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How many languages in India | Official Languages in India

India is known for its rich diversity of culture, tradition, religion as well as languages. Over 700 languages are spoken in India. However, India has no national language. As per the 8th schedule of Indian constitution, there are 22 scheduled or official languages that are given official acknowledgement and support. However, the Indian constitution has not given the status of national language to any language. The 22 official languages in India are described below:

  1. Hindi
  2. Bengali
  3. Marathi
  4. Telugu
  5. Tamil
  6. Gujarati
  7. Urdu
  8. Kannada
  9. Odia (Oriya)
  10. Malayalam
  11. Punjabi
  12. Bodo
  13. Dogri
  14. Kashmiri
  15. Konkani
  16. Maithili
  17. Manipuri
  18. Nepali
  19. Sanskrit
  20. Santali Language
  21. Sindhi
  22. Assamese

1) Hindi

Hindi is the most spoken as well as one of the official languages in India. It is an Indo-Aryan language that is written in Devanagari script. In 1950, Hindi was declared as an official language of India and its use in the Devanagari script was allowed by Indian Constitution as an official language of the Union.

As per the 2001 census, 41% of the people were speaking Hindi as their mother tongue in India. In 2011 census, the Hindi speaking population was increased to 43.6 %. As of now, it is spoken by 53 crore people in India. If we talk about the world, Hindi is the fourth-most spoken language in the world after Mandarin, Spanish and English.

Hindi is a descendant of Sanskrit language. Its standard form is based on the Khari Boli dialect that is mostly found in the east and north part of Delhi. The main dialects of Hindi include Braj Bhasha, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Bagheli, Bundeli, Chhattisgarhi, Haryanawi, Garhwali, Kanuji, Kumayuni, Marwari and Magahi. These dialects are also known as regional languages of Hindi zone or belt that mostly lies in the northern and central India. One of the dialects of Hindi, Chhattisgarhi, was recently declared an official language of Chhattisgarh.

It is an official language in 9 states and 3 union territories in India. Furthermore, it is also an additional official language in 3 Indian states. Besides India, Hindi speaking people are also found in Bangladesh, Mauritius, Yemen, Uganda and South Africa.


2) Bengali

Bengali is the second most spoken language of India and is known as Bangla. It is spoken by around 9.7 crore people in India that is around 8% of the total population of India. It is an Indian-Aryan language that is mostly spoken in South Asia including various states of India. However, it mostly varies in terms of usage, words, pronunciation, and phonetic form in the Indian states.

In India, Bengali is mostly spoken in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Jharkhand. It is also the official language of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura and second official language of Jharkhand. Besides India, it is also the national language of Bangladesh and is also spoken in other parts of the world such as Nepal, Pakistan, America, Middle East, UK, Japan and Canada. The Bengali script or alphabet is written from left to right in the form of horizontal lines and it does not have capital letters. It is based on Brahmi, an ancient script of India and is closely related to the Devanagari alphabet.


3) Marathi

The Marathi language belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is the third most spoken language in India as well as one of the 22 official languages in India. It is spoken by around 8.3 crore people in India that is around 6.8 % of the total population of India. It is mostly spoken in the Maharashtra state of India where it is also used as a co-official language. It is also used as a local language by the people of Maharashtra. Furthermore, in this state, it is also used in government work, education, media, and business matters. The Goa state of India has also recognized as an official language along with Konkani. Besides this, it is also spoken in Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Telangana, etc.

In written form, Marathi was found for the first time in 730AD on a copper-plate in Satara. Most of the early inscriptions of Marathi were written using Kadamba alphabet. Later, since the 13th century up to the 19th century, it has used Modi alphabets for administrative purposes, whereas the Balbodh version of Devanagari alphabets was used mostly for poetry.

Marathi is evolved from Sanskrit during 1st and 2nd centuries. It was a widely used Prakrit dialect named Maharashtri at that time. It slowly evolved into Marathi in the 15th and 16th centuries. Besides India, it is spoken in Israel and Mauritius. Devanagari alphabets are used in writing Marathi. These alphabets comprise 52 symbols that include 16 vowels and 36 consonants.


4) Telugu

Telugu is a Dravidian language as it belongs to the South Central branch of the Dravidian language family. It is generally spoken in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Yaman in India, etc. As per the 2001 census, there were around 73 million native speakers of Telugu in India.

