Origin of Dravidian languages

S Krishna mahadevasiva at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Feb 8 03:05:33 UTC 1998

Sujatha Stephens writes:
<<I would appreciate if any one on the list could shed some light on the

When did each of Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada first appear? What
isthe earliest available literary work in these languages and what
period does it belong to?

First and foremost, I am not a literature expert, so I can only offer
what I have come to know by studying various books..please feel free
to correct me if corrections need to be made... The reason why I'm
volunteering to reply is that this seems to be a fairly easy question
and therefore beginers like me can attempt to answer it...unless there
is some subtle trick hidden in the question:-)

  AFAIK, Tamil is obviously the oldest with a literary tradition
dating back atleast to the first century...A.K.Ramanujan has a wonde
rful translation of this poetry(  the "akam" section, that is) in his
book "The Interior Landscape". It is possible that the literary
tradition is older...one very interesting claim that I've seen is that
Megasthenes, the Grecian ambassador of Alexander ( approximately 3-4th
century BCE) during the Mauryan times refered to the marriage of a Hindu
Goddess in the city of "Methora" and it's versification  etc, which
could be a possible reference to the tiruviLaiyADALpurANam...

  Kannada, seems to be the second oldest( Kamil Zvelebil says it
branched off from Tamil sometime in the 3rd or 4th century CE{Kannada
enthusiasts, please don't flame me for this, I'm only quoting Prof
Zvelebil, who is also a kannaDa scholar:-)})..the oldest known work is
the"kavirAjamArga" dating back to the 9th century...since this work
refers to many works not available today, it seems to be a fairly
sensible to conclude that there were kannaDa works written prior to

   The oldest known work in Telugu is the Mahabharatam by nAnaiya bha
TTa written in the 11th century. I remember reading a long time ago
(I have NOT read the actual work, but am refering to a comment that
I read) that even at this stage, sanskritization of the language seems
fairly evident( this is not true of the earliest tamil literature and
not true of kannada literature either, since the "kavirAjamArga"
explicitly prohibits use of sanskrit-kannaDa compounds and the
veerashiva writings of the 12th century i.e. DOhara kakkaiya, mahA
dEviyakka etc are not sanskritized.In this context, I would like to know
in this context if there was a period where it was common to find
non-Samskrtized writing in telugu?( annamAcArya seems to have written
some compositions using pure telugu words and the same seems true of
the poetess molla's "molla rAmAyaNamu", but these are from a later

  In malayALam, the oldest work (AFAIK) is the grammatical treatise
, the "lIlAtilakam" which dates back to the 14th century.

  As always, please correct me where I'm going wrong........


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