The History of the Urdu Language
#6# Everybody knows this much--that our Urdu language has emerged from Braj Bhasha. And Braj Bhasha is a purely Indian language. But it is not a language that came onto the world's stage along with India. It's not more than eight hundred years old, and the meadows of the Braj region are its native land. You'll be thinking that perhaps authority over this ancient inheritance is held by Sanskrit, and Sanskrit must be the kind of seed that has opened its buds right here, and has borne its fruits and flowers right here. But no--its track leads still onward. Everyone knows that although India has had a bad name for indolence and lack of enterprise, still it has always attracted the eye of civilized peoples. Thus its verdure and fertility and temperate airs have been its mortal enemy: from the first they have made it a field of action for other peoples. The European scholars, who track down the source of everything even to the depths of the underworld, have proved through languages and ancient traces that its original inhabitants were different people. A powerful people [then] came and gradually took control over the whole country. These victors perhaps rose up from the fields of the Bactrus and Jaxartes Rivers, overran our northern mountains, and came into this country. Looking at the *songs and ancient relics of that time, scholars have also found out that those people would have been stout-hearted, full of courage, impressive in appearance, and fair-complexioned. And by the standards of the time, they must have been well-educated too. Recognizing the opportunity, and seeing the verdant country, they settled here.
The name of this people was 'Aryans'. And it is not surprising that their language should be the one that is now, modified only somewhat from its original form, called Sanskrit. These are the people who, when they entered India, adopted the titles of 'Raja' and 'Maharaja'. In Iran, they unfurled the banner of Kāvah over the Kayānī crown. Bearing with them the unique path of their religion, they made China into an art-gallery of lovely things. By virtue of their wisdom, they established the territory of Greece as well. They laid the foundations of the world-dominating Roman empire. They reached Andalusia and mined silver there. Word came from Europe that, fishing in faraway rivers, they had found the pearl of empire. Digging for ore #7# in the mountains somewhere, they brought up priceless rubies. Then who were the original inhabitants? And what was their language? Inference says that just as now in the Punjab the languages of different districts vary--here a little bit, there entirely--and the same situation exists in other districts of India, similarly in that age too there must have been diversity. And the principal languages of that era must have been those of which the relics--Tamil, Oriya, Telugu, and so on--still survive as memorials in the districts of the Deccan and the east. In fact even in these languages' present condition, their poetry and *literature tell us that these are the pits of some sweet and flavorful fruits. And they have no affinity at all with Sanskrit.
The victors must have come down the slopes of the Hindu Kush, and encamped first in the Punjab itself. Then, as they kept advancing, some of the original inhabitants, fighting fiercely, must have scattered right and left into the lap of the jungle and the skirts of the mountains. Some must have fled. They must have kept moving off toward the Deccan and the east. Some must have been brought into slavery and servitude, for the benefit of the victors; and these very people must have been called Shudras. Thus even now their appearance declares the Shudras to be bones from some other body.
In ancient Iranian history too, there are four castes: For a long period the Aryan brothers must have shared their activities with the Indian brothers. This is the reason that in the ancient history of Iran, [the legendary dynasty of] Mahābād and the societal division of his time corresponds to the [legendary Hindu] time of Brahma and its customs and rules. And there is continual evidence of the four castes. Here, the Buddha broke them down. There, the religion of Zarathustra burned them to ashes. But after the Buddha, the Hindus again recovered themselves. The Iranians could not put their bad situation to rights.
The existence of four castes is not without benefits: To those who looked from a distance, the division of the four castes, and their being kept separate, seemed to be clothed in arrogance. But if you want to know the truth, it wasn't such a bad thing. It is only the blessing of this division that to this day, the four lineages have continued in clear separation. Every Hindu is pure-blooded on both mother's and father's side, and can tell the lineage of his people unbroken for many generations. When anyone is of mixed breed, his lineage will become separate. If these #8# strictures had not been maintained so severely, all the lineages would have been mixed into each other. If you wanted a man pure-blooded on both sides, no amount of searching would have found one. These severe strictures of the victors created extraordinarily tight knots in their mutual bonds.
