FacebookTwitterGoogle+linkedinYouTube

The Marathi Language

Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language of the Iarger indo-European language family. It is believed to be 1300 years old evolving from Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha. It is spoken by the Marathi or Maharashtrians living in the state of Maharashtra. It is also spoken in some parts neighboring states in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Goa as well Karnataka and in Union territories of Daman and Diu. And outside In India it is spoken in Israel and Mauritius. It is still being used as a medium of communication by Maharashtrians emigrants worldwide in USA, UAE, South Africa, Singapore, Germany, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Marathi is the southern-most language among the Indo-Aryan languages. Almost all of the Indo-Aryan languages originated from Sanskrit. There were three Prakrit languages which immerged from Sanskrit. They were Saurseni, Magadhi and Maharashtri. Later Maharashtri, which was largely spoken by the people living in the region of Maharashtra developed into today’s modern day Marathi. Its grammar and syntax has been derived from Pali and Prakrit. Its said to be the oldest of the regional literatures in Indo-Aryan languages, dating from about AD 1000.

As per some estimates, there are over 90 million fluent speakers of Marathi worldwide; giving it rank of 4th most spoken language in India and the 15th most spoken language in world. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra as well as in neighboring state of Goa.

The widely known Saint Poet Jnaneshwar took Marathi to a higher level by translating sacred “Geeta” from Sanskrit into Marathi. Earlier “Geeta” was only accessible to a limited number of elites who could read Sanskrit. He wrote this holy book called “Jnaneshwari” in which he revealed the real essence of “Geeta” in Marathi with his simple and poetic style. He was proud of his mother tongue and was so impressed with it, that he even used to say that “Marathi is a such beautiful language, which is far more sweeter than Life Saving Nectar (Amrit)”.

History of Marathi:

Marathi’s birth is said to be sometime in the 8th century. As stated above, modern day Marathi evolved from Prakrit Language Maharashtri. It used be an official language of the Satavahana Empire and in vogue until A.D 875. It was the most popular languages among other Prakrit languages and was widely used in western and southern India. Later it further evolved into Maharashtri Apabhramsha, which remained in existence for more than a century. It is believed that Marathi is evolved and re-Sanskritised form of this Apabhramsha.

Historical Stages of Marathi:

> Pre-13th century:

The oldest document found in Marathi dates back to A.D. 700. It was found in Satara. There are as many as six inscriptions available from the period A.D 979 -1270 and located in distant parts like Mysore, Khandesh and Mumbai; which itself is an indication of how widespread Marathi was in that period. It was a very unique language widely used by the people of Maharashtra as well as South Karnataka.

> 12th century to 1905

This period saw the rise of the Yadava dynasty of Devgiri, who had adopted Marathi as their Court Language, giving it high status. They also patronized Marathi learned men, subsequently contributed to the upbringing of Marathi. The prosperity of Marathi in the Yadava reign can be seen in the literature created in the period. In that period literature in verse and prose, on astrology, medicine, puranas, Vedanta, kings and courtiers were created. Some of them were Nalopakhyan, Rukmini swayamvar and Shripati's Jyotishratnamala (1039 A.D) are few examples. The oldest book in prose form in Marathi – Vivekasindhu is written by Mukundaraj, a yogi of Natha Pantha and arch-poet of Marathi.

> Maratha period

As the Maratha Empire started gaining its foothold in the region with rise of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (1630 -1680), Marathi also spread its wings along with the spread of Maratha Empire. As Marathi was given official status, the use of Marathi in transactions involving land and other business also grew in this period another Poet Saint, Tukaram made important contributions to Marathi literature.

18th century

In this period when the Peshwas were the rulers, some famous literature was added. Some of them were some well-known works like Yatharthadeepika by Vaman Pandit, Naladamayanti Swayamvara by Raghunath Pandit.

Modern period (after 1800)

By the end of 18th century the British had established their rule on almost all of India; this had an affect on all the Indian languages. Specially the Christian missionaries studied the local languages and tried to standardize them. William Carey was one such Christian missionary, who was pivotal in his efforts in the production of scientific dictionaries and grammars. As the number of English learnt intellectuals grew, colonial modernity also crept into the languages. The first Marathi newspaper Durpan was started by in 1832.

Writing

Marathi is written in the Devnagari script, an alphasyllabary or abugida consisting of 16 vowel letters and 36 consonant letters making a total of 52 letters.

Dialects

  • Ahirani is spoken in the west Khandesh North Maharashtra region
  • Khandeshi is spoken in East Khandesh specifically in Yawal and Raver Taluka
  • Varhadi or Vaidarbhi is spoken in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra
  • Konkani Spoken in the Konkan region and in Goa
  • Malvani spoken in the Malvan region
  • Wadvali
  • Samavedi
  • Are Marathi
  • Thanjavur Marathi and Namdev Marathi and Bhavsar Marathi
  • Dangii (spoken near the Maharashtra-Gujarat border)
  • Judaeo-Marathi (spoken by the Bene Israel Jews)
  • Kadodii (spoken near Vasai)
Links of Interest

Read more about World Languages