India, as a whole is a beautiful amalgamation of various cultural practices and traditions. India, with various geographical variations, has different ways of living and culture as well. These differences in culture and geography have also resulted in various kinds of languages and dialects. India has officially 22 languages.
Each language presents a rich literature and tradition of its own. There were 14 official languages of India until 21st Amendment of the Constitution in 1967 as later the number of official languages was increased to 18 by including Sindhi, Konkani, Meiteilon and Nepali. Later the number has been increased to 22 as the government gave official status to the “languages of the 8th Schedule”.
Languages of India have old history and originated many decades ago which can be seen from their respective literature. For instance, one can find literature in Sanskrit languages which are almost 5,000 years old and some of the literatures in Tamil languages are approximately 3000 years old.
There are some languages which do not even have a written literature and thus it becomes difficult to trace back their origin. India has approximately 1652 different languages and almost 350 of the languages have been recognised. There are many dialects which also spoken widely all around the country.
Most of the Indian languages can be divided into two broad categories- Aryan and Dravidian. Dravidian languages are spoken in five southern states of India while most of the Indian Aryan languages are spoken in the northern and central part of the country.
The scripts of Aryan and Dravidian languages also vary from each other. Other than these two, languages of India belong to other families as well such as Sino-Mongoloid and Austro-Asiatic, etc.
Indo-Aryan languages are spoken by a majority of Indians (spoken by 70% Indians) and are followed by Dravidian languages (spoken by 22% Indians) which are further followed by Austro-Asiatic languages and Tibeto-Burman linguistic languages.
Article 343 of the Indian Constitution has declared Hindi, in the Devanagari script, as the official language of the Union. The language is also the official language of states such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttaranchal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. However, English is still the working language of India.
- Assamese: Assamese is the language of Assam state. Almost 60 per cent of the residents of Assam speak this language. One can trace back its history to 13th Century as then it was developed as a literary language.
- Bengali: Bengali is the official language of West Bengal and is one of the prominent Indo-Aryan languages. Spoken by approximately 200 million people, Bengali was also developed in the 13th century.
- Gujarati: The official language of Gujarat state, Gujarati is by 70 per cent of its residents. It is also one of the most refined languages of the country.
- Hindi: The official language of India, Hindi is the most spoken of all the Indo-Aryan languages. Hindi has various dialects. Khariboli is the dialect out of all which has been selected as the official language. It is written in the Devanagari script.
- Kannada: One of the Dravidian languages, Kannada is official language of Karnataka state and is spoken by 65 per cent of the state’s residents. The origin of the language can be traced back to 9th century.
- Kashmiri: Often mistaken as the official language of Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmiri is spoken by 55 per cent of state’s population. However, the official language of the state is Urdu. It is also one of the Indo-Aryan languages. The literature in Kashmiri language can be traced back to AD 1200.
- Konkani: Official language of Goa, Konkani is a south-western branch of Indo-Aryan languages. It is primarily based on classical Sanskrit and is spoken not just in Goa but by nay people in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala also.
- Malayalam: The official language of the state of Kerala state, Malayalam is one of the brank of Dravidian family of languages. Youngest of all developed Dravidian languages, it was developed as an independent language in 10th century AD.
- Manipuri: It is the official language of Manipur state. This language belongs to the Indo-Tibetan family of languages.
- Marathi: State language of Maharashtra, the history of Marathi language can be traced back to the 13th century.
- Nepali: Nepali is also one of the important languages of the country and is widely spoken in various states of the country. Some of the states where you can find people with Nepali as their mother tongue are West Bengal, Darjeeling area, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
- Oriya: This is the official language of Orissa and belongs to the Indo-Aryan family. An approximate of 82 per cent of the Orissa’s population speaks Oriya. Its history can be traced back to the 10th century. However, the literary career in Oriya is almost 14th century old.
- Punjabi: One of the Indo-Aryan languages, Punjabi is the official language of the Punjab state. The literary history of the Punjabi language dates back to 15th century. This language is in Gurmukhi script which has been created by the Angad who was a Sikh Guru.
- Sanskrit: One of the oldest languages of the world, Sanskrit is the classical language of India. The language’s history can be traced back to Rig Veda which was supposedly composed around 2000 BC. And thus, it is probably the oldest recorded language even in the world.
- Sindhi: It is also one of the Indo- Aryan languages. Sindhi is mostly spoken in the area around Northwest frontier of the India as well Pakistan.
- Tamil: The oldest language of the Dravidian family, Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu state. Spoken by around 73 million people, the Tamil literature is almost 3000 years old.
- Telugu: Spoken mostly in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Telugu is one of the Dravidian languages. It history can be traced back to 7th century AD. However, the development of the languages as a literary language can be seen from 11th century.
- Urdu: Official language of Jammu and Kashmir, Urdu is spoken not just in Jammu and Kashmir but all over India. It shares the same source as of Hindi’s, which is Khariboli. Containing many words from Persian language, Urdu is written in Persio-Arabic script.