Laws were laid down for language, too: Thus when they had made a complete cordon for the protection of the bloodlines, they reflected that talking, associating, and dealing with the Shudras twenty-four hours a day would bastardize the language of their ancestors. Therefore they said, 'Our language is the language of the gods, and it has come down to us in exactly this form from the age of the gods'. So they framed grammatical rules and principles for it--and framed them after such careful weighing that they cannot differ by even so much as a dot. The chastity of this language considered alien words to be unchaste stains on the hem of its garment, and for anyone except Brahmans even to hear the language, much less speak it, became impermissible. This strict law offered a major advantage: that the language will always remain as a memorial to the ancestors, and will offer a chaste example of its purity. In contrast, the Iranian brothers could not retain even an oral authority [for their usages].
The reason Sanskrit was so named: On this basis, the lofty vision of the victors named the language Sanskrit.a Which means 'adorned', 'embellished', 'artistic', 'purified', 'clean', 'sacred'--take it as you will. Even the grammatical rules of this language became so sacred that only the religious elders were allowed to teach them. In fact it even became a sin to read aloud in such a way that the voice would fall on the ear of a Shudra. The name of this language became 'Devbānī', that is to say, 'the language of the gods, the language of the kings'.
The time when the Vedas were put in order: It is thought that the time when the Vedas (from which we can know the language of that age) were composed, dates from fourteen centuries before the birth of Christ. You should realize that at that time, the relations of the victors with the country and the local people were like those of the Muslims when they came to India at the very first. When the victors' Sanskrit language came among the people here, its intonation and pronunciation must have changed considerably. Thus, in order to converse, in homes and bazaars, district by district, the Prakrit languages must have spontaneously been born, as was Urdu after the coming of Islam. Magadhi (Pali), Shauraseni, Maharashtri, and so on--the old Prakrits--even now tell of their own antiquity. In their blackness, #9# hundreds of Sanskrit words can be seen glowing. But the words are corrupted. As you have seen, the meaning of Prakrit is 'nature', and whatever emerges from nature. Thus Hemachandra too, compiler of a Sanskrit dictionary, says this. Moreover, civilized and holy people are called sañskrit, and uncivilized people are called prākrit. Therefore from such evidence it appears that they were people of understanding, who knew the implications of everything very well--and whatever they did, they did knowingly.
Books of *drama from the age of Raja Bhoj say that in those ages the scholarly, literary, and courtly language was Sanskrit. But since people have to deal with both high and low, the pandits too were forced to use Prakrit alone for conversation. Prakrit seems clearly to be the daughter of Sanskrit--because there are thousands of Sanskrit words in it, and it also has just the same rules of grammar and usage.
Sanskrit received so much protection--but nevertheless, the Manūsamritī was written some hundreds of years after the composition of the Vedas. Between it and the language of the Vedas there is a clear difference; and now, this difference has increased even more. But since the guard of Religion sat watching over the governance and the reliable writings, there was not a great danger of harm. When suddenly, 543 years before Christ, the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni, was born. He had come from the Magadha region. Thus he began to preach in the Prakrit of that region, because most of his work was with the common people. From women and men to children and old people, this was the language of that region. His blazing speech caused his religion to begin spreading like a forest fire. In the blink of an eye, he burned to ashes religious duty and political power, customs and practices, faith and laws. And the Prakrit of the Magadha region became the language of all the courts and offices. The aid of ascendant fortune gave such an impetus to the sciences and arts too, that within a short time extraordinary books were written in this language and libraries of the sciences were established. And activities in the arts and crafts began. Here and there in the corners, where some local raja still followed the Vedas, the influence of the Vedas remained. All the rest of the courts and learned offices used nothing but Magadhi.
Magadhi turned into Devbānī: As its enthusiasm grew, its pretensions #10# increased, and it proclaimed loudly that since the beginning of the world, the source of all languages had been Magadhi. The Brahmans, and humankind in general, didn't even know how to speak. In truth, their language and the omnipotent Buddha's language were this very same Magadhi. Books of usage and grammar too were written for it. Look at the power of God! The maidservant became a queen, and the queen sat in a corner, hiding her face.
