Man is the architect of his own fate - Urdu proverb

The Arab invasion of the Sindh province of India in 712 A.D. marked a great milestone in Indian history. Not only because it was first attack by a Muslim leader on a Hindu-dominated country but also because of the everlasting impact it had on the evolution of Indian languages. The Muslims ruled over India for about 500 years before being taken over by the English East India Company. But in India, Islam remained distinctively separate from the strong assimilative force of Hinduism with their Muslim leaders holding on to their unique identities.

The Sufi saints from Islam and the Bhakti saints from Hinduism put in efforts to bridge this gap by laying emphasis on the oneness of the two religions both of which ride on piety and devotion. After all, both religions were striving for the realization of one common invisible power - Allah or God.

As a result of these efforts, both communities started getting influenced by each others' culture, customs, language, and thoughts. Urdu culture, for example has had a great influence on Hindi poetry.

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A Brief History of Urdu Language

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Urdu culture has greatly impacted the history of Hindu-Muslim unity in India | Image Source: Visual Hunt | Image Courtesy: Reji

The term Urdu is derived from the Turkish word, "Ordu" which literally means a military camp. The current form of the language had not come into being until the rule of Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. It was only after his death in 1707 that the language started moving to South India as well and Urdu became the product of the spoken Hindi and the distinct dialect used by Muslims who ruled over the Deccan region.

Dakhni or Southern Speech

The literary Urdu speech that arose in the late 15th century was called Dakhni, which is a non-literary Indo-Aryan language. It was mainly used in Islamic literature and was restricted to the region south of the Vindhyas. The use of Hindi was quite restricted in this region and the Urdu dialect too became quite distinct from its North Indian counterpart. Perso-Arabian script was the salient feature of the Urdu script used in the Deccan, which was retained up until the end of the 17th century in a significant amount of Indian vocabulary, including Hindi. Among the main regions where Dakhni was practiced by quite a number of people, the following stood out -

  • Bijapur
  • Aurangabad
  • Golconda
  • Gujarat
  • Bidar

Qutb Shahi Sultans of Golconda were great patrons of Dakhni literature, the most famous being Quli Qutb Shah, who was himself a gifted poet. He named an entire city, Bhagnagar (modern day Hyderabad) after his lover and wife Bhagwati, who later became Haider-Begum. Persian literature was in vogue during the Mughal rule in India and had a tremendous influence on the shaping of Indian literature, specially in Muslim-dominated regions. Urdu was a direct result of this movement. Other Indian languages that evolved during this time included,

  • Punjabi
  • Pushtu
  • Baluchi
  • Kashmiri
  • Sindhi

All these languages use the Persian script till date.

How Has Urdu History Shaped India's Heritage?

Urdu script
Urdu history dates back to many centuries and is intricately woven into the Indian heritage and culture | Image Source: Visual Hunt | Image Courtesy: liber (the poet)

Urdu is one of the 22 official Indian languages. One can argue that one of the most remarkable effects of foreign rule in India was the birth of the Urdu language. Born out of military necessity to communicate better within camps, it was the "camp language" during the Mughal period. It became important for Rajputs (Hindi speakers) and Muslims (Urdu speakers) to communicate in one common language when they were fighting battles on behalf of the English. While Hindi was the most spoken language of Indians, Persian was the language of the Sultans. Continued interactions led to the assimilation of the two languages and Urdu was born. This is why it has an uncanny resemblance with Hindi language as well.

Multiple Effects of Urdu History on India's Art & Culture

Vernacular Indian Languages

Islamic influence can be seen in the development of Indian vernacular languages. For example, the Muslim rulers of Lucknow and  Bengal were great patrons of Hindi and Bengali literature. It is now an accepted fact that there is significant influence of Urdu culture on the Hindi language - its grammar, style, and rhetoric. Similar influences can be seen in Marathi, Punjabi, and Gujarati.

Impact on Architecture & Art

In the realm of art and architecture too, Muslim influence was huge. Muslim rulers of India being great patrons of art, brought with them the distinctive Islamic style of art. This mingled with Hindu artistry and craft, giving rise to a new Indo-Islamic art tradition.

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Hindi v/s Urdu - What are the Main Differences?

importance-of-hindi-language-in-india
Hindi language borrows a lot of its vocabulary from Urdu.

The language of Hindi and Urdu have a lot of similarities in terms of origin, grammar, derivation, phonology, etc. They both belong to the Indo-Aryan family of languages as against other Indian languages that are Indo-Dravidian. Both are derived from Sanskrit and have similar rules of grammar.

Characteristics of Urdu Language

Urdu is heavily influenced by Arabic, Turkish, and Persian languages which is why there is a huge presence of foreign and loanwords from these three. As for the writing style and script, Urdu follows the Nastaliq script which is characteristic of the Arabic and Persian writing. This is why the Urdu writing system is from right to left.

Differentiating Factors from Hindi

  1. Urdu is the official language of Pakistan, while Hindi is one of the 22 official Indian languages.
  2. Urdu has a higher percentage of loanwords from Persian and Arabic compared to Hindi.
  3. Urdu follows the Nastaliq script, while Hindi follows the Devanagari script.
  4. There are fundamental differences in Hindi and Urdu vocabulary where the same words could mean different things.

Hindi and Urdu can be said to be two sides of the same coin. They are variations of the same language having the same Indic base, phonology, and grammar.

Which Countries Have Adopted Urdu Culture?

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The history of Urdu can be traced to multiple places across the world | Image Source: Pixabay.com | Image Courtesy: Arek Socha

Experimentation is the greatest science - Arabic Proverb

Urdu ranks 21st in the world ranking of most spoken first language. Over 65 million people in the world speak Urdu and over 75% of Urdu words have etymological roots in Sanskrit and Prakrit. It is also one of the 22 official Indian languages.

Countries That Recognize Urdu As An Official Language

Pakistan

In Pakistan, English and Urdu are the two official languages with the latter being the primary mode of communication for all government and official purposes. It is Pakistan's national language although only 8% of the country's population use it as a native  language.

Nepal

According to the 2011 census, about 2.6% of Nepal's population are Urdu speakers. Nepal's linguistic heritage is owed to various language communities including Indo-Aryan and Tibetan-Burmese. Urdu is a recognized regional dialect in Nepal while Nepali is the national language.

India

Urdu is the official language of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and one of the 22 schedule Indian languages recognized by the Constitution. Surprisingly, it is the first language of less than 1% of the J&K's population. Other Indian states that have Urdu speakers include,

  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Bihar
  • Telangana
  • West Bengal
  • Delhi

How to Learn Urdu in 2021?

Benefits of online teaching
Online education is a major breakthrough for language learners | Image Source: Jagran Josh

If you are looking to understand how to learn Urdu in 2021, you first need to understand why learning Urdu is important. How does learning Urdu help you?

Why You Should Sign Up for An Urdu Language Course?

There are many reasons why one would sign up for language classes - be it English, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, or any other language. When it comes to understanding the benefits of learning Urdu, you may consider the following reasons -

  1. Experience the Urdu culture.
  2. Learn about the history of Urdu language.
  3. Understand the influence of foreign languages on Urdu history.
  4. Explore the beauty of Urdu poetry.
  5.  Learn to write in a completely different writing system.
  6. Learn a new script and related dialects.
  7. Get exposed to the rich linguistic history of Urdu.
  8. Understand how politics can shape the evolution of a language.
  9. Get access to unexplored jobs.
  10. Travel with ease to Urdu-speaking regions across the world.

Find out more about South Indian languages - Tamil & Telugu.

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Pragnajyoti

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