Hindustani, presently represented by the official
languages of India and Pakistan, Standard Hindi and Urdu,
originated during the Mughal Empire, when the Persian court
language exerted a strong influence on the Indic dialects of
central India, creating Rekhta or "mixed" speech. It
is this which came to be known as Hindustani, was elevated
to a literary language, and is the basis for modern standard
Hindi and Urdu. Although these official languages are
distinct registers in their formal aspects, such as modern
technical vocabulary, they continue to be all but
indistinguishable in their vernacular forms.
Shah Jahan's court in Delhi
Most of the grammar and basic vocabulary of Hindustani
descends directly from the medieval language of central India,
known as Sauraseni.
After the tenth century, several Sauraseni dialects were
elevated to literary languages, or khari boli ("standing
dialects"), including Braj Bhasha, Avadhi, and the Delhi dialect
which currently goes by the name Khari Boli. During the
reigns of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire, which used
Persian as their official language and had their capital in
Delhi, the Delhi dialect was used by the majority of the
populace, including the army. It was thus infused with large
numbers of Persian, Arabic, and Turkic words from the court,
primarily nouns, for cultural, legal, and political concepts.
The term Hindustani derives from Hindustan, the
Persian name for India. It is thus the "Indian" language. The
term Urdu, or "camp language" (cognate with the English
word horde), was used to describe the common language of the
Mughal army. The works of the 13th century scholar Amir Khusro
are typical of the Hindustani language of the time:
Sej vo sūnī dekh ke rovun main din rain,
Piyā piyā main karat hūn pahron, pal bhar sukh nā chain.
"Seeing the empty bed I cry night and day
"Calling for my beloved all day, not a moment's happiness or
Persian was crucial in the formation of a common language of
the Central, North and Northwest regions of the South Asia.
Following the Mughal conquest of South Asia and the resulting
vast Islamic empire, especially in the northern and central
regions of the South Asia, a hybrid language of Arabic, Pashto,
Turkish, Persian, and local dialects began to form around the
16th and 17th centuries CE, one that would eventually be known
as Urdu (from a Turkish word meaning "army", in allusion to the
army barracks of visiting troops).
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built a new walled city of
Shahjahanabad in Delhi in 1639. The market close to the royal
fort (Red Fort) came to be called Urdu Bazar and the language
was eventually termed "Urdu". It grew from the interaction of
(often Persian-speaking) Muslim soldiers and native peoples.
Soon, the Persian script and Nasta'liq form of cursive was
adopted, with additional figures added to accommodate the South
Asian phonetic system, and a new language based on the South
Asian grammar with a vocabulary largely divided between Persian
(and indirectly some Arabic) and local Prakrit dialects.
Elements peculiar to Persian, such as the enclitic ezāfe,
and the use of the takhallus, were readily absorbed into
Hindustani literature both religious and secular. This language
was developed by Kashmiri Pandits and now a days widely spoken
in South Asia.
The poet Wali Deccani (1667–1707) visited Delhi in 1700.
He is termed "Bava Adam" (founding father) of Urdu poetry by
Maulana Muhammad Husain Azad wrote in the monumental Aab-e-Hayat
(Water of Life).
His visit is considered to be of great significance for Urdu
Gazals. His simple and melodious poems in Hindustani, stunned
the Persian loving nobles of Delhi and made them aware of the
beauty and capability of "Rekhta" or "Hindawi" (an old name for
Hindustani) as a medium of poetic expression. His visit thus
stimulated the development of Urdu Gazal in the imperial city of
Hindustani soon gained distinction as the preferred language
in courts of South Asia and eventually replaced Persian among
the nobles. To this day retains an important place in literary
and cultural spheres. Many distinctly Persian forms of
literature, such as ghazals and nazms, came to both influence
and be affected by South Asian culture, producing a distinct
melding of Middle Eastern and South Asian heritages. A famous
cross-over writer was Amir Khusro, whose Persian and Urdu
couplets are to this day read in the subcontinent. Persian has
sometimes been termed an adopted classical language of the South
Asia alongside Sanskrit due to its role in South Asian
Beginning with the establishment of the first British East
India Company outposts, and continuing throughout the period of
British rule, English loanwords began making their way into
Hindustani. English-language education, a requirement for the
administrative classes that managed India and its population for
the British ruling elite, greatly accelerated this development.
Soon, English became identified with Western culture and
modernity, and many of the Hindustani words borrowed from
English - doctor
/ˈmiʈɻ/ - reflect this association.
The influence of English has continued in the
post-independence period, as both India and Pakistan have
continued to use English as a regionally neutral language of
business and administration, and people of South Asian descent
stay in contact with their friends and extended families in the
- 600 BCE: late Vedic Sanskrit.
- 500 BCE: Prakrit texts of Buddhists and Jains originate
- 400 BCE: Pāṇini composes his formal Sanskrit grammar
(Gandhara), reflecting transition from Vedic to formal
Pāṇinian (Classical) Sanskrit
- 322 BCE: Brahmi script inscriptions by Mauryas in
- 250 BCE: first records of Classical Sanskrit.
- 100 BCE-100 CE: Sanskrit gradually replaces Prakrit in
- 320: The Gupta or Siddha-matrika script emerges.