The Brahmans' star shone again: Time, according to its habit, bid farewell (after about fifteen hundred years) to the Buddhist religion too--and along with it, its language departed as well. Thanks to the auspicious presence of Shankaracharya, the Brahmans' star, which had set, now rose and shone again, and the brilliance and radiance of Sanskrit were established once more. The brightness that her *eloquence attained in Raja Vikramajit's time is still the light in people's eyes today. This also proves that for the people of the royal court and the upper class, speaking Sanskrit was a warrant for respect and pride. And Prakrit was the language of the common people. Because when in that period Kalidasa, the *'Chief of Poets', wrote his drama Shakuntalā, if you see a formal assembly then the king, the nobles, and the pandits are speaking Sanskrit. If some common man says something, then he says it in Prakrit.
Before the eleventh century after Christ, in the time of Raja Bharat, the Braj region spoke a language that we can call the origin of the Braj Bhasha of today. In that time too, in every area the local speech [bolī] served the needs of the common people. And Sanskrit lent auspiciousness to compositions and to the tongues of the elite. When all at once the conjurer Time changed the complexion of things once again: that is, Islam took a step into India. It again brought about a revolutionary change in the country and the religion. And from that time, language has begun to impel language.
Sanskrit and Old Persian (that is, the language of the Zend Avesta) are, through the relation of the Aryans, descendants of one grandfather. But look at the chances of the times: the sisters who were separated God knows how many hundreds or thousands of years ago are reunited--in such a way that they can't recognize each other.
You've already heard the story of the Indian sister. Now listen to the story of the Iranian sister too, and hear #11# what befell her there. First, let's deduce that the country that came to be called Iran might perhaps owe its name to the word 'Aryan'. And then, it's no small cause for surprise that just as the Indian sister continuously encountered events like the coming of the Buddha and so on, the Persian sister too kept undergoing revolutionary changes--yet despite all this, even now thousands of words of Persian and Sanskrit can be seen clearly to resemble each other.
Family relationships caused many hardships: When the Iranian sister first went and settled in that country, for some time the Iranians' religion, rites, conventions, and language must have remained just as they had been. But no writing from that period is available. Whatever stray bits and pieces there are come from the time of Zarathustra, who lived about twenty-four hundred years ago. That radiant monotheist, behind the screen of a flame of fire, spread the thesis of the oneness of God. His religion gathered strength from the arms of royal power, emerged from Iran, and for about two hundred years kept subduing everything in all directions. Until Alexander arose like a storm from Greece, and destroyed the peace and security of Asia. The calamity that the Vedas and Shastras had experienced at the hands of the Buddha, now came to the Zend Avesta too. Thus that fire which had, at the blessed hands of Zarathustra and Jāmāsp, lit up the fire temples--that fire before which Gushtāsp removed his crown and offered it up, in the service of which Isfandyār offered up mace and sword--that fire was extinguished by the āb [=water, radiance] of the sword of Greece. And the fire-temples, reduced to ashes, blew away. The pity is that every page of the Zend Avesta was cast to the winds, and thousands of books about philosophy of religion and the arts and sciences were lost forever. Since the Greeks had overpowered the country, their language too must have shown its dominance over the languages of the country. Within only a short time, the Parthians took control of everything. That Iran who for thousands of years had been saluted by the banners of conquest, and in whose court Culture and Sophistication used to stand with heads humbly bowed, was held down in the grip of the victors for five hundred years. And the holy books of the Zend were searched out and destroyed.
