History of Hindustani

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Hindustani (Hindi: हिंदुस्तानी, Urdu: ہندوستانی) is one of the predominant languages of South Asia, with federal status in India and Pakistan in its standardized forms of Hindi and Urdu. It is widely spoken and understood as a second language in Nepal, Bangladesh, and the Persian Gulf and as such is considered a lingua franca in the Indian subcontinent.[1] It is also one of the most widely spoken languages in the world by total number of speakers.[2] It developed in north India, principally during the Mughal Empire, when the Persian language exerted a strong influence on the Western Hindi languages of central India; this contact between the Hindu and Muslim cultures resulted in the core Indo-Aryan vocabulary of the Indian dialect of Hindi spoken in Delhi, whose earliest form is known as Old Hindi, being enriched with Persian loanwords.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] Rekhta, or "mixed" speech, which came to be known as Hindustani, Hindi, Hindavi, and Urdu (derived from Zabaan-i-Ordu by Mashafi meaning "language of the Horde".), also locally known as Lashkari or Lashkari Zaban in long form, was thus created.[11][12][full citation needed] This form was elevated to the status of a literary language, and after the partition of colonial India and independence this collection of dialects became the basis for modern standard Hindi and Urdu. Although these official languages are distinct registers with regards to their formal aspects, such as modern technical vocabulary, they continue to be all but indistinguishable in their vernacular forms.


Most of the grammar and basic vocabulary of Hindustani descends directly from the medieval Indo-Aryan language of central India, known as Śauraseni.[13] After the tenth century, several Śauraseni dialects were elevated to literary languages, or khari boli ("standing dialects"), including Braj Bhasha, Awadhi and the language of Delhi (the latter still goes by the name Dehlavi in the rural areas outside the city of Delhi itself).

During the reigns of the Turko-Afghan Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire in India, where Persian was adopted as the official language and Delhi was established as the capital, the imperial court and concomitant immigration infused the Indo-Aryan dialect of Hindi spoken in Delhi (the earliest form is known as Old Hindi) with large numbers of Persian, Arabic, and Chagatai words from the court; this occurred as a result of cultural contact between Hindus and Muslims in Hindustan and became the fruit of a composite Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb.[3][4][14][9][15][16] The introduced words were primarily nouns and were employed for cultural, legal and political concepts. These Persian and Arabic loanwords form 25% of Urdu's vocabulary.[10][17] As a form of Hindustani and a member of the Western Hindi category of Indo-Aryan languages,[16] 75% of Urdu words have their etymological roots in Sanskrit and Prakrit,[10][18][19] and approximately 99% of Urdu verbs have their roots in Sanskrit and Prakrit.[17][20]

The new court language developed simultaneously in Delhi and Lucknow, the latter of which is in an Awadhi-speaking area; and thus, modern Hindustani has a noticeable Awadhi influence even though it is primarily based on Delhi dialect. In these cities, the language continued to be called "Hindi" as well as "Urdu".[21][15] While Urdu retained the grammar and core vocabulary of the local Hindi dialect, it adopted the Nastaleeq writing system from Persian.[15][22]

The term Hindustani is derived from Hindustan, the Persian-origin name for the northwestern Indian subcontinent. The works of the 13th century scholar Amir Khusro are typical of the Hindustani language of the time:

सेज वो सूनी देख के रोवुँ मैं दिन रैन ।
पिया पिया मैं करत हूँ पहरों, पल भर सुख ना चैन ॥

.سیج وو سونی دیکھ کے رووں میں دن رہیں
.پیا پیا میں کرت ہوں پہروں، پل بھر سکھ نہ چین

sej vo sūnī dekh ke rovũ ma͠i din rain,
piyā piyā ma͠i karat hū̃ pahrõ, pal bhar sukh nā cain.

Seeing the empty bed I cry day and night
Calling for my beloved all day, not a moment of happiness or peace.

The language went by several names over the years: Hindavi ("of Hindus or Indians"), Dahlavi ("of Delhi"), Hindustani ("of Hindustan") and Hindi ("Indian").[11] The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built a new walled city in Delhi in 1639 that came to be known as Shahjahanabad. The market close to the royal fort (the Red Fort) was called Urdu Bazar ("Army/camp Market", from the Turkic word ordu, "army"), and it may be from this that the phrase Zaban-e-Urdu ("the language of the army/camp") derives. This was shortened to Urdu around the year 1800. The Mughal term Ordu with the local equivalent Lashkari[23] or "camp language" (cognate with the English word, "horde"), was used to describe the common language of the Mughal army. The language spread from the interaction of Persian-speaking Muslim soldiers to the local people who spoke varieties of Hindi. Soon, the Persian script in the cursive Nasta'liq form was adopted, with additional letters to accommodate the Indian phonetic system. Large number of Persian words were adopted in Hindustani, as were even grammatical elements such as the enclitic ezāfe.[10][24]