It is also one of the 22 official languages in India and an official language in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Besides this, it is also used as an official language in the district of Yanam in Pondicherry. In 2008 Telugu was declared as a classical language by the govt. of India.

Besides India, a few Telugu speakers can be found in other countries like UK, US, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Mauritius, and Australia. The earliest Telugu inscriptions were found on coins that date back to 400 BC.

The spoken and written form of Telugu differs considerably as there are many regional dialects in spoken Telugu, whereas, the written form tends to remain similar. In the 20th century, the archaic style of written Telugu was quite different from spoken Telugu in everyday life. Later, in the 2nd half of the 20th century, a new written form was introduced based on the modern spoken language. Besides this, Telugu has many regional dialects such as Golari, Berad, East Godavari, Komato, Guntur, Vadaga, Yanadi, etc.


5) Tamil

Tamil is also a Dravidian language, which is mostly spoken by Tamil People in the state of Tamil Nadu, India and in the neighbouring country Sri Lanka. As per 2001 Indian census, India had 60.8 million Tamil speaking population. It is used as an official language in the state of Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and in Pondicherry. However, it is also spoken in other Indian states such as Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. It is also one of the official languages in Singapore, Sri Lanka and one of the 22 scheduled languages in India.

In Singapore and Malaysia, it is also used as a language of education. Besides this, it is the first language in India that was designated as a classical language by the govt. of India in 2004.

It is one of the oldest surviving languages of the world. The Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions that were written around 2200 year ago were found on Samanamalai. It was used until the 700 AD by the name of Old Tamil. The Tamil of 700 to 1600 AD is known as Middle Tamil and from 1600 onwards it is known as Modern Tamil. The written form of Tamil originated from the Brahmi script. Over time, its alphabets underwent various changes and got stabilized in the 16th century with the introduction of printing.


6) Gujarati

Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language. It is closely related to Hindi and Punjabi and mostly spoken in Gujarat and to some extent in other Indian states such as Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka. Outside India, the Gujarati speakers can also be found in Bangladesh, Kenya, Mauritius, Oman, Singapore, USA, UK, etc. As of 2011, it was spoken by 55.5 million people or 4.5 % of the total population of the country.

Gujarati is also counted among the 22 official languages in India. It is an official language of the state of Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. In Gujarat, it is also used in government work, education, media, and business and as a local language.

Gujarati is derived from Sanskrit like other Indo-Aryan Languages. Its script was originated from the Devanagari script. The oldest manuscript in Gujarati script dates back to 1592. In 1797, this script was first used in an advertisement. It also has various dialects some of which are Kharwa, Surati, Tarimukhi, Kathiyawadi, and Khakari.


7) Urdu

Urdu is also an Indo-Aryan language that belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. There are around 64 million Urdu speaking people in India and Pakistan. It is one of the 22 official or scheduled languages of India. In some Indian states, it is used as an official language such as Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh. However, it is mostly spoken and written by Muslims of India.

There are also many Urdu newspapers and schools in the country. Besides Indian states, it is one of the official languages of Pakistan apart from English. Urdu is being written since the 12th century in the Perso-Arabic script. The major dialects in Urdu include Dakhini, Pinjari, Rekhta and modern Vernacular Urdu that is spoken in Lucknow, Lahore, and Karachi.


8) Kannada

Kannada is also a Dravidian language as it belongs to the Dravidian language family and is spoken by around 43 million people in India as of 2011. It is also one of the oldest languages in the world. Kannada is mostly spoken in Karnataka and to some extent by the people of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Kerala, and Maharashtra. It is the official language of Karnataka and one of the 22 scheduled languages in India. Besides this, Kannada was also given the status of classical language by govt. of India in 2008.

Kannada is written in Kannada script that was developed from southern varieties of Kadamba script, a descent of Brahmi script of the 5th century. The oldest inscription in Kannada that was found in the Halmidi community dates back to around 450 CE.

The three historical stages in this language are recognized as old Kannada (450 to 1200 CE), Middle Kannada (1200 to 1700 CE), and Modern Kannada (1799 to till date). Kannada is written horizontally from left to right and it has 20 spoken dialects that can be divided into three groups; northern, southern and central.