In the year A.D. 200, life again returned to the lifeless body, and the old #12# victorious power gleamed in the swords of the Sasanians. These kings rekindled the fortunes not only of the ancient land and kingdom, but also of the extinguished religion. They raised up the fallen fire-temples once again. And they collected scattered pages wherever they could, and gathered them together. It was the fruit of these people's labor that was sacrificed four hundred fifty years later before the banner of Islam. In this matter we ought not to forget to thank the virtuous Parsis, because despite ruin and devastation, when some old page came into the hands of some believing person, he brought his faith along with his life and came here. Thus in the port of Surat, Gujarat, and so on, to this day fire-temples are illumined by that light. Whatever they have is the remnant of those writings that were done during the Sasanian era. This writing not only proves the coincidence of words between the two languages, but bears witness to their unity and common beliefs as well. The four castes that exist among the Hindus used to exist in Iran. Worshiping the heavenly bodies was compulsory. To kill harmless living creatures was a great sin. The thesis about the of souls was the same in both lands. Fire, water, earth, air, cloud, lightning, thunder, wind, and so on--for each of these substances they imagined that there was a god, whose honor was to be expressed in specified ways. There were hymns to invoke and remember God, which in their terminology were called gāthā. This is the same word that here has become the name of the book Gītā, because it too contains songs [gīt] invoking and remembering God. By way of example, I offer some words current in Persian that seem very close to Sanskrit. [Fourteen Persian-Sanskrit #13# pairs of common nouns are listed.]
The shock that had already been delivered by Islam to the Iranian sister in Iran, here occurred two hundred years later. And that shock entirely changed the Iranian sister's aspect. In any case, because of Arabic and Turkish words, and many verbal and syntactic changes, when she arrived here her face was no longer recognizable. The Muslims who came here spoke that contemporary Persian among themselves, and by mixing in Hindi words they managed to communicate with the Hindus.
Here, Sanskrit was Devbānī, that is, the heavenly language. What access could [non-Hindu] barbarians [mleksh] have to it? But Braj Bhasha indeed made a place for this uninvited [Persian] guest. The pious Hindu might go on for years considering it a barbarian speech--they continued to regard it as the language of barbarians. But the law of language is stronger even than the law of religion or state, because the necessities of every hour and every moment, which cannot be prevented, help it along. In short, it was necessary to live in a single place twenty-four hours a day, to transact every kind of business. Without speaking words, no one could get by. In the relationship of two peoples such mixing infallibly develops, and there are several reasons for it. The first is that new things often come along that bring their names with them. Second, meanings are often such that people somehow express them in their own language in one word, but if they are translated they turn into a sentence--and even then, the expression is not so enjoyable, nor does it fully convey the sense. In this situation, it's as if the law of language and the rules of speech exercise a compulsion: 'Here you ought to say this very word, to say any other word is not permitted'. Third, people who often travel in foreign countries know this subtle point: that when two speakers of different languages live together, then, sometimes feeling the pressure of urgent work, sometimes wanting to say some important thing quickly, sometimes wishing to express their meaning easily, then they are forced, inevitably, to use each other's words, since there's no other way to get by. Fourth, when living in one #14# place makes people like 'milk and sugar', sometimes out of love and affection they divert themselves by using each other's words. Just as a friend is dear to his friend, the friend's words too seem dear. Or think of it this way: just as the people of a country give their guests a place to live, so also their language gives a place to guest words. Fifth, the main thing is that the radiance of the victors' ascendant fortune gives everything of theirs--even clothing, turban, gait, conversation--such a glow and luster that they appear desirable in everyone's eyes. And people do not merely adopt them, but are proud of doing so. Then they bring forth, by means of rational arguments, many benefits of having done so.
As soon as Islam came, it laid the foundation for the mixing of words: Hindi writings composed in various ages during that period, through which we could trace the changes in the language over time, are not to be found. Although when in A.D. 1193 Shihābuddīn Ġhorī conquered Rāʾe Pithaurā, Chand Kavī (a famous poet) wrote the Prithīrāj rāsā. It is astonishing to look at it, and to see how quickly the language accepted the influence of Arabic and Persian; on every page there are quite a number of words. And it is also clear that at that time the language here was quite a different language. I reproduce an example from the aforementioned work. [Two passages in #15# Devanāgarī script are reproduced.] Although these are fragments from different places, they make sense when the book itself is examined. But even a man who can merely read the alphabet can tell that such-and-such words in them come from Arabic and Persian. [Thirteen examples of such words are listed.]
