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Tracing the Origin of Urdu Language

Urdu is undoubtedly the language of the soul. It is a language that adds vividness to prose and beauty to poetry, which is why most of the popular shayaris, songs and poems are written and sung in it.

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Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language that branches from the Indo-European language family. It is the mother tongue of about 70 million people across the globe and is spoken as a second language by more than 100 million people, primarily in India and Pakistan.


There are multiple theories regarding the origin of this language. Some linguists believe that Urdu dates back to the 6th century while others opine that it evolved from Brij bhasha, a dialect spoken in Western India. Some speculate that the language originated from Hariani, which was widely spoken under the Delhi Sultanate. Khariboli and Old Hindi are the other names given to the earliest forms of Urdu.

With the advent of the Delhi Sultanate in India, the Hindu and Muslim communities began interacting with each other. This led them to adopt each other’s cultural influences, one of them being languages. In the 12th century, in North-West India, cultural mingling led the ‘Old Hindi’ speakers to incorporate many Persian and Arabic words and phrases in their vocabulary. As a result, a new language, Urdu, was born.


The rulers of the Delhi Sultanate designated Persian as their official language, and it remained so throughout the Mughal Empire. During the Delhi Sultanate's rule, Amir Khusrau, a well-known scholar in the 13th century, contributed significantly to the development of the language. He was known as ‘The Father of Urdu Literature’ and had composed a variety of poems, stories, sufi music, qawwalis, and shayaris in both Persian and Urdu, erstwhile known as Hindavi. The language thrived in aristocratic and courtly settings, preserving its fundamental vocabulary from the Indo-Aryan language.


Urdu is frequently confused, and often interchangeably used, with Hindi. It is an amalgamation of both Sanskrit/Hindi (Devanagari) grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, and the Persian-Arabic script known as Nastaliq. Despite the similarities between the two languages, the main difference lies in the script. Urdu is written from right to left, unlike the Hindi or English script, which runs from left to right.

Though the language was commonly used in the region, it wasn't until the end of Aurangzeb's reign in the 18th century that it was given the name Zaban-e-Ordu. Later, a poet named Ghulam Hamadani Mushafi simply shortened the name to 'Urdu'.' Before that, the language was known as Hindi, Hindavi, Dehlavi, or Rekhta among others, and it was spoken by everyone, irrespective of their community.

Urdu continues to be a vital element of Indian culture and language. It is extensively spoken across the country, particularly in states like Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. It is one of the most widely spoken languages in India. Each and every word of the language carries a lot of meaning and depth. The beauty and elegance of Urdu inspires writers and poets to fully express themselves using this language in music, poetry, ghazals, and philosophical literature.



Divya Balvally

Pratha Content Writer

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