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India has about 850 languages and dialects, several of which have their own script. Due to the surface of the country and the isolation of many population groups due to climatic and landscape conditions, the great diversity of languages has survived. The division of India into federal states is therefore mainly based on language borders and a national language is therefore missing. Fifteen languages have been officially recognized by the Indian government.

India LanguagesIndia LanguagesPhoto:Jure Snoj CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The languages can be divided into three groups:

1. the languages of the indigenous peoples. These languages are mainly spoken in the mountainous and jungle regions of Central and Eastern India and in the northeastern states.

2. the Dravidian languages spoken in the south. The Dravidian language group includes 23 separate languages mainly spoken in the south. The four major Dravidian languages are Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannara.

3. the Aryan languages of the north. This includes Sanskrit and Hindi. Sanskrit is still spoken by a few thousand people. Hindi is the most widely spoken of the modern Indian languages, by about 40% of the population. Hindustani or Urdu is derived from Hindi and is mainly the language of the Muslims in North India. Punjabi is spoken by the Sikhs. Other Indo-Aryan languages include Assami (Assam), Bengali (Calcutta and environs), Oriya (Orissa), Gujarati (Gujarat), Marathi (Bombay and Maharashtra) and Kashmiri (Kashmir). Rajasthani and Bihari belong to Hindi language family.

English, the language of the former colonial ruler, is still widespread and is still used in government and parliament. Communication between residents of different federal states is also often in English.

The name India is derived from that of the river Indus (also: Indos), from Persian Hind and Sanskrit sindhu (= river, stream).


Boon, H. / India : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen/Novib

Caldwell, J.C. / India
Chelsea House

Chatterjee, M. / India
Dorling Kindersley

Dunlop, F. / India
Van Reemst

Nicholson, L. / India

Peterse, L. / India

Srinivasan, T. / India
Times Books

Te gast in India
Informatie Verre reizen

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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