Official Languages of India
In Colonial India, Hindi, English, and Urdu were the official languages. According to Article 343 of the Indian Constitution, India has no National Language as per the Constitution but has English and Hindi as the official languages. On 26th January 1950, when the Constitution of India came into effect, it proposed that English would be phased out in favor of Hindi over a period of 15 years. In 1964, the Government of India faced a problem over its plans to make Hindi the sole official language of the country. Since that year, Hindi and English both been used as the official languages of the country. According to the 1963 Official Languages Act, some languages may be used for the official purpose of the Union of India, for Central and State Acts, for the transaction business of Parliament, and for a certain purpose in High Courts.
The official languages of India were listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. Sindhi the language was added in 1967 by the 21st Amendment of the Constitution of India, before this, there were 14 official regional languages. Then the 71st Amendment provided for the inclusion of Sindhi, Konkani, Meitei, and Nepali, thereby increasing the number of official regional languages of India to 18. Articles 351 and Articles 344(1) of the Indian Constitution 2007, amendment the eighth schedule by includes the recognition of the following 22 languages and given recognition, status, and official encouragement.
The individual states can legislate their own official languages, depending on their linguistic demographics, and generally, the official languages chosen reflect the predominant as well as politically significant languages spoken in some of the states, like Karnataka and Gujarat, which have Kannada and Gujarati as their sole official language respectively. Telangana has two languages, Telugu and Urdu, as its official languages, with a sizeable Urdu-speaking Muslim population. Besides this, some states use those languages as their official language which is spoken by the least of their population, for example, Jammu and Kashmir use Urdu, which is spoken by fewer than 1% of the Jammu and Kashmir population and Meghalaya uses English, which is spoken by 0.02% of the population.
Lists of Some Official Languages of India
In addition to states and union territories, India has autonomous administrative regions which may be permitted to select their own official language – a case in point being the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam which has declared the Bodo language as an official for the region, in addition to Assamese and English already in use.
Hindi Language: Hindi language, is one of the famous Indo-Aryan languages and it is the most prominent language spoken in our country, especially in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan. According to the 2011 census, 43.63% of people in India speak Hindi to be their native language. According to Article 343 (1) of the Constitution, Hindi in the Devanagari script is the official language of the Union. There are some languages i.e., Hindustani, Awadhi, Bagheli, Bhojpuri, Magahi, Rajasthani, Braj Bhasha, Haryanvi, Bundeli, Kannauji, Nagpuri, and Chhattisgarhi, that are highly influenced by Hindi. It is widely used both as a language of instruction and primary language, in most of the states of India. Hindi is the third most spoken language in the world (615 million native Hindi speakers). Sanskrit has a major impact on the Hindi language and is named after the word ‘hind’ (means “Land of the Indus river).
Bengali Language: Bengali is the third most spoken language in India, and it is mostly spoken in the Indian states of Tripura, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and the Barak Valley region of Assam as well as in the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and with over 205 million native speakers. A large number of Bengali-speaking people are also present in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Bengali is the seventh spoken language in the world. Since September 2011, it is also recognized as the second official language of the Indian state of Jharkhand. According to the 2011 census, In India, the language had roughly 107 million native speakers. Bengali is one of the famous Indo-Aryan languages and a sub-family of Indo-European languages. Arabic, Sanskrit, Persian and Austroasiatic languages have a major impact on the Bengali language. In commemoration of the Bengali Language Movement in 1952, UNESCO declared 21 Feb as the International Mother Language Day in the year 1999.
Marathi Language: Marathi is the official language of Maharashtra and it is one of the oldest Indo-Aryan languages. It is also one of the famous official languages or scheduled languages of India and according to the census of 2011, there were 99 million speakers of the language. It has the third-largest number of native speakers in India and is a co-official language of Goa and Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Marathi has a major impact on the languages such as Dangi, Vadvali, Samavedi, Khandeshi, and Malvani Konkani. On 27 February every year across the Indian states of Maharashtra and Goa, Marathi Language Day is celebrated. This language has also been influenced by foreign languages such as Persian, Arabic, and the Austroasiatic, Dravidian.
