People speak different languages in India, every language differs from ever zonal regions. This article explains in detail the four major languages in India, its percentages, and its origin.

In view of the wide diversity in the country’s ethnic stock, we can see each ethnic group tries to retain its identity by saving its own language. When we consider the vast geology and the large size of the people, it is not surprising to find that the 1961 census recorded 187 languages as spoken by different sections of the people.

However, amongst many languages in India, this article explains the major languages, its percentages, and its origin.

There are four major languages groups in India

(1) The Indo-European or The Aryan languages.

(2) The Dravidian languages.

(3) Sino Tibetan languages and

(4) Austric languages.

Aryan languages in India

The Indo-European or Aryan languages form the most vital group. Nearly 73% of the population speak this language. The group includes Hindi, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Gujarati, Oriya, Bengali, Assamese, Marathi, Konkani, and Kashmiri.

People who speak these languages live in the region from Kashmir to Assam and West Bengal along the Great Northern Plains and in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra and in the West Coast up to Goa in the peninsular plateau. But, in the Himalayan regions, people speak many dialects such as Pahadi and Nepali, etc.

Dravidian languages in India

The Dravidian languages are the next most vital group of languages. Nearly 20% of the population speaks this language. The major languages which belong to this group are Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu.

In the hilly areas, people speak a number of dialects like Tulu, Coorgi, Bordi, Khord, etc. The people speaking the four major languages are divided into distinctive linguistic states which occupy the southern peninsula. Tamil has the least number of words of Sanskrit origin among the four Dravidian languages.

The Sino-Tibetan languages in India

A small number of people (about 1%) speak the Sino-Tibetan language. This group mainly covers languages spoken in the Himalayan region and the north-eastern states. They include Ladakhi, Kanami, Sikkimese, Bhutra, Miri. Manipuri, Mizo, Hmar, and Naga. In addition, in tribal areas, they speak a number of similar dialects.

Austria family of languages in India

The Austria family of languages has two main branches Munda and Mon-Khmer.

The Munda branch has the largest number of speakers amongst this family. The Munda branch includes 14 tribal languages. Santhali forms part of this branch. Around three million tribal speak this language.

The important languages of the Mon-Khmer branch are Khasi and Nicobari. The Austric group has a large number of varied dialects, though the number of speakers of such dialects is very small.

The division of India in linguistic regions had been an accepted principle before independence. But it was only with the political removal of the princely state of Hyderabad in 1953 which had Telugu-speaking majority that the demand for linguistic division gained momentum.

A States Re-organization commission constitute to reorganize state boundaries

Some of the states like Madras had become too large and the united of princely states produces further administrative problems. Therefore, a States Re-organization Commission that came into existence to examine all the issues in detail submitted its report in 1955. Hence, in 1956 there was a re-organizing of states.

As a result, there was a creation of states such as Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The State of Hyderabad was divided into three and merged into the adjoining states on linguistics basic as follows- Telangana was merged with Andhra, Marathwada With Maharashtra and Kannada speaking districts with Karnataka

In 1960 a further linguistic separation was effected when Gujarat was separated from Maharashtra. Later in 1966, Haryana was formed out of Punjab. With the creation of Haryana, the division of India into major linguistic states was completed In North-East India, the re-organization had also to follow ethnic lines. The sizes of the states in this region are relatively small as various ethnic and linguistic groups had to be satisfied.

Various groups in India demand regional autonomy because of feelings of neglect due to the underdevelopment of certain areas. The States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand came out recently in the hope that a decentralized set-up will be more responsive to the needs of these neglected regions.

Division of India on Linguistic

The division of India on a linguistic basis has not been entirely satisfying as it has sometimes served to encourage separatist tendencies. However, it would appear that language is an important criterion for regionalization in a multi-cultural society where base on language cultures are strong.

Encouragement of regional cultures is one of the ways to strengthen national unity and develop the composite Indian culture. Such development will retard the separatist tendencies inherent in linguistic divisions on the political plane.

The Central and State Governments have taken many steps to encourage the growth of art and culture through national and regional academies of art, dance, drama, music, and letters. Various Zonal Cultural Centres in different regions of the country work to sustain and develop cultural ties that transform linguistic barriers. Broadly speaking, all four southern states have a common background in Carnatic music. The Hindustani classical music pattern is similarly uniform throughout the northern states, with local variations.

In the classical dance forms, there are more variations and the leading forms are Bharatanatyam, Kathakali and Kuchipudi in the South and Kathak, Manipuri and Odissi in the North and East.

The Divisive Effect of Regional Languages in Politics and Administration

Language has had a divisive effect on politics and administration. According to the Constitution, Hindi is the official language of the Union of India after 1965. Besides, the people of India speak English as an associate language under the Official Languages Act, 1963.

Other provisions in the Constitution enable the State Legislatures to adopt regional languages for their official purposes. The main aim of the provisions was to create national pride and consciousness. But the results have not always borne this out.

Hindi is seen as an encroachment on the cultures of the south, and regional languages that are made official languages in States are resisted by smaller linguistic groups as threats to their specific cultures.

For example, in Assam, making the Assamese the official language has caused divisions amongst tribal and hill people. As a result, the tribals demand the official recognition of their languages also. Since the official language is a route to administrative and political power, these fissiparous tendencies gain momentum with the insistence by the majority on making their language the official language.


The principle of linguistic states was already there even before independence. Andhra was the first state that came out on a linguistic basis after incorporation of Hyderabad into India in 1953. Besides, Linguistic re-organization gave birth to states like Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in 1956, Maharashtra and Gujarat in 1960 and Haryana and Punjab in 1966. Also, a number of north-eastern states arose from Assam on an ethnic and linguistic basis.

Language is an important criterion to encourage a multi-cultural language-based society. As a result, we have many societies in India. But, there have been unfortunate separatist tendencies emphasizing language. Cultural and linguistic development stressing the unity of India has contributed to the overall and regional development.

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