Experienced translators and writers know that in their work, an original word from a language conveys a meaning that can't be obtained even if they translate the word into a number of whole sentences. The amalgam of thoughts and qualities and essentials that that one word holds up before the hearer like a mirror, cannot be achieved even by our whole lines. For example, if instead of 'Sultan' Chand Kavī had written in his poem 'Raja' or even 'Maharaja', the qualities and their necessary aspects--good or bad, mercy or justice, power or oppression--that are revealed in his poem by this word would not be possible. In the same way no other word [of greeting], not [the Indic] ḍañḍvat or pranām, can do justice to the meaning of the [Arabic] word salām. Today hundreds of English words are further examples: if you translate them, then even in a number of lines the meaning can't be fully conveyed. For example, an Indian says to his friend, 'The Lāṭ [=Lord] Sahib will arrive at the sṭeshan at 6:00. According to his progrām, he will take a tour of the city. Come at 5:00, we'll go there and see the show.' Now whether accurate or corrupted, the original word spontaneously conveys its meaning to the hearer. Even if the word is translated into a large number of lines, full justice cannot be done to its meaning.
The Kayasths are the first: Toward the end of the fifteenth century after Christ, which was the time of Sikandar Lodī, it happened that first the Kayasths, having learned Persian, entered the royal offices. And now there was more opportunity for those words to come to their lips. Gradually, from the age of Akbar, when Muslims [and Hindus] became 'milk and sugar', the situation arose that on the one hand the king and his elite courtiers bid farewell to their beards, #16# along with the [Persian] cloak and turban, and put on [Indian] dress and 'windowed' turbans--while on the other hand the Hindu aristocrats, or rather even the rajas and maharajas, began to take pride in wearing Iranian dress and speaking Persian. So much so that they began to accept with great enthusiasm the title of 'Mirzā'.
Amīr Ḳhusrau: From now on, to whatever extent it is possible I will show examples of the languages from age to age. Amīr 'Ḳhusrau', who died in A.H. 725 (A.D. 1325)--in the section on 'The History of Urdu Poetry', look at a *ghazal of his, the first *line of which is: /Do not show indifference to the state of this humble one, turning your eyes away and making artificial conversation/. From this you can see something of the state of the language at that time. The Ḳhāliq bārī too is a product of his creative thought. Discriminating people can look at many words and sentences from it as well, and understand the saying, 'Like father, like son; like mother, like daughter'. A reliable manuscript that I have seen with my own eyes says in dohrā *meter: [three dohrās]. In 'The History of Urdu Poetry' I have written down his excellent *riddles, mukarnīs, do suḳhanahs, *misjoinders. Look at them, and reflect that the meters are those of dohrās, yet the Persian influence shows its strength.
Kabīr: The dohrās of the Hindu poets are in Braj Bhasha, but they tell us about the language from age to age. Thus in the time of Sikandar Lodī there was a poet named Kabīr who lived in Banaras; he was illiterate. He became a follower of Gurū Rāmānand, and himself founded the Kabīr Panthī sect. If his writings were collected, they would fill a number of books. Look at the Persian and Arabic words in his dohrās: [two dohrās].
Gurū Nānak: Gurū Nānak Sahib composed a considerable body of writing. Although his language is specific to the Punjab region, there are more Arabic and Persian words in his poetry than in anyone else's. #17# And because he died after A.H. 900 (A.D. 1500), his writing can also be an example of the Punjabi of four hundred years ago: [one dohrā]. In fact, a number of things are by way of religious liturgy. In them too Arabic and Persian words can be seen with the same frequency. Look at two phrases from the Jap jī: [two phrases].
