Hindustan Times (Gurugram)

Establishi­ng the continuity of our local languages within the region

While many languages are spoken in the city, it is critical to respect and recognise each one in the context of newly emerging means of communicat­ion

- SHIKHA JAIN (Shikha Jain is state convenor, INTACH Haryana Chapter and member of Heritage Committees under the ministries of culture and HRD. She is co-editor of book ‘Haryana: Cultural Heritage Guide’; director, DRONAH Developmen­t and Research Organisati

One of the most important aspects of our cultural identity is the language we speak. Through centuries of changes, migration and exchanges among several castes and cultures in the region of Gurgaon, the dialogue of communicat­ion shows the emergence and loss of various languages and dialects. While the Gurugram of today is a cosmopolit­an city with multiple languages and dialects, it is critical to recognise and respect each one within the context of local or newly emerging means of communicat­ion — thus adding to its rich repository.

Not too far back in time, as noted in the early 20th century Gazetteer, 49 spoken languages or dialects were recorded as the mother tongue of the people residing in the Gurgaon District in the 1961 Census.

Clearly, Hindi was the most spoken language in the post-independen­ce scenario, followed by Urdu as another important language in the area, then by Mewati and Punjabi in a much smaller but almost equal percentage. Besides these, there were several other local dialects prevalent in the region. Among the most well-known dialects spoken in the region are Mewati, Ahirwati and Braj Bhasha. While the grammar for these three local languages is similar, the vocabulary is quite different. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference­s in these languages. Mewati is recognised as more of a border language fading off from the Dhoondhari (one of the Rajasthani languages) in Jaipur region to the Braj Bhasha in the Uttar Pradesh area. It also borrows a lot of words from Arabic, Persian and Urdu. Ahirwati language links Mewati with the associated Shekhawati in Rajasthan. Bangru and Bagri are the other local dialects in the region.

Generally speaking, we are more familiar with what is known as the Haryanvi language (also called Jatu) originatin­g from the Jats in the Rohtak area that is popularly accepted as the local language of the state. Of course, the official language remains Hindi.

E. Joseph, posted as deputy commission­er of Rohtak district (1910-1912), found great difficulty in understand­ing the local language spoken by the people. So, he set about compiling Haryanvi words and giving their meaning in English. He also chose some commonly used English words and gave their meaning in Haryanvi. His dictionary was recently published by Prof K.C. Yadav under the aegis of the Haryana Institute of Public Administra­tion, Gurgaon.

Haryanvi is often considered as a rude language as the locals are forthright and outspoken in their behaviour. Sometimes, it is also referred to as ‘Lathmar Haryanvi’, literally meaning ‘hard-hitting Haryanvi’. But this is just a perceived roughness in language, while it is truly eloquent in its original form, as observed in recent popular Bollywood movies, such as Tanu Weds Manu and Dangal.

It is extremely important to create an interest for the continuity of local languages among the younger generation­s today. While the new cosmopolit­an Gurugram sees more and more of the English-speaking youth and schools offer options in western foreign languages, both of which are essential in today’s global context, we need to realise that universiti­es in the West, including the Ivy League institutio­ns in the United States of America, are actually offering courses in Haryanavi, Hindi, Sanskrit and other Indian languages. Hence, it is very important for us to establish the continuity of our local languages within the region itself in order to sustain our cultural identity.

The region also had its fair share of the classical languages through various stages of history, including the Persian language during the Mughal and the Sultanate periods, Sanskrit during Harsha’s period and Prakrit with Brahmi script as found on the Ashokan Pillar in the nearby areas. Lastly, it is extremely important to emphasise the earliest script and language of the region from Harappan times that still remains undecipher­ed and a mystery for all archaeolog­ists, historians and epigraphis­ts.

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