Assamese Language: Assamese is an Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in the northeast Indian state of Assam, where it is an official language, and in the past, it was also the court language of the Ahom kingdom of the 17th century. It is the easternmost Indo-European language, and according to the census 2011, 1.26% of the Indian population is the native speakers of the Assamese language. Assamese-based pidgin, Nefamese, and Nagamese are widely used in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland respectively. Besides this, the Kamtapuri language of the Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri districts of India are linguistically closer to Assamese.
Bodo Language: According to the Census 2011, it is estimated to have 1.5 million speakers, which is 0.12% Indian population. It is one of the least spoken languages which was listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. It is spoken in Assam, where the Bodo tribe constitutes about 5-6% of the population, and in West Bengal.
Bodo language is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken primarily by the Bodo people of Northeast India i.e. Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Nepal, and Bengal. It is the official language of the Bodoland autonomous region and a co-official language of Assam. It is also one of the twenty-two languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. Since 1975 the language has been written using the Devanagari script and formerly written using Bengali-Assamese and Latin scripts. It has owned now lost script known as Deodhai.
Dogri Language: Dogri language originated from the Indo-Aryan group within the Indo-European languages. Dogri is spoken by approximately 2.6 million people and most commonly it is spoken in Jammu and Kashmir in the northern part of the Indian union territory. It is an officially recognized language of India and was added to the 8th schedule of the constitution in 2003. The earliest written script of Dogri is found in the ‘Nuh sipihr’ which is written by the poet Amir Khosrow in 1317 CE. There is a similarity between Dogri and Sanskrit and the development of Dogri from the Vedic period to its present form has been traced through changes in phonology. Dogri vocabulary has been influenced by especially Persian and English languages.
Kannada Language: Kannada language, also called Kanarese or Kannana, is a Dravidian language spoken by linguistic minorities in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala, and Goa. According to the 2011 census, the language had roughly 43 million native speakers and in 2008 the government of India granted Kannada classical-language status. In some of the most powerful empires of South and Central India, such as the Chalukya dynasty, the Rashtrakuta dynasty, the Vijayanagara Empire, and the Hoysala Empire, the Kannada language was used as the court language. The Kannada language is written using the Kannada script and this evolved from the Kadamba script of the 5th-century. There is a huge similarity between the grammar of Kannada and Tamil.
Kashmiri Language: Kashmiri language, is a Dardic language, but it has become predominantly Indo-Aryan language, spoken by Kashmiri and related dialects of Jammu and Kashmir and amongst the Kashmiri diaspora in other states of India, it is also spoken in Pakistan, primarily in the territory of Azad Kashmir. According to the 2011 census, the language had roughly 6.8 million native speakers. In 2020, Kashmiri became an official language in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time, earlier, Urdu was the only official language of Jammu and Kashmir since 1889.
Konkani Language: Konkani is a Southern Indo-Aryan language, spoken by the persons of the western coastal Konkan region of India, those persons are known as Konkani people. It is one of the 22 Scheduled languages of the Indian Constitution and the official language of the Indian state of Goa. It is also spoken by the minority persons of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu. According to the 2011 census, the language had roughly spoken by 0.19% Indian population. Konkani language is very common to the Sanskrit language as compared to other modern Indo-Aryan languages. Linguists describe Konkani as a fusion of a variety of Prakrits and according to them the first known Konkani inscription dates to 1187.
Maithili Language: Maithili is an Indo-Aryan language native to the Indian subcontinent, mainly spoken in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand of India and Nepal. The name Maithili is derived from the word Mithila, an ancient kingdom of which King Janaka was the ruler. Tirhuta was the primary script for written Maithili now these days, it is written in the Devanagari script. According to the 2011 census, the language had roughly 13.5 million native speakers.
