From Hindustani to Hindi
Before its independence, most of India was a British colony. Before the British the most dominant Empire of north India was the Moghul Empire. The Moghuls were Muslim invaders who arrived in India from the present day Afghanistan (see-india in the past). The official language of the Moghul courts was Persian. The Moghuls, like other residents who lived to the west of the Indian sub-continent named India as ‘Hind’ or ‘Hindustan’, after the river Indus which flows in the present day Pakistan. The language spoken in ‘Hind’ was called by them Hindi or Hindustani. This language and its script were based on an ancient Indian language called Sanskrit. Most of the sacred books of Hinduism are written in Sanskrit and the script is called Devanagiri.
Some of the Moghul family members were great patrons of poetry and music. Slowly there developed a ‘Hindustani’ poetry, based on Hindustani language which used words from Arabic and Persian and was written in Perso-Arabic script. This language was called Urdu. Urdu also replaced Persian as the language of the Moghul courtyards. And so there developed two languages with different writings but were actually one language when spoken except for their higher vocabularies. For example, rulers were titled in Urdu language as Shah, Nawab or Nizam. While in Hindi they were called Raja or Maharaja. Among the Hindustani speakers of north India, Urdu became the language of the Muslims while Hindi became the language of others.
After the collapse of the Moghuls the British became the rulers of north India. The British introduced English to India and continued using Urdu for official purposes. But nationalist Hindus demanded from the British to change the official language from Urdu to Hindi which is written in Indian script. Even Hindus whose mother tongue were not Hindi supported this argument. This debate between the Hindus and the Muslims continued right up to the independence of India. Against this stand of two different languages two of India’s notable leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, supported the idea of one Hindustani language which could be written in both forms. But when British India was divided in two countries, India and Pakistan. Muslims who got Pakistan made Urdu their official language and Indians made Hindi with Devanagiri script as their official language.
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