11 11 2021
India, one of the oldest civilizations also have some of the oldest languages that are spoken even today. For instance, Sanskrit and Tamil that are among the oldest languages have kept their forms and shapes even today. Even though Sanskrit is not spoken widely, the rich literature available in Sanskrit makes it essential for people to learn. Tamil on the other hand is widely spoken oldest language of the country and easily counted among the top 10 Indian languages. In addition to these two languages there are nearly two dozen recognized languages in India that are spoken widely by a large segment of people.
Various records show that there are over 1,500 languages and more than 3,200 dialects spoken in India that makes it one of the most diverse nations in terms of languages. In fact, each state in India has an official language while some have several dialects or we can say the states were formed based on the languages. Here are the top 10 Indian languages in order of their number of speakers:
With more than 52.83 crore speakers Hindi is amongst the most spoken languages in the world after Chinese. Although there will always be dispute in terms of the number of speakers of Hindi as it is also the second language for a lot of Indians, it definitely is one of the most spoken languages. In 2011 more than 44% people speak Hindi and the number is all set to go up if the latest data is made available. The large number of Hindi speakers lives in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Punjab, Delhi, etc. amongst others.
With nearly 10 crore speakers, Bengali is one of the most spoken languages in India. The densely populated Bengal has the most number of Bengali speakers. Additionally, there are some pockets in Tripura and Assam that speak Bengali. Of course Bengali is the national language of Bangladesh. From the point of view of literature Bengali is quire rich; however, it is the Bengali films that have been popular a lot among people.
Spoken by nearly 9 crore people, mostly in Maharashtra, Marathi is spoken by nearly 7% of the total population of India. Thus, it is quite significant in terms of numbers and quite rich in terms of literature and films or entertainment industry. In addition to Maharashtra, Marathi speakers could be found in the bordering areas of Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka as well.
With over 8 crore speakers Telugu is one of the languages that is spoken in two states i.e. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This Dravidian language is also spoken in many countries as a large number of Telugu people are settled in the country like the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, United Arab Emirates, etc. Even South Africa has people from Telugu speaking background.
Spoken by more than 7 crore people, mainly in Tamil Nadu, Tamil is one of the oldest languages in the whole world. The Dravidian language has also received recognition from Singapore and Sri Lanka as it is spoken quite widely in these two countries. In existence for more than 2,000 years, Tamil cinema has quite wide reach and appreciated for quality films.
Being one of the regional languages that is spoken mainly in Gujarat and Mumbai, Gujarati is spoken by nearly 6 crore people. This Indo-Aryan language is also spoken by quite a significant number of Gujaratis who are settled in the UK, the US, Australia, African countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, etc. Gujaratis being one of the most successful trading people have spread the language around the world.
Spoken quite widely by nearly 5 crore people in India, Urdu is India’s own language. Contrary to the claim that Urdu is from Pakistan, this language was developed by the people who lived between Delhi and Lucknow during Mughals period. Today most of the Urdu speakers are in West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, etc.
With nearly five crore people speaking Kannada, it is one of the four languages spoken in South India. The best part about this language is that it is one of the easiest in terms of learning. Being one of the Dravidian languages, it is quite similar to Tamil and Malayalam and one of the oldest surviving languages in the world. A significant number of Kannada speaking people could be spotted in Australia, the United States, Canada, Arab countries like UAE, etc. amongst others.
Spoken majorly in Odisha state of India, Odia is spoken by nearly 4 crore people. Being one of the official languages of India, it is quite important language in terms of the history and culture of the country. Since the language has quite great literary history, it has huge demand in terms of translation from Odia to other languages. Being one of the ancient languages that has kept its identity makes it one of the purest oldest languages in India.
There are nearly 4 crore people who speak Malayalam language in India; however, most of the speakers live in one state i.e. Kerala. Some Malayalam speaking people could also be found in Puducherry, and Lakshadweep. Although the roots of this language are from the Dravidian languages, a lot of terms are imported from Sanskrit.
English – the official language of India
In addition to the above languages spoken in India, English is one major language that is being used widely in the length and breadth of the country. According to some estimates there are nearly three lakh people in India who speak English; however, there are millions of people who could understand, write and read English language. In fact, most of the government departments have English as mode of communication. Similarly, since the globalization a large number of MNCs that have opened their operations in India communicate in English.