The Fault Lines of Hindi and Urdu
It returned to Delhi in the early eighteenth century with Vali Dakhini who created a fresh poetic idiom in this language with a mix of Persian, Sanskrit, Gujari and Dakhini on a Khari Boli template and started the tradition of Ghazal in what was then called Rekhata and not Urdu which gained currency only in the early nineteenth century. This new idiom caught the imagination of the poets of the imperial city who adopted it as a medium of poetic expression.
A parallel development took place by late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries which would sow the seeds of differentiation between Urdu and Hindi. In the courtly centres, first in Delhi and then in Lucknow, there developed an exclusive elite culture with a set of carefully cultivated manners and etiquette to be known as courtly tehzeeb (culture) or Mirzaness which acted as an elitist class marker to set the nobility apart from the common people.5 They promoted a heavily Persianized idiom, with emphasis on correctness of style and usage, which was carefully purged of all words of Dakhini, Hindavi and Sanskrit origin distinguishing it from ordinary Hindavi. Since it was largely the Muslim nobility attached to the courts, it came to be associated with the Muslims.6 But this was not exclusively Muslim or religious in character since it remained inaccessible to common Muslims, and even Hindus attached to the court practiced it. If, at all, there was a distinction at this point of time between two idioms/registers, it was between urban and rural, or between informal language used in the courtly circles and outside the courtly circles. It was not differentiated along religious lines, and script was not an issue.
Through colonial language policy, it was the British who first made differentiation between Urdu and Hindi. From the beginning they considered Hindus and Muslims to be two separate races, each with its own history, culture and language. They attempted to categorize the language/s of Hindustan on the basis of religion and culture. It was John Borthwick Gilchrist who first identified language with script and religion. He identified three different styles of Hindustani: first, a highly Persianized and urbane variety of Hindustani in Persian script practiced in the courtly centres with a large concentration of Muslims which he associated with the Muslims; second, a rustic and rural Hindi/Hindavi largely free of influence of Persian and Arabic words spoken largely in the countryside with a predominantly
Hindu population which he identified with the Hindus; and a third, a middle style between the two which was neither heavily Persianized nor rustic, but was close to the polite speech with an admixture of Persian and Arabic words assimilated into it. He called this middle style Hindustanee and advocated its promotion as the standard language which would cater to both Muslim and Hindu populations. However, during his stint at the Fort William College as Professor of Hindustanee, he actively promoted two different styles as two different languages−Hindustanee in Persian script which came to be associated with Urdu and Hindavi/Hindui in Nagari script from which all foreign (Arabic/Persian) words were purged; this differentiation was to prove providential and to influence and shape the subsequent colonial language policies.
Pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Essays in this Forum