A status enjoyed only by Tamil and Sanskrit so far, the Union cultural minister Ambika Soni announced today that two languages had been allowed to join this elite group. A nine member committee of linguistic experts had been formed for this purpose after four years of intense lobbying by the respective state governments and an assortment of political and civil entities from the two states.
Is this but a cheap political trick on the part of the Congress government which is soon to face nation-wide elections and the expected anti-incumbent factors? Or will the parties currently in power in the two states tout this as a victory and try to score some political points? Did the committee have to lower prior standards for this classical language status in order to award it to Kannada and Telugu? All this even if one forgets to consider the validity of those prior standards and the ulterior motive behind awarding the classical language status to Sanskrit and Tamil four years ago.
Yes, the worse the idea, greater the chances that it's true. But. None of that matters. Kannada finally got the classical language tag that it so rightly deserves! The Halmidi inscription, the earliest known use of full-length Kannada, dates back to circa 450 CE. 1500 known years of continuous use surely deserves something. The kingdoms and dynasties which ruled over ancient Karnataka all switched their loyalties from literary Sanskrit to the common man's Kannada, slowly developing the literature of the language. Over the centuries it has enjoyed the royal patronage of the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas, the Gangas, the Hoysalas, the Vijayanagara empire and the Wodeyars of Mysore after them. It is the language of kavirajamarga, it is the language of Pampa and Ranna and Ponna. It is the language in which Purandara Dasa sang of Vittala, it is the language in which Carnatic music as we know it today was systematized and stylized.
Modern Kannada has been living up to its glory days in courts of Amoghavarsha I, Veera Ballala II, and Krishnadevaraya. With the likes of Kuvempu, Gorur and Maasti, since independence Kannada literature has managed to bag seven Jnanpith and fifty one Sahitya Akademi awards, more than any other language in the country. It is in our times that Bhimsen Joshi introduced many non-Kannada speakers to the language with his sublime rendition of Bhagyada Lakshmi Baaramma.
So sit back, relax, forget all politics for a while and bask in the glow inherent to being a Kannadiga.
Top right. A Hoysala stone inscription from a Lakshmi temple at Doddagaddavalli, Hassan district, circa 12th century CE.
Bottom. Dated circa 700 CE, the Kappe Arabhatta inscription at Badami, Bagalkot district is the earliest known example of Kannada poetry. It is written in what appears to be an early form of the tripadi meter, ubiquitous in early Kannada verse.
PS. It is with regret that the author of this post refuse to claim having any significant reading or writing skills in the language he so identifies with, as a prime component of his cultural heritage even.
PPS. As corny as it may sound, I offer the heartiest of congratulations to Telugu and Telugu speakers as well. As the language of Tyagaraja's music, its positive impact on me hasn't been insignificant.