Origin of Dravidian languages

Lakshmi Srinivas lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM
Mon Feb 9 14:53:25 UTC 1998

In the case of Malayalam, it is perhaps not very accurate to say that
the earliest writing dates from ca. 14th century or so. For some
reason, these dates seem to applicable to  kavya type works in these
languages. Prose might however be a different matter.

In this context, I would like to draw the list members' attention to
the fact that many lost Sanskrit classics viz., kavya, natya and even
sastra works (and their commentaries) were uncovered from
Kerala. Examples would be manuscripts of Bhasa's dramas etc.. In some
cases, commentaries  have been found with annotations written in what
has traditionally been held to be Tamil.  Expert opinion however
confirms that these are in what has later come to be known as
Malayalam.  At least one of these commentaries ('tika') dates from the
12th century or before.

Warm Regards.

---S Krishna  wrote:
> Sujatha Stephens writes:
> <<I would appreciate if any one on the list could shed some light on
> following.
> When did each of Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada first appear?
> isthe earliest available literary work in these languages and what
> period does it belong to?
> >
> >Sujatha
> >
> 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
> 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
> this...
>    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
> 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
> period)
>   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........
> Regards,
> Krishna
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Lakshmi Srinivas

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