Urdu – The Origin and History of the Language

The term Urdu derives from a Turkish word ordu which means camp or army. The Urdu language developed between the Muslim soldiers of the Mughals armies who belonged to numerous ethnicities like Turks, Arabs, Persians, Pathans, Balochis, Rajputs, Jats and Afghans. These soldiers lived in close contact with each other and communicated in different dialects, which slowly and gradually advanced into present day Urdu. It is for this reason that Urdu is also referred to as Lashkari Zaban or language of the army.

During its development Urdu language additionally assumed varied names like the time period Urdu-e-Maullah which means the exalted military which was given by Emperor Shah Jahan and the time period Rekhta that means scattered (with Persian words) which was coined by the scholars for Urdu poetry.

History and Evolution of Urdu Language

Evolution and development of any language relies on the evolution and development of a society where that language is spoken. Various invasions and conquests on a spot affect the development of its language. Urdu is not any exception as it additionally underwent various levels of development.

Urdu belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages. Urdu by origin is considered to be a descendent of Saur Senic Prakrit. The term Prakrriti means root or basis. It is a later model of Sanskrit. As Prakrit language began to develop, it was influenced by Western Hindi dialects of Khari Boli, Brij Bhasa and Haryanvi.

With the coming of Insha’s Darya-e-Latafat*, a necessity was felt to differentiate Urdu with different languages especially Hindi. It turned a Hindi-Urdu controversy and as a result Khari Boli and Devanagari grew to become the identity of Indians while Urdu and Persian of Muslims. In this context, Persian and Arabic words replaced with Sanskrit served the purpose of differentiating Hindi from Urdu.

Urdu emerged as a distinct language after 1193 AD – the time of the Muslims conquest. When the Muslims conquered this part of the continent, they made Persian the official and cultural language of India. On account of the amalgamation of local dialects and the language of the invaders – which was either Persian, Arabic and Turkish, a new language developed which later became Urdu. Through the Mughals reign, Urdu was spoken in palaces and court and till the top of the Mughal rule; Urdu was the official language of most of Mughal states. This was the time when Urdu had become Persianized and enriched with Persian words, phrases and even script and grammar. With the coming of the British, new English words also turned part of the Urdu language. Many English words were accepted of their real form while others had been accepted after some modifications.

At present, Urdu vocabulary accommodates approximately 70% of Persian words and the rest are a mix of Arabic and Turkish words. Nonetheless, there are additionally traces of the French, Portuguese and Dutch language in Urdu. However these influences are little.

Urdu was taken to other parts of the country by soldiers, saints and sufis and by the frequent people. As a result of the political, social and cultural contacts amongst the folks of various speech and dialects, a blended form of language formed called ‘Rekhta’ (Urdu and Persian in mixed form). Quickly people started to use the new language of their speech and in literature which resulted within the enrichment of Urdu language and literature.

Urdu Literature

The origin of Urdu literature dates back to the thirteenth century in India throughout the Mughal rule. One of the vital eminent earliest poets who made usage of Urdu in his poetry is Amir Khusro who could be called the father of Urdu language. In literature, Urdu was often used alongside side Persian. Mughal kings have been the great patrons of artwork and literature and it was under their rule that Urdu language reached its zenith. There was once a tradition of ‘Sheri Mehfils’ (poetic gatherings) in the kings’ courts. Abul Fazal Faizi and Abdul Rahim Khankhana had been the famous Urdu poets of Mughal court. Likewise, Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal, Hakim Momin, Ibrahim Zauq, Mir Taqi Mir, Sauda, Ibn-e-Insha and Faiz Ahmed Faiz have contributed to the evolution of Urdu language by means of their literary works.

It is certainly true that Hindi and Urdu are descendents of the identical language i.e. Prakrit, however where the Hindi took affect from Sanskrit and adopted Devanagri script of writing, Urdu absorbed words from Persian, Turkish and Arabic languages and adopted Persian-Arabic script and Nastaliq calligraphic model of writing and emerged as a separate language. However beside common ancestry, the 2 languages are as totally different as can be. There are marked grammatical, phonological and lexical differences in both languages.

Urdu was also used as a software by the Muslims for freedom wrestle and for creating awareness amongst Muslim communities in South Asia to unite under the banner of Independence from British Raj. For this, services of Maulana Hali, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Allama Iqbal are usually notable, who via their poetry and prose provoked the mandatory spark within the lives of the Muslims. Urdu was chosen to develop into the national language of Pakistan at the time of Independence from British. Urdu is now the national language of Pakistan, spoken and understood thoroughly by majority of the population.

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