9) Odia (Oriya)

Odia, which was formerly known as Oriya, is an Indo Aryan language as it is one of the members of Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. Besides this, it is also designated as a classical language by govt. of India.

Odia is spoken by around 31 million people in India and is the mother-tongue of the people of Odisha. So it is mostly spoken in the state of Odisha and some parts of West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Andhra Pradesh.

Oriya is also the official language of Odisha and second official language of Jharkhand. Also, it is one of the 22 official languages in India. In Odisha, it also serves as a language of everyday communication and also used in education, business, government, and even in media.

Oriya is believed to be originated from a Prakrit that was spoken in Eastern India 1500 years ago. It has various regional varieties or dialects such as Midnapore Oriya, North Balasore Oriya, Southern Oriya, Western Oriya, etc. The oldest known Odia inscription dates back to 10th century. As of now, it is written from left to right in an abugida style.

It is derived from the Eastern Magadhi Apabhramsa and has three historical stages that include Old Oriya from 10th century to 1300, early Middle Oriya from 1300 to 1500, Middle Oriya from 1500 to 1700 and late Middle Oriya from 1700 to 1850 and Modern Oriya from 1850 till date.


10) Malayalam

Malayalam is a Dravidian language and is mostly spoken in Kerala, Puducherry and Lakshadweep. In these states, it is also used as an official language and used in their education, business, government, and day to day communication.

Furthermore, it is one of the 22 scheduled languages in India. Besides Kerala, it is also spoken in other states in South India such as Karnataka, Lakshadweep, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands. As of 2011, there were around 35.5 million Malayalam speaking people in India. Besides India, it is also spoken by some people in Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, UAE, Qatar, and Israel.

Malayalam is closely related to Tamil from which it is believed to be separated during the 10th century. Valleluttu script is one of the oldest scripts that was used to write Malayalam. It was developed from Brahmi script. The oldest Malayalam inscriptions are in the form of Vazhappally Copper plates from 832 AD and Tharisapalli Copper plates from 849 AD.

The Malayalam alphabets underwent many changes with time and now it is stabilized and has attained its current form in the middle of the 19th century. Furthermore, Malayalam is also written in Arabic script by Muslims of Malaysia and Singapore and by some Muslim population in Kerala.


11) Punjabi

Punjabi language belongs to Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European Language family. It is mostly spoken as a first language in the state of Punjab, India. It is the religious language of Sikhs and the official language of Punjab, India.

As of 2011 census, there are around 32.6 million people who speak Punjabi in India as besides Punjab it is also spoken in Chandigarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh.

Punjabi spoken in India is known as eastern Punjabi and which is spoken in the Punjab province of Pakistan is known as western Punjabi. So, there are two major varieties of Punjabi each of which has various dialects. In India, the major dialects of Punjabi include Majhi, Malwi, Pwadhi, and Doabi, whereas in Pakistan the dialects are Hindhi, Multani, Pothohari and Majhi.

Eastern Punjabi is also a scheduled or official language as well as a regional language of India. Besides this, various dialects of Punjabi are spoken in various other countries such as Bangladesh, Afghanistan, UK, US, Canada, Kenya, and more.

Punjabi is evolved from Sanskrit through Prakrit, which is a group of ancient Indic languages that were spoken from the 6th century to 13th centuries. It is derived from the Shauraseni language of medieval northern India and became a unique langue in the 11th century.

It is written in Gurmukhi script that belongs to the Sikh community. Gurumukhi script is a member of the Indic family of scripts that are written from left to right. Whereas, in Pakistan, it is written using a type of Urdu alphabets that are known as Shahmukhi.


12) Bodo

Bodo language, which is also known as Boro, is a Sino-Tibetan language that is mostly spoken by the Boro people in the north-eastern region of India including Assam, Meghalaya, some part of West Bengal and even in Bangladesh. It belongs to the Tibeto-Burman branch of Sino-Tibetan languages.

There are around 1.3 million Bodo speaking people in the north-east region of India and Nepal. It is one of the 22 recognized official or scheduled languages that are listed in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution. The dialects of Bodo are Eastern Bodo, Western Bodo, and Southern Bodo.

As of now (since 1963), it is written in the Devanagari script, formerly, it was being written in Latin and Assamese script. On the demand of Boro organizations, it was introduced in 1963 to be used in education at primary schools' level in Boro dominated areas. So, as of now, it is also the official language of the Bodoland and a co-official language of Assam, India.


