I refer to the article “Indian languages and the classical status” (Nov. 26). As it rightly points out, the criteria for granting the classical status to a language have changed from time to time. It is true that all the four south Indian languages form a family of Dravidian language. The oldest is Tamil (which already enjoys a classical status) and the other three languages — Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam — are its offshoots. Of them, Kannada and Telugu have been recognised as classical languages. Leaving out Malayalam is not fair. It enjoys an enviable position in terms of output, standard and readability. It is about time it was given its due.
Sarath S. Pillai,
The idea of dividing the languages of a country as classical and non-classical is indeed unscientific and uncalled for. Our States, as it is, have been formed on the basis of language. Every Indian has a soft corner for his mother tongue and considers other languages secondary. The criteria for recommending the classical status to a language have changed from time to time. The government should relax the criteria in such a way that all the languages currently in use get the classical status. This will strengthen unity in diversity.
E. Rajakumar Arulanandham,
The author, M.A. Baby, has presented valid reasons to grant Malayalam the status of a classical language. No doubt, it deserves to be declared classical but the same can be said of the other languages spoken in India. Many tribal languages might have been in use even before the Aryan-Dravidian age. All the languages have a hoary tradition and possibly deserve the classical tag.
The Government of India has opened the floodgates by conferring the classical status on Telugu and Kannada on the basis of new norms. But that does not mean it has discriminated against Malayalam, which is much younger compared to Telugu and Kannada. Of course, there are a number of magnificent literary works in Malayalam. The entire nation is proud of them. But that cannot be a criterion for conferring the classical status on Malayalam.
Malayalam is a beautiful language capable of expressing clearly and subtly every nuance of human emotion and experience. It is perhaps the most affluent. It is generously enriched by words from other languages including Roman, Greek, Arabic, French, English and Chinese (cheena chatti, cheena padakkam).
However, Malayalam does not qualify for the classical status. It is not an ancient language. It is an offshoot of Tamil. It developed a recognisable body of literature only by the 9th Century. The first piece of Malayalam literature accepted as a classic, the Adhyatma Ramayanam by Thunjathu Ezhuthchan, was written in the early 17th Century. The recognition given to a language is more for the preservation of its pristine glory than for further enrichment.
Col. C.V. Venugopalan (retd.),