Classical Languages of India

Classical Languages of India: Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu
Classical Languages of India/Image Source: Wikimedia
A classical language is a language which is independent in nature, not a derivate of any other tradition and has a rich body of literature. If we go by above definition, there are major five languages, which qualifies for this status, Sanskrit, Chinese, Greek, Latin, and Arabic.

Quick Notes
Languages with Classical Language Status
Tamil (2004)
Sanskrit (2005)
Kannada (2008)
Telegu (2008)
Malayalam (2013)
Odia (2014)

Classical Languages in India
It was during freedom movement of India, languages became serious sentimental issues. Thanks to many prominent leaders, Hindi was encouraged and it became the symbol of nationalistic sentiments.

Post-independence, when Constitution makers were discussing the official language of the Union, Sanskrit lost to Hindi, in vote out, Sanskrit was awarded a special status as the mother of many Indo-European languages under Article 351 and Hindi became the principal official language of the Union under Article 343.

Tamil linguists and academicians demanded special provision for the Tamil language under Article 351, similar to Sanskrit. They argued that Sangam anthologies should be considered classical in nature. They also argued that old Tamil is framework language for the Dravidian branch of language tree.

In 2004, with feedback from Sahitya Akademi, Government of India announced that it will award Classical language status to any language which fulfills certain criteria. These criteria are

1. High antiquity of earlier texts or recorded history over a period of 1500–2000 years;
2. A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers;
3. The literary tradition must be original, not borrowed from another speech community;
4. The classical form of language  is distinct from modern language. There can be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.

In 2004, Government of India awarded Classical Language status to Tamil, subsequently to Sanskrit in 2005, Kannada and Telegu in 2008, Malayalam in 2013 and recently, Odia in 2014.

Though Government of India has been criticized for not awarding classical language status to Pali as it also fulfills mentioned criteria.