It has been said that India is a living Tower of Babel! There are fifteen national languages recognized by the Indian constitution and these are spoken in over 1600 dialects. Add to this a population of over 900 million today, and the remark would seem to be true.
India's official language is Hindi in the Devnagri script. However, English continues to be the official working language. For many educated Indians, English is virtually their first language, and for a great number of Indians who are multi-lingual, it will probably be the second.
The country has a wide variety of local languages and in many cases the State boundaries have been drawn on linguistic lines. Besides Hindi and English, the other popular languages are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Oriya, Telugu and Urdu.
Some Indian languages have evolved from the Indo-European group of languages and these were the languages of the Aryans who invaded India. This set is known as the Indic group of languages. The other set of languages are Dravidian and are native to South India, though a distinct influence of Sanskrit and Hindi is evident in these languages. Most of the Indian languages have their own script and are spoken in the respective states along with English.
Hindi is spoken as a mother tongue by about 20 percent of the population, mainly in the area known as the Hindi belt comprising Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It is the official language of the Indian Union, of the four states mentioned above, and of two other states namely, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
Assamese is the state language of Assam and is spoken by nearly 60 percent of the State's population. The origin of this language dates back to the 13th century.
Bengali is spoken by nearly 200 million people in the world- in West Bengal and in Bangla Desh. It developed as a language in the 13th century and is the official state language of the eastern state of West Bengal.
Gujarati is the state language of Gujarat and is spoken by 70 percent of the State's population. It is Indic in origin and branched out from the Indo-European group of languages.
Kannada is the State language of Karnataka and is spoken by 65 percent of the state's population.
Kashmiri is a language written in the Devnagri script and is spoken by 55 percent of the population of Jammu and Kashmir.
Konkani, principally based on classical Sanskrit, belongs to the southwestern branch of Indo-Aryan languages. It is spoken in the Konkan region covering Goa and parts of the coastal regions of Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.
Malayalam is a Dravidian language, spoken by the people of Kerala. It is an ancient language and is thousands of years old.
Marathi is an Indic language dating back to the 13th century. It is the official language of the western state of Maharashtra.
Oriya, the state language of Orissa is spoken by nearly 87 percent of its population.
Punjabi is an Indic language and is spoken in the state of Punjab. Although based on the Devnagri script, it is written in a 16th century script called Gurumukhi, created by the Sikh Guru, Angad.
Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages of the world and also the language of classical India. All the classical literature and the Indian epics have been written in this language.
Sindhi is spoken by a great number of people in the North-west frontier of the Indian sub-continent comprising parts of India and Pakistan. In Pakistan, the language is written in the Perso-Arabic script, while in India it uses the Devnagri script.
Tamil, an ancient Dravidian language is at least 2000 years old. It is the state language of Tamil Nadu and is spoken by at least 65 million people.
Telugu is also a Dravidian language and is the spoken by the people of Andhra Pradesh.
Urdu is the state language of Jammu and Kashmir and it evolved with Hindi in the capital of India, Delhi. Urdu is the language adopted by the majority of the Muslims in India. Urdu is written in the Persio-Arabic script and contains many words from the Persian language.