remains at the forefront due to its historical and cultural significance.

Present Criteria for Classical Language Status

  • The current criteria for a language to be designated as classical include:
    • High Antiquity: Early texts or recorded history over a period of 1,500-2,000 years.
    • Ancient Literature: A body of ancient literature or texts considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers.
    • Original Literary Tradition: The literary tradition should be original and not borrowed from another speech community.
    • Distinct Language and Literature: The language and literature should be distinct from its modern form, with possible discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or offshoots.

Benefits of Classical Language Status

  • Languages granted classical status receive several benefits from the Education Ministry:
    • Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in these languages.
    • Establishment of a centre of excellence for studies in the classical language.
    • Creation of Professional Chairs in Central universities for the classical languages by the University Grants Commission.

Political and Cultural Implications

  • With Assembly elections due in Maharashtra in October, the demand for classical language status for Marathi has gained political momentum.
  • Political parties, including the Congress and the Shiv Sena-BJP coalition, have been vocal in their support.
  • Congress general secretary recently highlighted the decade-long wait for Marathi’s recognition, emphasizing the Modi government’s inaction.

SOURCE: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-set-to-tweak-criteria-for-according-classical-language-status/article68381390.ece#:~:text=The%20Linguistics%20Expert%20Committee%20of%20the%20Union%20Culture,the%20Centre%20asked%20them%20to%20reconsider%20the%20rules

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