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Odia becomes sixth classical language
- CM hails move, focuses on awareness

Linguist Debiprasanna Pattanayak shows the report containing the status claim at his residence in Bhubaneswar on Thursday. Telegraph picture

New Delhi/Bhubaneswar, Feb. 20: Odia today became the sixth language in India to get classical status following approval of the Union cabinet.

The linguistic committee of the Sahitya Akademi had accepted the Odisha government’s claim in this regard and forwarded the proposal to the ministry of culture in July last.

With today’s achievement, Odia is now in the same league with Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam. It is the first language from the Indo-Aryan group of languages to get the classical tag.

The document submitted by the Odisha government demanding classical tag for the language was prepared under the supervision of noted linguist and former founder director of the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, Debiprasanna Pattanayak and researcher Subrat Kumar Prusty.

Besides, former Rajya Sabha Member Ramachandra Khuntia played a major role in pursuing the issue in and outside Parliament.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik and culture minister Maheshwar Mohanty have welcomed the decision. Naveen has asked officials to celebrate the event in a proper manner. All government buildings across the state will be illuminated for three days from tomorrow.

Special celebrations will be organised in all schools in the state to generate awareness on Odia language and culture.

Besides, the Odisha Sahitya Akademi will organise various events to celebrate the occasion. Special issues of two government publications will be brought out to commemorate the occasion and highlight the importance of Odia language, culture and history.

Pattanayak said getting the status was well deserved. “But we should now think about what to do next. I have urged the state government to follow the Tamil Nadu model by instituting a central institute for high-end research in Odia. Tamil Nadu has established the Central Institute of Classical Tamil since 2005,” he said.

In his letter, he suggested a three-tier model for the institute where the governor would be a visitor and a person with high-calibre research background in culture, literature, art, history, archaeology or anthropology, the chairman. A distinguished board of members under a director can oversee the day-to-day functioning of the organisation.

The classical status would entail a one-time grant of Rs 100 crore for research and development of the language, Rs 5 crore recurring grant for chairs to be established in central universities, and two international chairs will be provided by the Centre.

“Getting money is not an issue, but how to use it could be a major challenge here in Odisha. For example, the Tamil Nadu government got Rs 75 crore in the first year, but could spend only Rs 34 crore and the rest went back to the Centre. We should seriously think about research work in Odia with an international outlook,” Pattanayak said.

Culture secretary Arabinda Padhee termed the achievement as “extraordinary”. “We are thankful to all the linguists and researchers, who helped us achieve this,” he said.

Odia personalities from various walks of life were delighted about the news. Noted litterateur and former president of the Odisha Sahitya Akademi Ramachandra Behera was overjoyed at the development.

“I feel very proud. Our language has a rich heritage, and now, it has been given the due respect and position. Getting the classical tag is a great boost to our literature,” he said.

Well-known sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra, a Padma Vibhushan recipient, said that with a 2,000-year legacy of art and culture, Odia language deserved the tag. “Now, we have a golden opportunity to take our literature to new heights,” he said.

Veteran Odissi dancer Kumkum Mohanty said that till steps were taken to introduce classical Odia literature among private schools, the tag might not make much difference. “If Odia youth does not understand chhanda and champu that are the epitome of classical Odia literature, penned by the greatest of poets such as Upendra Bhanja, how will the tag make a difference? Till it is a part of all levels of academics, mainly schools, our own Odia youth will continue to be unaware of the high standards of Odia classical literature,” she said.


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