Evolution of Hindi: From 'boli' (dialect) to 'rashtrabhasha'-'rajbhasha' (National-Official Language)

Hindi is a modern Indo-Aryan language (belonging to the family of greater Indo-European languages) and is a descendent of Sanskrit, the earliest speech of the Aryan settlers in the north-west frontiers of India. Passing through various stages of evolution over the period of time -- from Classical Sanskrit to Pali-Prakrit and Apabhransha, the emergence of Hindi in its earliest form can be traced back to the 10th century A.D. (Bhandarkar 1929, Chatterji 1960). Hindi, sometimes, is also refered to as Hindavi, Hindustani and Khari-Boli. Hindi written in Devanagari script (which is the most scientific writing system among the existig writing systems of the world) is the National Official Language of the Republic of India and is ranked as the Òthird most widely spoken languges of the worldÓ (Bhatia 1996). In addition, Hindi is also the state language of the state of Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Approximately six hundred million people across the globe speak Hindi as either a first or second language. The literary history of Hindi can be traced back to the twelfth century and in its modern incarnation Hindi has an approximately three hundred year old, well attested rich literary and grammatical tradition.

Three distinct phases in the development of Indo-Aryan languages have been suggested by the cholars.They are : (a) the Ancient (2400 BC - 500 BC), (b) the Medieval (500 BC - 1100 AD) and (c) the Modern (1100 - ). The ancient period is the period of the Vedic and Classical Sanskrit which resulted in the evolution of Pali, Prakrit and Apabhransha langauges during the medieval period. Most of the modern Indo-Aryan languages of south Asia, like Hindi, Bangla, Oriya, Gujrati, Nepali, Marathi, Panjabi, evolved in the 'modern' period.

It is very difficult to say as to when exactly Hindi as a language came into picture and acholars are divided in their opinion on this issue. But the trace of Hindi is obvious in the langauge of the Siddh saints of century 8 - 9 AD. Noted Hindi scholar Acharya Ramchandra Shukla begins his description of the history of Hindi literature ('Hindi Sahitya ka Itihas'). In order to make their teaching easily undestandable to the common ordinary people, the kind of language Siddha saints used is can undoubtedly be called the one of the authentic earliest forms of Hindi. We can also find the glimpse of early Hindi in the langauge of the Jain poets (like Hemchandra and Dharma Suri), Vidyapati, Abdurrehman Khankhana and Swayambhu. The more stablished form of Hindi (the 'khari boli') is visible in the creations of Sharfuddin, Khusro, Banda Niwaz Gailurdaz, Wjahi Ali, Sultan Kuli Qutabshah, Shah Turab etc.

The modern Hindi and its literary tradition evolved towards the end of the 18th century. Fort William College was established in Calcutta by the British East India Company (we need not discuss the reasons for the establishment of this educational institution here). The principle of this college John Gilchrist wrote a grammar of and compiled a dictionary of Hindi to teach and train the BEIC employees the Hindi language. Some newpapers and journals were published in Hindi around that time, many of them were confiscated by the British government (for alleged anti British propaganda). The first Hindi newspaper 'Udant Martanda' was published in 1826 from Calcutta. At the same time, authors like Raja Shivprasad Sitare Hind and Raja Lakshman Singh had established new trends in Hindi literature. Later on, Hindi became the national symbol in the fight against the British colonial rule. Maany Indian leaders (including Ganshiji), revolutionaries, poets and reformists resorted to Hindi to propagate their ideology.

After after independence (Aug 15, 1947), the new constitution was adopted in India on January 26, 1950 which granted to Hindi the status of the Official Language of the Republic of India. Today Hindi is world's third most spoken language and is spreading all over the world. In the era of technological advancements and the 'global village', Hindi assums much importance as it is spoken by a large number of people all across the globe. With liberalized economy and opening of the Indian frontiers to the world market, there is increased interest in the learning and teaching of Hindi.


1. Bhatia, Tej K. 1996. Colloquial Hindi. Routledge. New York.