[ "Urdu" . Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.] , ALA-LC: , ) – also known as Lashkari (, Laškarī, ) – or Modern Standard Urdu is a Persianised standard register of the Hindustani language. Urdu is the official , and lingua franca, of Pakistan. In India, it is one of 22 constitutionally recognised official languages, having official status in the five states of Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, as well as the national capital territory of Delhi.
As both registers are composed of the same Indo-Aryan vocabulary base,
colloquial Urdu is largely mutually intelligible with colloquial Hindi, with the two registers being grouped together as Hindustani or Hindi-Urdu. With respect to literary vocabulary, however, formal Urdu draws heavily from Persian vocabulary and requires knowledge of some simple Persian grammatical structures, while formal Hindi heavily draws from Sanskrit for its formal and technical vocabulary.
Later, Urdu became the official language of government in northern and northwest British India, along with English language, from 1837 onwards in place of Persian, which had been used by various Indo-Islamic empires as their language of government.
Religious, social, and political factors arose during the colonial India that advocated for a distinction between Urdu and Hindi, leading to the Hindi–Urdu controversy.
According to Nationalencyklopedin's 2010 estimates, Urdu is the 21st most spoken first language in the world, with approximately 66 million who speak it as their native language.
[Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin. Asterisks mark the 2010 estimates for the top dozen languages.] According to Ethnologue's 2018 estimates, Urdu, is the 11th most widely spoken language in the world, with 170 million total speakers, including those who speak it as a second language. If grouped along with Hindi, Hindustani would be the 3rd most spoken language in the world, with approximately 329.1 million native speakers, and 697.4 million total speakers of both Urdu and Hindi. Vijay Gambhir (1995
, University of Pennsylvania Press.
. ISBN 9780812233285
Urdu, like Hindi
, is a form of Hindustani.
[Dua, Hans R. (1992). Hindi-Urdu as a pluricentric language. In M. G. Clyne (Ed.), Pluricentric languages: Differing norms in different nations. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. .]
Some linguists have suggested that the earliest forms of Urdu evolved from the medieval (6th to 13th century) Apabhraṃśa register of the preceding Shauraseni language, a Middle Indo-Aryan language that is also the ancestor of other modern Indo-Aryan languages.
In the region of Delhi the native language was Khariboli. It belongs to the Western Hindi group of the Central Indo-Aryan languages.
The Turko-Afghan Delhi Sultanate established Persian as its official language, a policy continued by the Mughal Empire, which extended over most of northern South Asia from the 16th to 18th centuries and cemented Persian language influence on Hindustani.
In cities such as Delhi, Khariboli began to acquire some Persian loanwords and continued to be called "Hindi" as well as "Urdu".
From the 13th century until the end of the 18th century the language now known as Urdu was called Hindi, Hindavi, Dehlavi, Lahori, and Lashkari. [Malik, Muhammad Kamran, and Syed Mansoor Sarwar. "Named entity recognition system for postpositional languages: urdu as a case study." International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications 7.10 (2016): 141-147.] By the end of the reign of Aurangzeb in the early 18th century, the common language around Delhi began to be referred to as “Zaban-e-Urdu,” a name derived from the Turkic languages word ordu (army) or orda and is said to have arisen as the "language of the camp", or " Zaban-i-Ordu" or natively " Lashkari Zaban".
The name Urdu was first introduced by the poet Ghulam Hamadani Mushafi around 1780.
As a literary language, Urdu took shape in courtly, elite settings.
While Urdu retained the grammar and core vocabulary of the local dialect Khariboli, it adopted the Nastaleeq writing system
– which was develop as a style of Persian calligraphy. Hindustani in Persian script was used by Muslims and Hindus, but was current chiefly in Muslim-influenced society. [ in Pollock (2003)] Urdu replaced Persian as the official language in 1837 and was made co-official, along with English. Urdu, which was often referred to by the British as “Hindustani,” was promoted in British India by British policies to counter the previous emphasis on Persian. This triggered a Hindu backlash in northwestern India, which under the Arya Samajj agitated against the use of Urdu and argued that the language should be written in the native Devanagari script, which triggered a backlash against the use of Hindi by the Anjuman-e-Islamia of Lahore. "Hindi" replaced Urdu as the official language of Bihar in 1881, establishing a sectarian divide of "Urdu" for Muslims and "Hindi" for Hindus, a divide that was formalised with the division of India and Pakistan after independence (though there are Hindu poets who continue to write in Urdu, including Gopi Chand Narang and Gulzar).
