I am against the idea of a national language in India. The idea of India lies in unity in diversity. Many religions and regions, many languages and cultures and many kinds of people living together to form one Nation, I am not sure any other country in the world can claim this other than our Mother India.
Recently some politician, based on his political ideological views suggested that ” it is important for the nation to have one language that it is identified by in the world. If there is one language that can unite the country, it’s Hindi”
Hindi is forced to be learned by many Indians by the central government. My school back in Kerala also forced me to learn it but I just got the pass mark and never was able to speak the language and never needed either. If i ended up in North India for work, I would have learned it irrespective of whether I studied it in my school like I learned to speak English fluently after coming to USA even though I hated English just like I hated Hindi in school.
When we look at the history of Hindi, it is not a classical language, but a very young and recent language. When we are speaking about the language Hindi, we are actually talking about a standardised and Sankritised Register of Hindustani Language. In sociolinguistics, a register is a variety of language used for a particular purpose or in a particular communicative situation. So the underlying language is Hindustani. Hindi is written using the Devanagari script of Brahmic family.
Now when we look at HIndustani language, there is a reason why it is called HIindi-Urdu and why Gandhi promoted it as a language that represents brotherhood between Muslims and HIndus in India. Hindustani is an Indo Aryan language derived from Prakrut, Sanskrit , Persian and Arabic.Both India’s Modern Standard Hindi and Pakistan’s Modern Standard Urdu are derived from Hindustani. Urdu had more Persian and Arabic influence while Hindi had more Sanskrit influence, both are registers of Hindustani language, HIndi the Sanskritised Register, while Urdu is Persianised standard Register and it uses Arabic script instead of Devanagari.
The history of Sanskrit which along with Prakrit forms the Hindi register of Hindustani, we reach two versions of Sanskrit. The Vedic Sanskrit in which Vedas and Upanishads were written and the more recent Classical Sanskrit for which Panini composed the grammar rules.
Sanskrit belongs to Indo-European family of languages. It is one of the three languages derived from a language now known as Proto-Indo_European language.
Other Indo-European languages related to Sanskrit are Classical Latin,Germanic language, Avestan ( In which Avesta , Zoroastrian Gita is written) and Old Persian. The languages closest to Sanskrit are Avestan and Old Persian. That is the reason why Sanskrit is called an Indo-Iranian language.
When we look at Avestan which was spoken by Zoroastrian people in Iran we find many similar words like asura, yajna, soma , asta, dasa etc.
In order to explain the common features shared by Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages, the Indo-Aryan migration theory states that the original speakers of what became Sanskrit arrived in the Indian subcontinent from the north-west sometime during the early second millennium BCE.
According to Thomas Burrow, based on the relationship between various Indo-European languages, the origin of all these languages may possibly be in what is now Central or Eastern Europe, while the Indo-Iranian group possibly arose in Central Russia. The Iranian and Indo-Aryan branches separated quite early. It is the Indo-Aryan branch that moved into eastern Iran and the south into the Indian subcontinent in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Once in ancient India, the Indo-Aryan language underwent rapid linguistic change and morphed into the Vedic Sanskrit language.
This migration theory, also based on the mitochondrial DNA evidence stated in the famous book “Who we are and how we got here” (chapter 6, the collision that formed India), very clearly shows that the language Hindi originated outside current geographical borders of India.
Now when we come to Tamizh, it is a Dravidian language, descends from Proto-Dravidian, spoken in the lower Godavari river basin. It uses Tamizh-Brahma script for writing. Even though it went through various phases like Old Tamizh, Middle Tamizh and Modern Tamizh, it kept its identity as a single language and is considered to be the oldest living classical language in the world.
While this language developed into the modern Tamizh language it branched out to various other south Indian languages including my mother tongue Malayalam and Kannada. Both Malayalam and Kannada has great influence from Sanskrit even though their origins trace back to Tamil-Malayalam and Tamil-Kannada
The oldest writing in Tamizh, the grammar book called Tolkappiyam is dated between the 6th century and 3rd century BCE. Thirukkural is another Tamizh classic which is still learned by majority of Tamizh speaking people is dated back to the third Sangam period. The Tamizh Sangam literature dated between 300BCE to 300CE produced many great works in Tamizh language.
Once again I am against having a national language in a multilingual country like India. But if you insist, I will happily choose the classical Indian language with rich history that originated within our Motherland and still survives to this very date, that is Tamizh.
Note : The fact that my wife is from Tamil Nadu didn’t negatively influence this article 🙂
This is the first time I’ve seen someone from Kerala praise Tamizh for its origin and richness.
Overall, it’s an interesting write-up!