School textbooks in both India and Pakistan call Urdu a mixed language (khichri boli) which began during Akbar’s time (1556-1605). Some even fix Shahjahan’s rule (1628-1658) as the time of its emergence. This is surprising since a number of scholars in both countries — Hafiz Sheerani, Masood Hasan Khan, Abdul Haq, Jamil Jalibi, Gian Chand Jain, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi and Gopi Chand Narang to name only a few — have quoted and even edited works of the ancestor of the language going back to the 15th century. However, the writers of children’s textbooks never seem to correct themselves. This article is meant to correct this misperception so that it becomes clear that Urdu is an ancient language and not an upstart pidgin as some people would have us believe.
This fiction probably comes from Meer Amman Dehlavi who, in the preface of Bagh-o-Bahar (1801), asserts that it was in Akbar’s reign that people speaking different languages came together and Urdu was created. This proposition is wrong on both counts. First, Urdu is not a pidgin language which came together simply because people came together to conduct business and, secondly, it is about a thousand years old, not only four hundred years old which would be the case counting from around the time when Akbar ruled.
A pidgin is a ‘reduced language’ which comes into being when people speaking two (or more) languages interact with each other. It is nobody’s mother tongue but is simply an expedient and immediate medium of communication. The ancestor of Urdu was a fully formed language in the 12th century and it picked up words of Persian, Arabic and Turkish. This is not the process of pidginisation, it is the process of lexical borrowing. And all the world’s great languages borrow words in exactly the same manner. This is a normal process and the Indic ancestor — call it Prakrit or Apabhramsa or whatever —went through the same process.
But was this ancestor Sanskrit. The evidence is that it was not. The classical theory is that it was one of the many daughters of Sanskrit. The dissident view is that it was a local language which existed before Sanskrit entered South Asia. It could be a Dravidian or Munda or some other language. However, words of Sanskrit and other languages must have been found in this parent of modern Urdu-Hindi. Unfortunately, samples of this putative parent are no longer available.
In 1942, Pitambar Datta Barthwal compiled the Gorakh Bani which, he said, contains verses from the 11th century in the Devanagari script. In a sample I have used in my book From Hindi to Urdu (2011), 23 words out of 67 are intelligible to speakers of modern Urdu. Modern Hindi speakers will understand more words because they know more words of Sanskrit. But, since this is a religious text, it has more words from Sanskrit. However, the major problem is that these verses were collected together in the 16th century so we cannot be sure exactly which words crept into this oral literature in the four hundred years that followed. Yet another text, again in the Devanagari script, comes from the royal courts of Rajasthan (1172). It goes something like this: “O janana me thari….. (and in the harem you and your …..)” Later there are words like javega (will go); devega (will give); pardhan (chief) etc. Now we come to words of the ancestor of Urdu-Hindi in the Perso-Arabic script. These occur in Persian books and are called ‘ba zuban-e-Hindi’. Amir Khusrau (1253-1324) says that he gave some verses in ‘Hindi’ to his friends (juzve chand nazm-e-hindvi nez nazre dostan karda shuda ast) but the specimens now available — despite the assertions of so great an authority as Gopi Chand Narang — date from the 18th century. However, from the 14th century we do have actual words. For instance, in Hamid Qalandar’s Khairul Majalis we find ‘tu kartar nahi’ (you are not omnipotent) and ‘jo mundasa bandhe so pae pasre (he who wears the turban falls at the feet) and other words.
A complete poem called Masnavi Kadam Rao Padam Rao was written by Fakhar Din Nizami between 1430-1435. However, this has words of South Indian languages and obsolete words too, so it is difficult to understand. Let us remember that Chaucer lived between 1340-1400 and his Canterbury Tales is not fully intelligible to the modern reader of English. Yet, it is called a Middle English text. So there is no reason not to call Kadam Rao anything but an Urdu-Hindi text.