Urdu was chosen as an official language of Pakistan in 1947 as it was already the lingua franca for Muslims in north and northwest British India,
although Urdu had been used as a literary medium for British Indian writers from the Bombay Presidency, British Bengal, Orissa Province, and Tamil Nadu as well. In 1973, Urdu was recognised as the sole national language of Pakistan - although English and regional languages were also granted official recognition. Following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent arrival of millions of Afghan refugees who have lived in Pakistan for many decades, many Afghans, including those who moved back to Afghanistan, have also become fluent in Hindi-Urdu, an occurrence aided by exposure to the Indian media, chiefly Hindi-Urdu Bollywood films and songs.
There have been attempts to purge Urdu of native Sanskrit words, and Hindi of Persian loanwords – new vocabulary draws primarily from Persian and Arabic for Urdu and from Sanskrit for Hindi.
English has exerted a heavy influence on both as a co-official language. A movement towards the hyper-Persianization of an Urdu emerged in Pakistan since its independence in 1947 which is "as artificial as" the hyper-Sanskritized Hindi that has emerged in India; hyper-Persianization of Urdu was prompted in part by the increasing Sanskritization of Hindi.
Demographics and geographic distribution
There are over 100 million native speakers of Urdu in India and Pakistan together: there were 50.8 million Urdu speakers in India (4.34% of the total population) as per the 2011 census;
approximately 16 million in Pakistan in 2006;
There are several hundred thousand in the United Kingdom
, Saudi Arabia
, United States
, and Bangladesh
However, Hindustani, of which Urdu is one variety, is spoken much more widely, forming the third most commonly spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese
and English language
(grammar), morphology, and the core vocabulary
of Urdu and Hindi are essentially identical - thus linguists usually count them as one single language, while some contend that they are considered as two different languages for socio-political reasons.
Owing to interaction with other languages, Urdu has become localised wherever it is spoken, including in Pakistan. Urdu in Pakistan has undergone changes and has incorporated and borrowed many words from regional languages, thus allowing speakers of the language in Pakistan to distinguish themselves more easily and giving the language a decidedly Pakistani flavour. Similarly, the Urdu spoken in India can also be distinguished into many dialects like Dakhni (Deccan Plateau) of South India, and Khariboli of the Punjab region. Because of Urdu's similarity to Hindi, speakers of the two languages can easily understand one another if both sides refrain from using specialised vocabulary.
Urdu is widely spoken and understood throughout Pakistan.
Urdu in Pakistan is mostly learned as a second or a third language since only 7-8% of Pakistan's population speak Urdu as their native language.
Most of the nearly three million Afghan refugees
of different ethnic origins (such as Pashtun people
, Tajik, Uzbeks
, Hazara people
, and Turkmen people
) who stayed in Pakistan for over twenty-five years have also become fluent in Urdu.
Muhajirs since 1947 have historically formed the majority population in the city of Karachi
Many newspapers are published in Urdu in Pakistan, including the Daily Jang
, among many others.
No region in Pakistan uses Urdu as its mother tongue, though it is spoken as the first language of Muslim refugees (known as Muhajirs) in Pakistan who fled from India after independence in 1947.
Urdu was chosen as a symbol of unity for the new state of Pakistan in 1947, because it had already served as a lingua franca among Muslims in north and northwest British India. It is written, spoken and used in all provinces/territories of Pakistan, although the people from differing provinces may have different native languages.
Urdu is taught as a compulsory subject up to higher secondary school in both English and Urdu medium school systems, which has produced millions of second-language Urdu speakers among people whose native language is one of the other languages of Pakistan - which in turn has led to the absorption of vocabulary from various regional Pakistani languages,
while some Urdu vocabulary has also been assimilated Pakistan's regional languages. Some who are from a non-Urdu background now can read and write only Urdu. With such a large number of people(s) speaking Urdu, the language has acquired a peculiar Pakistani flavour further distinguishing it from the Urdu spoken by native speakers, which diversifies the language even further. Hans Henrich Hock (2016
, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.
