Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India


Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

  Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

| Home | April-June 2002 issue |

April-June 2002 issue

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri


Urdu Language

... Manmohan Kaul-Achkan

Origin :
Perhaps the sweetest language in India is Urdu. We are told that Bengali is equally sweet. Since we do not know that language, we can not draw any comparison. Imagine the delicacy of the language 'Mai nay suna ki aap kay walid buzurgwar kay dushmanoo ko bukhar aiya tha'. (I have heard that your venerable father's enemies had fever). This is what was called Lucknowi andaz of 19th century. One of the reasons perhaps is that the language grew up in an era, which in modern parlance, we would call feudal society. The principle was that a man's status in life would be determined by his birth. A land owners son, would be a landlord whereas Ryat's son would be a Ryat, generation after generation. Coming to think of it, the modern geneticists say "You are where you come from". But in today's industrial society, more perhaps a consumerist society, 'Meritocracy' is a ruling factor for determining an individual's standing. Genetic inheritance is not a straight line factor. In any individual genes of some earlier generation could be predominant. To this writer the name of Krishna Dwaipaira Vyasa, author of Mahabharata comes to mind. He was the illegitimate son of muni Parasher, an Aryan and presumably fair complexioned and Matsyagandha, the fisher girl, later to become Mahadevi Satyavati. She must have been a ravishing beauty because King Shantanu (of Mahabharata) fell in love with her. With this parentage Vyasa was considered dark complexioned, ugly looking individual. The commentators say perhaps genes of some forgotten ancestor were inherited by him. But what brain? The modern world icons like Einstein and Hawking pale into insignificance, considering the overall development of human society, some 5000 (?) years back. The development we see around us, is not more than 100-300 years old.

 Coming back to our subject, the Aryans, who most likely came from Iran, spoke Sanskrit. 'Sans' means complete and 'Krit' means done. 'Done complete' or cultured. They called it 'Dev Bhasha' - language of the gods, limited to well educated people only. Infact lot of similarities have been found in Vedic Sanskrit and Zend Avesta - the Zoroastrian religious literature founded by Zorthustra, (the Parsis of India). Yet the vast population would  not be educated. So they spoke the language called the 'Prakrit' (pertaining to Prakruti or nature). Some kind of corrupted Sanskrit or heavily borrowed from it. In a vast country like India, several Prakrits came up viz: Magdhi, Pali, Surseni, Maharashtri etc. which later became languages in their own right. Even the well educated people had to deal with uneducated people, who would not understand Sanskrit. They also had to resort to local Prakrit. Buddha and Mahavira spoke entirely in Prakrit, the language of the masses. Subsequently great literature, produced by future generations of thinkers and various Prakrits, now called Indo-European languages, became prominent, except Tamil. This language alone was the original Indian language and is wholly unconnected with Sanskrit. ( Some aver that Oriya and Telugu also belong to this genre. But this writer has no authentic reference to go by).

 During 11th century of Christian era, in the area of Braj Bhoomi, which largely consisted of Gokul, Mathura, Vrindaban and adjoining areas, the local language spoken was what we today call, Braj Bhasha. It was also a Prakrit but yet unsullied by future influence of Arabic, Turkish and Persian words. No literature of the era is available, so no comments can be made. But in 1193 AD, Shahab-u-Din Ghori conquered Rai Pathora. A well known poet wrote 'Prithvi Raj Rasa' in local Braj Bhasha. He had made literal use of Persian and Arabic words, often mutilated, which gave the impression that foreign languages had made an impact on local languages. In the 15th century AD during the time of Sikandar Lodhi, Kyasthas (supposed to be the descendants of Chitragupta, the account keeper of our good and bad deeds, according to Hindu Theology) started learning Persian to gain entrance into higher jobs and positions. This brought Persian words, into their non-professional or even private lives too. By the time it was Akbar's rule (1542-1605 AD), Hindus and Muslims had accepted one another and Hindus even copied the Muslim ruling elite's dress, language, mannerism etc. By then Amir Khushroo (died 1325 AD) had said his say, which is repeated even to this day. And who is not aware of Kabir, the illiterate poet, who has said a lot. He has used a mixture of Braj  Bhasha and Persian and Arabic words. Guru Nanak (1469-1538 AD) or even Sant Tulsi Das, who translated Ramayana into Hindi have used Persian words. Then Shahjehan (1592-1666 AD) became the emperor of India. He declared Delhi as the Capital, which attracted all sorts of people, with different language backgrounds. Here is where we come to Urdu.

