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Urdu Language History

The word Urdu comes from Ordu, a Turkish word that means army or camp. Urdu language developed between Muslim soldiers of Mughal armies that came from various ethnicities like Afghans, Jats, Rajputs, Balochis, Pathans, Persians, Arabs and Turks. The soldiers were in close contact and they communicated with one another in varied dialects that gradually and slowly evolved into the Urdu language. for this reason, Urdu is also known as the Lashkari Zaban, meaning language of army.


During the development of the Urdu language, it received several other names like Urdu-e-Maullah which means exalted army, a term coined by the Emperor Shah Jahan. Rekhta was another name that meant scattered, coined by Urdu poetry scholars.


Evolution and History

The development and evolution of a language depends on the development and evolution of the society where it is spoken. Different conquests and invasions at a location also affect the development of the language. Urdu too went through various development stages. The language belongs to the family of Indo Aryan languages. By origin, Urdu is considered a descendent of the Saur Senic Prakrit. Prakrit means basis or roots and is a newer version of Sanskrit. With the development of the Prakrit language, it was affected by various dialects of western Hindi like Haryanvi, Brii Bhasa and Khari Boli.


With the introduction of Darya-e-Latafat of Insha, there was a need to differentiate the Urdu language from Hindi and other languages. Later, there was an Urdu-Hindi controversy because of which Devanagari and Khari Boli became the lingual identity for Indians while Persian and Urdu became the identity for Muslims. Arabic and Persian words replaced with the Sanskrit words and served the purpose of differentiating both the languages. Urdu emerged in 1193 as a distinct language during the time of Muslims conquest. At the time when Muslims conquered part of the continent, Persian was made the cultural and official language in India. Because of the local dialects amalgamating with the invaders’ language, Turkish, Arabic or Persian, Urdu evolved as a new language.


During the reign of the Mughals, the Urdu language was spoken in courts and palaces. In most Mughal states, Urdu had been the official language. This had been the time when the language was enriched with various Persian words, script, grammar and phrases. When the British came to India, several English words also made their way into the Urdu language. Several English words were introduced in the original form and others were modified before they were introduced. Currently, the vocabulary of Urdu has 70% Persian words and the remaining are a mixture of Turkish and Arabic words. However, traces of Dutch, Portuguese and French can also be found in the language.


Urdu Literature

Origin of the Urdu literature can be traced back to 13th century at the time of Mughal rule. Amir Khusro was one of the earliest and the most eminent poets to use Urdu in poetry at the time. He is often called the father of the Urdu language. When it comes to literature, the Urdu language was used along with Persian. The Mughal kings had been patrons of literature and art and under their rule, Urdu reached its peak. There had been a tradition of poetic gatherings, known as Sheri Mehfils, in the courts at the time. Some of the other well known poets in the Mughal court then had been Abdul Rahim Khankhana and Abdul Fazal Faizi. Others who have contributed to the literature of Urdu language include Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ibn-e-Insha, Sauda, Mir Taqi, Ibrahim Zauq, Hakim Momin and Mirza Ghalib.


It was only in the 17th century that Urdu poetry took its final form once it was declared the court’s official language. in the eighteenth century, there was a rise in Urdu poetry and Urdu literature. At this time, Urdu replaced the Persian language as the region’s lingua franca. Bahadur Shah Zafar, a Mughal emperor, is highly esteemed among the Urdu poets since he had a unique style. In the 19th century, another poet to stand out had been Allama Mohamad Iqbal since he had been the first one to introduce revolutionary poetry and ideas. In modern times, Faiz Ahmad Faiz is distinguished and well known. His work involves the concepts of social justice and communism. Sufi Saints also contributed largely to Urdu poetry. In Urdu, writing novels can be traced back to the time of Nazir Ahmed that composed various well known works. In Urdu, realism had been introduced by a well known author, Prem Chand. Some of the other well known  Urdu novelists were Ratan Nath Sharsar, Abdul Haleem, Sharsar, Niaz Fateh Poori, Sajad Haider Yaldrem etc.


It is true that Urdu and Hindi descend from the same language, Prakrit. However, here Hindi got its influence from the Sanskrit language and adopted the Devangari script, Urdu got its words from Arabic, Turkish and Persian and it adopted the Persian Arabic script and the calligraphic Nastaliq style for writing. They both emerged as separate languages. Besides their common ancestry, both languages are different in their own ways. There are important lexical, phonological and grammatical differences in these languages. The Urdu language had also been used by the Muslims for their freedom struggle as well as for creating more awareness in South Asia’s Muslim communities to unite and fight for independence from the British. The services of Allama Iqbal, Sayed Ahmed Khan and Maulana Hali are especially noteworthy for their efforts as they used their prose and poetry for provoking a spark in Muslims. The Urdu language became Pakistan’s national language after it got its independence from the British. Today, it is understood and spoken well by most of the population of Pakistan.