. ISBN 9783110423303
In India, Urdu is spoken in places where there are large Muslim minorities or cities that were bases for Muslim Empires in the past.These include parts of Uttar Pradesh
, Madhya Pradesh
, Andhra Pradesh
and cities such as Lucknow
, Rampur, Aligarh
, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Bangalore
, and Ahmedabad
Some Indian schools teach Urdu as a first language and have their own syllabi and exams. India's Bollywood
industry frequently employs the use of Urdu - especially in songs.
India has more than 3,000 Urdu publications, including 405 daily Urdu newspapers. Newspapers such as Neshat News Urdu, Sahara Urdu, Daily Salar, Hindustan Express, Daily Pasban, Siasat Daily, The Munsif Daily and Inqilab are published and distributed in Bangalore, Malegaon, Mysore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai (see List of newspapers in India).
Outside South Asia
, it is spoken by large numbers of migrant South Asian workers in the major urban centres of the Persian Gulf
countries. Urdu is also spoken by large numbers of immigrants and their children in the major urban centres of the United Kingdom
, the United States
, and Australia
. Along with Arabic language
, Urdu is among the immigrant languages with the most speakers in Catalonia
Religious and social atmospheres in early nineteenth century British India played a significant role in the development of the Urdu register. Hindi
became the distinct register spoken by those who sought to construct a Hindu identity in the face of colonial rule.
As Hindi separated from Hindustani to create a distinct spiritual identity, Urdu was employed to create a definitive Islamic identity for the Muslim population in British India.
Urdu's use was not confined only to northern India - it had been used as a literary medium for British Indian writers from the Bombay Presidency, British Bengal
, Orissa Province
, and Tamil Nadu as well.
As Urdu and Hindi became means of religious and social construction for Muslims and Hindus respectively, each register developed its own script. According to Islamic tradition, Arabic, the language spoken by the prophet Muhammad and uttered in the revelation of the Qur'an, holds spiritual significance and power.
Because Urdu was intentioned as means of unification for Muslims in Northern India and later Pakistan, it adopted a modified Perso-Arabic script.
Urdu continued its role in developing a Muslim identity as Pakistan
was established with the intent to construct a homeland for Muslims of South Asia. Several languages and dialects spoken throughout the regions of Pakistan produced an imminent need for a uniting language. Urdu was chosen as a symbol of unity for the new state of Pakistan in 1947, because it had already served as a lingua franca
among Muslims in north and northwest British India.
Urdu is also seen as a repertory for the cultural and social heritage of Pakistan.
[Zia, Khaver (1999), "A Survey of Standardisation in Urdu". 4th Symposium on Multilingual Information Processing, (MLIT-4) , Yangon, Burma. CICC, Japan]
While Urdu and Islam together played important roles in developing the national identity of Pakistan, disputes in the 1950s (particularly those in East Pakistan, where Bengali language was the dominant language), challenged the idea of Urdu as a national symbol and its practicality as the lingua franca. The significance of Urdu as a national symbol was downplayed by these disputes when English and Bengali were also accepted as official languages in the former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
Urdu is the sole national, and one of the two official languages of Pakistan (along with English).
It is spoken and understood throughout the country, whereas the state-by-state languages (languages spoken throughout various regions) are the provincial languages, although only 7.57% of Pakistanis speak Urdu as their first language.
Its official status has meant that Urdu is understood and spoken widely throughout Pakistan as a second or third language. It is used in education, literature, office and court business,
[In the in Pakistan, despite the proceedings taking place in Urdu, the documents are in English, whereas in the higher courts, i.e. the High Courts and the Supreme Court, both documents and proceedings are in English.]
although in practice, English is used instead of Urdu in the higher echelons of government.
Article 251(1) of the Pakistani Constitution mandates that Urdu be implemented as the sole language of government, though English continues to be the most widely used language at the higher echelons of Pakistani government.
Urdu is also one of the officially recognised languages in India and the official language of Jammu and Kashmir, one of the two official languages of Telangana
and also has the status of "additional official language"
in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh
, West Bengal
and the national capital, Delhi
In Jammu and Kashmir, section 145 of the Kashmir Constitution provides: "The official language of the State shall be Urdu but the English language shall unless the Legislature by law otherwise provides, continue to be used for all the official purposes of the State for which it was being used immediately before the commencement of the Constitution."
