INDIA IS BROADLY A COUNTRY OF IMMIGRANTS
I have mentioned in a judgment given by me in Kailas & Others vs. State of Maharashtra2011(1) JT 19 that India is broadly a country of immigrants, and this explains its tremendous diversity. As I mentioned in that judgment, while North America is a country of new immigrants where people came mainly from Europe over the last four or five Centuries, India is a country of old immigrants where people have been coming in for ten thousand years or so. Probably about 92% people living in India today are descendants of immigrants, who came mainly from the North-West, and to a lesser extent from the North-East. Since this is a point of great importance for the understanding of our country, it is necessary to go into it in some detail.
Which means –
The world kept coming in and India kept getting formed”.
Who were the original inhabitants of India ? At one time it was believed that the Dravidians were the original inhabitants. However, this view has been considerably modified subsequently, and now the generally accepted belief is that the original inhabitants of India were the pre-Dravidian aborigines i.e. the ancestors of the present tribals or adivasis (Scheduled Tribes).
It is for this reason that there is such tremendous diversity in India. This diversity is a significant feature of our country, and the only way to explain it is to accept that India is largely a country of immigrants.
There are a large number of religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, cultures etc. in our country, which is due to the fact that India is broadly a country of immigrants. Somebody is tall, somebody is short, some are dark, some are fair complexioned, with all kinds of shades in between, someone has Caucasian features, someone has Mongoloid features, someone has Negroid features, etc. There are differences in dress, food habits and various other matters.
We may compare India with China which is larger both in population and in land area than India. China has a population of about 1.3 billion whereas our population is roughly 1.15 billion. Also, China has more than twice our land area. However, all Chinese have Mongoloid features; they have a common written script (Mandarin Chinese) and 95% of them belong to one ethnic group, called the Han Chinese. Hence there is a broad (though not absolute) homogeneity in China.
On the other hand, as stated above, India has tremendous diversity and this is due to the large scale migrations and invasions into India over thousands of years. The various immigrants/invaders who came into India brought with them their different cultures, languages, religions, etc. which accounts for our tremendous diversity.
My friend Mr. Salman Khurshid, Hon’ble Union Minister, has written a play ‘Babur Ki Aulad’ which was produced recently. Now I request him to write another play which should be called ‘Baahar ki aulad’, to depict India.
INDIAN CULTURE – CAN BROADLY BE CALLED THE SANSKRIT-URDU CULTURE
As I have already mentioned, India is broadly a country of immigrants, which explains its tremendous diversity. The question now arises is whether these immigrants who came into India have all preserved their original different identities, or a common culture has emerged by their intermingling? In my opinion, despite all our diversities, a common culture has emerged in India which may broadly be called the Sanskrit-Urdu culture, which is the common culture of India. This culture revolves around great two languages which our country has produced, namely Sanskrit and Urdu.
I do not mean to denigrate or disparage the other languages of India. Great literature has been written in several of our languages. For example, in my opinion, the best prose in modern India is in Bengali (particularly the works of the great Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya). There has been also great literature in Tamil (the ‘Tiruppavai’ of Andal is reminiscent of the poetry of Surdas and Mirabai), Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya, Assamese, Punjabi, Telugu, Malayalam, Kashmiri (see the verses of Habba Khatoon), etc. All languages in our country deserve equal respect.
There is a great misunderstanding about both Sanskrit and Urdu. Sanskrit is often regarded as a language of rituals and Pooja Paath among Hindus, although I have shown in my speech entitled ‘Sanskrit as a Language of Science’ delivered in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore as well as in Banaras Hindu University (which you can see on Google under that caption) that 95% of Sanskrit literature has nothing to do with religion or religious rituals, and instead deals with philosophy, science, mathematics, medicine, literature, grammar, interpretation, etc.
Similarly, there have been a lot of misconceptions about Urdu e.g. that it is a foreign language or it is a language of Muslims alone.
