The Need for Sanskritising Hindi

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, last month speaking at a rally on Hindi Diwas, triggered a chain reaction from ultra-harbingers of diversity, when he insisted on promoting Hindi in nation. At an event to mark the day the Constituent Assembly adopted Hindi written in Devanagari script as the country’s official language, HM Shah hailed the diversity of languages and dialects as ‘strength of our nation’ and later added, stressing the need for a unifying national language, “But there is a need for our nation to have one language so that foreign languages don’t find a place. This is why our freedom fighters envisioned Hindi as ‘Raj Bhāsha’ (official language)”. 

The heavy words proved fissile material for identity demagoguery of all kinds, attracting criticism from DMK’s Stalin to Congress. Though HM Shah later clarified he held no intention of Hindi imposition, the statement was already blown out of proportion giving another chance to politicians barely surviving on the same identity exclusionary politics to prey on the chance.

But overlooking the political histrionics, amid the spawned possibilities of Hindi being pushed, or steered, as the second language for non-Hindi speakers across the country; shouldn’t Hindi be first restored to its original form with meagre to no foreign vernacular? We shouldn’t be pushing Hindi, as in its present form – filled with Urdu and Persian words – as second or third language for non-Hindi speakers. Increasing influence of Hindi filled with Urdu and Persian words, itself is a compromise of indigenous ness. 

Hindi is the 4th most spoken language of the world with around 322 million native speakers and, as per official estimate, 522.34 million total speakers. Hindi developed out of Apabhramsha about a thousand year ago, and tents scores of dialects such as Braj, Awadhi, Khadi Boli under its umbrella. Hindi is also, under article 343 of Bharatiya constitution, one of the two official languages of our country; English being the other one.

Freedom fighters envisioned Hindi to be the sole working national language of the union, per directives of article 344 (2) and article 351, with each state having its own working language of choice. But opposition from others prevented it. But the biggest setback of Hindi is plethora of Arabo-Persian words gunged in its vernacular and widely used everyday by people across the Hindi belt, predominantly in U.P. and Bihar, and in Telangana. Urdu, being the biggest foreign linguistic influence in Bharat, has grappled a sizeable chunk of vocabulary in, as they call it, Hindustani.

Urdu is language with 99% of verbs having roots in Sanskrit and Prakrit; and around half of the etymology rooted in Sanskrit and Prakrit. More than half of Urdu vocabulary is derived from Persian, Chagatai and Arabic, to a lesser extent. Total Urdu native speakers in Bharat, as per same official estimates, are numbered at around 50.07 million. The word Urdu itself is derived from a Turkish word ördu (army camp), which is also root of English word hoard.

Till mid-18th century, there was no formal existence of a separate language called Urdu, as it was simply referred as Hindi or sometimes Hindavi and Dahlavi. It wasn’t until 1780 when poet Ghulam Hamadani Mushafi first called it Urdu. Urdu on its own has no identity, and comes along with pleasantly sounding words borrowed from many languages accompanied with essential Sanskrit grammar, hence making it very comfortable to get along with. 

Domestic standard Hindi usage across the north has been heavily influenced by Urdu, Persian, Portuguese, Dutch, English words and the original Hindi vocabulary – the Tatsam Hindi or Sanskritised Hindi – though is still in practice predominantly, has been cornered as some instances. There some elements for whom usage of originally Hindi words sounds complex and a tremendously tough nut to crack. Some liberartians consider original sanskritised Hindi’s predominant usage as ‘cultural chauvinism’ and promotion of it outside the Hindi belt as being associated with ‘chauvinism’

Overstepping the liberal ranting and raving, Hindi needs complete re-sanskritisation of its domestic everyday vernacular. Foreign influence has derided the cultural complexity and beauty of Hindi, that came handy, in the form of a legacy, with direct descendent from Sanskrit. The poetic depth and beauty of structural formation of Hindi is unmatched, just as it was in the Sanskrit.

Hindi is the modern reformation of our ancient devabhāshā and a legacy of thousands of knowledge it possesses. Being in the realm of reality, no other language can match the sheer brilliance of Sanskrit, but if any language can come closest to it, it’s the Hindi. 

Hindi in its own is fully capable of becoming rājbhāshā. It is a consciously structured language with layers of knowledge and conscientiousness of its own. For Hindu traditions to be honoured in righteous forms and Bharatiya culture to be flourished, respected and revered to the fullest, it’s important to have a sanskritised Hindi usage and not the persianised Hindi.

It is indeed utterly ridiculous that some people, specifically the Hindus, from Hindi belt don’t understand the generic Hindi words; it gives a impression of cultural defeat at the hands of barbaric invaders who institutionalised Persian which later morphed into Urdu. And usage of pure Hindi, on the other hand, spawns a sentiment of respect towards a mighty thousand year old struggle for preservation of Bharatiya culture.

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About the Author

Yogendra Thakur
A student and two time state topper in Astrophysics and Art of Lecturing. Primary focus areas are Indology and Economics.