India established the governmental Bureau for the Promotion of Urdu in 1969, although the Central Hindi Directorate was established earlier in 1960,
and the promotion of Hindi is better funded and more advanced, while the status of Urdu has been undermined by the promotion of Hindi. Private Indian organisations such as the Anjuman-e-Tariqqi Urdu, Deeni Talimi Council and Urdu Mushafiz Dasta promote the use and preservation of Urdu, with the Anjuman successfully launching a campaign that reintroduced Urdu as an official language of Bihar in the 1970s.
Urdu has a few recognised dialects, including Dakhni
, and Modern Vernacular Urdu (based on the Khariboli
dialect of the Delhi region). Dakhni
(also known as Dakani, Deccani, Desia, Mirgan) is spoken in Deccan Plateau
region of southern India. It is distinct by its mixture of vocabulary from Marathi language
and Konkani language
, as well as some vocabulary from Arabic language
, Persian language
and Chagatai that are not found in the standard dialect of Urdu. Dakhini is widely spoken in all parts of Maharashtra
, Andhra Pradesh
. Urdu is read and written as in other parts of India. A number of daily newspapers and several monthly magazines in Urdu are published in these states.
Many bilingual or multi-lingual Urdu speakers, being familiar with both Urdu and English, display code-switching
(referred to as "Urdish
") in certain localities and between certain social groups. On 14 August 2015, the Government of Pakistan launched the Ilm
Pakistan movement, with a uniform curriculum in Urdish. Ahsan Iqbal
, Federal Minister of Pakistan, said, "Now the government is working on a new curriculum to provide a new medium to the students which will be the combination of both Urdu and English and will name it Urdish."
Comparison with Modern Standard Hindi
Standard Urdu is often compared with Standard Hindi
Both Urdu and Hindi, which are considered standard registers of the same language, Hindustani (or Hindi-Urdu) share a core vocabulary
Apart from religious associations, the differences are largely restricted to the standard forms: Standard Urdu is conventionally written in the Nastaliq style of the Persian alphabet and relies heavily on Persian and Arabic as a source for technical and literary vocabulary,
whereas Standard Hindi is conventionally written in Devanagari and draws on Sanskrit. However, both share a core vocabulary of native Prakrit and Sanskrit words and large numbers of Arabic and Persian loanwords, with a consensus of linguists considering them to be two standardised forms of the same language and consider the differences to be sociolinguistics; a few classify them separately. [The Annual of Urdu studies, number 11, 1996, "Some notes on Hindi and Urdu", pp. 203–208.] The two languages are often considered to be a single language (Hindustani or Hindi-Urdu) on a dialect continuum ranging from Persianized to Sanskritized vocabulary. Old Urdu dictionaries also contain most of the Sanskrit words now present in Hindi.
Mutual intelligibility decreases in literary and specialised contexts that rely on academic or technical vocabulary. In a longer conversation, differences in formal vocabulary and pronunciation of some Urdu phonemes are noticeable, though many native Hindi speakers also pronounce these phonemes.
At a phonological level, speakers of both languages are frequently aware of the Perso-Arabic or Sanskrit origins of their word choice, which affects the pronunciation of those words. Urdu speakers will often insert vowels to break up consonant clusters found in words of Sanskritic origin, but will pronounce them correctly in Arabic and Persian loanwords. As a result of religious nationalism since the partition of British India and continued communal tensions, native speakers of both Hindi and Urdu frequently assert them to be distinct languages.
The grammar of Hindi and Urdu is identical,
though formal Urdu makes more use of the Persian "-e-" izafat grammatical construct (as in Hammam-e-Qadimi, or Nishan-e-Haider) than does Hindi. Urdu speakers more frequently use personal pronouns with the "ko" form (as in " mujh-ko"), while Hindi speakers more frequently use the contracted form (as in " mujhe").
Urdu speakers by country
The following table shows the number of Urdu speakers in some countries.
