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About Marathi Language

Marathi (मराठी Marāṭhī) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western and central India. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. There are 90 million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi is the 4th most spoken language in India[6] and the 15th most spoken language in the world. Marathi is the oldest of the regional literatures in Indo-Aryan languages, dating from about AD 1000.

Marathi is estimated to be more than 1300 years old, evolving from Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha. Its grammar and syntax derive from Pali[citation needed] and Prakrit. In ancient times, Marathi was called Maharashtri, Marhatti, Mahratti etc.

Peculiar features of Marathi linguistic culture include Marathi drama, with its unique flavour of 'Sangeet Natak' (musical dramas), scholarly discourses called 'Vasant Vyakhyanmala' (Lectures in Spring), Marathi folk dance called 'Lavani', and special editions of magazines for Diwali called 'Diwali anka'.

Geographic distribution

Marathi is primarily spoken in Maharashtra and parts of neighboring states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, union-territories of Daman-diu and Dadra Nagar Haveli. The cities of Baroda, Surat, Ahmedabad and Belgaum (Karnataka), Indore, Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh), Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) and Tanjore (Tamil Nadu) each have sizable Marathi-speaking communities. Marathi is also spoken by Maharashtrian emigrants worldwide, in the United States, UAE, South Africa, Singapore, Germany, UK, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. The Ethnologue states that Marathi is spoken in Israel and Mauritius.

Official status

Marathi is an official language of the Indian state of Maharashtra, and a co-official language or used for official purposes in Goa, union territory of Daman and Diu and Dadra Nagar haveli. The Constitution of India recognizes Marathi as one of India's 22 official languages.

In addition to all universities in Maharashtra, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (Gujarat), Osmania University (Andhra Pradesh), Gulbarga university (Karnataka), Devi Ahilya University of Indore and Goa University (Panaji) all have special departments for higher studies in Marathi linguistics. Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) has announced plans to establish a special department for Marathi.


The Prakrit vernacular languages, including Maharashtri Prakrit, were originally derived from Vedic Sanskrit. Further change led to apabhraṃśa languages like Marathi, which may be described as being a re-Sanskritised, developed form of Maharashtri Apabhraṃśa. However it is believed that Marathi is actually a language combining the old Dravidian vernacular of the region which would have been close to Kannada and Telugu and the actual Maharashtri Prakrit and Sanskrit[citation needed]. The more recent influence of Persian, Arabic or Urdu has also made this language seem close to mainstream Hindi.

Maharashtri Prakrit was commonly spoken until 875 AD and was the official language of the Sātavāhana empire. It had risen to a high literary level, and works like Karpurmanjari and Saptashati (150 BC) were written in it. Maharashtri Prakrit was the most widely used Prakrit language in western and southern India, spoken from Malwa and Rajputana in the north to Krishna and Tungabhadra in the south.[15] Today's Marathi- and Kannada- speaking parts spoke Maharashtri Prakrit for centuries.

Maharashtri Apabhraṃśa remained in use for several hundred years until at least 500 AD. Apabhraṃśa was used widely in Jain literature and formed an important link in the evolution of Marathi. This form of Apabhraṃśa was re-Sanskritised and eventually became Marathi.

According to the written forms and historical attestations and evidences, Marathi is said to date to the 8th century.

Modern period

Since 1630, Marathi regained prominence with the rise of the Maratha empire beginning with the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji (1627–1680). Subsequent rulers extended the empire northwards to Delhi, eastwards to Orissa, and southwards to Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. These excursions by the Marathas helped to spread Marathi over broader geographical regions. This period also saw the use of Marathi in transactions involving land and other business. Documents from this period, therefore, give a better picture of life of common people - who spoke the language - than the documents in Persian which was used previously but understood only by the elites of the Islamic rulers. At the time, Saint Tukaram made important contributions to Marathi poetic literature in Warkari Pantha. But by the late 18th century, the Maratha Empire's influence over a large part of the country was on the decline.


Standard Marathi is based on dialects used by academics and the print media, and is influenced by the educated élite of the Pune region. Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad (MSP) is the apex guiding body for literary institutions of Marathi language. From time to time, MSP helps out in discourses on various aspects of Marathi and in laying down precedents by framing rules whenever required.

