Happy Indian Independence Day! On August 15, 2017, the modern country of India will turn seventy years old. On this ocassion, I’d like to talk a little bit about one of India’s most interesting aspects: its many languages. Today is a day to celebrate the wonderful diversity of India and her people, and I feel one of the best ways to do so is to learn a little bit about her languages.
How many languages are there?
Well, that depends on where you want to draw the line between language and dialect. Officially, there are 122 languages spoken in India. However, the Census Board has found 1599 other languages. There are other numbers out there, but I’ve found that these are the most repeated ones.
Where did all these languages even come from?
You’re going to have to take a look into India’s rich history for that. The native language of the Indian subcontinent is from the Dravidian family. Dravidian languages were spoken in India from the fourth millenium BCE. Most modern South Indian languages developed from this language family. Cut to 1500 BCE, when the Aryan race decided to invade India (whether they invaded or just migrated is debatable, but that’s for another post). Most North Indian languages are from the Indo-European family, which developed from the Aryan language. Naturally, all the other invasions India had to endure affected the languages as well. Persian, or Parsi, was brought to India by the various Turko-Afgan dynasties, and was the language of court for over five hundred years. Many of the North Indian languages were affected by Parsi. Lastly, English was introduced by the British invaders in the ninteenth century CE. English hasn’t affected the languages themselves as much as it has affected linguistic patterns, like using English and Hindi words when speaking. This portmanteau is known as Hinglish and applies to most Indian speaking languages such as Punjabi and Bengali. I speak a weird combination of Bengali and English at home, so this is common in Indian language speakers around the world.
What are the more common languages spoken in India?
Here is a list, in alphabetical order, of the 22 “official” languages of India:
Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.These languages can also be organized geographically. Generally, Hindi is spoken mostly in the north, while the south speaks mainly Tami, Telegu, Kannada, and Malayalam. Each state generally has its own language. For example, the state of Kerala speaks Malayalam and the state of Orrisa speaks Oriya.
What’s the National Language of India?
India doesn’t have a national language, but it does have two official ones! The Indian language which the government of India uses is Hindi. Hindi is spoken by 41% of the population. It is the main language of the “Hindi belt,” which stretches across north India and includes the capital of India, New Delhi. Many people choose to learn Hindi as their second language while still in school, as it can prove useful when speaking to people from different states. The other official language of India is English. Originally, India was going to stop using English as an official language after fifteen years of independence, but many from non-Hindi-speaking states (especially in the south) protested this. The protests soon grew violent and the government decided to keep English as a lingua franca to connect those who didn’t speak Hindi to the government. English is a required class in many schools in India and most city-dwellers understand and speak it well.
What language should be used while traveling?
Honestly, just speak English. Like I said before, many people in India speak English. If you want, you can try and speak a little Hindi but people will look at you strangely if you don’t look Indian or your accent is really bad. Hindi should be avoided in the southern states, especially Tamil Nadu, and the northeastern states such as Jammu and Kashmir. Many Tamilians are against using Hindi for anything (their signs are only in Tamil and English) and Jammu and Kashmir should honestly be avoided at this point (the security situation and religious conflict has turned bloody).
What language would the character APH India speak?
Probably all of them, on top of English. The thing with APH India is that he covers a wide range of peoples, languages, cultures, and religions, all stuffed into one country. It makes sense that he would speak many languages and have a rather eccentric personality.
Thanks for reading this long post! I hope you learned something. Don’t hesitate to reblog, ask questions, provide more information, and even send in a post request!
Light-skinned Hindu Male on TV: INDIA IS SUCH A GOOD COUNTRY. WE SHOULD ALL BE PROUD OF ITS UNITY, DIVERSITY, AND EQUALITY. JAI HIND. MERA BHARAT MAHAAN.
Yes, that’s why India had the 1984 Sikh genocide, 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms, Church burnings and persecution of Christians in Orrisa, discrimination and murder of several youth from the North-Eastern part of the country, second-class treatment of women, suppression of Tamil people, discrimination of dark skinned people, casteism, reinstatement of anti-queer laws, and the deification of Gandhi, a racist anti-black anti-Sikh man who abused women.
But you know, who cares when you’re basically the epitome of privilege? Light-skinned cis-het Hindu men need to stay in their lane.
Puthandu (Tamil: புத்தாண்டு), or better known as Tamil New Year, is the celebration of the first day of the Tamil new year in mid-April by Tamils in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in India, in Sri Lanka and by the Tamil population in Malaysia, Singapore, Réunion and Mauritius. On this day, Tamil people greet each other by saying “Puthandu Vazthukal” ( புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள் ) or “Iniya Tamizh Puthandu Nalvaazhthukkal” (இனிய தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்). The festive occasion is in keeping with the Hindu solar calendar.