"‘The voices babbled in everything from Malayalam to Naga dialects’ "

Tamil text inscribed in stone
Creative Commons AttributionTamil text inscribed in stone - Credit: Ravages
While the principal language of the Republic of India is Hindi, individual mother tongues in India number several hundred and according to the Indian Census of 2001, 29 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers, 122 by more than 10,000 and there are approximately 325 dialects overall. The constitution also recognises English as the official secondary language.

The wide range of regional languages and dialects has caused much conflict and practical issues for India. During the post partition period of India’s history the religious and linguistic reorganisation of Indian states proved unpopular and language riots broke out in Madras in 1950, and across the region through the '60s and '70s, fuelling the rise of separatist movements in the 1980s.

India has adopted many ways of managing these language barriers, at India's Institute of Technology for example, exam questions are posed in either Hindi or English, and students can answer in any of the following languages: English, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

Languages and Scripts of India >>