What Are The 22 Official Languages Spoken In India?
Unsplash: Frank Holleman
may not have a national language, but the Eighth Schedule of the
Indian Constitution does recognize 22 official languages in the
are also known as "Scheduled Languages," which means that they
are acknowledged to have a special status and representation in
the Official Languages Commission of India.
However, this doesn’t suggest that there are only 22 of these spoken languages all over India. In fact, there was actually an Indian census done many, many moons ago that recorded about 1,796 mother languages and 1,576 as rationalized languages. In other words, this list of 22 official languages is just a very small fraction of what is spoken in this South Asian country. Of course, it is a no-brainer that Hindi is included in this catalog. But what else is in this Indian language directory? Let’s find out!
Bengali, also known by its endonym as Bangla, is the second most widely used language in India. It is the official language of West Bengal, Tripura, the Barak Valley area of Assam, and the second official language of Jharkhand since September 2011.
Modern Standard Hindi is the lingua franca of the Hindi heartland or the Hindi Belt region. It is one of the two official languages of the Government of India (with English being the other official language) and it is written in the Devanagari script which is based on the ancient Brahmi script. It is the official language of Bihar, Delhi, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Haryana.
Linguist Sir George Abraham Grierson once called Maithili as the “sweetest language.” Maithili was introduced to the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution in 2003 and became a recognized official Indian language that can be used in a range of official documents in March 2018.
Nepali is the official language of Nepal; it also has official status in Sikkim and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration of West Bengal. The language is also called Gurkha, Gorkhali, Gurkhali, or Khaskura.
Sanskrit is a classical language and the sacred, ancient language of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. The language is one of the earliest ancient documented languages that came from the Proto-Indo-European language. Sanskrit is the second official language of two Indian states: Uttarakhand (since 2010) and Himachal Pradesh (since 2019).
Tamil is a classical language and the oldest documented language of the Dravidian languages. A.K. Ramanujan, an Indian poet and scholar of Indian literature and Linguistics, said that Tamil is "the only language of contemporary India which is recognizably continuous with a classical past.” Tamil is commonly used in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and in many smaller community groups located in South Asia.
According to Ethnologue (2022), Urdu is the 10th most widely spoken language in the world. In India, Urdu is used in places with a large Muslim population and in places that have been major settlements for Muslim dynasties.
Asamiya is another name for Assamese. The language is written in the Assamese alphabet and is the official language of the northeastern Indian state of Assam. The Assam Secretariat is known to use Assamese.
Dogri is the ethnic language of the Dogra people. It is one of the Western Pahari group of languages and one of the official languages of Jammu and Kashmir. Since 2003, Dogri has been classified as one of India’s scheduled languages.
Kannada used to be known as Canarese or Kanarese. It is written in the Kannada script, which has a character set that is very similar to those of other Brahmic scripts. Kannada is the main language used in Karnataka, a state in the southwestern part of India. Native Kannada speakers can also be found in the neighboring states of Andhra Pradesh or Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, and Kerala.
In 2022, it is estimated that there are about 62 million Gujarati speakers around the world. It is an Indo-Aryan language used by the Gujarati people. Gujarati is recognized and taught as a minority language in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. It is, however, officially recognized in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and Gujarat.
Bodo, aka Boro, is a tonal language and it is mostly used in the northeastern Indian states of Meghalaya and Assam. Bodo has been written in the Devanagari script since 1975; however, years before that, the language was written in Eastern Nagari and Latin scripts.
Manipuri / Meitei:
Manipuri (Meitei) is the lingua franca of the Indian state Manipur and is believed to have existed since 2,000 years ago. According to UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, Meitei is considered a vulnerable language.
Odia is also spelled and pronounced as Oriya. It is the oldest member of the Indo-Aryan language family to have been around since the 10th century CE. It is the official language of the Indian state of Odisha. Odia also serves as the second official language of Jharkhand.
The majority of the Marathi population in Maharashtra speak Marathi, and about 84,000,000 individuals call Marathi their first language. The language is also an additional language of Goa. On February 27, Marathi Language Pride Day is celebrated in honor of Marathi poet, playwright, and novelist Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar.
Santali is also called Santhali or Santal. It is a widely spoken Munda language in West Bengal, Orissa, and Jharkhand. The Ol Chiki script (first published in 1939), often known as the Santali alphabet, was created in 1925 by Pandit Raghunath Murmu and is currently commonly used to write in the Santali language.
It is estimated in 2022 that about 96 million people speak Telugu around the world. The language, one of the six recognized as classical languages by the Government of India, is the most extensively used Dravidian language. Telugu is a protected language in South Africa and the fastest-growing language in the United States.
Punjabi (Panjabi) is the official language of Punjab. It also serves as an additional official language in Delhi and Haryana. In India, Panjabi is written in the Gurmukhi alphabet which is based on the Brahmic scripts or Indic scripts.
The term Sindhi comes from the Sanskrit "sindhu," which is the original name of the Indus River. In India, this Indo-Aryan language is written using both the Devanagari alphabet and the Perso-Arabic script.
Malayalam has official status in Puducherry and Kerala. It is also mostly used in the union territory of Lakshadweep. In 2013, the language was recognized as a “Classical Language of India.” Malayalam is currently written using the Malayalam alphabet, but it has also been written using Vatteluttu, Grantha, Brahmin, and Kolezhuthu scripts.
Konkani is used by the Konkani people living in the Konkan area. It is also spoken in Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and the union territory of Daman, Diu, and Silvasaa. Interestingly, Konkani is written in five scripts: Roman, Perso-Arabic, Kannada, Malayalam, and Devanagari.
Another name for Kashmiri is Koshur. It is spoken by the Kashmiris who live in the Kashmir region. The Parliament of India made Kashmiri an official language in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir in 2020. The Kashmir language can be written in three different writing scripts: Sharada, Devanagari, and the Perso-Arabic script.