The Languages of India
First Online: September 21, 2003
Page Last Updated: June 13, 2013
Introduction to the Linguistic Diversity of India
Depending on whom you ask, the number of languages in India vary
from fifteen to two thousand. In other words, there is no definitive count of
the languages in practice. The problem of counting and classifying the languages
is compounded by the myriad of dialects, and mixed languages.
For what it is worth, I am compiling below a list of Indian
languages that I have culled from several sources (references are at the bottom
of the page). Where available, I have tried to provide a brief description, the
parts of India they are spoken from, and links to potential content elsewhere on
Kamat's Potpourri about the community speaking the language.
The official languages (meaning those on Indian currency, or sanctioned
as an official language by the Indian Government) is shown in bold letters.
Please bear in mind that some languages are are only spoken languages, and some
are extinct today.
If I have missed a language, please suggest addition by writing to
List of Languages of India
- Abor -- A tribal language spoken in north-eastern parts of India, especially
- Abujmaria -- A tribal language spoken in Bastar district and neighboring
areas. See: Village of Abujamara -- Kamat ventures into a deep tribal village of Abujamara and documents the experience.
- Agaria -- Language spoken by a central Indian tribe by the same name. The
Agaria are skilled blacksmiths and artisans. See related topic The Tribes of Madhya Pradesh
- Ahirani -- An Indo-Aryan language spoken in
parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat states.
- Aimol -- An
Indo-Tibetan language found in Indias' north-eastern parts.
-- Language spoken by a North-Eastern tribe with the same name.
-- Remnants of Arabic can be seen among descendants of Arabs who've settled in
-- Language spoken in the state of Assam
- Asuri -- Language
found in Bihar, Gumla and Lohardaga districts of Chotanagpur plateau.
-- An ancient Indo-Aryan language with considerable literature.
- Bazigar Boli
-- An important language belonging to the Shouraseni Prakrit family
of Indian languages, spoken in West Bengal, and neighboring Orissa,
and Bangladesh. Bengali literature is very rich, Bengali being the mother
tongue of many great thinkers and writers who were responsible for Indian renaissance
in the late 19th century.
- Braj Bhasha
-- Although not a native language, spoken widely in India to be regarded as an
- French -- Spoken in former French colonies like Pondychery
-- Spoken by the people with roots in the state of Gujarat.
Gujaratis are spread all over the world, and it is not uncommon to learn this
language in a school far away from India.
-- A distinct dialect used in the state of Haryana and Kashmir Valley
-- Language used by Jews of India.
- Hindi -- The
language spoken and understood by most number of Indians (about 30%). The
effort to make Hindi the only official language of India was met with stiff
resistance and has led to fragmentation of Indian languages, and separatist
turmoil. Prominently spoken in northern parts of India, known as the
-- A prominent Dravidian language spoken in the province of Karnataka.
Read about the origins, history, and about some famous works in Kannada language
in History of Kannada
-- A spoken language spoken by Coorgis, a warrior community of Kodagu
distrrict in Karnataka state.
-- A dialect of Konkani language distinct enough to be regarded as an
-- A spoken language practiced in the Konkan belt covering parts of
Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. Till recently, Konkani was considered
as a dialect of Marathi, but new research has indicated that it is older
than Marathi and is a different language. Read Kamat's article
and Development of Konkani. Dialects of the language include Kad-kokni,
Daldi, Nawayati, Kharvi, and Khande-kharvi.
-- The language spoken by a native tribe of the same name in Madhya
-- A language spoken in the Kutch region of Gujarat.
- Lakher (Mara)
-- A language spoken by aboriginals of Assam
-- Spoken in parts of Bihar state
-- a prominent south Indian language spoken in the state of Kerala.
-- Language spoken in the province of Manipur in Northeast India.
-- Language spoken in the state of Maharashtra and some neighboring
-- Predominantly spoken in the state of Orissa
-- Now extinct, a lot of ancient Buddhist literature is found in this
language. Some derivatives are still spoken in parts of Sri Lanka and Burma.
-- Spoken in the state of Punjab
-- The ancient Indian language in which most of Hindu scriptures are
based. It is said to be mother of all
-- An ancient language of South India, closely tied to the Dravidian
-- A prominent South Indian language spoken in the state of Andhra
Pradesh and parts of Karnataka and Orissa.
-- Language spoken by a aborginal community by the same name (see: Todas)
-- A spoken language prominently spoken in Dakshina Kannada and Udupidistricts
on the west-coast.
- Urdu -- Indo-Iranian language spoken by
significant number of Muslims all over India.
References for Further Study
Report on India -- Page lists the languages and their geographic
location, the number of speaking the language, based on prior census.
- Languages of India -- Monthly
online journal devoted to the study of the languages spoken in the Indian