I will speak on Sanskrit on some other day which Professor Akhtarul Warsey may fix for that purpose. Today I will be speaking on Urdu.
TWO FALSE NOTIONS ABOUT URDU
Two false notions were propagated, particularly after 1947 about Urdu by certain vested interests (1) that Urdu is a foreign language, and (2) that Urdu is a language of Muslims alone.
The notion that Urdu is a language of Muslims alone can only be attributed to the policy of `divide and rule’. Certain vested interests wanted Hindus and Muslims to fight with each other, and hence they give birth to the false notion that Hindi is the language of Hindus while Urdu is the language of Muslims. As a matter of fact the spoken language of the common man (in urban areas) is Khariboli (or Hindustani), Urdu being Persianized Khariboli, and Hindi being Sanskritized Khariboli.
Urdu has a national following in our country as it is spoken in 13 States of the country, and is in the 8th Schedule to the Constitution.
WHAT IS URDU ?
All of you gathered here today would be lovers of Urdu poetry. In my opinion the best poetry in modern India is in Urdu (the best prose, in my opinion, being in Bengali). But what is Urdu?
Urdu is the language which was created by the superimposition of some features and vocabulary of the Persian language on a Hindustani (Khariboli) foundation. Thus, Urdu is a language created by the combination of two languages, Persian and Hindustani. It is for this reason that at one time it was called `Rekhta’ which means hybrid*.
Since Urdu was created by the combination of Persian and Hindustani, the question arises whether Urdu is a special kind of
* Ghalib calls Urdu rekhta.
Persian or a special kind of Hindustani? The answer is that it is a special kind of Hindustani, not a special kind of Persian. This needs to be explained.
What determines the language to which a sentence belongs is the verb used in it (and not the noun, adjective, etc.). For example, if I say : “Mr. Ram, you and your wife aaiye tomorrow night for dinner at my home at 8 p.m.” this sentence is a Hindi sentence and not a English sentence, although 15 out of the 16 words used in it are in English. Why? Because the verb (aaiye) used in it is a Hindi word, not an English word.
** Arabic words came into the Persian language after the conquest of Persia by the Arabs. The great Persian poet Firdausi (author of Shahnama) sought to remove Arabic words from Persian but he failed. In fact by accepting foreign words a language becomes stronger, not weaker. For example, English has become stronger by accepting many foreign words.
ghazal, masnavi, qaseeda, masriya, etc. but the verb will always be from Hindustani. If the verb is from Persian it would become a Persian sentence, not an Urdu sentence, and if the verb is Arabic it would become an Arabic sentence.We may take any Urdu sher (couplet) of any Urdu poet and we will find that the verb is always in simple Hindi (though many nouns and adjectives may be Persian or Arabic).
Thus Urdu is a special kind of Hindustani (or Khariboli), not a special kind of Persian. I am emphasizing this because had Urdu been a special kind of Persian it would have been a foreign language. The fact that it is a special kind of Khariboli (or Hindustani) shows that it is a desi or indigenous language. This answers the criticism of those who call Urdu a foreign Language.
WHAT IS KHARIBOLI ?
Khariboli is simple or spoken Hindi, as contrasted to literary Hindi which is used by many writers and public speakers***.
Khariboli is an urban language. It is the first language of the common man in the cities of what is known as the Hindi speaking belt (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, etc.) and is the second language in the cities of many parts of the non-Hindi speaking belt, not only in India but also in Pakistan.****
How did Khariboli come into existence?
****I may relate a personal experience. I was traveling in a taxi from Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh to Gulbarga in Karnataka where I had to attend a function. The taxi driver was a Telugu speaking person while the Professor of Gulbarga University who came to fetch me was a Kannada speaking gentleman, but they spoke to each other in Hindi. I was surprised, since both these persons were South Indians, and I asked them why they were speaking in Hindi. They said that that was because Hindi was the link language for them both.