13) Dogri

Dogri is a northern Indo-Aryan language that belongs to Indo-Aryan group of the Indo-European Languages. There are around 5 million Dogri speaking people in India most of them belong to Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir.

Formerly, it was treated as a Punjabi dialect, later, it became a member of the Western Pahari group of languages. Dogri became one of the twenty two official or scheduled languages of India in 2001 when it was included in the 8th schedule of Indian constitution.

In the beginning, Dogri was written in Dogra Akkhar script that is derived from Takri script. As of now, it is mostly written in Devanagari in India. The oldest written Dogri was found in the Nuh sipihr (The nine heaven) that Amir Khosrow wrote in 1317 CE.


14) Kashmiri

Kashmiri is a Dardic language that belongs to Dardic subgroup of Indo-Aryan languages. It is spoken by around 7.0 million people in India most of them belong to Jammu and Kashmir in India. Some Kashmiri speakers can also be found in the POK. As per 2001 census, there were around 5.4 million Kashmiri speakers in India.

Kashmiri is also included in the 22 official or scheduled languages of India. Its vocabulary is mixed as it contains Punjabi, Persian, Dardic and Sanskrit elements. Besides this, the religious influence can also found in this language. Muslims use Arabic and Persian words to write Kashmiri, whereas, Kashmiri Hindus prefer Sharada alphabets, a script originated in India during 10th century. However, in printed books, Devanagari characters are used. The major dialects of this language include Poguli, Rambani, and Kishtwari.

The first writing in Kashmiri was found in the 8th century in Sharda alphabets that are still used by Kashmiri Pandits in religious ceremonies. Later after the introduction of Islam in Kashmir in the 15th century, the Arabic script was used to write Kashmiri. As of now, Muslims use Arabic script and Kashmiri Hindus use Devanagari to write this language.


15) Konkani

Konkani is an Indo-Aryan language that is mostly spoken in Goa, Kerala and Maharashtra states located along the western coast of India. It belongs to the Marathi-Konkani group of the Southern Indo-Aryan languages. It is one of the 22 official or scheduled languages in the Indian constitution and the official language in Goa. As per the 2001 census, there were 2.5 million Konkani speaking people in India.

The first inscription in Konkani was found in 1187 A.D. Earlier it was written using Brahmi alphabet, at present, it is written using different alphabets or scripts such as Roman, Kannada, Malayalam, Devanagari, and Persian-Arabic. For example, in Goa, Devanagari script is used to write this language. Like other languages, it also has various dialects based on region, caste and local tongue influence. For example, Narayan Govind Kalekar has classified its dialects into three main groups that include: Northern Konkani, Central Konkani and Southern Konkani.


16) Maithili

Maithili is also known as Maitili, Bihari, Methli and Tirahutia, etc., and belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is one of the 22 official or scheduled languages of India and is mostly spoken in Bihar and Jharkhand states of India and even in the neighbouring country of Nepal.

There are around 15 million people in India who speak this language. The central or Madhubani dialect is considered as the standard form of Maithili and is mostly spoken in the Madhubani and Darbhanga districts of Bihar. The other dialects of Maithili include Dehati, Thethi, Kisan, Jolaha, Kortha, Thetiya, and more.

Earlier it was written using Maithili script that is originated from the Brahmi script during the 1st century AD. Besides Maithili script, it was also written in Kaithi script. Later, in the 20th century, Devanagari script was used widely to write Maithili.


17) Manipuri

Manipuri, which is also known as Meitei is a Tibeto-Burman language that belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. It is mostly spoken in the north-eastern state of Manipur in India. Besides this, it is also spoken to some extent in Assam, Tripura, and Mizoram and even in Myanmar and Bangladesh. In 1992, it became one of the 22 official or scheduled languages of India.

Manipuri alphabets are used to write this language and it is written from left to right. Besides this, it was also written using Bengali and Latin alphabets. The present Manipuri script is a reconstruction or derived from the ancient Manipuri scripts. Since the 1980s, it is taught in schools and used as a medium of education in Manipur schools and universities. Besides this, the major dialects of this language are Meitei proper, Pangal, and Loi.