But if you want an even more intelligible text — not only a few lines — there is Bayazid Ansari’s (1526-1574) Khairul Bayan. Probably written in 1560, the text, though only three pages of it survive in the Perso-Arabic script — is perfectly comprehensible to us in India and Pakistan. But by the 16th century there were works in Gujrat, Deccan and elsewhere which would require volumes to be dealt with. Let me refer, however, to two major writers in the Devanagari script because so few Pakistanis know them. These are the poems of Kabir Das (1440-1518) and Sur Das (1478-1581). Kabir wrote in old Avadhi but both his and Sur Das’s lines are intelligible. The other texts normally quoted by scholars are in old forms of Khari Boli. But the works of Kabir etc are included in the canon of Urdu-Hindi on the assumption that all the varieties of a great, unstandardised language from the Khyber to the Bengal are forms of our great languages Urdu and modern Hindi.
But all these varieties did not get equally Persianised. The Khari Boli variety got more Persianised — and Sanskritised too as we shall see — till it came to be called Urdu. So both Urdu and Hindi are ancient languages and, despite borrowings from many languages including English, Urdu remains a South Asian language. It is at least a thousand years old; not merely a few hundred years old. [For those who want details, references and samples see my book From Hindi to Urdu: A Social and Political History (Karachi Oxford University Press and Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2011)].
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2011.
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Regarding the Urdu-Hindi controversy, even the Akbarnama (Akbar's official chronicle written in Persian) states Hindi as the lingua franca of the people of Hindustan (the region under Mughal control); there is no mention of Urdu. In fact the word 'Urdu' doesn't even exist in the Akbarnama volumes or in the Ain-e-Akbari—which chronicles the administrative system of the Mughal empire.
Yes, Persian has many (old) loanwords from Avestan, Median, etc. - already in use by the Old Persian time (i.e. the royal language of Achemenid emperors, mid-1st millenium BC, e.g. Modern Persian "asb" horse is presumably from a Median "aspa", rather than proper OPer. "asa" - both cognate to Skt. "ashwa"). But the basic strand of the particular bunch of dialects now known as Persian has been known to history for more than the past 2500 years. Its oldest attested form is what is called Old Persian, a sister language of Avestan (whose oldest samples are believed to be around another millenium older), Median, etc. but distinct from all of them. Just like Avestan is kind of a cousin to Vedic Sanskrit, so is Old Persian. Now, modern Persian is a descendent of Old Persian. Doesn't that make it related to Sanskrit?
Actually, the lexical correspondences are still relatively easily discernible between Modern Persian and Sanskrit - with just a little bit of awareness (like the basic sound laws involved, and the ability to sift out the Arabic words, which - of course - are not demonstrably related). The grammatical correspondences may be harder to discern, but they too are there, e.g. the (Modern) Persian perfect root formation in -d/t- is cognate with Skt. perfect participle suffix -ta-, e.g. Per miir-/mord-, Skt. mri-/mrta- (die); Per. kon-/kard-, Skt. krnu-/krta- (do); Per nevis-/nevesht- (write), Skt. nipish-/nipishta (carve?), etc.
Can we some how get rid of URDU in Pakistan. It is so difficult to learn and write urdu. We our selves suffered of Urdu and now our children has to face this.
Those Indians who deny the relationship between Sanskrit and Persian are idiots who
Do not know anything about Indo-European historical linguistics beyond what they read here and there in some journalistic articles. Please pick up a basic book and read what relatedness means, what sound laws and sound correspondence mean. Not everything that sounds similar is related. Eng. word, agression, kind, Saturn, people, page, saint related to Skt. vakya, akraman, kripa, shani, praja, patra, santa!! Do you even have an inkling of the sound laws involved? Btw. "santa" is not even a Sanskrit word!!
Do not know Persian; and most importantly, have no idea about the difference between Persian and Arabic. The morons don't know that sawal, jawab, ibadat, etc. are Arabic. I know only basic Persian. Even then I can give cognate Persian words for a large number of words posed. I am sure a Persian expert will do better:
danta – dandaan (tooth) mrityu – mord- (to die) hasta – dast (hand) parikrama – ? (in perimeter, only the "peri-" part is related, which also existed in Old Persian, etc.) pita, pitra – pedar mata , matri – maadar bhrata – beraadar praja – ? ("people" is not related. Indeed in Sanskrit the derivation is from the verb pra-jan- to procreate. Persian "-zaade" (-born) is related to the second part (Skt. jaata = born)) surya (<svar-) – xor-(shid) (sun) brihat – bozorg (not sure if related, unless from Old Persian "barzan-" (height) which is likely related) ant – ? (But Skt. antar - Per. andar (inside)) sama – ham- (same) prarthana – ? (But the Persian "namaaz" contains a root cognate to Skt. "nam-" (to bow))
For, question and answer: The Persian for question is "porshesh" with a cognate root as Skt. prashna. I don't know the pure Persian for "answer".
