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Indian Languages

There are 1652 different languages in India and 350 are as major languages.

Most of the languages of India belong to two families, Aryan and Dravidian. Languages spoken in the five states of south India belong to the Dravidian family and most of the languages spoken in the north are of Aryan family. The general script of the Aryan languages is different from the general script of the Dravidian languages. The Indians also distinguish between the general north Indian accent and general south Indian accent. Along with these two main language families, there are others from Sino-Mongoloid family spoken in the East India.

Indian literature dates back several millennia to the hymns of the Vedic Aryans. The oral tradition nurtured classical literature, and produced great works of philosophy and religious doctrine. It also accounted for compilations of anecdotes like the Panchatantra and the Jataka tales, as well as epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In southern India, the creative energies of the Tamil poets found expression in the great works of Sangam literature. The epic Tirukkural by Tiruvalluvar is a masterpiece of this age. In the north, dramatists like Kalidasa and Bhasa produced great dramas in Sanskrit.

The Constitution has recognized Hindi, in the Devanagiri script, as India's official language. However English continues to be the working language. For many educated Indians, English is virtually their first language, and for a great number of Indians who are multi-lingual, it will probably be the second. The regional languages have been recognized as official languages of the States. In many cases, the state boundaries are drawn along linguistic lines.

Listed below are the 22 languages officially recognized by the Indian Constitution. Four of them, namely Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali, have been recently added to the eighth schedule.

Language Map

Assamese is the language of Assam and is spoken by nearly 60 per cent of the state's population. It has developed as a literary language from the 13th century.

Bengali, one of the leading Indo-Aryan languages is the official language of West Bengal. It developed as a language in the 13th century and is now spoken by nearly 200 million people in West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Bodo, the language very popular in Assam. The Bodo language group, to which belong the Kacharis, Rabhas, Lalungs, Morans and Chutiyas to some extent, dominates the Tibeto-Burman family. Most of these tribes have different dialects, both spoken and written, but all of them have tremendously contributed to the formation, development and growth of the Assamese language.

Dogri is the language spoken in the hilly parts of the northwest covering the states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and in some areas of Punjab.

Gujarati is the official language of Gujarat and is spoken by 70 per cent of the State's population. It is now one of the most developed languages in India.

Hindi is numerically the biggest of the Indo-Aryan family and is the official language of India. It is spoken by about 45 per cent of the population. Among the various dialects of Hindi, the dialect chosen as official Hindi is the standard Khariboli, written in Devanagiri script.

Kannada is the state language of Karnataka and belongs to the Dravidian family. It is spoken by 65 per cent of the state's population. This language originates in 9th century.

Kashmiri is a language of the Indo-Aryan group and is often mistaken as the state language of Jammu and Kashmir. Urdu is the state language of Jammu and Kashmir. 55 per cent of the population speaks Kashmiri. Kashmiri literature dates back to ad 1200.

Konkani, the official language of Goa, is principally based on classical Sanskrit and belongs to the southwestern branch of Indo-Aryans. It is spoken by thousands of Konkanis in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala also.

Maithili is one of the popular languages from the 'Mithilanchal' zone of Bihar. It is the mother tongue of most Maithils and itself has many regional forms. It is derived from Sanskrit and contains many Sanskrit root forms. The language's most famous proponent is Vidyapati - 14th 15th century poet from Mithila who wrote in Maithili, Hindi, Bengali and Sanskrit and is famous for his songs on Radha and Krishna.

Malayalam, a branch of the Dravidian family is the official language of the state of Kerala. Malayalam developed as an independent language by the 10th century AD. It is the youngest of all developed languages in the Dravidian family.

Manipuri belongs to the Indo-Tibetan branch of language and is the state language of Manipur.

Marathi, the Indic language, dates back to the 13th century. It is the official language of Maharashtra. Though Marathi separated from the main Indo-Aryan stock at a very early date, it has today fully developed as a literature of the modern type.

Nepali has 6,000,000 speakers in India in West Bengal, Darjeeling area, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Oriya, a branch of the Indo-Aryan family, is the official language of Orissa state, where Oriya speaking people comprises some 82 per cent of the population. Oriya is found recorded as far back as the 10th century. However, its literary career began only in the 14th century.

Punjabi belongs to the Indo-Aryan family and is the official language of the State of Punjab. Punjabi, though very old, turned literary around the 15th century. It is written in Gurmukhi script, created by the Sikh Guru, Angad.

Santhali, is the language of tribals called the Santhals, which follows a both the roman and he devanagri script. Ethnically Santhals are Proto-Austroloids and speak the dialect Santhali of the Austro-asiatic language family. They mostly reside in the state of Jharkhand but can be also found in neighboring Bihar and West Bengal.

Sanskrit, the classical language of India, is also one of the oldest languages in the world- perhaps the oldest to be recorded. It starts with the Rig Veda, which appears to have been composed around 2000 BC.

Sindhi, a member of the Indo- Aryan family, is spoken by a great number of people in the Northwest frontier of the Indian subcontinent comprising parts of India and Pakistan. Tamil is the oldest language of the Dravidian languages and is the state language of Tamil Nadu. Tamil literature goes back to centuries before the Christian era. More than 73 million people speak it.

Telugu is a Dravidian language spoken by the people of Andhra Pradesh. It is perhaps the biggest linguistic unit in India. Telugu is found to be recorded in the 7th century AD. However, it is only in the 11th century that it broke out into a literary language

Urdu is the State language oh Jammu and Kashmir and is spoken by more than 28 million people in India. Urdu and Hindi have proceeded from the same source i.e., Khariboli. Urdu is written in the Persio-Arabic script and contains many words from the Persian language.

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