It was a befitting end to a longstanding campaign for elevating Malayalam to a classical language, say Malayalis in the city.

As news about the Union cabinet’s approval for the much-awaited classification of the language spread, the diaspora rejoiced over the decision and described it as “a long-due recognition”.

C.G. Rajendra Babu, former head of the Malayalam department, Madras University, who was also part of the expert committee that recommended the honour, said: “We have been expecting this for the past few months. Malayalam that has a rich heritage of over 2,300 years of existence deserves to be conferred the status of a classical language.”

Malayalam had met the criteria of antiquity and literary tradition to be granted the status. This would help in setting up a centre of excellence to conduct research on the antiquity of Malayalam and its close affinity with Dravidian languages with the Central government’s support, he said.

For many Malayalis who have made Chennai their home for decades now, it was a day to celebrate. M. Nandagovind, president, Confederation of Tamil Nadu Malayalee Associations, said, “It is an honour to the fraternity here. The announcement has come at a time when we are reaching out to the younger generation to learn the language through Malayalam Mission.”

Actor Jayaram said he was proud Malayalam had been given the status. “I have always been passionate about elephants and ‘chendas’ (drums) — which are closely knitted with Kerala culture. My children are also passionate about Malayalam,” he said.

Members of cultural organisations in the city that had strived for the honour said the announcement would help channelise the efforts of various institutions to pool research on the language and pass on the rich legacy to the younger generation. “One of the earliest references to the language can be found in the edicts during emperor Ashoka’s era about 2,300 years ago,” said S.S. Pillai, secretary general of Dakshina, a cultural organisation in the city.

City’s cultural organisations said the decision would help channelise efforts to pool research on

the language