Updated: Jul 29, 2018
India - the land of the mysterious snake charmers, home to the Taj Mahal - the seventh wonder of the world, crowded streets full of hustle and bustle, dazzling array of shops and many more whimsical encounters.
Apart from these, there is another interesting fact which will surely leave you spellbound. India is the home to 22 major languages, written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects. Astounding, right?
Diglossia (a situation in which two languages or two varieties of the same language are used under different circumstances within a community) is a common phenomena in India.
Most of us have a wrong notion that Hindi is the one and only language of India. Contrary to this popular myth, the concept of multilingualism is commonly practiced there; more than 255 million people speak at least two different languages and about 87.5 million people speak three or more languages. When you are eating an Indian curry, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the curry is eaten all over India. It is basically from a particular province of the country. There is a famous saying in India, “The taste of water changes every mile and the language changes every 4 miles in India.” I really hope that this blog post gives you a clear idea of the linguistic diversities in India.
“The taste of water changes every mile and the language changes every 4 miles in India.”
History of the Indian languages
The languages of the Indian peninsula are divided into six language families:
· Indo-Aryan language family
· Dravidian language family
· Sino-Tibetan language family
· Austro-Asiatic family
· Tai-Kadai family
· Great Andamanese family
Indo- Aryan language family- It evolved after the invasion of Aryans from central Asia to India. The languages spoken in the northern, western and eastern part of the country are predominantly Indo-Aryan. Gujarati, Hindi and Bengali are to name a few.
Dravidian language family- The four main languages spoken in southern India- Tamil, Telegu, Kannada and Malayalam belong to this family and thus share structural aspects.
The languages in the contemporary India have evolved from the six main ancient scripts: Indus script, Brahmi script, Kharosthi script, Siddham script, Nagari script and Gupta script.
Pali and Prakrit were the two main languages of the common people during the ancient period.
The Buddhist monks used to preach in the language of the commoners only.
Talking about religion, reminds me of the fact that according to some religious Hindu texts, it is considered to be about 33 million Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu religion (read more). Eccentric, isn’t it?
India has 22 official languages out of which English and Hindi are the languages used for business in parliament.
India is the birthplace of many great writers, among whom Rabindranath Tagore, Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth, Munshi Premchand are to name a few.
Hindi is the most widely spoken language in a large region of India (about 40% of people have it as their native tongue) and serves as a lingua franca across much of Northern and Central India.
As a rule, the further the distance between regions in India using Hindi, the harder it will be for speakers to understand each other.
It is a probable cause of the Anti-Hindi agitations of Tamil Nadu.
Tamil is spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka and by the Tamil diaspora.
It is one of the longest surviving classical languages in the world.
It has gained the official status in India, Sri Lanka and Singapore. It is the official language of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as well.
Sri Lankan Tamil
India and Sri Lanka have close knit ties since the prehistoric age!
There are two basic subdivisions of the Sri Lankan Tamils- one are those who have been settled there for centuries and the others are the Tamils who were taken there as indentured plantation laborers.
The dialect of the Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil slightly differ.
Tamil is my native tongue and I’m really proud to speak one of the oldest languages on this Earth. You can check out this video on my channel.
It is the fifth most spoken language in the world and is native to the Bengal, Tripura and some parts of Assam province in India.
It is the national language of Bangladesh.
The concept of diglossia is exhibited in here, i.e. the Bengali spoken in India and Bangladesh has different dialects.
It is not known to many of us that English is one of the prominent languages in India.
The British colonial legacy has resulted in the emergence of English as a de facto lingo franca over much of India.
It is an interesting fact to note that there are only about 32 million speakers of Punjabi in India while the language is spoken by more than 80 million people in Pakistan.
Hinglish is an amalgamation of English and the South Asian languages present in India.
It is basically English with traces of Hindi. Hinglish is also known as Indian English.
Wanna know more about how the Indian accent sounds? Check out this video on my channel.
Because of this emerging English dialect, India now boasts more English speakers than any other country in the world, including the United States!
Unity in Diversity
Despite having such tremendous disparities, Indians stand together in all walks of life.
Jawaharlal Nehru- the first president of India promoted the agenda of “Unity in Diversity” widely during his reign.
According to the census of 2011, Hinduism comprises of 79.9% of the total population in India, Islam comprises 14.2% of the population India while the other religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism and others) comprises of the rest 6%.
Yet you can always find a Hindu man celebrating Id by eating biriyani with his friends or a Muslim girl bursting crackers on the Hindu festival of Diwali!
A Kashmiri girl standing in the valley of Jammu & Kashmir and a Malayali guy standing on a boat in the backwaters of Kerala, feel the same sensation inside their chests whenever they hear the national anthem.
Of course some anti social elements are always trying to strain the prosperity of the people by malpractices.
But inside the heart of every Indian lives the message of peace, prosperity and brotherhood.
Nevertheless the differences, Indians are united!