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The Brief History of Urdu

Urdu, derived from Turkic "Ordu," means "army." It began in the area that is now northern India and Pakistan. Arabic, Persian, and Turkish were among the regional dialects and languages that helped to form the language. The origins of Urdu are said to date back to the 12th century, and it continued to develop through the ages until it was able to stand alone as a language by the 18th century.


Urdu's development from Hindvi began before the Mughals, but Alamgir's reign marked its maturation. He called Urdu "Zaban-e-Urdu-e-Shahi" (the language of the imperial camp), and Aurangzeb called it "Lashkari Zuban," meaning "the language of the army." Urdu was useful because Mughal soldiers from different ethnicities could speak it. European writers also called Urdu the "Moors" language (Muslims).

Persian, the official language of the Mughal court, had a significant influence on Urdu, which was spoken by the aristocracy and the courts during the Mughal era. Many well-known poets and academics of the era wrote in Urdu, and Persian poetry and literature considerably influenced the growth of Urdu literature and poetry.


Urdu was also designated as Pakistan's official language during the 1947 partition of India, whereas Hindi was designated as India's official language. As a result, the use of Urdu in India has decreased. This has furthered the link of Urdu with Muslims and Pakistan.


Semantic Origin:

The origin of Urdu is a hotly debated subject among linguists and academics, with various theories being put up to explain the language's origins. But it is generally acknowledged that Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language and that it has its roots in the area that is now northern India and Pakistan. Over time, the language changed, incorporating vocabulary and grammar from the numerous tongues it encountered. Urdu's earliest forms date back to the 12th century, and it continued to develop through the ages until it could stand alone as a language by the 18th.


There is a prevalent belief that Hindi and Urdu are two varieties of the same language and that Hindustani is their common ancestor. The two languages do, however, differ significantly in several important ways.


The writing system used to write the languages is one of their primary differences. While Hindi is written in the Devanagari script, Urdu is written in the Perso-Arabic alphabet. This variance in the script reflects the distinct cultural and historical factors that have shaped the two languages.


The languages' respective vocabularies are another important distinction. Urdu and Hindi have similar vocabulary, although Urdu has a higher percentage of words from Persian and Arabic, whereas Hindi has a higher percentage of words from Sanskrit.

Additionally, Hindi and Urdu's grammars are different, with Hindi being more impacted by the grammar of Sanskrit and Prakrit while Urdu is more influenced by Persian and Arabic.


The journey from the Marginalised to a Marginalising Language:


Urdu's status as the elite language began to decline as the British occupied India, and English replaced it as the country's official, academic, and commercial language. As a result, Urdu started to be linked to Muslims and the lower classes, and it was frequently considered a language of the "other," but then it all changed when the nation-state of Pakistan came into being. Over time, Urdu became synonymous with the idea of Pakistan and Muslimhood, overshadowing and systematically marginalizing a number of regional languages in the process. Urdu is a sign of one’s sophistry and civilization, while languages like Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, and Balochi are associated with underclasses and ‘backward’ people. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Urdu has served as one of those tools that keep colonial structures intact in Pakistan because of how it has been utilized by the state and upper classes.


Pakistan's government, educational system, and media continued using Urdu as their primary language. Some social groups, however, opposed the language because they thought it was a foreign language being imposed by the government.

The usage of Urdu has encountered difficulties recently, especially with the emergence of nationalistic ideology and the emphasis on a unique national identity. The language has become politicized, and certain political and religious organizations frequently utilize it.


Despite the complex history, Urdu is still a vital and significant language in South Asia. It has a large speaking population and a thriving literary and cultural legacy. Numerous well-known poets, writers, and academics have employed language to communicate a wide variety of thoughts, feelings, and ideas.


Essentially, there is a strong connection between the histories of the Indian subcontinent and Urdu. Over time, the language has changed to reflect the region's numerous cultural and political influences. When the British colonists arrived, and India was divided in 1947, the Mughal language, which had been the language of the aristocracy and courts throughout that time, eventually disappeared. It rose to its elite status again with the creation of Pakistan and the idea that it is the language of South Asian Muslims. That is why millions of people speak it throughout the subcontinent, but at the same time, in today’s Pakistan, many people see Urdu as a language that is imposed on the speakers of regional languages. It is considered elite and superior compared to regional languages like Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, and Balochi, among many others.



Urdu's Usage in Bollywood:


For various reasons, Bollywood, the Indian Hindi-language film business, has historically favored the usage of Urdu in its poetry and songs.


  1. Cultural Influence: The Indian subcontinent's customs and culture, notably those of the Mughal era, have significantly impacted Urdu. This has led to the developing of a rich and diversified range of idioms, metaphors, and expressions regularly utilized in Bollywood films.

  2. Popularity: Urdu has long had popularity among Indians and was once thought of as the language of the aristocracy, the court, and the government. Bollywood's music and poetry are for the public audience. Therefore, it is reasonable for them to employ a language that is popular among the people.

  3. Legacy: The use of Urdu in Bollywood music and poetry has a long history, and it has grown to be a crucial aspect of the Indian cinema industry. Many famous poets, lyricists, and songwriters have written in Urdu, and it has become a recognizable and iconic part of Bollywood films.

  4. Poetic Tradition: Urdu is regarded as one of many expressive and graceful languages in the Indian subcontinent, and it has a long history of poetry and literature. Urdu is often referred to as the language of love and passion and has been used by many well-known poets, authors, and academics.

  5. Musicality: Urdu is regarded as a particularly melodic and musical language with a wide range of phonetics and phonemes. This makes it well-suited for usage in songs and poetry and allows for a wide range of emotions and sentiments to be conveyed through the lyrics.


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