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India Facts

Languages of India

Many widely divergent languages with varied dialects in a multi-hued cultural set-up is part of the kaleidoscope of India.

In a country with so much regional variation, where in several cases state boundaries have been drawn on linguistic lines, it is but inevitable that fifteen national languages are recognized by the Indian constitution. These are spoken in over 1600 dialects.

While India's official language is Hindi in the Devnagri script, English continues to be the official working language. Most Indians living in urban and semi-urban towns are multi-lingual. For many in the metro cities of India, English is virtually their first language, and for many more, it is the second language. Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages of the world, is the language in which the great Indian epics and classical literature have been written.

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Hindi is spoken as a mother tongue by about 40 percent of the population, mainly in the area known as the Hindi belt. It is the official language of the Indian Union and of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh., Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

Assamese is the state language of Assam and is spoken by nearly 60 percent of the State's population. The origin of this language dates back to the 13th century. Bengali, also developed in the 13th century, is the official state language of West Bengal. It is spoken by nearly 200 million people worldwide, and is used in neighbouring Bangladesh also. Oriya, the state language of Orissa is spoken by nearly 87 percent of its population.


Hindi is spoken as a mother tongue by about 40 percent of the population.
In the south, Kannada is the State language of Karnataka and is spoken by 65 percent of the state's population. Malayalam, spoken in Kerala, is an ancient Dravidian language with it's origin dating thousands of years. Tamil, an ancient Dravidian language at least 2000 years old, is the state language of Tamil Nadu and is spoken by at least 65 million people. Telugu, also a Dravidian language, is spoken by the people of Andhra Pradesh.

Marathi is an Indic language dating back to the 13th century, and is the official language of the western state of Maharashtra. Gujarati, Indic in origin, is the state language of Gujarat and is spoken by 70 percent of the State's population. Konkani, principally based on classical Sanskrit, belongs to the southwestern branch of Indo-Aryan languages and is spoken in the Konkan region covering Goa and parts of the coastal regions of Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.

Urdu is the state language of Jammu and Kashmi. It is also the language used by the majority of Muslims in India. Written in the Persio-Arabic script, it contains many words from Persian. Kashmiri is a language written in both Persio-Arabic and Devnagri script and is spoken by 55 percent of the population of Jammu and Kashmir. Sindhi is spoken by many in the North-west frontier of the Indian sub-continent comprising both India and Pakistan. In Pakistan, the language is written in the Persio-Arabic script, while in India the Devnagri script is used. Punjabi is an Indic language spoken in the state of Punjab. Although based on the Devnagri script, it is written in Gurmukhi, a script created by the Sikh Guru, Angad in the 16th century.

Compiled by Romola Butalia

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.