Languages of Jammu and Kashmir


Jammu and Kashmir, the crown of India as it’s said, is truly divine when came in contact with, a lot of pristine, uncorrupt places, make this state even more wanted and celebrated.

Nestled against the backdrop of the snow-capped Pir Panjal Mountains, the region of Jammu constitutes the southernmost unit of the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

It forms part of the transition between the Himalayan range in the north and the dusty plains of Punjab in the south. Between these two extremities lie a series of scrub-covered hills, forested mountain ranges and river valleys, encompassing several microclimatic regions that extend from Kishtawar in the north-east to Akhnoor in the south-west, and the historic town of Poonch in the north-west to the borders of Kangra (H P) in the south-east. The Shivalik hills cut across the area from the east to the west while the rivers Ravi, Tawi and Chenab cut their way through the region.

Physically, the region of Jammu is not homogenous. It is broadly divisible into three discernible zones determined by the terrain condition and the geo-climatic environment. The southern-most of these is the ‘Outer Plains’ zone comprising the skirt of level lands in Jammu and Kathua districts which merge into the plains of Punjab. Toward its north and north-east rises the ‘Outer Hills’ zone attaining heights of 2000 to 4000 ft above mean sea level. Basohli, Reasi and better parts of Rajouri district fall in this zone. The landscape here shows open scrubs that gradually thicken from low scrub to taller trees of acacias, rhododendrons, cacti, etc. Above this zone, the terrain becomes acute in incline, the vegetal cover rich and the climatic conditions increasingly salubrious.

Languages of Jammu and Kashmir

Language is the most powerful means of communication, vehicle of expression of cultural values and aspirations and instrument of conserving culture. As such language is an important means to acquire and preserve identity of a particular group or community. Language and culture are interrelated because the language regions possess certain homogeneity of culture and are characterized by common traits in history, folklore and literature. Among various cultural symbol-religion, race, language, traditions and customs, etc. that differentiates an ethnic group from the other, language is the most potent cultural marker providing for group identity. Its spatial spread over a fixed territory makes language more important than religion as a basis of ethnic identity formation.

The most dominant of all Kashmir languages is the native Kashmiri language. Other common languages of Kashmir valley are Urdu, Hindi and English. The following lines provide more information about the major languages spoken in Kashmir: Kashmiri Majority of the population in Kashmir speaks.

Kashmiri is an Indo-Aryan language and is popularly known as Koshur.


Dogri is the second prominent language of Kashmir

The second most spoken language of Kashmir is Hindi. It is mainly spoken by the Kashmiri Pandits and the Gujjar population of Kashmir.

The Muslim population in Kashmir speaks Urdu language. An Indo-European language, it sounds very much similar to Hindi. Also, Urdu is the only language that is written and read from right to left.


Kashmiri Language

The origin and the growth of Kashmiri language

Though it is very hard to exactly know the origin of a language, linguists still try to locate it by going through its evolution to as deep as possible in history at which point they make conclusion about its root. The same can be said about Kashmiri language, known to its people as Koshur. The history of language is rooted in the changing religious faiths and strategic geographic location of the valley of Kashmir. The language has developed out of Sanskrit and old Indo-Aryan language and has lately been influenced by Persian and Arabic languages.

Kashmir as a geographical place is situated at a position of significant importance where it joins the Islamic central Asia and the Middle East through Afghanistan on its north west, Buddhist China on north east and Hindu India on its south. With this topography Kashmir started its religious career with Vedantics followed by Buddhism, Shivism and recently Islam. This religious journey of the place is clearly reflected in the growth and development of Kashmiri language. A pure Kashmiri language which is hardly spoken and understood anywhere in the land is direct derivative of Sanskrit as is evident from its lexical elements, diction and phonetics. Sanskrit forms the foundation and the essence of the language. When Asoka the Great, some 200 years before Christ’s birth, chose Kashmir to spread the message of Buddhism, Pali – the language of Buddhist origin, crept into the Sanskrit base. In 14th century AD the majority of the people of Kashmir were converted to Islam by a Saint from Central Asia who popularized the Persian and Arabic languages in the valley of Kashmir. With the passage of time a volume of Persian and Arabic diction was incorporated with the language. The Kashmiri language continued to accept the new entrants and thereby continued to become richer though at the cost of purity. It is not strange for Kashmiris to speak every now and then a good number of English words as English has become a universal auxiliary language.

