In contrast with the other national languages of India, Gujarati is regarded to be relatively young with its origin being traced back to the twelfth century. It is part of the Indo-European language family. It comes from the twelfth century old form of the language. Modern Gujarati and Rajasthani languages are its offshoots. It is spoken in the Indian State of Gujarat and also in the neighbouring union territories of Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

Sixty five million people speak it worldwide, making it the twenty third most spoken native languages in the world. A significant Gujarati speaking population that is close to a million resides between New York City and Greater Toronto area. The United Kingdom also has about three hundred thousand Gujarati speaking people.

The history of the language can be spread into three historical periods similar to all the other Indo-Aryan languages. They are the Old Apabhramsha period (10th – 14th centuries), the Middle Period (15th-17th centuries) and the Modern Period (Post 17th century).

During the Old Apabhramsha Period, the original Gujarati language was spoken by the native Gurjars in Northern Gujarat and Western Rajasthan. It had the characteristics of direct noun forms, post positions and auxiliary verbs. During this period, The Parsis (Zoroastrians) migrated from the Middle East to Gujarat and started learning Sanskrit and translated their religious text into Sanskrit. Parsis have played a very important role in the growth and development of the Gujarati literature. They also had the influence of the Farsi language from Persia. Parsis still speak and write Gujarati but they have created their own impression on the language with their distinct culture and have almost created a new dialect.

During the Middle Period, Urdu and Farsi dominated the influence on the Gujarati language and these languages had almost achieved the status of Court Language.

In the modern period after the seventeenth century, The British started the westernisation of the language. The major impact was British Romanticism and its styles crept into the Gujarati literature. Even the Parsis readily took up to English.

Present day exploring of Gujarat and its language is credited to the British administrator, Alexander Kinloch Forbes, shortly after the British occupation of the region. Alexander Forbes carried out an expansive exploration of Gujarati culture and literature over the past thousand years and compiled a large collection of manuscripts. An organisation has been named after him, called the `Farbas Gujarati Sabha’, which has dedicated itself to the preservation of Gujarati literature, language and history and has been set up in Bombay.




A formal grammar for this language was written down by a Jain monk and scholar by the name of Hemachandra Charya during the reign of the Rajput King, Siddharaj Jayasinh of Patan Anhilwara. This was considered as an Apabhramsha grammar that signifies a polluted form of most of the languages at that time, the dominant being Sanskrit and Ardhamagadhi Prakrit.


The standard dialect is the speech of the regions between Baroda and Ahmadabad. There are many subdivisions of the dialect. They are Mehsani, Nagari, Bombay Gujarati, Surti, Machi, Vadodari, Patani, Parsi, Kathiawadi, Jhalawadi, Sorathi, Bhavnagari, Kharva, Kutchi and Khakari.

Hindu Gujarati is adopted by the Government as the standard and is also the medium taught in schools. Parsi Gujarati uses many words that are borrowed from Hindustani, Farsi and Arabic. Its grammar is irregular.

The Muslim Dawoodi Bohri community of India and Pakistan also speak an Arabicised version of the language since the last nine decades with an Arabic style script.


The Gujarati script is an Abugida and is a variant of Devanagiri script. It is differentiated by the loss of the horizontal line that is running above the letters and by a small number of changes in the remaining characters. There are three categories of words present in the Gujarati script. They are tatsam, tadbhav and loanwords.

Gujarati is a left branching language. Adjectives will precede the nouns; direct objects will come before the verbs. There are no definite or indefinite articles. A verb is expressed with its root followed by suffixes marking agreement and aspect in a main form with mood and tense.

As Gujarat was ruled by the Mughals for more than five centuries, it is quite natural to note the impact of Farsi language on the Gujarati vocabulary. The words that have mostly been influenced are those referring to the secular and worldly matters. The language was changed largely by the entry of Farsi and many Arabic loans into the Gujarati lexicon. One most important adoption was the Farsi conjunction for `that’ meaning `ke’. Many Persian prefixes and suffixes seeped in. While Marathi, Nepali and Bengali are conservative in their lexicons, the Gujarati language has been heavily Persianised.

