Odia gets classical language status


Odia in February 2014 became the sixth language of the country to get “classical language’’ status after the Union Cabinet conceded a long-pending demand. Other classical languages in India are Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. The linguistic committee of the Sahitya Akademi had accepted the Odisha government’s claim in this regard and forwarded the proposal to the ministry of culture in July 2013.
Odia is billed as the first language from the Indo-Aryan linguistic group and the case for making it a classical language was also premised on the fact that it has no resemblance to Hindi, Sanskrit, Bengali and Telugu.
Once a language is declared classical, it gets financial assistance for setting up a centre of excellence for the study of that language and also opens up an avenue for two major awards for scholars of eminence. Besides, the University Grants Commission can be requested to create – to begin with at least in Central Universities – a certain number of professional chairs for classical languages for scholars of eminence in the language.
The classical status would entail a one-time grant of Rs 100 crore for research and development of the language, Rs 5 crore recurring grant for chairs to be established in central universities, and two international chairs will be provided by the Centre.
The criteria for declaring a language as classical mandates high antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1,500-2,000 years, a body of ancient literature/texts which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers and a literary tradition that is original and not borrowed from another speech community. Also since the classical language and literature is distinct from the modern, there can also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.
Odia is quite old and has a long maritime history. Enough evidences support Odia’s claims
to get the distinction. Traces and evidences are found in the Natya Shastra of Bharat Muni of 4th
century and continued with the period of Ashokan (3rd century BC) and Kharavela (1st century AD) in stone inscription. Our language has a unique structure and style. It cannot be considered as a sister concern of Bengali or Assamese. The language dates back from 3rd country BC. There
was a time when classical Sanskrit was being spoken by Brahminical classes in India, Odia was
already used by the masses in Kalinga. For a language to have a classical tag, it should have
high antiquity value, a vast collection of ancient literature and a valuable heritage, not borrowed
from others. Odia fulfills all the above mentioned criteria to be in the elite category. Odisha was the first province to be constituted on 1st April, 1936 during British rule. Many scholars like Suniti Kumar, John Boulton, John Beams, Satya Narayan Rajguru, K.B. Tripathy, G.A Griearson
and many others argue in favour of the Odisha’s language status. The linguists have documented thesis of the language from epigraphic sources to morden literary traditions. Rajya Sabha Member Ramachandra Khuntia is a crusader to bring the issue into limelight by raising it in Parliament last year.
Odia has its own original literature of very high value. As per the required criteria Odia
researchers and scholars are hopeful that the language will surely get the prestigious tag.

Monday, 19th Jan 2015, 09:50:47 AM

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