India is a land of hundreds of languages. However few Indian languages have survived several centuries and have volumes of ancient literary texts associated with them. These languages are the heart and soul of Indian Culture and to recognize this, certain antique languages have been declared as ‘Classical Indian Languages’.
The Government of India has come up with guidelines to determine whether a language can be declared ‘Classical’. According to a press release from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in 2006, an Indian Language can attain ‘Classical’ status when the following conditions are met.
i) High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years.
ii) A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers.
iii) The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community.
iv) The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.High antiquity of early texts
Special panels of experts are appointed to discuss and determine whether a language is eligible for ‘Classical’ status. Till date, four ancient Indian Languages have been declared 'Classical' as they fulfill all the conditions specified above.
Tamil was declared a Classical Language in 2004 and holds the distinction of being the first Indian language to achieve this status. Spoken widely in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu, the Tamil language has a rich collection of literary texts and exemplary literature that has survived several centuries.
Sanskrit is a much revered language in India and is deeply associated with the country’s religious culture. The Constitution of India delegates a special status to Sanskrit and in 2005, Sanskrit was recognized as a Classical Indian Language. Many other Indian languages are off shoots of Sanskrit.
In 2008, Telugu was recognized as a Classical Indian Language. Telugu is spoken in the Southern State of Andhra Pradesh and also in many neighboring states. Telugu has a vast body of ancient literature and texts. Traces of Sanskrit, Prakrit and Urdu can be seen in Telugu language.
Kannada is another antique Indian language spoken in the Indian state of Karnataka. Kannada was declared a Classical Language in 2008 along with Telugu. Besides this distinction, it is interesting to note that Kannada also finds a place among the 40 most widely used languages of the world.
Here's are links to buy books and learn Tamil and Sanskrit!
Buy Tamil for Beginners from Amazon.com
Buy Teach Yourself Sanskrit Complete Course (Teach Yourself Language) from Amazon.com