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‘Grant classical status to Marathi’

By Surendra P Gangan, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2020 12:02 AM IST

On the occasion of World Marathi Language Day on Thursday, both the houses of the state legislature unanimously passed a resolution, urging the Centre to accord classical language status to Marathi.

The resolution aims to push for the Centre’s nod for the status, which is under consideration for more than a decade. With the status, the state will gets more funds from the Centre for promotion and conservation of the language. “Besides funds, there will be solid moral grounds for strengthening its base across the country, with more than 13 crore people speaking it,” an official from the Mantralaya said.

The Prithviraj Chavan government had constituted a committee under litterateur Ranganath Pathare to submit a report to establish how the language fulfils all parameters of a classical language. They submitted an interim report to the state in 2013 and a final one in 2015. It was then sent to the Union Cultural department, which forwarded it to a committee of linguists of Sahitya Akademi, who gave it a favourable opinion.

Six Indian languages have so far been granted the status. The Union Cultural department which deals with the decision is going slow on the state’s request, in the wake of a pending case in the Supreme Court over the status given to Odia and Malayalam.

The resolution was moved by Marathi language minister Subhash Desai. “An American scholar had opined that the language is as old Dnyaneshwari, which was written in 1290 CE and does not fulfil the criterion of the language being 1500-2000 years old. But the claim is not right, as the language by then had come to a certain level of maturity and existed at least 500 years before it. The claim was later rubbished by the committee of experts appointed by the Sahitya Akademi, which had given a favorable report,” Pathare said.

He said that the documents submitted by the committee are as old as 2000 years and include Gatha Saptasathi, a collection of poems written during the Satavahana Dynasty. He said a 1200-year-old novel, Samaradityachi Katha, by Hari Bhadra too establishes the origins of the language. “The state has formed an expert panel to prove that Marathi qualifies on all criteria to be declared a classical language. The 500-page report of the committee was also sent to the Centre and was accepted by its technical committee in 2015. But the Centre has not taken the decision yet,” said food and drugs administration minister Chhagan Bhujbal.

Bhujbal said all MPs from Maharashtra should demand that the Centre must clear this proposal, as the expert committee has established all criteria to be termed a classical language – an ancient language, not be a copy of any other language and there should be no change in the language in all these years.

“We lack the political will to get the status of the classical language for Marathi. It is the responsibility of the government to make it the language of society, science and technology,” Prof Nitin Arekar, head of Marathi department at CHM college, Ulhasnagar.

When is a language declared classical

It has to have a high antiquity of about 1500-2000 years for its literature

Literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community

A body of ancient literature, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers and meeting the core attributes of classicism

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