Tulu is recognised as an important language belonging to the Dravidian family of languages and the following points may be noted in this connection.
1. In as early as 1856, Robert Caldwell, the internationally known scholar in his monumental work “A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Languages” proved that Tulu is ,”one of the most highly developed languages of the Dravidian family of languages” and has an equal place among the languages like Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu; Kannada etc. (Refer page 32 and the following pages ‘in A Comparative yGrammar of Dravidiari Languages, III reprint edition, University of Madras, 1976). This is-supported by the scholars of Linguistics all over the world during the past hundred and forty years. It is an acknowledged fact and no scholar lias raised any question disputing it. Later researches by the linguists all over the world have shown that Tulu is the earliest off-shoot of the Ancient dravidian source language. Traditionally it is considered as one of the five important Dravidian languages (Pancha-Dravida).
2. A number of research monographs are written and published analysing the specific features of this language and comparing and contrasting it with other languages. Notable among them are : D. N. S. Bhat 1967: ‘Descriptive Analysis of Tulu’, Poona; S. L. Bhat 1971 : ‘A Grammar of Tulu’, Waisconsin; M. Rama 1971;’Structural Description of Tulu – Kulala (Kumbara) Dialect’, Trivandrum~, Mallikadevi 1979: ‘The Structure of Tulu Verbs’ Trivandrum; K. V. Jalajakshi 1980: Tulu Language (Descriptive and Comparative).
Annamalai University; K. Padmanabha 1990 : A Comparative Study of Tulu Dialects’, Mangalore University etc. etc. Rev. J. Brigel wrote ‘A Grammar of the Tulu Language in 1872 and S. U. Paniyadi wrote’Tulu Vyakarana’ (Tulu Grammnar) in Tulu language, in 1932.
3. The first dictionary for Tulu was published in 1886 (Manner Tulu English Dictionary’). The second dictionary was published by the University of Madras in 1967. (Edited by Prof. M. Mariappa Bhat and Dr. Shankara Kedilaya) Under the Tulu Lexicon Project, Rastrakavi Govind Pai Samshodhana Kendra has brought out a sixvolume Tulu-Kannada-English Lexicon. (Tulu Lexicon Vol. I to VI. Chief Editor : Dr. U. P. Upadhyaya:)
4. The ancient literary works of Tulu from l5th century onwards were discovered and published by the Mangalore University and Govinda Pai Samshodhana Kendra, Udupi. Special mention may be made of’Tulu Bhagavato’, ‘Kaveri’, ‘Devi Mahatme’ and ‘Tulu Mahabharato’. The last work was written in the l5th century. The other three were written in the l7th century as testified by the scholarly research.
5. During the past 2 centuries more than 500 books were published in Tulu comprising of poems, novels, stories, prose works etc. Tulu~ literature is now developing by the contributions of great authors like Kayyara Kinhanna Rai, Amruta Someshwara, B. A. Viveka Rai, Kedambadi Jattappa Rai, Venkataraja Puninchattaya, Paltadi Ramakrishna Achar Dr. (Smt.) Sunitha M. Shetty, Dr. Vamana Nandavara, Sri. Balakrishna Shetty Polali and a host of writers of repute.
6. Tulu was formerly written in Tulu script and the ancient works of l5th, l7th & l8th centuries were discovered in that script. After the Christian missionaries started printing Bible and related literature in Tulu, the old script was discarded and Kannada script was used for writing Tulu. Modern Tulu literature is also being developed in that script. Specimen of Tulu Script is given in the Annexure I.
7. Karnataka Sahitya Academy recognised the contribution of Tulu literature a decade back and instituted annual literary award for Tulu also. Mandara Ramayana of Late Mandara Keshava Bhat was the first epic to get the Sahitya Acadmey Award as the best Tulu poetry.
8. Government of Karnataka decided to aid the development of this minority language and it gave a 18 year grant for the production of Tulu dictionary in 6 big volumes at the Govinda Pai Samshodhana Kendra, Udupi. The project was hailed as one of the best by the linguists world over.