Little knowledge is sometimes dangerous, sometimes just a butt of joke, like some people are showing here.
The earliest form of vedas was written in a language that was similar to Persian. Claiming Sanskrit and Persian to be unrelated is pretty illogical. Unless one believes in some ridiculous Aryan theories!!
@Observer: " ... While Hindi has borrowed may sanscrit words, there is very little resemblence to sanskrit as far as grammar or sentence construction are concerned ... "
What's your point ?
@Observer: Forget about sanskrit tell me what you know about other ancient languages like prakrit, paali. I clearly mentioned that base languages of Hindi was sanskrit and prakrit still you are disputing. Now learn something about prakrit then talk to me. In India prakrit is exist in 2 universities if you are an indian study the prakrit language then talk to me.
While Hindi has borrowed may sanscrit words, there is very little resemblence to sanskrit as far as grammar or sentence construction are concerned.
Quite a ridiculously shocking article. Sir, Urdu's grammar is quite definitely Sanskritic, it is not Dravidian or Munda or any other. Also, it is quite definitely a result of the mixing in the Mughal army camps where khadi boli and Turkish,Persian and Arabic mixed. To say it is 400 years old is no worse that if it really were 1000 years old. It is a fine language, created by Indians and has achieved much elegance and grace in the few hundred years of its existence. Let's not create another false history here for the usual reasons.
Urdu is born out of the marriage of two great and unrelated languages. Hindi ( from Sanskrit ) and Persian. Both Sanskrit/Hindi and Persian are among the greatest languages on mankind and their intermingling gave rise to a great mixed language : Urdu.
It is so sad to see the slow death of a fine language.
I would request the moderators/editors to not to post nonsensical critique/comments by cynics and ultranationalists. This is an academic discussion and some are just distracting for their ulterior motives. They should wash their dirty laundry in their backyard and not in public at least not in my front lawn.. I always enjoy reading Dr. Rahman's thought-provoking research.
The author seems to have very limited knowledge of sanskrit/hindi. Anyone trying to write about Indian languages without excellent knwoeldge of sanskrit and latin is like 4 blind men trying to describe an elephant.
Here let me provide even more examples of how closely sanskrit and latin/english are related
sanskrit --- latin/english
akarshan - attraction dwar - door sarpa - serpent praman - proof klesh - quarell samarthan - support shakti - strength maha - major jay - joy prachar - propogate path - path
In fact its astounding and not commonly noticed as to how closely the roots of sanskrit and latin words are related. In comparison, there is very little if any commonality between persian/arabic and sanskrit. So when you study languages, sanskrit and Latin are sister languages and considered the source of all Indian and Europen languages. You have to be blind to not notice how many north indians/pakistanis resemble south europeans ( italy, greece, armenia ). The conclusion is latin and sanskrit originated from the same group of people who have settled in these areas and inter married with the locals atleast for last 3-4 thousand years.
The languages of India , Hindi, Gujrati, sindhi, punjabi ( has lot of urdu words used in it now ), Bengali, Marathi, Uriya are overwhelmingly related and originate from sanskrit.
Urdu developed in India, over last 1000-1100 years, as hindi and persian intermingled.
There is no room for any ambiguity, debate or confusion here.
Whatever the age of Hindi-Urdu, it hardly matters. The most pertinent thing is that this langauge is a langauge of the Hindi belt of India, not of 'South Asia'. In Pakistan Hindi-Urdu is an alien language and we must not allow this alien tongue to wipe out Pakistan's own language. BTW for the first poster, Pehlavi, the ancient Persian of Iran, is almost identical to Sanskrit.
Dear Sir, I've just briefly skimmed over your third article in the series due to lack of opportunity and time at the moment. However I'm pleasantly surprised to find that you have very graciously addressed the points I raised in my comments in response to your second article in this series and not only (seemingly) amended your previous thesis but have also provided alternate theories as per genesis of Urdu. Very much appreciated. Research work such as yours, even if controversial in its conclusions, is necessary and worthy of our attention as it sparks healthy debate and gets the ball rolling with even more research about our linguistic heritage. I shall be reading the current article more thoroughly as soon as time permits.
