The Amusing World of Indian Languages

Have you ever wondered how many languages exist in our diverse country? Well, the official figure by our government is 122, however, a 2013 study by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) reveals that India is home to 780 languages, and that’s not all. 780 is only the number of languages that the PLSI could count, according to the survey there are a 100 more that exists.

The survey, which was conducted over the past four years by 3,000 volunteers and staff of the Bhasha Research & Publication Centre (“Bhasha” means “language” in Hindi), also concludes that 220 Indian languages have disappeared in the last 50 years, and that another 150 could vanish in the next half century as speakers die and their children fail to learn their ancestral tongues.

Wonder why there exists a disparity between the PLSI survey and the government number? Well, that’s because the government does not count languages that fewer than 10,000 people speak. Devy and his volunteers on the other hand combed the country to find languages such as Chaimal in Tripura, which is today spoken by just four or five people.

The Amusing World of Indian Languages

A popular map, which lists some of the languages, that are spoken in India

Here is a list of some lesser known languages:


Spoken by 20,000,000 in India (1951 census); 540,000 in Nepal (1993 Johnstone); 20,316,950 in all countries. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kanpur, Delhi. Awadhi is the standard for literature. There is considerable epic literature. “Kosali” is a name used for the Eastern Hindi group. Caribbean Hindi is related to Awadh


Spoken by 1,721,000 in India (1994 IMA); 200,000 in Pakistan (1993); 1,921,000 in all countries. Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh. Nomadic between Pakistan and India.

Dogri – Kangri

Traditionally known as Western Pahari or sometimes Himachali, are a range of languages and dialects spoken across the Himalayan range, from Pakistan to Nepal. 2,095,280, including 2,005,000 Dogri (1994 IMA), 90,279 Kangri (1994 IMA). The home area is in the outer hills and strip of plain in Jammu and Kashmir between the Ravi and Chenab Rivers. Central states from north to south; West Bengal, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh (Kangra and Hamirpur districts).


The Magahi language spoken in India and Nepal. In Nepal it is known as ancient Nepali. Magadhi Prakrit was the ancestor of Magadhi, from which the latter’s name derives. 10,821,000 (1994 IMA). Southern districts of Bihar, eastern Patna district, northern Chotanagpur district, and Malda district of West Bengal. Also used as a religious language.


Santhali is a language in the Munda subfamily of Austroasiatic languages, related to Ho and Mundari.

It is spoken by around 6.2 million people in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, although most of its speakers live in India, in the states of Jharkhand, Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Tripura, and West Bengal.


One Response

  1. Priti Desai

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