SV: Classical languages of India

Bharat Gupt abhinav at DEL3.VSNL.NET.IN
Sun Oct 1 15:04:55 UTC 2000

Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> Why not Sanskrit
> AND Tamil? If denying classical language status to Tamil
> reveals an ignorance of Tamil texts, don't you think that
> those on the other side of the debate often reveal their
> ignorance of Sanskrit sources?

Yes, why not both ? And many more like Pali, Ardha-Magadhi, Avantika,
Saurseni and such others including medieval Indian languages.
A language which has produced classics is classical. Even Urdu.

The problem is not with Indian languages but with the definition of
"classical", which for Indians cultural artifacts, is an inappropriate term.

Do we have even a near exact equivalent for classical, classics etc.?
No not even Maargii and Desii will do.

Defining "classical" here and giving Indian examples is nearly impossible.
Why are Kamban and Tulsi not as classical as Valmiki, they all live
together in the Indian minds and feelings and recreate each other.
To witness this truth, just attend any Hari-kathaa or traditional theatre
in any corner of India.
This is not so true of Homer and Goethe in the same way.
They live in the departments of classics because the myths are not alive
in Europe as much as in India.

What is Indian classical music?  Shaastriya Sangiita (a poor translation
of 'classical')! As if the music in  the villages is agaisnt the Shastras !!

This is a  problem I face each year I start teaching a class on so called
classical culture or art/music/ literature of India.
So much time is wasted in teaching the construction of the "classical"
in Europe from Renaissance onwards and then its import into colonial

Why not just have categories like Atipraachiina, Praachiina and
Arvachiina bhaashaas for India. If Tamil and Sanskrit are found to
be present in all categories, what is wrong  ?

The 'classical' game seems to be one for hegemony and exclusiveness,
more for politics rather than culture.
Bharat Gupt,  Associate Professor, Delhi University
PO Box 8518, Ashok Vihar, Delhi 110052  INDIA
tel 91-11-724 1490, fax 741-5658,

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list