Almost all cities in the world originated as market places (mandis). This was only possible when the productive forces had developed to an extent that people were producing more than they could themselves consume, and hence the surplus had to be sold or exchanged. In other words, commodities (i.e. goods for sale or exchange, and not for self consumption) began to be produced.
To give an illustration, in Allahabad (where I have mostly lived) Khariboli is spoken in the city, but in the rural areas around Allahabad city the dialect spoken is Avadhi (in which Tulsidas wrote his Ramcharitmanas). In Mathura city Khariboli is spoken, but in the rural areas around Mathura Brijbhasha (the language of Surdas) is spoken. In Benaras city or the other eastern cities of U.P. Khariboli is spoken, but in the rural areas around these cities Bhojpuri is spoken. In parts of northern Bihar Maithili is the rural dialect (in which the great poet Vidyapati wrote) but in the cities there also Khariboli is spoken. In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh Khariboli is spoken in the cities, but in the rural areas local dialects (e.g. Mewari amd Marwari in Rajasthan) are spoken which an outsider cannot understand.
This shows that in vast areas of north India the rural population speaks different dialects, but the urban population had a common language, Khariboli. How did this happen?
For centuries Persian was the court language of India. This was because Persian had been highly developed in Persia by writers like Firdausi, Hafiz, Sadi, Roomi, Umar Khayyam, etc. as a language of culture, grace and sophistication, and it spread to large parts of the oriental world. Persian poets developed highly sophisticated forms of poetry e.g. ghazal, qaseeda, masriya, rubaiyat, etc. Urdu poetry is in a sense continuation of Persian poetry but in a totally different setting and a different language.
Of all these forms, the ghazal is the most popular. It is in fact a marvel of condensation, and most Urdu writers have used it in most of their poetry. It is characterized by qaafiya, radeef, matla and maqta (see their meanings on Google).
Here ‘hai’ is the radeef, and neemshabi, gharee etc. are qaafiya. Thus qaafiya precedes radeef. Radeef is the last word (or words) at the end of a sentence, and is repeated, qaafiya is not a repetition but a rhyming word.
***** Akbar’s finance minister Raja Todarmal got all the revenue records throughout the Mughal Empire written in Persian.
Persian was the court language of India for several centuries, and hence it exerted its influence on the common language of the cities, which as already mentioned above, was Khariboli.
CREATION OF URDU
While the Mughal Emperors from Akbar to Aurangzeb were strong rulers, having control over large parts of India, their successors, the later Mughals, who ruled from 1707 (when Aurangzeb died) to 1857 (when the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was deposed), were mere phantoms or shadows of the
i.e. “the Empire of Shah Alam extends from Delhi to Palam”.
DUAL NATURE OF URDU
Thus Urdu is both an aristocratic language as well as the commoner’s language. It is the commoner’s language because in fact the later Mughals had become almost (though not quite) commoners, having lost their Empire. It is at the same time not the common man’s language, since the common man’s language is Hindustani, not Urdu. The later Mughals, despite being pauperized refused to be treated like paupers and insisted on being treated with respect as aristocrats. Urdu has the graces, polish and sophistication of an aristocratic language. Thus Urdu has a dual nature; it is both the common man’s language (aawaam ki zubaan) and also the aristocrat’s language (the common man’s language being Hindustani or Khariboli). This may sound a paradox, but it is true, and in fact this is the beauty of Urdu, that while it is the language of the common man, expressing all the problems, worries, sorrows and hopes of the common man, it is also a language of grace, polish, sophistication and dignity.
It has been mentioned above that Urdu is basically a combination of two languages, Hindustani (or simple Hindi) and Persian, the former being the common man’s language, while the latter being the aristocrat’s language. It has also been mentioned that Urdu is a special kind of Hindustani, not a special kind of Persian (because the verbs in it are all in Hindustani). Continuing this analysis it may be stated that the content of Urdu i.e. the feelings and ideas expressed therein are that of the common man, but its form of expression is aristocratic. In other words, Urdu expresses the troubles, sorrows, anxieties and hopes and aspirations of the common man, but its style (andaz-e-bayan) is not that of a common man but that of an aristocrat.
