India, as a democratic country with a diverse ethnic culture and rich heritage, is home to numerous languages spoken by people from various ethnic groups and cultural backgrounds. The language diversity in India is often compared to water, as it changes with every few kilometers traveled. This linguistic variation is a result of India being a union of 28 states and 8 union territories.
Since the inception of the Constitution, there have been debates on the national language question. However, it is essential to note that the Indian Constitution does not designate a single language as the “national language.” Hindi has been chosen as the official language of the Union, but it is spoken by only about 40% of the population, leading to significant linguistic disparities.
Recognizing this diversity, the Constitution has established Hindi and English as the two official languages for communication at the national level. Hindi holds the primary position, while English serves as the second official language. Additionally, a list of 22 official languages, including Hindi and English, has been enshrined in the Constitution.
These languages are represented on the Official Language Commission, and candidates seeking national government service can opt to take examinations in one of these languages of their choice. This approach accommodates the linguistic preferences and abilities of the diverse Indian population.
What is the Official Language of India?
As per Article 343(1) of the Indian Constitution, Hindi in the Devanagari script is the official language of the Union for official purposes. The international form of Indian numerals is used in all official Union affairs.
In the Indian Parliament and government buildings, only Hindi or English can be used for official purposes. English is permitted for official use throughout the nation, including legislative proceedings, correspondence between the Central and State Governments, and legal processes.
According to Article 343, the Central Government communicates with states in the Hindi-speaking region in Hindi, while English serves as an Associate Official Language during interactions with other states.
The Official Languages Act of 1963 provided for the continued use of English alongside Hindi in the Indian government indefinitely until legislation to alter it was approved.
Difference between National Language and Official Language
A national language is a language spoken by a significant portion of a country’s population and serves social, cultural, and political purposes. On the other hand, an official language is the language used for governmental activities, such as in courts, parliament, or official correspondence.
Hindi and English are the official languages of India, not the national languages, as clarified in the Constitution.
Recognition of 22 Languages in India
The eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution recognizes 22 different languages. Articles 343 to 351 of Part XVII of the Constitution address the country’s official languages. Initially, only 14 languages were specified, but more languages were eventually added through amendments.
These 22 languages hold official recognition in various regions of India, reflecting the country’s linguistic diversity.
List of 22 Official languages of India
Recognition in state
|1||Assamese||Assam, Arunachal Pradesh|
|2||Bengali||West Bengal, Tripura|
|4||Dogri||The official language of Jammu and Kashmir|
|5||Gujarati||Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Gujarat|
|6||Hindi||Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Bihar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal|
|8||Kashmiri||Jammu and Kashmir|
|9||Konkani||Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, and Kerala (The Konkan Coast)|
|11||Malayalam||Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry|
|13||Marathi||Maharashtra, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu|
|14||Nepali||Sikkim and West Bengal|
|15||Odia||The official language of Orissa|
|16||Punjabi||The official language of Punjab and Chandigarh, 2nd official language of Delhi and Haryana|
|17||Sanskrit||Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand|
|18||Santali||Spoken by Santhal people mainly in the state of Jharkhand as well as in the states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Odisha, Tripura, West Bengal|
|19||Sindhi||Gujarat and Maharashtra, especially Ulhasnagar|
|20||Tamil||Tamil Nadu, Puducherry|
|21||Telugu||Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Puducherry|
|22||Urdu||Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Jharkhand, Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal|
|List of Official Languages by Union Territories|
|S.No.||Union Territories||Official Languages||Second Official Language(s)|
|1.||Andaman and Nicobar Islands||Hindi, English||–|
|3.||Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu||Gujarati, Konkani, Marathi, Hindi||–|
|4.||Delhi||Hindi, English||Urdu and Punjabi|
|6.||Jammu and Kashmir||Kashmiri, Dogri, Hindi, Urdu, English||–|
|8.||Puducherry||Tamil, French, English||Telugu and Malayalam|
Advantages The scheduled languages offer various advantages, including:
- Films in any of the scheduled languages are eligible for consideration for the National Film Awards.
- Literary works in any of the scheduled languages can be recognized with the Sahitya Akademi Awards, the Sahitya Akademi Translation Prizes, and the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar.
- Contributions to literature in any of the scheduled languages can lead to prestigious accolades like the Gyanpeeth Awards (Jnanpith Awards).
- Eminent writers can be honored with the esteemed Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, a recognition even higher than receiving the Sahitya Akademi Award.
- Prose or poetry literary works in any of the scheduled languages can be considered for the prestigious Saraswati Samman, the most esteemed literary award in India.
- Writers who enrich the literature of any of the scheduled languages can be acknowledged with the Bhasha Samman Awards.
- Aspiring candidates for the Union Public Service Commission have the flexibility to choose literature from any of the scheduled languages as optional papers in their examinations.
Should Hindi be declared the National Language of India?
- Common Language: Hindi serves as a common language for communication among speakers of different languages, acting as a basic form of speech with simplified grammar.
- Widely Spoken: Although Hindi is the most widely spoken language, less than half of all Indians speak it. It is the mother tongue of only 26% of the population.
- Importance for Professionals: In recent times, Hindi has gained increasing importance due to professionals becoming more mobile and needing it as a means of communication.
- Unifying Language: Hindi is understood by people from different castes and states, making it a unifying language and a suitable choice as the official language of India.
- Not Widely Spoken: It is the mother tongue of only 26% of the population.
- Diverse Regional Languages: The majority of Indians speak various regional languages with distinct scripts and little linguistic relation to each other, making Hindi’s imposition as the national language debatable.
- Preference for Official Language: While Hindi is understood by people from different castes and states, the choice of an official language for India should consider the linguistic diversity and cultural sensitivity of the nation.
What is the Official Language of India?
Hindi and English have been declared as the official languages to be used in official purposes throughout the country.
When was Hindi declared as the official language of India?
Hindi was declared as the official language of India in 1950.