August 29 is Telugu Language Day in India. It is the birthday in 1863 of Gidugu Venkata Ramamurth, Indian linguist, pedagogue, and reformer.
Ramamurth was born into humble circumstances. His father, a revenue collector, died when Gidugu was 12 years old and he and his family struggled to survive. After years of dedication, he finally graduated from university and became a teacher in Parlakimidi, a small coastal town of India where he worked for the next 55 years.
Although a dedicated scholar, Ramamurthy was unable to read religious writings. To understand them, he had to study many imported books and various language scripts. After deciphering the ‘Sasanas’ he wrote extensively on languages and scripts, all with the aim of making these historical documents more accessible to the populace.
He worked tirelessly for the development of tribal languages and gave the Savara language a script and prepared lexicons.
As an educational reformer, Ramamurthy dedicated most of his life to the use of the common written and spoken language to be used in schools, both for instruction and in textbooks. The language of instruction during his time was elaborate, heavily laden with Sanskrit, and inaccessible to all but the most privileged classes.
This engulfed him in a war with the orthodox Sanskrit-educated pundits, which sometimes turned vitriolic. But due to Ramamurthy’s efforts, the standard, current, and spoken language gained currency and acceptance.
In 1933, at least one major university was using the common language as the language of instruction and today cultivated current Telugu is the medium of instruction and examination in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.
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