! Although the official language of the country, as stated by the government, is Hindi, written in Devanāgarī script, there are at least 22 other official Indian languages. The various states have been able to legislate their own official languages and each state has one or more.
Bengali, Kashmiri, Urdu, Gujarati; these are just a few of the languages used across Bharat. Each language has individual characteristics and there are many differences between them.
Gujarati is the 26th most widely spoken language in the world, whilst Kashmiri is spoken first and foremost in the Kashmir valley. It can be easy to forget that so many Indian languages exist but with over 1.2 billion people and as the seventh largest country in the world, is it really a surprise that there are so many?
Celebrations will take place throughout the country today. The president, Pranab Mukherjee, will address the nation in the evening and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, will give a speech and unfurl the country’s flag at Red Fort, where the flag was unveiled for the first time 65 years ago. Important buildings will be illuminated, whilst flags and colourful decorations hang all over cities and villages. Kites are another firm tradition as they fill the Indian skylines with the tricolour.
British colonialism overpowered India for more than 200 years and the ongoing struggle to free itself from this oppression was a long road to travel. Another iconic symbol of this joyous independence though is of course Mahatma Gandhi, who helped lead the country to freedom with a campaign based on peace and non-violent protest.
As well as its large number of languages, India has a vast history and fascinating culture to draw on. Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism originated here and these have inspired millions of people worldwide. Perhaps Gandhi is one of the most memorable images when considering India, because he played a powerful part in what is arguably the most important day in India’s history.
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”
This speech by was delivered by the first Prime Minister of the new, independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, on 14 August 1947 and its impact still resonates today. The languages of India and its numerous other characteristics make it such a fascinating country, at once exhilarating and overwhelming. As people across the country join together to celebrate on this national hoilday, the true importance of that day 65 years ago will be remembered.
Have you been to India? Do you know any Indian languages? We’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, see what Indian languages, among others, we work with here at Lingua Translations on our languages page.