As India is a vast country inhabited by a very diverse population with different cultures and speaking so many different languages, people often wonder what are the Indian languages, in fact. There is no single national language of the country, and though the Government of India officially uses Hindi and English for oral and written communication, there are 22 official languages mentioned in the constitution of India. If you are a westerner wondering what are the Indian languages as you find different Indians speaking different languages, this article is meant to explain about the different languages of India.
Indian Languages – Fact 01
There are 22 official languages of India
The 22 languages mentioned as official languages in the constitution of India are Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Gujarati, Dogri, Bodo, Kannada, Kashmiri, Maithili, Konkani, Manipuri, Malayalam , Marathi, Nepali, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Oriya, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Santhali and Urdu. Surprisingly, English is not included in these official languages of India even though it is a very important language spoken by millions of people in the country. English serves as a language of communication between people belonging to different parts of the country.
Sanskrit is believed to be the oldest Indian language. It is believed to be at least 5000 years old. This language is regarded as the mother of many modern Indian languages as they contain many words from this language. Sanskrit is not used by the people any more though it is still taught as a subject in schools and colleges. Tamil is another ancient Indian language that is believed to be at least 3000 years old, and considered as the mother to other Dravidian languages.
Indian Languages – Fact 02
All languages are divided into two broad categories
The languages that are considered official as far as the government of India is concerned are Hindi and English. All the official languages of India have been mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution of India. All the languages of India can be divided into two broad categories.
Indian Languages- Fact 03
Indo-Aryan and Dravidian Languages
The languages spoken in northern parts of the country belong to the Indo-Aryan group of languages while those spoken in the southern parts of the country are referred to as Dravidian languages. The languages like Punjabi, Rajasthani, Bengali, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, etc. are influenced by Sanskrit and the Persian languages. On the other hand, languages spoken in the southern states of India are independent of any influence from Sanskrit or Persian languages. Tamil is a major southern language. Even though Telugu and Malayalam belong to the Dravidian group of languages, there are many words derived from Sanskrit in these two languages.
Indian Languages – Fact 04
Indian languages and the number of speakers
Of all the languages, Hindi is spoken by the largest number of people in India. Nearly 41% of the population speaks Hindi that comes to around 400 million people. Bengali is a language that is mostly spoken by people in the state of West Bengal and Orissa. It is spoken by more than 200 million people. Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, and Urdu are the languages that are spoken by more than 60 million people each. Gujarati and Punjabi are spoken by around 50 million people each.
Image By: Vincent Ramos (CC BY-SA 3.0)