Study of Dravidian languages and literatures
THE MAJOR South Indian Languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tulu, apart from being members of the Dravidian language family, are also neighbours to each other except perhaps Malayalam-Telugu, Tulu-Tamil and Tulu-Telugu. They share a bilingual or even trilingual corridor where linguistic minorities live in close proximity with the linguistic majority.
In addition, they share a common past arising from their common linguistic origin and history. The South Indian dynasties such as Cholas, Chalukyas, Hoysalas and others ruled territories encompassing many linguistic areas. This has helped the spread of one language in another language area. In essence these languages are genetically related and share a past and a geographical area.
The genetic relationship in linguistic structures has been brought out by the researches of the comparative philologists such as Robert Caldwell, which has to be further probed in a detailed manner.
The common literary heritage has not been properly highlighted by the world of scholarship. For example, the old Tamil literature, which is called Sangam literature, was produced not only in the present Tamil Nadu but also in Kerala and southern parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Naturally this literature, which was the product of the Dravidian people, is the proto Dravidian literature. Scholars like V. Venkatarajulu Reddiar have shown the Dravidian cognate elements present in Sangam literature.
Having carried the burden of preserving this ancient traditional literature and having been its custodian, modern Tamil is in its right to claim a classical status for it to carry on the preservation of the heritage. This has been recently conceded by the Central government and all the Dravidian speakers should be happy about it and on their part should rediscover the shared past and claim their share in it. For this, this literature has to be translated into other Dravidian languages and popularised. Luckily the Malayalam speakers have understood this and we have already translations of the classics of this literature in Malayalam. Kannada and Telugu have yet to get these translations.
Common literary arena
Similarly there is a common literary arena when these languages separated from each other. The Pattu literature in Malayalam has closer affinity to the Tamil ethos. Similarly there are literatures common to Kannada and Tamil like the bhakti literature and Jaina literature, which have to be identified and highlighted. This commonness will be clearer in the area of folk literature, which is yet to be probed and identified.
Coming to the literary exchanges in these languages, there is ample scope for a study. The same author writing in more than one language is not uncommon (e.g. Ullor Parameswar Iyer, Kailasam, Rajanarayanan). Works of a neighbouring language are read in another area by transliteration and mutual translations of works are also quite common.
All these have to be studied in detail for which establishment of language departments in the universities of other linguistic States is necessary. Due to historical reasons, Tamil Nadu has departments of Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam; Andhra has Tamil and Kannada; Karnataka has Telugu and Kerala has Tamil. But Karnataka has no Tamil or Malayalam departments and Kerala has no Kannada and Telugu departments.
The facilities for the study of Dravidian languages and literatures being created in the Dravidian University at Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh, are welcome and this has to be strengthened at state levels also. The creation of facilities for the study of Dravidian languages and literatures in the language universities established in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu is another possibility.
Of course, there are facilities for teaching languages in the schools and colleges to cater to the need of the linguistic minorities. But chairs or departments for higher research and study will be a great advantage for them to pursue higher studies in their languages and the promotion of the linguistic identity and the empathy with the majority people.
(The writer is Professor and Head of the Department of Tamil, University of Kerala)
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