!Urdu as a native language speakers
!Native speakers or very good speakers as a second language
!Total number of Urdu speakers|
| ||207,862,518||15,100,000 (7.26%)||94,000,000 (45.22%)||109,100,000 (52.49%)|
| ||1,296,834,042||50,772,631 (3.91%)||12,151,715 (0.94%)||62,924,346 (4.85%)|
| ||34,940,837||–||1,048,225 (3.00%)||1,048,225 (3.00%)|
| ||33,091,113||757,000 (2.29%)||–||757,000 (2.29%)|
| ||29,717,587||691,546 (2.33%)||–||691,546 (2.33%)|
| ||65,105,246||400,000 (0.61%)||–||400,000 (0.61%)|
| ||329,256,465||300,000 (0.09%)||–||300,000 (0.09%)|
| ||159,453,001||250,000 (0.16%)||–||250,000 (0.16%)|
| ||35,881,659||206,000 (0.57%)||–||206,000 (0.57%)|
| ||2,363,569||173,000 (7.32%)||–||173,000 (7.32%)|
| ||4,613,241||95,000 (2.06%)||–||95,000 (2.06%)|
| ||83,024,745||88,000 (0.10%)||–||88,000 (0.10%)|
| ||1,442,659||74,000 (5.13%)||–||74,000 (5.13%)|
| ||5,372,191||34,000 (0.63%)||–||34,000 (0.63%)|
| ||81,257,239||24,000 (0.03%)||–||24,000 (0.03%)|
| ||80,457,737||23,000 (0.03%)||–||23,000 (0.03%)|
Marginal and non-universal phonemes are in parentheses.
Marginal and non-universal vowels are in parentheses.
Syed Ahmed Dehlavi, a 19th-century lexicographer
who compiled the Farhang-e-Asifiya
Urdu dictionary, estimated that 75% of Urdu words have their etymological roots in Sanskrit
and approximately 99% of Urdu verbs have their roots in Sanskrit and Prakrit.
Urdu has borrowed words from Persian and to a lesser extent, Arabic
to the extent of about 25%
to 30% of Urdu's vocabulary.
A table illustrated by the linguist Afroz Taj of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill likewise illustrates the amount of Persian loanwords to native Sanskrit-derived words in literary Urdu as comprising a 1:3 ratio.
The "trend towards Persianisation" started in the 18th century by the Delhi school of Urdu poets, though other writers, such as Meeraji
, wrote in a Sanskritised form of the language.
There has been a move towards hyper Persianization in Pakistan since 1947, which has been adopted by much of the country's writers;
as such, some Urdu texts can be composed of 70% Perso-Arabic loanwords just as some Persian texts can have 70% Arabic vocabulary.
Some Pakistani Urdu speakers have incorporated Hindi vocabulary into their speech as a result of exposure to Indian entertainment.
In India, Urdu has not diverged from Hindi as much as it has in Pakistan.
Most borrowed words in Urdu are nouns and adjectives.
Many of the words of Arabic origin have been adopted through Persian, and have different pronunciations and nuances of meaning and usage than they do in Arabic. There are also a smaller number of borrowings from Chagatai, and Portuguese. Some examples for Portuguese words borrowed into Urdu are cabi ("chave": key), girja ("igreja": church), kamra ("cámara": room), qamīz ("camisa": shirt), mez ("mesa": table). [Paul Teyssier: História da Língua Portuguesa , S. 94. Lisbon 1987]
Although the word is derived from the Turkic languages word (army) or orda, from which English is also derived,
Turkic borrowings in Urdu are minimal and Urdu is also not genetically related to the Turkic languages. Urdu words originating from Chagatai and Arabic were borrowed through Persian and hence are Persianized versions of the original words. For instance, the Arabic ta' marbuta ( ة ) changes to he ( ) or te ( ). [John R. Perry, "Lexical Areas and Semantic Fields of Arabic" in Éva Ágnes Csató, Eva Agnes Csato, Bo Isaksson, Carina Jahani, Linguistic convergence and areal diffusion: case studies from Iranian, Semitic and Turkic, Routledge, 2005. pg 97: "It is generally understood that the bulk of the Arabic vocabulary in the central, contiguous Iranian, Turkic and Indic languages was originally borrowed into literary Persian between the ninth and thirteenth centuries"] [An example can be seen in the word "need" in Urdu. Urdu uses the Persian language version ضرورت rather than the original Arabic ضرورة. See: John T. Platts "A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English" (1884) Page 749. Urdu and Hindi use Persian pronunciation in their loanwords, rather than that of Arabic– for instance rather than pronouncing ض as the ] "ḍ", the original sound in Arabic phonology, Urdu uses the Persian pronunciation "z". See: John T. Platts "A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English" (1884) Page 748 Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, Urdu did not borrow from the Turkish language, but from Chagatai, a Turkic language from Central Asia. Urdu and Turkish both borrowed from Arabic and Persian, hence the similarity in pronunciation of many Urdu and Turkish words.