The 'Padmāvat' of Malik Muḥammad Jāʾisī: In that time, the Muslims too loved the language of this country. Thus in the sixteenth century after Christ, in the time of Sher Shāh, there came a poet called Malik Muḥammad 'Jāʾisī'. He put into poetry the dāstān of Padmāvat. This work shows not only what the language of that period was like, but also how lovingly the Muslims living here had begun to speak the language of this country. Jāʾisī even used a Hindi meter. And if you go along turning over page after page, you don't find a single Persian or Arabic word. Which means that nowadays not only the Muslims, but even most Hindus too, are unable to understand it. The book has been printed and is available everywhere, so I won't record an example from it.
Good for the parrot! [An anecdote is told about a parrot #18# who used a Persian phrase.] The point of this *anecdote is that in that age too, Arabic and Persian words came spontaneously to people's lips. Which is why the [Persian] word 'traitor' came from the parrot's tongue; a bird surely says what it has heard.
The 'Rāmāʾin' of Bābā Tulsī Dās: In the seventeenth century after Christ, there was Bābā Tulsī Dās, a Brahman, who came from Bāndah district; he was a pandit, and a poet too, and a faqir too. He translated the Rāmāʾin into Bhasha in such a way that that peerless book became popular among great and small. In his dohrās there are many--and in the above-mentioned book some--Persian and Arabic words. Dohrās from the Rāmāʾin: [five dohrās].
In the same age, Sūrdās-jī made his poetry universally popular through his descriptions of Srī Krishan-jī. In his works there is scarcely a single *verse without a Persian or Arabic word. [Six verses are cited.] Think about it: when these venerable religious elders used Persian words in their dohrās, wouldn't the ordinary Hindus have used even more in their conversation?
Look at Bhasha at the height of its ascendancy: #19# Finally, the beauty and excellence of Braj Bhasha were made manifest through the *appreciation of Raja Jai Singh Savāʾī. By rewarding every worthy pandit and dohrā-composer with a gold piece, he spread the enthusiasm [for Braj Bhasha] in Delhi and its environs.
In this age, what would the Muslims' language have been like? Obviously it had been a number of centuries since Islam had arrived. Those whose fathers and grandfathers for many generations had arisen from the dust of this land and mingled with its dust, would certainly have been caused by their mutual interrelationships and connections to speak the language of this place, Braj Bhasha. Those recently arrived would have used a clumsy new speech, half their own and half that of the others. There is no *prose composition from those times. Only Amīr Ḳhusrau's single ghazal, and his riddles, mukarnīs, and songs, tell us about it: that in A.H. 700 [1300-01] the Muslims here must have spoken fluent Bhasha. In fact this poetry tells us also that the Muslims had now begun to consider the local language their own language, and with what enthusiasm and love they spoke it. No doubt in comparison to the Hindus, more Persian and Arabic words would have come to their tongues. And as they lived here longer and became more settled, day by day the Persian and Turkish would have weakened, and the local language gained strength. Gradually, in the time of Shāh Jahān, when the sun of the Timurid fortunes was right at its zenith, the city and its protective fortifications were built, and a new Delhi became the seat of government. The king and the nobles of his court mostly began to live there. The military men, the writers, the artisans and merchants and so on, people of different countries and different cities, were collected in one place. In Turkish, an army bazaar is called an urdū. In the royal camp and court, they generally used a mixture of words. The name of that language became 'Urdu'. All credit ought to be given to the ascendant fortune of Shāh Jahān. For this language gained fame by being attributed to his camp.
The natural requisites for the acquisition of Persian: Otherwise--to generalize from the examples of poetry and prose that have been given--you can say that from the time when the Muslims set foot in India, their language began to influence the language here. The poetry of Chand Kavī has become available; the [Persian and Arabic] words are in it. If we find any poetry or prose from the time of Maḥmūd [of Ghazna], it too #20# will certainly have the words in it.
Intelligent judgment is necessary: The preceding discussion has also shown that whatever occurred was not due to anybody's instigation or intention. Rather, this language has a temperament so hospitable and friendly that she mingles with every language. Sanskrit came--she mixed with it. Arabic and Persian came--she bid them a cordial welcome in their own mode. Now she's giving space to English words, as if she'd been sitting there waiting for them all along.
