Building the virtual Telugu encyclopedia

If reading about traditional Telugu customs or ancient regional history just isn’t the same in English, these dedicated lot of contributors have been steadily building the Telugu Wikipedia, which recently turned 10.

Published: 16th December 2013 10:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th December 2013 10:32 AM   |  A+A-


Globalisation may be bridging worlds that seemed far apart. But while English is the common umbrella under which we’ve gathered, local languages are becoming a fast dying breed, both online and offline. With the information explosion on the internet bringing together cultural diversities by erasing physical boundaries, many have been trying to resurrect the former glory of the many regional tongues.

For enthusiasts of the Telugu language, Wikipedia, the largest web encyclopedia, offered a platform to accumulate as much knowledge in Telugu as possible. Started in 2003 by Venna Nagarjuna, a Telugu software developer from US, the Telugu Wikipedia has more than 54,000 essays, the largest number of essays posted in any regional language after Hindi.  

The initiative which celebrated its tenth anniversary recently in the city, is run by registered members, who are about 1500 in total. Solely motivated by their interest for preserving Telugu as a language, these members come from all walks of life. Posting essays on an array of subjects, managing technological issues and organising workshops to encourage wider public participation everything is taken care of. All these without any monetary or material benefits. There is no limit to the grandiose talk of Telugu being an ancient language, but the fact is that it is loosing its modern relevance, says Kashap Palivela, who works in a technology firm and has been associated with the project for last seven years.  “We take pride in our language for its ancient roots, but if we are unable to redefine it for modern times, then our language is in jeopardy. That is, today if I want to read about cancer on a computer or a cell phone, I should be able to find information in Telugu on the internet. This is what we are trying to do with this initiative,” he explains.

Says Rehamuddin Sheik, a 26-year-old who works at a technology firm in Bengaluru, he never lost motivation ever since he joined the initiative in 2007. “So far, I have contributed more than 2,000 write-ups, which also includes edits. I mostly write on science, bio-diversity, geography and technology. At times, I work continuously for days for contributing essays,” he shares. K Vishwanath, who runs an internet cafe in East Godavari district, is a testament to the fact that their enormous love for Telugu language drives them beyond anything to extend support to the project.

The 34-year-old who mainly documents pilgrim centres in Andhra Pradesh, says, “Generally, someone posts that they are interested in writing about a particular topic on website. Then it draws other like-minded people who are interested in the topic. The group will go on to set a deadline to finish that project,” explains Vishwanth who is working on documenting Indian women scientists.

Support for the initiative has only been growing, but along with it, so have a few logistical problems. The most common problem faced by the editors from the many newcomers is their inability to write in accordance with grammar rules, shares A Rajashekar, a 61-year-old pathologist. “It is no exaggeration to say that today’s younger lot write better in English than in Telugu. This has become the case due to the overwhelming focus and importance that has been laid on English since their early school days. If one mentions about chandassu, prakruthi and other basic rules that form the core of Telugu grammar, they hardly understand,” laments the recipient of the ‘Visista Wikipedian’ award for contributing the highest number of essays and designated senior administrator for the Telugu project by Wikimedia India.

“The senior administrators and leaders are all elected through democratic process to coordinate the project. The role of these seniors is to ensure that the essays are written in proper format. The work is divided among various teams which take care of language and grammar corrections, technology assistance and others,” he adds. Quite pleased at how far they’ve come in these years, the team also knows they’ve just barely grazed the tip of the iceberg. There is always room for and for those interested in contributing to the initiative may contact Rajashekar on 93965 33666. 

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