- The adjective Dravidian defines a family of Indian languages that differs from the other families, mainly the Indo-Aryan, Munda, and Tibeto-Bur-man. In the 19th and 20th centuries people speak-ing these languages in South India began to see themselves as possessing a separate culture, and a movement to create a separate Dravidian state, which was particularly strong between the 1930s and the 1970s, emerged.The term itself is from the Sanskrit terms dramila, dramida, and dravida, referring in dif-ferent contexts to peoples of the south of India, the South Indian region, and Tamil, one of the major Dravidian languages. The term is also sometimes used to refer to the people who speak the Dravidian languages; this usage is somewhat misleading in that it implies a racial designa-tion such as ARYAN, while in fact there are many ethnicities represented by speakers of Dravidian languages. In the ongoing debate regarding the cultural nature of the ancient Indus Valley civili-zation, some believe its script reflects a Dravidian language and connect the Indus Valley peoples to contemporary Dravidian speakers. Others believe the language of the script is Indo-Aryan.There are 26 Dravidian languages, spoken by some 250 million people. All but two of them are spoken in India; Brahui is spoken on the Afghan-Pakistani border in Baluchistan, and Kurux is spoken in Nepal. They are also spoken by old diasporic communities in Sri Lanka and Malay-sia, and in newer DIASPORA countries around the world.The largest Dravidian languages are Tamil and Telegu, each with about 70 million speakers, and Kannada and Malayalam, each spoken by about 40 million people. Other far South Indian dialects include Tulu and Toda, a tribal language. Other tribal Dravidian languages of southern and central India include Gondi, Kulumi, and Kurukh.Great literatures have developed in all of the four major Dravidian languages. Tamil literature, however, has the most impressive corpus of extant ancient literature, dating from the second century B.C.E., as well as a large corpus of literature dating from the sixth century to the 12th century, when Dravidian 137 JTelegu and Kannada begin their literary records. Malayalam literature developed later. Scholars of Dravidian linguistics important for reference include M. B. Emeneau and T. Burrow. There are many scholars of Dravidian literatures; George Hart (Tamil), Velcheru Narayana Rao (Telegu), and A. K. Ramanujan (Tamil and Kannada) are important translators and scholars in this area.Further reading: Robert L. Hardgrave, The Dravid-ian Movement (Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1965); Stanford B. Steever, The Dravidian Languages (London: Routledge, 2004).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.