 As a result of the partial rule by the Portuguese before the British came in and also because of the continuous European trade with Portugal and England, many words from native English and Portuguese have also made their way into the Gujarati language.

With the end of Farsi-Arabic inflow, English has had the most influence and has become the current foreign source of new vocabulary for the Gujarati language.


A large number of poets branched out to the devotional or the `Bhakti’ movement in Hinduism. This was a movement created by the masses to free the religion from hierarchical priesthood. Premananda was an exemplary Vyakhyankar who used to tell stories while travelling, narrating his subject in song form and elaborating on the lines in prose form. He had a fluent style and his epic poems ran into hundreds of lines. The people, however, memorised them and some of them are still sung today. Premananda also wrote a drama on the life of Narasinh Mehta and brought out the simplicity and his disregard for the vain worldly divisions of class and caste. Narasinh Mehta was a prominent poet in the fifteenth century and he started a new wave in Vaishnava poetry with his presentation Of Lord Krishna as a playful child and a poet’s muse. His works became a model for his successors in the composition of devotional and philosophical poetry.

Poetry was used to express religious sentiments during Gujarat’s medieval period. In the eighteenth century, the poet Vallabh created two very important devotional songs called Garbo and Garbi.

Poetic literature flourished in the late eighteenth century under the strengthening British influence. Narmad and Dalpat were the pioneers in this period. In addition to them, Kalapi, Kant and Nanalal wrote significantly under various categories of poetry.

In the late nineteenth century, Gujarati literature was well served by K.M. Munshi who was a litterateur with many interests. He wrote for many genres such as novels, autobiography, biographies and short stories. He is the founder of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. He is very well known for his historical novels in Gujarati. His trilogy called Patanni Prabhuta (The greatness of Pathan), Gujaratno Nath (The Ruler of Gujarat) and Rajadhiraj (The Emperor) is considered very important in Gujarati literature.

Around this period, the Gujarat Vidyapith became the nucleus of all literary activities where new values were encouraged and lot of stress was given on the Indianisation of Gujarati literature. Novels, prose, travelogues, short stories, biographies, diaries, critiques, letters, essays and dramas began to fill up Gujarati literature.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi also left his mark with his Dakshina Aphrikana Satyagramo Itihasa and Atmakatha. These are his two most outstanding creations in Gujarati. Another important poet, Umashankar Joshi, who was heavily inspired by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, also wrote in the same manner and added his famous poems, Prachina and Mahaprasthan, to Gujarati literature.

Post independence, Gujarati poetry shows a higher form of subjectivity and exposes new philosophies on thought and imagery.



For people operating Windows 2000, you may click `Start’, point to `Settings’ and then click `Control Panel’. Double click on Regional Settings. Click the General tab, select the check box next to the Gujarati Language group you wish to install and then click Apply. The system will either prompt for a Windows 2000 CD-ROM or to access the system files across the network. Once the Gujarati language has been installed, Windows 2000 will prompt you to restart the computer.

To enable this new addition of Gujarati language and to specify a Gujarati keyboard layout in Windows 2000, you may click Start, point to Settings, and click Control Panel. Double click Regional Settings. Then click the Input Locales tab. In this Input Locales tab, click Gujarati Language and then click Properties. Go to the Keyboard Layout box, click the Gujarati Keyboard Layout, and click OK.

The Windows Vista users may open Regional Languages Options by clicking the Start button and clicking Control Panel, clicking Clock, then Language, then Region and then clicking Regional and Language options. Click the Keyboards and Languages tab and then click Change Keyboards. Under Installed Services, click Add. Double click Gujarati Language, double click the Text Services Options you want to Add and then click OK.

Article Posted By : tahnaklView All Articles

Tahseen Nakavi

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Keywords :
Gujarati , Guajarat


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