Indic scholars distinguish 42 dialects of spoken Marathi. Dialects bordering other major language areas have many properties in common with those languages, further differentiating them from standard spoken Marathi. The bulk of the variation within these dialects is primarily lexical and phonological (e.g. accent placement and pronunciation). Although the number of dialects is considerable, the degree of intelligibility within these dialects is relatively high. Historically, the major dialect divisions have been Ahirani, Khandeshi, Varhadi, Wadvali, Samavedi and Are Marathi.

Other languages having considerable Marathi influence

Dakhini and Hyderabadi Urdu spoken in Hyderabad and some parts of Deccan are considerably influenced by Marathi. The grammar of Hyderabadi Urdu is adapted from Marathi. In fact, it is also called a creole between Marathi and Urdu with some Telugu words.


Marathi grammar shares similarities with other modern Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, etc. The first modern book exclusively concerning Marathi Grammar was printed in 1805 by William Kerry.[24] Sanskrit Grammar used to be referred more till late stages of Marathi Language.

The contemporary grammatical rules described by Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad and endorsed by the Government of Maharashtra are supposed to take precedence in standard written Marathi. Traditions of Marathi Linguistics and the above mentioned rules give special status to 'Tatsam' (Without Change) words adapted from the Sanskrit language. This special status expects the rules for 'Tatsam' words to be followed as in Sanskrit grammar. While this supports Marathi Language with a larger treasure of Sanskrit words to cope with demands of new technical words whenever needed; maintains influence over Marathi.

An unusual feature of Marathi, as compared to other Indo-European languages, is that it displays the inclusive and exclusive we feature, common to the Austronesian languages, Dravidian languages, Rajasthani, and Gujarati.

Unlike its related languages, Marathi preserves all three grammatical genders (Linga) from Sanskrit, masculine, feminine and neuter. Marathi contains three grammatical voices (prayog) i.e. Kartari, Karmani and Bhave. Detailed analysis of grammatical aspects of Marathi language are covered in Marathi grammar.


Over a period of many centuries the Marathi language and people came into contact with many other languages and dialects. The primary influence of Prakrit, Maharashtri, Apbhramsha and Sanskrit is understandable.

Day-to-day Marathi includes a higher number of Sanskrit-derived (tatsam) words than sister languages like Hindi. Some Sanskrit words that are common in day-to-day spoken Marathi include nantar (from nantaram or after), purṇa (purṇam or complete, full, or full measure of something), anna (annam or food), karaṇ (karaṇam or cause), kadāchit (kadāchit or perhaps), satat (satatam or always), abhyās (abhyāsam or study), vichitra (vichitram or strange), svatah (svatah or himself/herself), prayatna (prayatnam or effort), bhiti (from bhiti, or fear) and vishesh (vishesham or special), amongst others.

Marathi has also shared directions, vocabulary and grammar with languages such as Indian Dravidian languages, and a few foreign languages like Persian, Arabic, English and a little from Portuguese.

While recent genome studies suggest some amount of political and trade relations between the Indian subcontinent and East Africa, Middle East, Central Asia over a millennium, these studies are still not conclusive about the exact effect on linguistcs.

Influence of foreign languages

Usage of punctuation marks was one of the major contributions to Indic script by foreign languages. Previously, due to Sanskritised poetry, textual punctuation requirements of many texts may have been less.

Marathi on computers and the Internet

Earlier Marathi suffered from weak support by computer operating systems and Internet services, as have other Indian languages. But recently, with the introduction of language localisation projects and new technologies, various software and Internet applications have been introduced. Shrilipi, Shivaji and Kiran fonts were used prior to the introduction of Unicode standard for Devanagari script. Various Marathi typing software is widely used and display interface packages are now available on Windows, Linux and MacOS. Many Marathi websites, including prominent Marathi newspapers, have become popular especially with Maharashtrians outside India. Online projects such as the Marathi language Wikipedia, with 25,000+ articles, the Marathi blogroll and Marathi blogs have gained immense popularity.


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