There is too much value attached to language. It's merely a creation for convenience of getting your thoughts across without wasting hours trying to acting it out using a less entertaining version of charades. If a language's use falls to a minority of those interacted with, it just makes sense for another to take precedence, yet not completely rid itself of the former due to lack of resources, or in some cases brains, to make it obsolete in the mainstream.
Given the nature of it being used for a clearer understanding, it's awfully ironic how people go out of their way to create even more misunderstandings in regard simply to its existence.
It's all man made. Nothing man made is important enough to cling to in the bigger picture.
@web team - my views are not getting publish here is there any problem? The more we get into history the more we know about civilisations. There is nothing offensive in my views. I welcome all arguments so please publish them. Thanks.
@Observer: Hindi is derived from Sanskrit and prakrit. These 2 base languages of hindi.
@ Mary Of course Urdu predates the Mughals. The non-native Slave kings of Delhi and the Tughlaq rulers were Turkic speakers. it is likely this hybrid language originated from the non-native 'cantonments' of those times.
Since you are talking about urdu and you are a pakistani, I would like to inform you the role of Aligarh muslim university. It was Aligarh muslim university who played the major role in strengthening the urdu language structure and creating pakistan. In pakistan , everyone talks about iqbal and jinnah but no one talks about the major role of aligarh muslim university. In those days every active muslim scholar was from Aligarh university. Idea of Iqbal for separate state was adopted by most of the scholars from aligarh university. They started the awareness movement. When jinnah gave call for pakistan he ask help from these scholars almost all went to pakistan and contributed a major role in initial days of pakistan. Jinnah adopted foreign language urdu(remember urdu was not native language of pakistan) as national language because of these scholars. Although use of urdu was very limited in lahore and karachi universities which are basically british universities. Adopting urdu as national language actully helped urdu in spreading most of the northen part of Indian subcontinent.
6] british ruler stoped the spread of urdu.- Wrong though british perfer hindi for administrative purpose because of more number of hindi speakers that didn't stop madarasa training infact due to peace in british era the urdu language spread rapidly in local muslims and percentage of urdu speakers increased due to solid urdu educating structures like madarass in Indian part of british India. Also you have to remember literature in Hindus is always limited to brahmins. Due to this rigid caste structure many of the middle and lower caste hindus specially in UP, Bihar area adopted Islam. This has lead to massive spread of urdu. Ofcourse there was revolutionary but peaceful movement by muslim scholars. Later on university structures like banaras hindu university had spread hindi and Sanskrit while Aligarh muslim university had done major contribution in urdu literature and spreading new ideas.
5] hindi didn't had script so after watching the arabic\persian script of urdu they created new script called devnagri. Wrong India had many scripts in past due to different kings started their scripts and calendars. Even today India is the only country which has largest number of scripts in the world. Different rulers gave different script because education was limited to small community called brahmins. Changing script was not big task for any king.Today you will find many languages have changed their script most of them adopted Devnagri script with few variations. But change of script does not mean extinction of language. one of the funny example is of sanskrit. Sanskrit is awailable in different scripts.
4] Muslim rulers spread urdu through out India - Wrong checkout the area muslim rulers had ruled and duration. See their actual empire and does not count their treaties with hindu kings as part of empire. You will unyderstand that they used to rule in pockets. Remember there was no mass media communication like TV, radio, Internet. Travelling was very difficult with unknown dangers.
3] Urdu was 1000 years old and had many writers - Wrong check out all initial urdu writers were actually persian writers because they wanted to bridge the gap between the different linguaistic army units. In initial days Urdu literature was limited to these writers only. Status of Urdu in those days was similar to Hinglish(hindi+english) in these days.Though hinglish has many too many speakers due to mass media revolution, education and big population.
2]Creation of urdu - urdu was formed using persian, afghan, turkish words in hindi. As it was based on army unit formation. Most of the army men were local northen hindus so base was Hindi. Even in mughal darbaar higher ranks used to converse in persian. As rajputs and others joined in use of hindi added as base to the language to form Urdu. First make your self clear urdu was limited to army only.