For instance, the greatest Urdu poet Ghalib had a horror of the commonplace in the mode of expression in poetry. Regarding himself an aristocrat, he had an intense desire to be different from the common masses, and his poetry is marked by its originality and unconventionality. Ghalib was of the firm view that the language of poetry should not be the same as the spoken language. Hence he often expresses his thoughts not directly but indirectly, by hints and suggestions.
The same is true of many other Urdu poets. They often express their thoughts and feelings not in simple, direct language but by insinuations, allusions, indications, and in a roundabout way, the aim being to appear sophisticated and elitist, instead of being common place. This sometimes makes the work difficult to understand (the great Urdu critic and biographer Hali regarded one-third of Ghalib’s verses too recondite to be regarded as being in Urdu), and sometimes several meanings can be attributed to the same verse.
REPLACEMENT OF PERSIAN BY URDU
As long as there were strong Mughal Emperors in India (i.e. upto 1707 when Aurangzeb died), Persian was the court language, and such was its domination that Urdu was never given respectability, and could never become the court language in North India, but instead found its haven or sanctuary in South India and Gujarat (where it was the language of the elite). In a sense Urdu originated in South India and became popular there during the reign of the great Mughals, receiving patronage in the Southern kingdoms of Golkunda, Bijapur, Ahmednagar, etc. where it became the court language. Thus it is interesting to note that Urdu became the court language in South India and Gujarat during the reign of the Great Mughals but it could never displace Persian in the North as long there were strong Mughals.
Urdu got respect in South India because there it was a foreign language (the local languages being Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati, etc.). And as I have already mentioned, the elite in a society often prefers to speak a foreign language (to distinguish itself from the common people).
In fact at that time Urdu was frowned upon in the North and looked down upon as an inferior language, the ideal language being regarded Persian, while in South India and Gujarat it became widespread (among the elite) and got patronage. In this connection it is interesting to note that when the great South Indian Urdu poet Vali Dakhkhini****** came to Delhi in 1700 A.D. in the reign of Aurangzeb, he found that his fame had preceded him and he was very popular in Delhi because his poetry could be understood as it was written in Urdu which the common man of Delhi could understand, while the Delhi poets were all writing in Persian, which the common man could not understand. Vali, though a South Indian is often regarded as the father of Urdu because he revealed to the Delhi poets the possibility of writing poetry in Urdu, a language which the common man could understand, and he made Urdu respectable in North India.
****** Some people regard him as the father or founder of Urdu. There is a dispute about his place of origin, some regarding him as Gujarati.
******* The firmans of the Mughal Emperors, including those of the later Mughals, were always in Persian, never in Urdu. Thus, when I went to Chamba in Himachal Pradesh and visited the museum there, which was the former palace of the Hindu Kings, I found the firmans of the Mughal Emperors recognizing the Chamba kings all in Persian, not Urdu.of this is Ghalib who preferred his Persian poetry and looked down upon his Urdu poetry (though his greatness is entirely due to the latter). Thus, in a letter to his friend Munshi Shiv Narain Aram Ghalib writes “My friend, how can I write in Urdu? Is my standing so low that this should be expected of me?” Thus, writing in Urdu was regarded infra dig, and all respectable writers at that time wrote in Persian.
I may give another example. My ancestor who came from Kashmir around 1775, Pandit Mansa Ram Katju, has made an entry in the register of the Panda of Kurukshetra which reads :
which means “I have come in quest of bread” i.e. looking for employment (which he got in the court of the Nawab of Jaora in Western Madhya Pradesh).
URDU IS LOVED BY THE COMMON MAN IN INDIA
Since Urdu was the common man’s language it was loved by the common man, and is loved even today.
(1) Even today Hindi film songs are in Urdu, for the voice of the heart will be in one’s own language, however, much some people may try to suppress it. I remember when I was young my generation used to sing –
“ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal jahan koi na ho”