The official language of the Ghurids, Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and their successor states, as well as their language of poetry and literature, was Persian, while the official language of religion was Arabic. Most of the sultans and the nobility of the sultanate period were Turkic peoples from Central Asia who spoke Chagatai as their mother tongue. The Mughals were also Chagatai, but later adopted Persian. The basis in general for the introduction of Persian language into the Indian subcontinent was set, from its earliest days, by various Persianized Central Asian Turkic and Afghan dynasties.[25] Muzaffar Alam asserts that Persian became the lingua franca of the empire under Akbar for various political and social factors due to its non-sectarian and fluid nature.[26] However, the armies, merchants, preachers, Sufis, and later the court, also incorporated the local people and elements of the medieval Hindu literary language, Braj Bhasha. This new contact language soon incorporated other dialects, such as Haryanvi, Panjabi, and in the 17th century the dialect of the new capital at Delhi. By 1800, Delhi dialect had become the dominant base of the language.[27]

When Wali Mohammed Wali arrived in Delhi, he established Hindustani with a light smattering of Persian words, a register called Rekhta, for poetry; previously the language of poetry had been Persian. When the Delhi Sultanate expanded south to the Deccan Plateau, they carried their literary language with them, and it was influenced there by more southerly languages, producing the Dakhini dialect. During this time Hindustani was the language of both Hindus and Muslims. The non-communal nature of the language lasted until the British Raj in India, when in 1837 Hindustani in the Persian script (i.e. Urdu) replaced Persian as the official language and was made co-official along with English. This triggered a Hindu backlash in northwestern India, which argued that the language should be written in the native Devanagari script. This literary standard, called simply Hindi, replaced Urdu as the official register of Bihar in 1881, establishing a sectarian divide of "Urdu" for Muslims and "Hindi" for Hindus, a divide that was formalized with the independence of India and Pakistan after the withdrawal of the British.[28]