The scope of the language

The Kashmiri language has a limited scope. It is spoken mainly in the two divided regions of Kashmir controlled by India and Pakistan. The valley of Kashmir is divided into different districts and the dialect of language changes within each district. The people of a particular district can be identified from the dialect they speak. Apart from dialectical differentiation of geographical places, Kashmiri is spoken differently by the speakers of different religious faiths though belonging to the same district. Muslims speak in different way than Hindus, commonly known as “pandits”, and Sikhs. As mentioned earlier this is because of the influence of Arabic and Persian language on the dialects of the Muslim population and Sanskrit on the dialects of Pandits.

Kashmiri alphabets, numerals and a touch of grammar

The present form of Kashmiri is written in an adapted form of Arabic script using same the letters as are used in Arabic with some added extra letters for sounds which do not occur in the Arabic language. Kashmiri script like Arabic, Persian, Urdu or Hebrew is written from right to left. Most of the letters are joined together in a word giving it a cursive nature. The language comprises of 34 consonants and 18 vowels making it phonetically a very comprehensive language. Alphabets occur in groups of similar shapes whose sounds are differentiated by the placement of dots. Unlike Urdu it is very important to explicitly put vowels in the script to make it easily readable even to the native user of the language.

Kashmiri numerals are represented in the same form as Arabic but spoken like in Sanskrit. The Kashmiri language has got a familiar pattern of nouns ,verbs, gender etc. like French, German or Greek languages. Linguists have identified Kashmiri as a complete language in which the speaker can express every feeling precisely. Unlike English language it makes a clear distinction in its pronouns between people of lower and higher orders or people of different gender. For instance the sentence “Where are you going?” will have two translations depending on the order of the person you are asking. If you are asking a person elder to you it will be “toeh kout chu gatzun?” and if the same thing is asked to a person younger than you it will be “tze kout chuy gatzun?” Kashmiri has both masculine and feminine nouns. The sentence indicates whether you are talking to or about a male or a female.


Dogri, the second prominent language of J&K State has an important place on the linguistic map of Northern India. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of Indo-European language family. It has its origin from old Indo-Aryan language i.e. language of Vedas and Laukik Sanskrit. Like other Modern Indo-Aryan languages, Dogri has also passed through Old Indo-Aryan (Sanskrit) and Middle Indo-Aryan (Pali, Prakrit and Apabhramsha) stages of development and entered the Modern Indo-Aryan stage around the 10th century A.D. Hence it shows the three-fold process of development of its sound structure expressing its affinity with Shaurseni Prakrit. It preserves the characteristics of its growth from Veda’s to the present.

Kashmiri Urdu

The word Urdu means “army”. It was awarded with this name because it was developed by the army of first Mughal King Babar. When Babar invaded south Asia, he had a large army which included soldiers from many different countries. They were from Turkey, Arab, Iran, Russia, Afghanistan, South Asia and many other countries. The soldiers had problems in intra-army communication because of language variation. These soldiers gradually developed a new language containing words from languages of all soldiers. This new language seemed like an army of words from different languages and hence, it was called Urdu. Early Urdu was quite different from today’s and was not very fine form. Like all other languages, Urdu had to go through the stages of evolution. New words were created which belonged only to Urdu, thence Urdu began to become famous because of its flexibility.

When British came to south Asia, they brought their own language, English, with them. Urdu had no hesitation in accepting the terms and words from English, as their counterpart were not there in Urdu because of difference of culture. Many English words were used in their real form and others were changed according to the accent of Urdu. Today, Urdu is continuously passing through the process of evolution because of its flexibility. Perhaps that’s the reason that Urdu has become the third most popular language of the world.

Hindi (हिन्दी)

Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language with about 487 million speakers. It is one of the official languages of India and is the main language used in the northern states of Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar, and is spoken in much of north and central India alongside other languages such as Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi or Bengali. In other parts of India, as well as in Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, Hindi is understood. In Fiji people of Indian origin speak Hindi, and in some areas the Fijian people also speak it.

Hindi is closely related to Urdu, the main language of Pakistan, which is written with the Arabic script, and linguists consider Standard Hindi and Standard Urdu to be different formal registers both derived from the Khari Boli dialect, which is also known as Hindustani. Apart from the difference in writing systems, the other main difference between Hindi and Urdu is that Hindi contains more vocabulary from Sanskrit, while Urdu contains more vocabulary from Persian. At an informal spoken level there are few significant differences between Urdu and Hindi and they could be considered varieties a single language.

Hindi first started to be used in writing during the 4th century AD. It was originally written with the Brahmi script but since the 11th century AD it has been written with the Devanāgarī alphabet.

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