By Frederick Noronha
The Tulu Wikipedia has just gone live, giving another boost to yet another ancient Indian language otherwise struggling to keep up with the times and speedily changing technology.
The news was announced by two key community organisers on Saturday who helped to make an eight-year-dream come true. Dr Vishwanatha Badikana, a PhD in Kannada literature in Mangalore (Karnataka) and Bharathesha, a mechanical engineer based in Muscat, announced this while attending Wikiconference India 2016, India's second national Wikipedia meet in half a decade being held here this weekend.
Tulu is a language spoken by around two million native speakers mainly in southwest Karnataka and in Kasaragod district, Kerala. It belongs to the Dravidian family of languages. Some scholars suggest Tulu is among the earliest Dravidian languages with its roots going back some 2000 years.
Wikipedia itself is available in 22 Indian languages, with Tulu becoming the 23rd. There are another one-and-half dozen Indian language Wikipedias in the incubator stage at present. Not all languages have an active wiki community.
Located at tcy.wikipdia.org, the Tulu Wikipedia has been in "incubation" since 2008. This term is used to describe such online collaborately-crafted encyclopedias which are still waiting to to go "live" or active and come online.
Around 2014, it was reactivated. Following some meetings and workshops, the concept was also showcased that year at a "World Tulu Conference" stall in December of that year.
After much work, some 1,100 articles (or 1,050 if one could ignore those which are not redirects) went live. There are currently about 100 editors who have made over 10 edits each.
"Dr Vishwanatha and Bharathesha are the number one and number two contributors," said Dr UB Panavaja, a former scientist and techie and long-term supporter of Kannada computing. Pavanaja currently looks after the CMR (Creating Movement Resources) of the Bengaluru-based Centre for Internet and Society which works with some language groups to promote their Wikipedia presence.
"After we became live, we will import articles from the 'incubator' site, build the 'village pump', set up policies, administration structure, info boxes and templates," said Pavanaja, describing the tools that any new Wikipedia needs to set up.
Scholars like the nineteenth missionary-linguist Bishop Robert Caldwell have called this language "peculiar and very interesting". According to him, "Tulu is one of the most highly developed languages of the Dravidian family. It looks as if it had been cultivated for its own sake."
The language has a lot of written literature and a rich oral literature such as the Epic of Siri, according to the Wikipedia itself.
In coastal Karnataka, both the Mangalore and Udupi areas today allow the language as an optional third-language in local schools.
This role in schooling makes it all the more mandatory to create encyclopaedic texts in the language, say its Wikipedia promoters. Mangalore University also has a Tulu language chair while St Aloysius's Radio Sarang community radio station broadcasts daily in this tiny language and the local All India Radio also broadcasts in the language.
Some five Kannada language representatives and one from Tulu are presently in Mohali-Chandigarh attending Wikiconference India 2016.
Indian Wikipedias include Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Newari, Odia, Pali, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu, besides, now, Tulu.
(Frederick Noronha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)