Language, even in its primal form as signs and shapes, has been arterial to human development since the beginning of time. It gives expression, in spoken and written form, to the culture and psychology of a people, to their strivings. It is an instrument of struggle and development of society.
In the flow of history, many languages have surfaced, many have drowned, and many have been transported to distant shores. Those languages that remained in constant development survived. They have developed along with society, incorporating new words and enriching their vocabulary.
No other country of the world is as linguistically rich as India. There are over two thousand spoken languages and dialects today. Some of the languages are spoken by crores of people, many others by a few thousand.
Indian languages have distinct alphabets and most of them are native to India. A significant aspect of Indian alphabets is the manner in which they are organised in accordance with the phonetic principle – unlike the Roman alphabet with its random sequence of letters.
As with the development of languages elsewhere in the world, the languages and dialects of the Indian subcontinent have enriched and influenced each other over thousands of years. In the long course of the development of Indian civilisation, many languages and dialects have died out, many new languages have been born, and the languages of India have both influenced and been influenced by the languages of other people of the world with whom the people of India have interacted.
Eighteen languages are at present in the Government of India’s list of ‘scheduled languages’. These are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Hindi and English are the ‘official languages’ of communication.
This year, our calendar portrays the incomparable richness of Indian languages, with a special focus on some of their most earthy expressions and forms, the number restricted by the fact that there are only twelve months in the year!