In 2003, Maithili was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution as a recognized Indian language and it received the second official language status in the Indian state of Jharkhand in the year 2018. Maithili, Magadhi, and Bhojpuri, are the three main languages of Bihar state and it is spoken mainly in Bihar and Jharkhand in the districts of Darbhanga, Khagaria, Purnia, Katihar, Kishanganj, Sheohar, Bhagalpur, Saharsa, Samastipur, Madhubani, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Begusarai, Madhepura, Araria, Supaul, Vaishali, Ranchi, Bokaro, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, and Deoghar.
Meitei (Manipuri) Language: Manipuri language is also known as Meetei or Meitei language and it is a predominant language and lingua franca of Manipur, a northeastern state of India. In 1992, by the 71st amendment of the constitution, it is becoming the first Tibeto-Burman language to recognition as an official, or “scheduled,” language of the Government of India. According to the 2011 census of India, there were 1.8 million native speakers of the Manipuri Language. Additionally, it is also spoken in the others Northeast Indian states of Assam and Tripura. Currently, the Manipuri language is classified as a “vulnerable language” by UNESCO.
Nepali Language: Nepali developed in proximity to a number of Indo-Aryan languages and shows Sanskrit’s influence. In 1992, by the 71st amendment of the constitution, Nepali is becoming an official, or “scheduled,” language of the Government of India. According to the many historical scripts, the language is also known as Nepalese, Gorkhali, or Parbatiya. It is spoken mainly in Nepal, Myanmar, and Bhutan. In India, Sikkim, and in the Darjeeling and Kalimpong district of West Bengal, Nepali is one of the official languages. Besides this, a significant number of persons also speak Nepali in Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Uttarakhand.
Odia Language: Odia language is formerly known as the Oriya language and it is one of the famous Indo-Aryan languages spoken in the Indian state of Odisha (82% population), West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh. Odia is the official language of Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) and it is also the second official language of Jharkhand. According to the 2011 census of India, there were 3.5% of the Indian population, can speak the Odia language. On the basis of having a long literary history, it is the sixth Indian language to be designated a Classical language. According to the historian, the earliest known inscription of the Odia language dates back to the 10th century CE.
Punjabi Language: Punjabi is one of the famous Indo-Aryan languages spoken by the Punjabi people and is native to the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. According to the 2011 census of India, there were 3% of the Indian population, can speak the Punjabi language whereas it has approximately 113 million native speakers around the world. It is also spoken in different parts of Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
At the state level, Punjabi is the only official language of Punjab, while it is the second official language of Haryana and Delhi. It was considered as an additional official language of West Bengal in 2012.
Sanskrit Language: Sanskrit is the famous classical language of the Indo-Aryan branch, among the Indo-European languages. The Sanskrit language is the sacred language of the Hindu religion. It is the language of classical Hindu philosophy and some of the historical texts of Jainism and Buddhism. This language is mainly spoken in South Asia. According to the 2011 census of India, there were 0.3% of the Indian population, can speak the Sanskrit language. The famous Kalidasa was a Classical Sanskrit author and he is considered India’s greatest playwright and dramatist of ancient India. The two major Sanskrit epics are the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Santhali Language: This language also known as the Santali language, is the most widely spoken language among the Munda subfamily of the Austroasiatic languages which is spoken mainly in the Indian states of Mizoram, Odisha, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tripura, and West Bengal. In 2004, by the 92nd amendment of the constitution, Santhali is becoming an official, or “scheduled,” language of the Government of India. According to the 2019 edition of Ethnologue (a language reference published by SIL International), it is spoken by around 7 million people. The highest concentrations of Santali speakers are in the East Singhbhum and Seraikela Kharsawan districts of Jharkhand, Jhargram, Bankura, and Purulia districts of West Bengal and Mayurbhanj district of Odisha.
Sindhi Language: ‘Sindhi’ name is derived from the word ‘Sindhu’, the original name of the Indus River and it is one of the Indo-Aryan languages of the historical Sindh region, spoken mainly by the Sindhi people and it is in the western part of the Indian subcontinent. In 1967, by the 21st amendment of the constitution, Sindhi is becoming an official, or “scheduled,” language of the Government of India, though Sindhi is not an official language of any of the states in India. According to the 2011 census of India, there were 1.68 million native speakers of the Sindhi Language.