Urdu in its less formalised register has been referred to as a Rekhta
(, ), meaning "rough mixture". The more formal register of Urdu is sometimes referred to as ( ), the "Language of the Exalted Camp", referring to the Imperial army
[Colin P. Masica, The Indo-Aryan languages. Cambridge Language Surveys (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). 466,]
or in approximate local translation Lashkari Zabān
[Khan, Sajjad, Waqas Anwar, Usama Bajwa, and Xuan Wang. "Template Based Affix Stemmer for a Morphologically Rich Language." International Arab Journal of Information Technology (IAJIT) 12, no. 2 (2015).]
or simply just Lashkari
of the word used in Urdu, for the most part, decides how polite or refined one's speech is. For example, Urdu speakers would distinguish between pānī
, both meaning "water": the former is used colloquially and has older Sanskrit
origins, whereas the latter is used formally and poetically, being of Persian language
If a word is of Persian language or Arabic language origin, the level of speech is considered to be more formal and grander. Similarly, if Persian or Arabic grammar constructs, such as the izafat, are used in Urdu, the level of speech is also considered more formal and grander. If a word is inherited from Sanskrit, the level of speech is considered more colloquial and personal.
Urdu is written right-to left in an extension of the Persian alphabet
, which is itself an extension of the Arabic alphabet
. Urdu is associated with the Nastaʿlīq style of Persian calligraphy, whereas Arabic language
is generally written in the Naskh
is notoriously difficult to typeset, so Urdu newspapers were hand-written by masters of calligraphy, known as kātib
, until the late 1980s. One handwritten Urdu newspaper, The Musalman
, is still published daily in Chennai
[ India: The Last Handwritten Newspaper in the World · Global Voices . Globalvoices.org (26 March 2012). Retrieved on 12 July 2013.]
A highly Persianized and technical form of Urdu was the lingua franca of the law courts of the British administration in Bengal, Bihar, and the North-West Provinces & Oudh. Until the late 19th century, all proceedings and court transactions in this register of Urdu were written officially in the Persian script. In 1880, Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal abolished the use of the Persian alphabet in the law courts of Bengal and Bihar and ordered the exclusive use of Kaithi, a popular script used for both Urdu and Hindi.
Kaithi's association with Urdu and Hindi was ultimately eliminated by the political contest between these languages and their scripts, in which the Persian script was definitively linked to Urdu.
More recently in India, Urdu speakers have adopted Devanagari for publishing Urdu periodicals and have innovated new strategies to mark Urdu in Devanagari as distinct from Hindi in Devanagari. Such publishers have introduced new orthographic features into Devanagari for the purpose of representing the Perso-Arabic etymology of Urdu words. One example is the use of अ (Devanagari a) with vowel signs to mimic contexts of ( Ayin), in violation of Hindi orthographic rules. For Urdu publishers, the use of Devanagari gives them a greater audience, whereas the orthographic changes help them preserve a distinct identity of Urdu.
[Ahmad, R., 2006.]
Urdu has become a literary language only in recent centuries, as Persian language
was formerly the idiom of choice for the Muslim courts of North India. However, despite its relatively late development, Urdu literature boasts of some world-recognised artists and a considerable corpus.
Urdu afsana is a kind of Urdu prose in which many experiments have been done by short story writers from Munshi Prem Chand, Sadat Hasan Manto, Rajindra Singh Bedi, Ismat Chughtai, Krishan Chandra to Naeem Baig
. and Rahman Abbas
Urdu holds the largest collection of works on Islamic literature and Sharia
. These include translations and interpretation of the Qur'an as well as commentary on Hadith
, and Sufism
. A great number of classical texts from Arabic language
and Persian language
have also been translated into Urdu. Relatively inexpensive publishing, combined with the use of Urdu as a lingua franca
among Muslims of South Asia
, has meant that Islam-related works in Urdu far outnumber such works in any other South Asian language. Popular Islamic books are also written in Urdu.