18) Nepali

Nepali is an Indo-Aryan language that belongs to the Indo-European language family. It was formerly known as Khas Kura as it was spoken in the Khasa Empire during the 13th and 14th centuries. Nepali is a macro language as it has widely varying dialects, such as Acchami, Baitadeli, Bajurali, Dadelhuri, Darhulai, Gandakeli, Humli, Soradi, and more. As per 2001 census, it is spoken by 2.8 million people in India; as per 2011 census, it is spoken by 12.3 million people in Nepal and by 1.5 lakh people in Bhutan.

Nepali is also known by multiple names such as Gorkhali, Eastern Pahadi, Khaskura, Parbate, etc. It is the national language of Nepal where it is spoken as a first language by most of the population. In India, it is the official language of Sikkim and Darjeeling district in West Bengal. It was first used in writing in the 12th century using the Devanagari script that was derived from the Brahmi script in the 11th century.


19) Sanskrit

Sanskrit is the classical language of India as well as the Liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. It belongs to the Indic group of Indo-European language family and is the oldest and most organized or systematic language in the world. Vedic Sanskrit is the oldest form of Sanskrit that dates back to the 2 millennium BC. Its descendant is Classical Sanskrit. Vedic Sanskrit was also used in Rig Veda that comprises 1028 hymns composed between 1500 BCE and 1200 BCE.

In India, it has the same status that Latin and Greek have in the western part of the world. The meaning of word Sanskrit is redefined, sanctified or consecrated. It is mostly used for religious and scientific discourse. As per the 2001 census, it was spoken as a first language by 14,100 people. Sanskrit is the mother of all languages and is also included in the 22 official or scheduled languages of India.

It was also given the status of a classical language in India. In the past, it has been written in Devanagari and regional scripts like Sarada in Kashmir, Bangla in the east, and Gujarati in the west, and various southern scripts in southern India.


20) Santali Language

Santali language, which is also known as Santhali, belongs to the Munda subfamily of the Austroasiatic languages. In India, it is generally spoken in the states of Assam, Mizoram, Jharkhand, Tripura, Odisha, and West Bengal.

According to the Indian constitution's 8th schedule, it is also one of the scheduled or official languages in India. There are around 7.5 million Santhali people in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. As per 2011 census, there are 7.3 million Santali speaking people in India. In India, it is a second state language in West Bengal and Jharkhand and is also used in newspapers, on radio and in literature in some states of India.

Santali is known by multiple names such as Kar, Sandal, Santal, Sangtal, Satar, etc. the native script of Santali is Ol Chiki. Besides this, there are different ways to write Santali such as it is written with Bangali, Odia, Latin and Devanagari alphabets (used in Nepal).


21) Sindhi

Sindhi is an Indo-Aryan language from the Indo-European Language family. There were around 1.7 million Sindhi speaking people in India in 2011. Although it is an officially recognized scheduled language in India, it is not used as an official language in any Indian states. However, the govt. of India allowed it as an optional language as well as a medium of study in India. In Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, it is used as an optional third language.

Besides this, it is mostly spoken in Pakistan's Sindh and Balochistan provinces. In Sindh, it is the official language of the Sindh state in Pakistan. Its main dialects include Lari, Vicholi, Siroli, Thari, Macharia, Dukslinu, etc. Out of these, Vicholi is the standard dialect that is used by Sindhi speakers.

The oldest writing in Sindhi dates back to the 2nd century AD. It is believed that Sindhi evolved from Prakrit that came to Sindh from east and west of India. Formerly, it was written with Khudawadi script. Later, as of now, it is written in a modified Arabic script, Devanagari script and using Roman alphabets.


22) Assamese

Assamese is an eastern Indo Aryan Language. As the name suggests, it is predominantly spoken in the northeast Indian state of Assam. It is also the official language of Assam and one of the scheduled languages in India. It is spoken by around 20 million people in Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, and Arunachal Pradesh and even in Bhutan and Bangladesh. In Assam, it is used in mass media, government, education and day to day communication.

The dialects of Assamese include eastern, central, goalparia and kamrupi. The standard Assamese follows the central dialect. Assamese script, which is a type of Bengali script, is used to write Assamese. It is believed that it was originated from an eastern branch of the Apabhramsha dialects spoken in India between the 6th and 13th centuries.






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