9. A separate Academy for Tulu literature was established by the Karnataka Government in 1994. This gives official recongition to Tulu as an independent literary language of the State of Karnataka.
10. The Registrar General and Census Commissioner recogrused this as an independent language of India ever since the department was established and the Census Report gives statistics about Tulu speakers as a separate linguistic community. It is treated as an important nonscheduled language of India.
11. American and Europena Universities have recongised Tulu as an important’Indian language. In the Information Bulletin of the GRE and TOFEL examinations of the American Universities the candidates have to record their mother-tongue in the computerised application form by filling up the code number of the Mother tongue. A total of 133 world languages were given the code number and Tulu is one among them. Though only seventeen Indian languages are in the list, Tulu finds a place. This means that according to Western Scholars Tulu is one among the seventeen major Indian languages. Other mother-tongues do not figure in the list and they have to simply fill up the “Other languages” code.
12. AIR, Mangalore is broadcasting a number of programmes every week in Tulu. It has encouraged Tulu writers, artists and cultural organizations.
13. Tulu drama troupes are very popular in villages and cities of Tulunadu comprising Udupi, Mangalore and Kasaragod District. They are also popular world over in general and in Gulf countries in particular.
Yakshangana field drama, internationally known folk dance is very popular in this part of the country. Tulu is used as a medium during the last half century. At present eight professional Yakshagana troups perform Tulu Yakshagana not only during the season in Tulu area, but also during the off season in various places of Karnataka and outside. In Mumbai Tulu Yakshagana is popular. More than 200 Yakshagana artists take part in the performance, the annual number being more than 2000. This is witnessed by nearly 1/3 of the population.
14. Many important cities in the country including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Tiruvananthapuram, Hydearabad, Nasik, Miraj, Baroda and also in Gulf cuntries like UAE, Muscat, Bahrain have Tulu organisations. In the western countries like UK., USA., Australia too Tulu people are organising literay and cultural programmes now and then.
15. Since the inception of Bangalore Doordarshan, Tulu programmes are produced and telecast. Recently it has also started broadcasting a serial in Tulu on evey Sunday noon.
16. Tulu films are recongised for Award and a few Tulu films have won State, National & International Awards.
17. A few monthlies are published in Tulu. Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy also is bringing out a quarterly. During the last 3 years more than 100 writers contributed articles, poems etc. to this Journal. Reserach articles too are written in Tulu. A host of great research scholars of national & international repute are writing on Tulu culture languagem folklore etc. in important journals. A large number of scholars have submitted and published thesis on Tulu language and culture.
18. Translation from Tulu language is being encouraged and a few books have been published. ‘Bhagavadgita’, DVG’s ‘Mankutimmana Kagga’, Tulu ‘Mityanarayana Kate’, ‘Sati Kamale’ (novel), ‘Tuluvala Baliyendre’ are some such books which have been translated. The epic ‘Mandara Ramayana’ has been translated from Tulu into Kannada by the author and the same has been accepted by Kendra Sahitya Akademy for publication.
19. Kendra Sahitya Akademy honoured two eminent Tulu writers Viz.., late Mandara Keshava Bhat and Sri Kedambadi Jattappa Rai with the first ‘Bhasha Samman’ in recognition of their achievement in Tulu literature.
20. A number of artists and folklorists of Tulunadu have been honoured by Karnataka Government and
21. The Tulu Folk Epics and ritual arts have drawn the attention of research scholars of other countries also. A number of scholars from USA., U.K., Germany, Italy and Finland have worked on Tulu folklore and folk literature and brought out important publications. Any scholar who wants to study the cultural heritage of Karnataka State cannot ignore the contribution of Tuluva region to the totality of Karnataka Culture and Indian Culture.
Tulu is thus an important languages of India. It has a literary history of six centuries. The speakers have preserved their own cultural heritage, folklore and language. The total No. of people speaking Tulu within and outside of Karnataka is estimated at about thirty lakhs.