A treatise on astrology was penned in Urdu by Pandit Roop Chand Joshi in the twentieth century. The book, known as Lal Kitab, is widely popular in North India among astrologers.
Secular prose includes all categories of widely known fiction and non-fiction work, separable into genres. The dāstān
, or tale, a traditional story that may have many characters and complex plotting. This has now fallen into disuse.
The afsāna or short story is probably the best-known genre of Urdu fiction. The best-known afsāna writers, or afsāna nigār, in Urdu are Munshi Premchand, Saadat Hasan Manto, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Krishan Chander, Qurratulain Hyder (Qurat-ul-Ain Haider), Ismat Chughtai, Ghulam Abbas, Rashid ul Khairi and Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi till Rahman Abbas. Towards the end of last century Paigham Afaqui's novel Makaan appeared with a reviving force for Urdu novel resulting into writing of novels getting a boost in Urdu literature and a number of writers like Ghazanfer, Abdus Samad, Sarwat Khan and Musharraf Alam Zauqi have taken the move forward. However, Rahman Abbas has emerged as the most influential Urdu Novelist in the 21st century and he has raised the art of story-telling to a new level.
Munshi Premchand, became known as a pioneer in the afsāna, though some contend that his were not technically the first as Sir Ross Masood had already written many short stories in Urdu. form a genre of their own, in the tradition of the English novel. Other genres include saférnāma (travel story), mazmoon (essay), sarguzisht (account/narrative), inshaeya (satirical essay), murasela (editorial), and khud navvisht (autobiography).
Urdu has been one of the premier languages of poetry in South Asia for two centuries, and has developed a rich tradition in a variety of poetic genres. The Ghazal
in Urdu represents the most popular form of subjective music and poetry, whereas the Nazm
exemplifies the objective kind, often reserved for narrative, descriptive, didactic or satirical purposes. Under the broad head of the Nazm we may also include the classical forms of poems known by specific names such as Masnavi
(a long narrative poem in rhyming couplets on any theme: romantic, religious, or didactic), Marsia
(an elegy traditionally meant to commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad, and his comrades of the Karbala
fame), or Qasida
(a panegyric written in praise of a king or a nobleman), for all these poems have a single presiding subject, logically developed and concluded. However, these poetic species have an old world aura about their subject and style, and are different from the modern Nazm, supposed to have come into vogue in the later part of the nineteenth century. Probably the most widely recited, and memorised genre of contemporary Urdu poetry is nāt—panegyric poetry written in praise of Muhammad
can be of any formal category, but is most commonly in the ghazal
form. The language used in Urdu nāt
ranges from the intensely colloquial to a highly Persification
formal language. The great early 20th century scholar Ala Hazrat
, Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, who wrote many of the most well known nāt
s in Urdu (the collection of his poetic work is Hadaiq-e-Baqhshish), epitomised this range in a ghazal
of nine stanzas ( bayt
) in which every stanza contains half a line each of Arabic, Persian, formal Urdu, and colloquial Hindi.
Another important genre of Urdu prose are the poems commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala, called noha () and marsia. Anees and Dabeer are famous in this regard.
Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Jaun Elia, Rahat Indori and Wasim Barelvi are some famous and widely read Urdu poets.
Ghazal "Gayaki", the art of singing or performing the ghazal in the Indian classical tradition, is very old. The very specific and detailed meter (Beher) of a Ghazal make the music very pleasant.
Singers like Ustad Barkat Ali and many other singers in the past used to practice it, but the lack of historical records make many names anonymous. It was with Begum Akhtar and later on Ustad Mehdi Hassan that classical rendering of ghazals became popular in the masses. The categorisation of ghazal singing as a form of "light classical" music is a misconception.
Classical ghazals are difficult to render because of the varying moods of the "shers" or couplets in the ghazal. Amanat Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar, Talat Mahmood, Mehdi Hassan, Abida Parveen, Jagjit Singh, Farida Khanum, and Ustad Ghulam Ali are popular classical ghazal singers.
