Classical Languages of India: 6 Classical Languages in India

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Classical Languages of India are the languages that have a lengthy body of written literature and their own literary tradition. Currently, there are six languages in India that enjoy the status of “Classical Languages of India.” Any language with independent literature and a large and ancient body of written script may be considered one of the Classical Languages of India. While Hindi is considered the official language of India, there are 22 other languages in India as per the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

The Indian Government 2004 decided to declare languages that meet certain criteria as “Classical Languages of India”. The Classical Languages in India are listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. The Ministry of Culture provides guidelines to be fulfilled to be categorized as a classical language in India. Let’s discuss the criteria for being Classical Languages of India and the six languages that have the tag of classical language in India.

What are the Classical Languages of India?

Classical languages of India refer to languages that have a rich literary and historical heritage and have been recognized for their cultural and historical significance. These languages have a documented literary tradition that extends back to ancient times.

Classical Languages of India Notes

The Government of India has granted classical status to certain languages based on their antiquity, unique linguistic features, and cultural importance. The Government of India has recognized six languages as classical languages.

List of 6 Classical Languages of India

Presently, there are six languages that enjoy the “Classical Languages of India” status. These languages have been spoken for a long time, they fulfill certain criteria to be tagged as the classical language in India.


A Dravidian language spoken in Tamil Nadu was declared as one of the Classical Languages of India in the year 2004. It has a vast body of classical literature, including epic poems, devotional hymns, and philosophical works.


Belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of Indo-European languages and is considered the language of Hindu philosophy, was declared so in 2005.


A Dravidian language spoken widely across Karnataka, whose script evolved from the Kadamba script during the 5th century, was declared one of the Classical Languages of India in the year 2008.


A Dravidian language spoken mostly in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana was declared as such in the year 2008. It has produced notable works in poetry, drama, and other literary genres.


A Dravidian language whose oldest literature work can be traced back to the 9th to 11th centuries is spoken mostly in the state of Kerala, Puducherry, and Lakshadweep. It was declared a classical language of India in the year 2013.


An Indo-Aryan language whose earliest literary work can be traced back to the 10th century, and is widely spoken in the states of Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Chattisgarh, was given ” Classical Languages of India “status in the year 2014.

Classical Languages of India Criteria

For a language to be given the “Classical Languages of India” status, there are a few guidelines which are listed below:

  • It should be ancient, and there must be proof of its earlier script or recorded history over a period of 1500 to 2000 years.
  • The literature should be original and not be borrowed from some other language or speech community.
  • There must be a body of antique texts, and they must be considered a valuable heritage across generations of speakers.
  • Language and literature must be distinguished from the modern, and there may also be a discontinuity between the language and its later forms.

Classical Languages of India UPSC

Art and Culture is a crucial addition to the UPSC syllabus as it gives insights into regional diversity that form an integral part of India’s heritage. The classical languages of India find it mentions under this art & culture section, which makes it important from the Civil Services Exam perspective. This topic would give aspirants a broader perspective and a deeper appreciation for the linguistic and cultural diversity that enriches the country’s fabric. In addition, aspirants would be able to answer Art & Culture questions in UPSC Prelims and Mains.

Classical Languages of India MCQs

Question: Which of the following languages is recognized as a classical language in India? a) Hindi b) Bengali c) Tamil d) Gujarati

Answer: c) Tamil

Question: Which classical language of India has a significant literary history dating back over 2,000 years? a) Telugu b) Kannada c) Tamil d) Malayalam

Answer: c) Tamil

Question: How many classical languages are in India? a) 3 b) 4 c) 5 d) 6

Answer: d) 6

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