India’s rich and vibrant culture translates into a diverse language belt. One of India’s most historically rich states, Rajasthan, also has a rich linguistic heritage. Locally, ‘Rajasthani’ is the common tongue here, and is spoken by 20 million people in Rajasthan, as well as a few of its neighbouring states and parts of Pakistan. Many even count Marwari as Rajasthani due to its historical association – it finds its roots in old western Rajasthani (also known as ‘Maru-Gujar’ or ‘Maruwani’).
Rajasthan’s linguistic culture evolved and flourished as a result of the many writers, poets and musicians. This can be seen in many traditional folk tales, songs and other cultural performances which bring tourists from across the world to Rajasthan to this day.
Historically, the dominant language in this region was Old Gujarati (Maru-Gurjar 1100 AD–1500 AD), which was the predecessor of of Gujarati and Rajasthani. This was used by Gurjar clans of Gujarat and Rajasthan. 1300s saw the emergence of a standardized version of Maru-Gurjar. Interestingly, a Jain monk and scholar, Hemachandra Suri, wrote down a tract on its formal grammar that preceded this language, during the rule of king Siddharaj Jayasinh of Anhilwara (Patan). Most of the Rajasthani dialects are chiefly spoken in the state of Rajasthan but some are also spoken in Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab.
Marwari is prominent in and around the Jodhpur district. Marwari has a lot of mixed languages which are still in usage around places like Jalore, Barmer, Pali and Nagpur district. It has various forms. In western Jaisalmer, Barmer, Parkar and Thar, it’s known as Thali (northern zone) and Dhatak (western zone). The people of Bikaner have a version of it known as Bikaneri.
Rajasthani has eight major dialects: Bagri, Shekhawati, Mewati, Dhundhari, Harauti, Marwari, Mewari, and Wagri, along with minor dialects which are found in different communities. For example, Malvi (from the Malwa dialect) is in usage in the Kota and Jhalawar districts. Hoshangabad and Narsinghpur speak Bundeli, while Marathi is common in Berar. The Bhil people speak Bhili, akin to Dungarpur’s and Banswara’s Bagria type of Rajasthani, with minor changes in pronunciation.
Jaipuri (or Dhundhari) is the most spoken language here, and is used in Jaipur, Kota, Tonk and Bundi, Kishangarh, Jhalawar and Ajmer. Under Jaipuri falls Mewati, a dialect, which has evolved to become Braja Bhasha in Bharatpur.
Previously, this language was simply considered a dialect of western Hindi. It was only in 1908 that George Abraham Grierson created the term Rajasthani’. Today, it is recognized by the National Academy of Letters and University Grants Commission as a distinct language, which is a medium of instruction and a course at the universities of Jodhpur and Udaipur. After surveying Rajasthan’s contemporary linguistic culture it was found that a major reason behind the language not flourishing is a lack of comprehensive grammar and dictionary.