The assumptions this writer has made 1] when a muslim ruler used to rule delhi. He used to rule North-west India. So Urdu spread in India. Wrong- a) because the language of ruler was always limited to his courtyard. Check history of 3000years, many rulers of India even hindu kings used to have translaters for local administration. Even today many states in India have multiple local languages and many feel the language of local government is forced on them. eg- karnataka has four different languages some of them without script eg- Tulu but local govenment use kannada. Almost all muslim rulers used to converse in persian language that is why many hindu families had taught persian to their children. Visit Lucknow or Hindu places like varanasi you will get persian literature from these families.
Everybody is missing very important aspect. India had many ancient languages. Snaskrit,prakrit, tamil, paali..etc Hindi itself is combination of sanskrit and prakrit. Hindi has 48 dialets.
This articles makes no sense, distortion of facts and history.
In fact, just say the english word 'question/answer' and in sanskrit 'prashna/uttar' and you see how they are related , while urdu/persian 'sawaal/jawaab' is not.
swa in sanskrit is self in english dhin in sanskrit is dependent in english
so independent in sanskrit is swa(self)-dhin(dependent) - while azadi in urdu/persion is not.
In fact, if you dig around almost any sanskrit word you will find a related english/latin word that share same roots. Any exceptions, only prove the over-whelming 'rule' - ( which itself come from the word raja )
sanskrit 'prathana' is related to prayer while 'ibadat(urdu/persion) is not. wakya - word akraman - aggression kripa - kind
For anyone who listens to Urdu, it is clear that Urdu is a style of Hindi. When the Hindi words are replaced by Persian / Arabic / Turkish words it becomes Urdu. Its grammar is that of Hindi. It has all the Hindi verbs. There are hardly any Persian / Arabic / Turkish verbs. Even the borrowed Persian / Arabic / Turkish words are neither declined or conjugated in Urdu.They remain in the original form. It is truly a hodge podge language.
@Khan: Please read the first two parts of the article and then comment!
@ the author of this article:
I'm sorry, but Urdu as it stands today should not be considered a classical language - it is not. Your analysis is based on many assumptions and they are hard to verify. Placing Urdu on par with Sanskrit as a classical language seems to stem from a deep desire to legitimize the promotion of Urdu as a national language in Pakistan as opposed to Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi or Pashto, which all have a greater affiliation with Sanskrit than they do with Urdu.
Ancient Persian is very much related to Sanskrit!!! They are brothers in languages. Latin is related, but on a level that is further than Persian is to Sanskrit. Here is a historical document (not verified) available on the web written by a Parsi in Madras in Pre Partition India that I thought you might find interesting: http://www.farvardyn.com/zoroaster.php
@Khan - you are absolutely correct. However, the "Indo" in Indo European languages does not stem from Indonesia. It stems from India. The "Indo" in Indonesia also stems from India. This is similar to the word "Sino" being used for Chinese. Historically, South East Asia was known as "Indo China" due to the cultural practices and genetic influences of the people living there that stem from both India and China.
Always a detailed analysis.
@bab loo Sorry to contradict you but Persian is very much an ancient Indonesia-European language. In fact the Indo-European conquerers of ancient Iran - the Medes and Persians were distantly related to the Aryan arrivals of northern India. interestingly enough in Mitanni (ancient Kurdistan) a treaty was signed was sworn using to Indo-Aryan gods Indra, Varuna and Mithraism. Latin is far remote and removed from Sanskrit than the language of the ancient Median and Persian kings of Iran and their successors.
I'm afraid it's very name contradicts many of the assertions made in the article. Urdu comes from the Turkic word ordu (or military camp, in fact the English word horde descends from it). From it's very name one can ascertain it was a language created by an amalgam of non-native soldiery assimilating to the language/s then spoken in northern India
Great read. I will be doing two things from now on:
1) Purchase this great book by Mr. Tariq 2) Inform everyone that Urdu is not some lashkari zabaan, as our teachers used to tell us; it is a fully formed language whose history dates back to 1000 years.
Now I got lost and have to read your book, but it is yet not available in the country that I live. So have to wait. By the way I am quite impressed by your research. Great Job.