The poet Wali Deccani (1667–1707) visited Delhi in 1700.[29] His Rekhta or Hindavi ghazals established Hindustani as a medium of poetic expression in the imperial city. Hindustani soon gained distinction as the preferred language in courts of India and eventually replaced Persian among the nobles. To this day, Rekhta retains an important place in literary and cultural spheres. Many distinctly Persian forms of literature, such as ghazals and nazms, came to both influence and be affected by Indian culture, producing a distinct melding of Middle Eastern and South Asian heritages. A famous cross-over writer was Amir Khusro, whose Persian and Hindavi couplets are read to this day in the subcontinent. Persian has sometimes been termed an adopted classical language of South Asia alongside Sanskrit due to this role.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jammu and Kashmir Burushaski: Language, Language contact and change" (PDF). Sadaf Munshi, Doctor of Philosophy, University of Texas. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 September 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Hindustani". Columbia University press. encyclopedia.com.
  3. ^ a b "Women of the Indian Sub-Continent: Makings of a Culture - Rekhta Foundation". Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 25 February 2020. The "Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb" is one such instance of the composite culture that marks various regions of the country. Prevalent in the North, particularly in the central plains, it is born of the union between the Hindu and Muslim cultures. Most of the temples were lined along the Ganges and the Khanqah (Sufi school of thought) were situated along the Yamuna river (also called Jamuna). Thus, it came to be known as the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, with the word "tehzeeb" meaning culture. More than communal harmony, its most beautiful by-product was "Hindustani" which later gave us the Hindi and Urdu languages.
  4. ^ a b Farooqi, M. (2012). Urdu Literary Culture: Vernacular Modernity in the Writing of Muhammad Hasan Askari. Springer. ISBN 978-1-137-02692-7. Historically speaking, Urdu grew out of interaction between Hindus and Muslims.
  5. ^ Dhulipala, Venkat (2000). The Politics of Secularism: Medieval Indian Historiography and the Sufis. University of Wisconsin–Madison. p. 27. Persian became the court language, and many Persian words crept into popular usage. The composite culture of northern India, known as the Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb was a product of the interaction between Hindu society and Islam.
  6. ^ Indian Journal of Social Work, Volume 4. Tata Institute of Social Sciences. 1943. p. 264. ... more words of Sanskrit origin but 75% of the vocabulary is common. It is also admitted that while this language is known as Hindustani, ... Muslims call it Urdu and the Hindus call it Hindi. ... Urdu is a national language evolved through years of Hindu and Muslim cultural contact and, as stated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, is essentially an Indian language and has no place outside.
  7. ^ Jain, Danesh; Cardona, George (2007). The Indo-Aryan Languages. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-79711-9. The primary sources of non-IA loans into MSH are Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, Turkic and English. Conversational registers of Hindi/Urdu (not to mentioned formal registers of Urdu) employ large numbers of Persian and Arabic loanwords, although in Sanskritized registers many of these words are replaced by tatsama forms from Sanskrit. The Persian and Arabic lexical elements in Hindi result from the effects of centuries of Islamic administrative rule over much of north India in the centuries before the establishment of British rule in India. Although it is conventional to differentiate among Persian and Arabic loan elements into Hindi/Urdu, in practice it is often difficult to separate these strands from one another. The Arabic (and also Turkic) lexemes borrowed into Hindi frequently were mediated through Persian, as a result of which a thorough intertwining of Persian and Arabic elements took place, as manifest by such phenomena as hybrid compounds and compound words. Moreover, although the dominant trajectory of lexical borrowing was from Arabic into Persian, and thence into Hindi/Urdu, examples can be found of words that in origin are actually Persian loanwords into both Arabic and Hindi/Urdu.
  8. ^ Kuiper, Kathleen (2010). The Culture of India. Rosen Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61530-149-2. Urdu is closely related to Hindi, a language that originated and developed in the Indian subcontinent. They share the same Indic base and are so similar in phonology and grammar that they appear to be one language.
  9. ^ a b Strnad, Jaroslav (2013). Morphology and Syntax of Old Hindī: Edition and Analysis of One Hundred Kabīr vānī Poems from Rājasthān. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-90-04-25489-3. Quite different group of nouns occurring with the ending -a in the dir. plural consists of words of Arabic or Persian origin borrowed by the Old Hindi with their Persian plural endings.
  10. ^ a b c d Ahmad, Aijaz (2002). Lineages of the Present: Ideology and Politics in Contemporary South Asia. Verso. p. 113. ISBN 9781859843581. On this there are far more reliable statistics than those on population. Farhang-e-Asafiya is by general agreement the most reliable Urdu dictionary. It twas compiled in the late nineteenth century by an Indian scholar little exposed to British or Orientalist scholarship. The lexicographer in question, Syed Ahmed Dehlavi, had no desire to sunder Urdu's relationship with Persian, as is evident even from the title of his dictionary. He estimates that roughly 75 per cent of the total stock of 55,000 Urdu words that he compiled in his dictionary are derived from Sanskrit and Prakrit, and that the entire stock of the base words of the language, without exception, are derived from these sources. What distinguishes Urdu from a great many other Indian languauges ... is that is draws almost a quarter of its vocabulary from language communities to the west of India, such as Persian, Turkish, and Tajik. Most of the little it takes from Arabic has not come directly but through Persian.
  11. ^ a b Mody, Sujata Sudhakar (2008). Literature, Language, and Nation Formation: The Story of a Modern Hindi Journal 1900-1920. University of California, Berkeley. p. 7. ...Hindustani, Rekhta, and Urdu as later names of the old Hindi (a.k.a. Hindavi).
