Urdu;The origin and history of Urdu language

The term ‘Urdu’ and its origin.The Urdu term derives from a Turkish word ordu which means camp or army. The Urdu language developed among the Muslim soldiers of the Mughals armies that belonged to various ethnic groups such as Turks, Arabs, Persians, Pathans, Balochis, Rajputs, Jats and Afghans. These soldiers lived in close contact with each other and communicated in different dialects, which evolved slowly and gradually until today Urdu. It is for this reason that Urdu is also known as Lashkari Zaban or the language of the army.

During its development, the Urdu language also assumed various names such as the term Urdu-e-Maullah which means the exalted army that was given by Emperor Shah. Jahan and the term Rekhta scattered meaning (in Persian words) that was coined by scholars for Urdu poetry.

History and evolution of the Urdu language

Evolution and development of any language depends on the evolution and development of a society where that language is spoken. Several invasions and conquests in one place affect the development of its language. Urdu is no exception, as it also underwent various stages of development.

Urdu belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages. Urdu, by its origin, is considered a descendant of Saur Senic Prakrit. The term Prakrriti means root or base. It is a later version of Sanskrit. As the Prakrit language began to develop, it was influenced by the Western Hindi dialects of Khari Boli, Brij Bhasa, and Haryanvi.

With the arrival of Darya-e-Latafat * from Insha, the need was felt to differentiate Urdu from other languages, especially Hindi. It became a Hindu-Urdu controversy and as a result, Khari Boli and Devanagari became the identity of the Indians, while Urdu and Persian of the Muslims. In this context, the Persian and Arabic words replaced by Sanskrit served to differentiate Hindi from Urdu.

Urdu emerged as a different language after 1193 AD, the time of the Muslim conquest. When Muslims conquered this part of the continent, they made Persian the official and cultural language of India. As a result of the amalgamation of local dialects and the language of the invaders, which was Persian, Arabic and Turkish, a new language developed that later became Urdu. During Mughals’ reign, Urdu was spoken in palaces and court and until the end of Mughal rule; Urdu was the official language of most Mughal states. This was the time when Urdu had become persistent and enriched with Persian words, phrases, and even scripts and grammar. With the arrival of the British, the new English words also became part of the Urdu language.

Currently, the Urdu vocabulary contains approximately 70% of the Persian words and the rest are a mix of Arabic and Turkish words. However, there are also traces of the French, Portuguese and Dutch language in Urdu. But these influences are small.

Urdu was brought to other parts of the country by soldiers, saints and Sufis and by ordinary people. As a result of political, social and cultural contacts between people of different speech and dialects, a mixed form of language called ‘Rekhta’ was formed (Urdu and Persian in mixed form). Soon people began to use the new language in their speech and in the literature that resulted in the enrichment of the Urdu language and literature.

Urdu literature

The origin of Urdu literature dates back to the 13th century in India during the Mughal rule. One of the first most eminent poets to make use of Urdu in his poetry is Amir Khusro, who can be called the father of the Urdu language. In literature, Urdu was generally used in conjunction with Persian. The Mughal kings were the great patrons of art and literature and under their rule the Urdu language reached its zenith. There used to be a tradition of ‘Sheri Mehfils’ (poetic gatherings) in the courts of kings. Abul Fazal Faizi and Abdul Rahim Khankhana were the famous Urdu poets of the Mughal court. Similarly, Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal, Hakim Momin, Ibrahim Zauq, Mir Taqi Mir, Sauda, ​​Ibn-e-Insha, and Faiz Ahmed Faiz have contributed to the evolution of the Urdu language through their literary works.

It is true that Hindi and Urdu are descendants of the same language, that is, Prakrit, but when Hindi took influence from Sanskrit and adopted Devanagri script, Urdu absorbed words from Persian, Turkish and Arabic and adopted Persian Arabic script. and the Nastaliq calligraphic writing style. it emerged as a separate language. But in addition to common ancestors, the two languages ​​are as different as they can be. There are marked grammatical, phonological, and lexical differences in both languages.

Urdu was also used as a tool by Muslims for the fight for freedom and to raise awareness among Muslim communities in South Asia to unite under the banner of independence from the British Raj. For this, the services of Maulana Hali, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Allama Iqbal are notable, who through their poetry and prose caused the necessary spark in the lives of Muslims. Urdu was chosen to become the national language of Pakistan at the time of British independence. Urdu is now the national language of Pakistan, spoken and thoroughly understood by the majority of the population.


* An Ibn-e-Insha book, dealing with the phonetic and linguistic characteristics of Urdu and a variety of working formations and rhetorical expressions.


1. George Cardona and Dhanesh Jain (eds). Indo-Aryan languages. Routledge Publishers. London. 2003.

2. Ram Babu Saksena. A history of Urdu literature. Sind Sagar Academy. Lahore. 1975.

3. Dr. Tariq Rehman. Villages and languages ​​in the pre-Islamic Indo valley. [Online] [Cited 2009 April 4]. Available at: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/scad/archivedwebsites/archivedwebsites/LanguagesInPreIslamicPakistan.htm

4. Mirza Khalil Ahmad Beg. Grammer urdu: history and structure. Bahri Publications. New Delhi. 1988.

5. Zoya Zaidi. Urdu: language and poetry. [Online] 2006 [Cited 2009 April 4]. Available at: http://www.sikhspectrum.com/082006/urdu.htm

Leave a Comment