Urdu - The Origin And History Of The Language

Urdu - The Origin And History Of The Language

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

During its development Urdu language also assumed varied names like the term Urdu-e-Maullah which means the exalted army which was given by Emperor Shah Jahan and the term 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 depends on the evolution and development of a society the place that language is spoken. Various invasions and conquests on a place affect the development of its language. Urdu is no exception as it additionally underwent various levels of development.

Urdu belongs to the Indo-Aryan household of languages. Urdu by origin is considered to be a descendent of Saur Senic Prakrit. The time period 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 distinguish Urdu with different languages particularly Hindi. It grew to become a Hindi-Urdu controversy and consequently Khari Boli and Devanagari turned the identity of Indians while Urdu and Persian of Muslims. In this context, Persian and Arabic words replaced with Sanskrit served the aim 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. As a result 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. In the course of the Mughals reign, Urdu was spoken in palaces and court and till the tip 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 approaching of the British, new English words additionally grew to become part of the Urdu language. Many English words were accepted in their real form while others had been accepted after some modifications.

Presently, Urdu vocabulary comprises approximately 70% of Persian words and the remainder are a combination of Arabic and Turkish words. Nonetheless, there are also traces of the French, Portuguese and Dutch language in Urdu. But these influences are little.

Urdu was taken to other parts of the country by soldiers, saints and sufis and by the widespread people. On account of the political, social and cultural contacts amongst the people of various speech and dialects, a combined form of language formed called 'Rekhta' (Urdu and Persian in mixed form). Quickly individuals started to make use of the new language in their speech and in literature which resulted in the enrichment of Urdu language and literature.

Urdu Literature

The origin of Urdu literature dates back to the 13th century in India during the Mughal rule. One of the most eminent earliest poets who made usage of Urdu in his poetry is Amir Khusro who may be called the daddy of Urdu language. In literature, Urdu was usually used alongside side Persian. Mughal kings were the great patrons of artwork and literature and it was under their rule that Urdu language reached its zenith. There used to be a tradition of 'Sheri Mehfils' (poetic gatherings) within the kings' courts. Abul Fazal Faizi and Abdul Rahim Khankhana have been the well-known 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 via their literary works.

It is indeed true that Hindi and Urdu are descendents of the same language i.e. Prakrit, but the place the Hindi took influence 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 fashion of writing and emerged as a separate language. However beside frequent ancestry, the 2 languages are as different as can be. There are marked grammatical, phonological and lexical variations in both languages.

Urdu was also used as a device by the Muslims for freedom wrestle and for making awareness amongst Muslim communities in South Asia to unite under the banner of Independence from British Raj. For this, providers of Maulana Hali, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Allama Iqbal are notable, who by means of their poetry and prose provoked the necessary spark in the lives of the Muslims. Urdu was chosen to turn out to be the nationwide language of Pakistan on the time of Independence from British. Urdu is now the national language of Pakistan, spoken and understood totally by majority of the population.

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