  13. ^ Alfred C. Woolner (1999). Introduction to Prakrit. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 5. ISBN 978-81-208-0189-9.
  14. ^ Kesavan, B. S. (1997). History Of Printing And Publishing In India. National Book Trust, India. p. 31. ISBN 978-81-237-2120-0. It might be useful to recall here that Old Hindi or Hindavi, which was a naturally Persian- mixed language in the largest measure, has played this role before, as we have seen, for five or six centuries.
  15. ^ a b c Taj, Afroz (1997). "About Hindi-Urdu". The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Archived from the original on 19 April 2010. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  16. ^ a b First Encyclopaedia of Islam: 1913-1936. Brill Academic Publishers. 1993. p. 1024. ISBN 9789004097964. Whilst the Muhammadan rulers of India spoke Persian, which enjoyed the prestige of being their court language, the common language of the country continued to be Hindi, derived through Prakrit from Sanskrit. On this dialect of the common people was grafted the Persian language, which brought a new language, Urdu, into existence. Sir George Grierson, in the Linguistic Survey of India, assigns no distinct place to Urdu, but treats it as an offshoot of Western Hindi.
  17. ^ a b India Perspectives, Volume 8. PTI for the Ministry of External Affairs. 1995. p. 23. All verbs in Urdu are of Sanskrit origin. According to lexicographers, only about 25 percent words in Urdu diction have Persian or Arabic origin.
  18. ^ Dalmia, Vasudha (31 July 2017). Hindu Pasts: Women, Religion, Histories. SUNY Press. p. 310. ISBN 9781438468075. On the issue of vocabulary, Ahmad goes on to cite Syed Ahmad Dehlavi as he set about to compile the Farhang-e-Asafiya, an Urdu dictionary, in the late nineteenth century. Syed Ahmad 'had no desire to sunder Urdu's relationship with Farsi, as is evident from the title of his dictionary. He estimates that roughly 75 per cent of the total stock of 55.000 Urdu words that he compiled in his dictionary are derived from Sanskrit and Prakrit, and that the entire stock of the base words of the language, without exception, are from these sources' (2000: 112-13). As Ahmad points out, Syed Ahmad, as a member of Delhi's aristocratic elite, had a clear bias towards Persian and Arabic. His estimate of the percentage of Prakitic words in urdu should therefore be considered more conservative than not. The actual proportion of Prakitic words in everyday language would clearly be much higher.
  19. ^ Taj, Afroz (1997). "About Hindi-Urdu". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Urdu's origin: it's not a "camp language"". dawn.com. 17 December 2011. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2015. Urdu nouns and adjective can have a variety of origins, such as Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Pushtu and even Portuguese, but ninety-nine per cent of Urdu verbs have their roots in Sanskrit/Prakrit. So it is an Indo-Aryan language which is a branch of Indo-Iranian family, which in turn is a branch of Indo-European family of languages. According to Dr Gian Chand Jain, Indo-Aryan languages had three phases of evolution beginning around 1,500 BC and passing through the stages of Vedic Sanskrit, classical Sanskrit and Pali. They developed into Prakrit and Apbhransh, which served as the basis for the formation of later local dialects.
  21. ^ Rahman, Tariq (2001). From Hindi to Urdu: A Social and Political History (PDF). Oxford University Press. pp. 1–22. ISBN 978-0-19-906313-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 October 2014. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  22. ^ Delacy, Richard; Ahmed, Shahara (2005). Hindi, Urdu & Bengali. Lonely Planet. p. 11-12. Hindi and Urdu are generally considered to be one spoken language with two different literary traditions. That means that Hindi and Urdu speakers who shop in the same markets (and watch the same Bollywood films) have no problems understanding each other -- they'd both say yeh kitne kaa hay for 'How much is it?' -- but the written form for Hindi will be यह कितने का है? and the Urdu one will be یہ کتنے کا ہے؟ Hindi is written from left to right in the Devanagari script, and is the official language of India, along with English. Urdu, on the other hand, is written from right to left in the Nastaliq script (a modified form of the Arabic script) and is the national language of Pakistan. It's also one of the official languages of the Indian states of Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir. Considered as one, these tongues constitute the second most spoken language in the world, sometimes called Hindustani. In their daily lives, Hindi and Urdu speakers communicate in their 'different' languages without major problems. ... Both Hindi and Urdu developed from Classical Sanskrit, which appeared in the Indus Valley (modern Pakistan and northwest India) at about the start of the Common Era. The first old Hindi (or Apabhransha) poetry was written in the year 769 AD, and by the European Middle Ages it became known as 'Hindvi'. Muslim Turks invaded the Punjab in 1027 and took control of Delhi in 1193. They paved the way for the Islamic Mughal Empire, which ruled northern India from the 16th century until it was defeated by the British Raj in the mid-19th century. It was at this time that the language of this book began to take form, a mixture of Hindvi grammar with Arabic, Persian and Turkish vocabulary. The Muslim speakers of Hindvi began to write in the Arabic script, creating Urdu, while the Hindu population incorporated the new words but continued to write in Devanagari script.
  23. ^ Aijazuddin Ahmad (2009). Geography of the South Asian Subcontinent: A Critical Approach. Concept Publishing Company, 2009. p. 120. ISBN 978-8180695681.
  24. ^ Bhatia, Tej K.; Ritchie, William C. (2006). The Handbook of Bilingualism. John Wiley and Sons. p. 789. ISBN 9780631227359.
  25. ^ Sigfried J. de Laet. History of Humanity: From the seventh to the sixteenth century UNESCO, 1994. ISBN 9231028138 p 734
  26. ^ Alam, Muzaffar. "The Pursuit of Persian: Language in Mughal Politics." In Modern Asian Studies, vol. 32, no. 2. (May, 1998), pp. 317–349.
  27. ^ H. Dua, 2006, "Urdu", in the Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd edition.
  28. ^ Parthasarathy, R.; Kumar, Swargesh (2012). Bihar Tourism: Retrospect and Prospect. Concept Publishing Company. p. 120. ISBN 978-8-180-69799-9.
  29. ^ Pain and Grace: A Study of Two Mystical Writers of Eighteenth-century Muslim India, By Annemarie Schimmel, BRILL, 1976

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