 Urdu, basically is a Turkish word. The word literally means 'Military Bazar' (The present Rajinder Bazar of Jammu was called 'Urdu Bazar' prior to Independence. Since any armed force would be drawn from different parts of a country or even other countries, the language they spoke came to be known as 'Urdu' . The other word for Urdu is Rekhta (mortar). Mortar is used in  construction and consists of several materials. Similarly Urdu consists of words of various languages. But in earlier stages, it was a spoken language, borrowing words from several other Indian or foreign languages, with bias towards Persian. Any prose was rarely written and it was so Persianised that one who understood Urdu alone would be able to understand, leave alone appreciate the delicacy of expression. But the language was used essentially by poets. Poetry has a special appeal to the human psyche. The words are the same, but it is the construction and musicality, which lends a special appeal to it. Hali, a celebrated poet of Galib era has said this couplet:-

 " Aiy sher dilfareb na ho too to gum nahin,
 Par tujh par haif hai jo na ho dilgudaz too"
 Poets can also take liberties with facts. Infact in English we often use the words ' Poetic fancy' or even 'Poetic justice'. Prose cannot take such liberties. The poets would use Urdu language to write 'Love Poems' (called Ghazals) or poems in praise of Kings, Nawabs or sundry Aristocrats. They would receive pecuniary benefits or even high level of appreciation from their friends and admirers. Otherwise the official and court language continued to be Persian.

 The English then operating from Fort William in Calcutta decreed that the local language should be written and learnt by Englishmen. Some books were written by some luminaries to educate Englishmen about Urdu. In 1803 AD, Dr. John Gilchrist wrote Urdu Grammar in English and other such books to educate his country men about Urdu language. In 1807 AD, Mir Inshaullah Khan wrote Urdu Grammar and other rules of Urdu language in Persian script. Same year Maulvi Shah Abdul Kadir translated Holy Koran into Urdu. After that Maulvi Ismail wrote some magazines for greater understanding of general Muslim public. In 1835 AD, Urdu language was used for official correspondence. In 1836 AD, the first newspaper was published in Urdu from Delhi. In 1842 AD, a Society was formed in Delhi to translate Technical English books into Urdu.

 The language was simple and officially encouraged. It became popular in relatively shorter period of time. But  then it had its own limitations. Since it was 'Rekhta' (Mortar) the components were from other languages viz: Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Sanskrit etc. The Western world invented new scientific terms which were named and published in English language. These ideas were very modern. There was no equivalent in parental languages like Persian, Sanskrit etc. To that extent the language remained poor.

 Shamas Wali Allah, a scion of well known family of Shah Waji-ul-Din, a resident of Ahmedabad (Gujarat) moved to Delhi. He is believed to be the first Urdu poet who fired the imagination of local population with his poetry. He is called Adam of Urdu poetry. In literature he has been compared with Chaucer (1328-1400 AD) of English literature. It was the beginning of Urdu poetry. Before Urdu came into vogue in prose form, Poets sprang up singing ditties in the language, followed by love songs (Ghazals) eulogizing love, beauty etc. In the feudal atmosphere, the poets found it financially rewarding and intellectually satisfying to sing the praises of the rich and the famous. The upper crust also found it satisfying when their praises were sung by better known poets Viz: Galib for Nawab of Rampur or Momin for Bahadur Shah Zafar. There were numerous poets big and small who were on the regular pay-roll of feudal Nawabs and Aristocrats. 

Previous ArticlePrevious

Related Sites

Information Digests

Panun Kashmir

Symbol of Unity



Facebook Account Follow us and get Koshur Updates Youtube.com Video clips Image Gallery