(, verse, couplets): It consists of two hemistiches (lines) called (); first hemistich (line) is called ( ) and the second is called () (
). Each verse embodies a single thought or subject (singular)
In the Urdu poetic tradition, most poets use a pen name called the . This can be either a part of a poet's given name or something else adopted as an identity. The traditional convention in identifying Urdu poets is to mention the at the end of the name. Thus Ghalib, whose official name and title was Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan, is referred to formally as Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, or in common parlance as just Mirza Ghalib. Because the can be a part of their actual name, some poets end up having that part of their name repeated, such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz.
The word is derived from Arabic, meaning "ending". This is because in the ghazal form, the poet would usually incorporate his or her pen name into the final couplet () of each poem as a type of "signature".
Urdu poetry example
This is Mirza Ghalib
's famous couplet in which he compares himself to his great predecessor, the master poet Mir:
Urdu Text Faraz Ahmed Poetry
- You are not the only master of Rekhta,
[Rekhta was the name for the Urdu language in Ghalib's days.] Ghalib
- (They) say that in the past there also was someone (named) Mir.
The following is a sample text in Urdu, of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (by the United Nations
- : .
- Article 1: All humans free, and rights and dignity *('s) consideration from equal born are. Them to conscience and intellect endowed is. This for, they one another *('s) with brotherhood *('s) treatment do should.
- Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience. Therefore, they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Note: *('s) represents a possessive case that, when written, is preceded by the possessor and followed by the possessed, unlike the English "of".
List of Urdu-language poets
List of Urdu-language writers
National Translation Mission (NTM)
Persian and Urdu
States of India by Urdu speakers
Urdu in the United Kingdom
Uddin and Begum Hindustani Romanisation
Urdu in Aurangabad
Glossary of the British Raj
the University of Michigan
the University of Michigan
the New York Public Library
Ahmad, Rizwan. 2006. "Voices people write: Examining Urdu in Devanagari"
Alam, Muzaffar. 1998. "The Pursuit of Persian: Language in Mughal Politics." In Modern Asian Studies, vol. 32, no. 2. (May 1998), pp. 317–349.
Asher, R. E. (Ed.). 1994. The Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. Oxford: Pergamon Press. .
Azad, Muhammad Husain. 2001 1907. Aab-e hayat (Lahore: Naval Kishor Gais Printing Works) 1907 in; (Delhi: Oxford University Press) 2001. In
Azim, Anwar. 1975. Urdu a victim of cultural genocide. In Z. Imam (Ed.), Muslims in India (p. 259).
Bhatia, Tej K. 1996. Colloquial Hindi: The Complete Course for Beginners. London, UK & New York, NY: Routledge. (Book), 0415110882 (Cassettes), 0415110890 (Book & Cassette Course)
Bhatia, Tej K. and Koul Ashok. 2000. "Colloquial Urdu: The Complete Course for Beginners." London: Routledge. (Book); (cassette); (book and casseettes course)
Chatterji, Suniti K. 1960. Indo-Aryan and Hindi (rev. 2nd ed.). Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay.
Dua, Hans R. 1992. "Hindi-Urdu as a pluricentric language". In M. G. Clyne (Ed.), Pluricentric languages: Differing norms in different nations. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. .
Dua, Hans R. 1994a. Hindustani. In Asher, 1994; pp. 1554.
Dua, Hans R. 1994b. Urdu. In Asher, 1994; pp. 4863–4864.
Durrani, Attash, Dr. 2008. Pakistani Urdu.Islamabad: National Language Authority, Pakistan.
Hassan, Nazir and Omkar N. Koul 1980. Urdu Phonetic Reader. Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages.
Kelkar, A. R. 1968. Studies in Hindi-Urdu: Introduction and word phonology. Poona: Deccan College.
Khan, M. H. 1969. Urdu. In T. A. Sebeok (Ed.), Current trends in linguistics (Vol. 5). The Hague: Mouton.
Ohala, M. 1972. Topics in Hindi-Urdu phonology. (PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles).
"A Desertful of Roses", a site about Ghalib's Urdu ghazals by Dr. Frances W. Pritchett, Professor of Modern Indic Languages at Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.
The Comparative study of Urdu and Khowar. Badshah Munir Bukhari National Language Authority Pakistan 2003.
Rai, Amrit. 1984. A house divided: The origin and development of Hindi-Hindustani. Delhi: Oxford University Press. .
Snell, Rupert Teach yourself Hindi: A complete guide for beginners. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC
Pimsleur, Dr. Paul, "Free Urdu Audio Lesson"
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