The Art of Language: Hindi

Ritwik Sarkar discusses the hidden beauty of the Hindi language.

15th February 2016

Jo baat Hindi mein, voh kiski aur mein nahin What is told is Hindi, cannot be told be any other voice. Much like Independent India, the language of Hindi, is a motley accouterment of cultures, oral tradition and language.

   Essentially a form of Urdu, Hindi is written in the traditional Hindu Devnagiri script. Not to be confused with it’s religious association, Hindi has largely been a language of the masses. Formed during the mid to late 18th century, began to increasingly associated with the subjects of the Mughal Empire. A communicative identity that brought together large parts of the empire began to form a linguistic identity, amalgamating a multitude of traditions under one linguistic banner. Fast-forward two hundred years, and not much has changed. Hindi has become the national language of the country, which is spoken by over 260 million people (National Census, 2012), that’s nearly the entire population of South America! It’s not hard then to imagine that the language has become a unifying asset of Independent India bringing it into the 21st century firmly grounded in it’s cultural roots.

"Hindi gives literal life to phenomenon that seem almost impossible to express in words"

   In written form, the language is incredibly phonetic, and anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the alphabet will be able to construct and pronounce even the most complex of words. Hindi might not seem so alien to the large English speaking population, as the language served as one of the largest cultural exports to the west. Words such as ‘juggernaut’, taken from the name of the Indian God, Jagganath and the word ‘shampoo’, taken from the Indian word Champi. Moreover more known words such as ‘karma’ ‘nirvana’ are essentially Hindi words, popularized by western culture and beyond.

   On a more universal level however, Hindi gives literal life to phenomenon that seem almost impossible to express in words. The phrase Guzaarish translates roughly to ‘an earnest request’ but has often been used by Hindi and Sufi poets alike to signify a prayer to the eternal, requesting him to free them from their earthly bonds. The word Masakali translates to ‘an aspiration to fly high, through peace and liberation’, often being associated with the poetic flight of a songbird.

"Hindi's true beauty lies in the fact that it's near to impossible to translate"

   Perhaps one of the most poignant phrases in the language’s entirety, is one that is used so sparingly, people often forget it exists. The term Moksha implies the liberation from the eternal cycle of re-birth and reincarnation. The desire to break the cycle of mortality that binds us, is the fabled ancient Indian dream, but it’s spiritual essence and expression through the medium of Hindi, serves as evidence of how Hindi has hardly lost touch with it’s traditional roots. In the modern age, the amalgamation of Hindi and English or hinglish in large parts of India, is unsurprising, yet, the culture that the language creates is one that is boundless by time, making the best of the expressive nature of the past, while adapting to the linguistic challenges of the present. Hindi’s true beauty lies in the fact that it’s near impossible to translate. Cultural normativity is replaced with a near unbridled source of self-expression that leaves you in a state of bewilderment.

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