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Dharam Singh pushes for Tulu rights

By M. Radhika

Tulu, the ancient language spoken by about three million people in Karnataka, has somehow eluded the recognition it deserves. Karnataka CM Dharam Singh recently agreed to speak to PM Manmohan Singh to include it in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, to give its growth a boost.

Tulu is from the Dravidian family’s five major languages, others being Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam. Britannica Encyclopaedia says it is a direct descendant of Proto-Dravidian or Moola Dravida, the root of all Dravidian languages. Its dialects like Brahui and Malto are still spoken in Pakistan, parts of Madhya Pradesh. Others, in Nepal and Northern Bihar.

Spoken by three million people in Karnataka, the first written work in Tulu, the Tulu Mahabharata, is of the 15th century
“Tulu is better known outside India,” says Kannada University Vice-Chancellor and Founder President of Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy BA Viveka Rai, saying universities from Germany, Japan and US have specific research programmes devoted to Tulu. German missionaries who came to India in the 19th century published works in Tulu like the Gospel and the Bible. But it was entirely in the Kannada script. Its original script has been lost over centuries due to the difficulty in preserving palm-leaf scrolls. “Its recorded history is only a few centuries old although the language is very ancient and has a rich oral tradition,’’ says historian Chidananda Murthy.

The first written work in Tulu, Tulu Mahabharata, is from the 15th century. Madhavacharya’s eight mutts in Udupi in the 13th century were said to be centres for Tulu literature.

In the past two centuries, several scholars have written books. Former Karnataka CM Veerappa Moily from the Tulu family formed the Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy in 1994. Some have tried developing scripts too. But with the Kannada script, efforts to unearth and use the original Tulu script are in vain.

Being recognised by the Constitution will give it the much-needed support, say linguists.

Viveka Rai says Karnataka’s mps should do their bit by raising it in Parliament. The big question: Do Karnataka’s politicians have the political will?


Oct 08 , 2005

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