Main article: Middle Indic
- 400: Apabhramsha in Kalidas's Vikramuurvashiiya
- 550: Dharasena of Valabhi's inscription mentions
- 779: Regional languages mentioned by Udyotan Suri in
- 769: Siddha Sarahpa composes Dohakosh, considered the
first Hindi poet
- 800: Bulk of the Sanskrit literature after this time is
commentaries. [Vidhyanath Rao]
- 933: Shravakachar of Devasena, considered the first
- 1100: Modern Devanagari script emerges
- 1145-1229: Hemachandra writes on Apabhramsha grammar
Main article: Hindavi
Further information: Urdu, Hindi and Urdu, and Rekhta
Islamic empires in India in the late Medieval to Early Modern
- 1283: Amir Khusro's pahelis and mukaris. Uses term
- 1398-1518: Kabir's works mark origin of "Nirguna-Bhakti"
- 1370-: Love-story period originated by "Hansavali" of
- 1400-1479: Raighu: last of the great Apabhramsha poets
- 1450: "Saguna Bhakti" period starts with Ramananda
- 1580: Early Dakkhini work "Kalmitul-hakayat" of
- 1585: "Bhaktamal" of Nabhadas: an account of Hindi
- 1601: "Ardha-Kathanak" by Banarasidas, first
autobiography in Hindi
- 1604: "Adi Granth" a compilation of works of many poets
by Guru Arjan Dev.
- 1532-1623: Tulsidas, author of "Ramacharita Manasa".
- 1623: "Gora-badal ki katha" of Jatmal, first book in
Khari Boli dialect (now the standard dialect)
- 1643: "Reeti" poetry tradition commences according to
- 1645: Shahjahan builds Delhi fort, language in the
locality starts to be termed Urdu.
- 1667-1707: Vali's compositions become popular, Urdu
starts replacing Persian among Delhi nobility. It is often
called "Hindi" by Sauda, Meer etc.
- 1600-1825: Poets (Bihari to Padmakar) supported by
rulers of Orchha and other domains.
Modern Hindi literature emerges during the Colonial period.
- 1796: Earliest type-based Devanagari printing (John
Borthwick Gilchrist, Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language,
Calcutta) [Dick Plukker]
- 1805: Lalloo Lal's Premsagar
for Fort William College, Calcutta [Daisy Rockwell]
- 1813-46: Maharaja Swati Tirunal Rama Varma (Travancore)
composed verses in Hindi along with South Indian languages.
- 1826: "Udanta Martanda" Hindi weekly from Calcutta
- 1837: Shardha Ram Phillauri, author of "Om Jai Jagdish
- 1839,1847: "History of Hindi Literature" by Garcin de
Tassy in French [Daisy Rockwell]
- 1833-86: Gujarati Poet Narmad proposed Hindi as India's
- 1850: The term "Hindi" no longer used for what is now
- 1854: "Samachar Sudhavarshan" Hindi daily from Calcutta
- 1873: Mahendra Bhattachary's "Padarth-vigyan"
(Chemistry) in Hindi
- 1877: Novel Bhagyavati by Shardha Ram Phillauri
- 1886: "Bharatendu period" of modern Hindi literature
- 1893 Founding of the Nagari Pracharini Sabha in Benares
- 1900: "Dvivedi period" starts. Nationalist writings
- 1900: "Indumati" story by Kishorilal Goswami in
- 1918-1938: "Chhayavad period"
- 1918: "Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachara Sabha" founded by
- 1929: "History of Hindi Literature" by Acharya Ram
- 1931: "Alam Ara" first Hindi talking movie
- 1930's: Hindi typewriters ("Nagari lekhan Yantra")
- 1936: Kamayani, the most celebrated Hindi epic poem,
written by Jaishankar Prasad
The 1947 partition of India sees the separation of Hindustani
(Khariboli) into two standardized dialects, Urdu and Standard
- 1949: Official Language Act makes the use of Hindi in
Central Government Offices mandatory
- 1949-50: Hindi accepted as the "official language of the
Union" in the constitution. Debates a, b, c.
- 1952: The Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent
Assembly of Pakistan recommends that Urdu be the state
- 1958: definition of Modern Standard Hindi by the Central
- 1965: Opposition to "Blind Hindi-imposition by Congress"
in Tamil Nadu, where Tamil- the predominant Dravidian
language, lives brings Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) to
power. Congress lost its base.
- 1975: English medium private schools start asserting
themselves socially, politically, financially [Peter Hook].
- 1985-6: Devanagari word processor, Devyani DTP software,
both from Dataflow.
- 1987-88: Frans Velthuis creates Devanagari metafont.
- 1990: According to World Almanac and Book of Facts
Hindi-Urdu has passed English (and Spanish) to become the
second most widely spoken language in the world [Peter
- 1991: ITRANS encoding scheme developed by Avinash Chopde
allows Hindi documents in Roman and Devanagari on the
- 1997: Prime Minister Deve Gowda emphasises promotion of
Hindi and the regional languages, having himself learned
- 1997: Hindi Newspaper Nai Dunia on the web (January) (Or
was Milap first?)
- 1998: Thiru Karunanidhi, the DMK leader, recites a Hindi
verse during a political campaign, indicating a change in