The Status of Tamil as a Classical Language Summary by George L. Hart

About the Author

The status of Tamil as a Classical Language” is written by George L. Hart. He has made great efforts in making comparative studies of classical languages of the world. He has done his degree in Sanskrit from Harvard University. His work focuses on the classical Tamil literature and on identifying the relationships between the Tamil and Sanskrit literature. Besides Sanskrit and Tamil, he is well learned in Greek and Latin.

In 2015, he was awarded the title of “Padma Shri”, by the Government of India.


“The Status of Tamil as a Classical Language” is an effective attempt made by George L. Hart on 11th of April 2000, to prove the status of Tamil as one of the greatest classical languages of the world. He has clearly declared that the denial of Tamil as a Classical Language is equal to the denial of the central part of the greatness and richness of Indian Culture.

His essay is written as a response on the request of Professor Maraimalai, regarding the position of Tamil as a Classical language.

In order to prove the undeniable authority of “Tamil language” in comparison with Greek, Latin, Arabic and Sanskrit, George L. Hart states four major reasons.

  1. Among which the first one is its antiquity. Sangam literature and the Pattuppattu date to first centuries of the current era.
  2. The second reason he states is about the possession of indigenous literary tradition of Tamil language, independent of Sanskrit or any other Indian languages. In fact Tamil has influenced Sanskrit and Malayalam to a great extent. It contains its own rich and vast intellectual tradition.
  3. His third reason is that the quality of Tamil literature is such that it is capable to compete with the great literature of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Chinese, Persian and Arabic. Tamil is the only pre-modern Indian literature to treat the inferior broadly. He also mentions about the world’s greatest work on ethics “Tirukkural”, which is comprised of the Tamil classical tradition.
  4. His fourth and the final reason reason emphasises on the independency of Tamil from any sort of modern Indian culture and tradition.

The great sacred works of Tamil Hinduism, beginning with the Sangam Anthologies, have supported the development of modern Hinduism, whose ideas were further taken into the Bhagavata, Purana and other texts (in Telugu, Kannada as well as Sanskrit) from where they spread all over India.

Tamil has its own identity, own works that are considered to be as Sacred as the Vedas. It is the most conservative of the Dravidian languages, the touchstone that linguists must consult to understand the nature and development of Dravidian.

George L .Hart further says that he is well aware of the productivity and richness of the modern Indian languages, yet none of them is a classical language, because there are still some requirements which needs to be fulfilled by a classical language.

Unlike other languages, it is Tamil which is not only ancient and independent tradition, but also it has a large and extremely rich body of ancient literature. He ends his argument by stating the Status Of Tamil as the greatest classical languages of the world and to deny this fact means to deny a central part of the greatness and richness of Indian Culture.


The Status of Tamil as a classical language” is actually a letter which, George L. Hart wrote on request of Professor Maraimalai in order to defend the authority of Tamil as a classical language using various examples and evidences.

Note:-This letter was written in April 2000 and Tamil was declared as a classical language in 2004.