INDIA – On February 20, the Odia language was granted the status of classical language in India, after the Union Cabinet finally conceded to a demand first brought up in the year 2004 by the state government. After this decision, Odia has become one of the six classical languages of India, together with Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam.
Criteria Taken into Account
Today, Odia is the first Indo-Aryan language to reach the classical language status, which is in itself one of the arguments used to grant its new status. The lack of relationship between Odia and the other classical languages is one of the criteria which were taken into account, together with the presence of early texts which are around 1,500 to 2,000 years old, a valuable body of ancient literature considered part of the heritage of several generations of speakers, a distinct literary tradition which has not been borrowed from any other speech community, and a possible discontinuity between the form of the classical language and its offshoots.
Advantages of Becoming a Classical Language
There are several advantages of becoming a classical language. The government will finance the setting up of centres of study of the Odia language, together with two awards for scholars dedicated to studying it. This will in turn popularise the language, whose use has been decreasing, especially in official settings. The move will also foment research and add symbolic value to Odia itself. According to government sources, the state government will be receiving a grant of one billion Indian Rupees aimed at research and development of the language and then fifty million Indian Rupees every year.
Success after Ten Years of the Original Proposal
The proposal was originally put on agenda by a committee of language experts appointed by the Culture Ministry, which further pushed for the proposal until its approval. Since 2004, various governments and several cultural and linguistic organisations in Odisha have been pushing for the measure which was finally approved on Thursday, ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha (the Indian lower house of Parliament) polls.