In 2004, the Government of India declared that languages that met certain requirements could be accorded the status of a "Classical Language in India". Languages thus far declared to be Classical are Tamil (in 2004), Sanskrit (in 2005), Kannada (in 2008), Telugu (in 2008), Malayalam (in 2013), and Odia (in 2014). In a 2006 press release, Minister of Tourism & Culture Ambika Soni told the Rajya Sabha the following criteria were laid down to determine the eligibility of languages to be considered for classification as a "Classical Language",
The Government has been criticised for not including Pali as a classical language, as experts have argued it fits all the above criteria.
As per Government of India's Resolution No. 2-16/2004-US(Akademies) dated 1 November 2004, the benefits that will accrue to a language declared as "Classical Language" are
- Two major international awards for scholars of eminence in Classical Indian Languages are awarded annually.
- A 'Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Languages' is set up.
- The University Grants Commission be requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for Classical Languages for scholars of eminence in Classical Indian Languages.