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Urdu Got Promoted Owing to Its Secular Character and Universal Base in India And Abroad

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

31 August 2020

The reason that Urdu proliferated and got promoted was owing to its secular character and a universal base in India and abroad. Today it happens to be one of the most popular of all international languages



Badi Ashrafiat Hei Zabaan Mein. Nawabi Ka Maza Deti Hai Urdu Faqiri Mein

(The Urdu language is so aristocratic that it makes even a pauper feel like a king).”

Urdu, an Indo-Aryan language, is renowned for its candour and timelessness. It goes without saying that since time immemorial, Urdu had been the lingua franca of Sindh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, undivided Bengal, Punjab, Doaba and so on, besides being the language of the heart and soul, as emphasised by the Hindi littérateur-cum-Education Minister of India, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, at the inauguration of a two-day webinar titled, The role and responsibility of Urdu writers in the age of electronic and social media.

Speaking during the webinar organised by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), Pokhriyal emphasised that Urdu is a language of not only a composite culture, syncretism and interfaith bonds but also of humaneness.

Thankfully, Urdu has kept up with the times and become a techno-savvy language with soft copies of hundreds of books being available on apps. However, as social and electronic media is the biggest platform for the dissemination of information these days, it is the responsibility of all connoisseurs and littérateurs to ensure that Urdu makes its presence felt there.  

According to eminent Urdu professor Zaman Azurdah, writers, poets and authors are the eyes of the entire social, religious and political system and they have a huge responsibility towards lovers of language and literature. Hence, they have to be positive and shed all negativity. And as the most powerful source of information is the social and electronic media, like the authors, poets and journalists of other languages, Urdu writers, too, must toe the line of the internet. Fortunately, many of them are already connecting globally via smartphones and computers and taking the language to the masses.

Even before the advent of Muslims in India, the country was connected historically, culturally, politically and commercially via Arabic, Persian and Turkish influences to the Middle East and other countries, including Iran, Sudan and Turkey. After Muslims settled in India, the conglomeration of people of various cultures speaking a variety of languages like Rekhta, Hindavi and ultimately, Urdu, came into being.

This intermingling was also known as lashkar (group). The purpose of all the Indian and international languages is to achieve the fraternal spirit. Urdu is a beautiful language born out of the conglomeration of Hindu, Muslim and even English cultural backgrounds.

Dr Humra Parveen, Department of Mass Communication, AMU, says that Urdu happens to be the language of the conglomerate tradition and culture of India that, after being acquired by the Khanqahs, educational institutions and the official world, also became the language of commerce. During the times of Mohammed Shah and Quli Qutub Shah, it became the Government’s language. At that time, it was, in fact, the most popular language and owing to its poetic exuberance and ease of learning (which it is even today), Urdu replaced Persian.

The cultural and artistic tone and tenor of Urdu has been depicted generously in multifarious forms, including the Mushaira (poetic gathering), Marsiahkhwani (elegy) Ghazal (poetry recitation), Qawwali (chorus), Dastangoi (storytelling), Chahar Bait (poetry competition) and so on, besides other art forms like drama.

The reason that Urdu proliferated and got promoted was owing to its secular character and a universal base in India and abroad. Today it happens to be one of the most popular of all international languages. Not only that, Urdu is the voice of the sub-continent and has become an important link language for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

In India alone, as per Government records, Urdu is the mother tongue of more than 70 million people. However, an equal number of Urdu-knowing people are spread all over the nation. In the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, Urdu is the first language while in other States like Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, it has been recognised as the second language.

Nevertheless, there are some other areas where people have recorded Urdu to be their mother tongue, like Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. So far as the linguistic link of Urdu is concerned, its family includes Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and Dravidian languages like Telugu and Kannada.

Owing to its historicity, linguistic appeal, cultural multiplicity and literary taste, it doesn’t have any religion or region. Connoisseurs of Urdu are found around the world. Besides, another salient feature of Urdu has been its linkage to the dialects. Writers, especially from Punjab, Kashmir, Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka, have also glorified the language globally.

All languages are beautiful and have their own charm and distinct persona, but Urdu, in particular, is sweet and poetic and at the same time, very adaptable. If a language can be developed through a combination of seven languages, what can be more flexible and welcoming? Many foreigners ask to hear Urdu, and when they do, their first reaction is: It is so soft and easy on the ears.

Phonologically, Urdu sounds are the same as those of Hindi except for slight variations in short vowel allophones. Urdu also retains a complete set of aspirated stops (sounds pronounced with a sudden release with an audible breath), a characteristic of Indo-Aryan, as well as retroflex stops.

It does not retain the complete range of Perso-Arabic consonants, despite its heavy borrowing from that tradition. From the grammatical point of view, there is not much difference between Hindi and Urdu. One distinction is that Urdu uses more Perso-Arabic prefixes and suffixes than Hindi.

Another interesting aspect of Urdu is that it has incorporated in itself the idioms and clichés of other Indian languages like Punjabi, Hindi, Marathi, Sindhi, Hindi, Sanskrit, Gujarati, Pushto, Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Kashmiri, Telugu and Kannada. In fact, the inner spirit of Urdu is Sanskrit and it has been connected to it. Same is the case with many foreign languages, like Arabic, Persian, Turkish, English, Uzbek and Nepali that have gelled quite well with Urdu. It is assured that if a language has viable connects with the other tongues, the result is a very pleasant one, basically indicating an intermingling of and respect for cultures.  In this regard, it is pertinent to mention that Urdu is a window to the cultural heritage of India. It makes us introspect as it is a language of a composite culture and joins broken hearts.

The NCPUL has been promoting Urdu on a pan-India basis by conducting seminars, workshops on calligraphy, graphic designing, e-books, Urdu media and other topics, besides teaching of Urdu, Persian and Arabic to people from all cross-sections of society and bringing out of Urdu magazines. Till such organisations are there and the language uses technology to propagate itself on social and electronic media, Urdu will live on in the hearts and minds of people.


Firoz Bakht Ahmed is the Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University and grandnephew of Bharat Ratna Maulana Azad

Original Headline: The language of the heart

Source: The Daily Pioneer


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