Why it is called Rekhtah: They call this language 'Rekhtah'b as well. For different languages have made it 'mixed' [reḳhtah]--the way bricks, mud, lime, whitewash, and so on make a wall sturdy. Or there's this too: reḳhtah can also mean a 'fallen, dispersed, scattered' thing. Because scattered words are brought together in it, they call it 'Rekhtah'. This is just the reason that words from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and so on--a number of languages--are part of it; and now English too is steadily entering into it. And there will come a time when, like Arabic and Persian [in the past], the English language will become dominant.
The conversation of a navab's son: Therefore I here record the conversation of a hereditary navab's son, who has been raised and educated at home--which means that neither has the verbosity of Arabic and Persian tinged him with its hue, nor has English painted and polished him. This is only friendly, informal conversation. [A brief narrative of a trip to town is provided.] #21# The Persian and Arabic words are obvious. But notice that [five words] are Turkish. Mezc is unknown. Nīlām [=auction] is Portuguese. Kamrā [=room] is Italian. Ḍipṭī [deputy], rel isṭeshan [rail station], koṭ [coat], vāskaṭ [waistcoat], kanṭar [counter], gilās [glass] are English. [Two words] are Punjabi. [Various words and usages in Punjabi and Urdu are compared and discussed.] Rūp [=form], sajīlā [=handsome], jauban [=youth], gañvāyā [=wasted] are Braj Bhasha.
In addition to them, consider everyday usage. Yūsuf [Joseph], Hārūn [Aaron], Mūsā [Moses], ʿĪsā [Jesus], and so on, are Hebrew. Kīmyā [=chemistry], failsūf [=philosopher], uṣt̤urlāb [astrolabe] are Greek. Urad, which is the same as māsh [= a kind of lentil], is Tamil. Nannhā, or 'small', is Gujarati. Baṛā, which you fry in a pan, is Telugu. Gudām [=warehouse] is from the language of Malaya. Tamākū [tobacco] is a word from America. It arrived here in the time of Akbar, by way of Europe.
At that time, no book in prose, from which we could have discovered #22# the sequence of these changes, had yet been written in Urdu. I would have described the poetry of Mīr Jaʿfar 'Zaṭal' as an example from the time of Muḥammad Shāh, or rather from before his time. But how can anyone place any trust in nonsense [zaṭal]?
An excerpt from Faẓlī's 'Dah majlis': Certainly in A.H. 1145 [1732-33], in the time of Muḥammad Shāh, a gentleman with the pen-name Faẓlī wrote Dah majlis. In its introduction he tells his reasons for writing it. And probably this is the first work in Urdu prose. [An illustrative passage is provided.]
'Shuʿlah-e ʿishq' was in prose too: Mirzā Rafīʿ ['Saudā'] wrote out in prose too the same plot as that of Mīr's *masnavi Shuʿlah-e ʿishq. It's a pity that I don't have it with me now. Its style is exactly the same [as Faẓlī's]. But I copy out these few sentences from one of Saudā's prefaces that is in his *Complete Works: [a prose passage that includes #23# one verse within it.]
About thirty years after this work, when Mīr Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān ['Inshā'] and Mirzā Jān-e Jānāñ 'Maz̤har' met in Delhi, some sentences of their conversation [from Daryā-e lat̤āfat] are also worthy of attention: [a passage of dialogue].
But Sayyid Inshā included in Daryā-e lat̤āfat, under the name of Mīr Ġhafar Ġhainī,d a conversation that is surprising to read. In what mold of eloquence did this accomplished gentleman shape that language? For those speeches [given above] and this speech [of Mīr Ġhafar Ġhainī's] are as different as earth and sky. Perhaps gentlemen like Mirzā Jān-e Jānāñ and Saudā had one style for writing, and another for speaking.
In any case, up to this time the literature and the development and the expansion of Urdu had rested only on the language of the poets, whose works were romantic ghazals and encomiastic *odes. And the purpose of these was only to obtain rewards from nobles and the wealthy and thus make a living, or to entertain themselves, or to be honored with praise and admiration from their peers. And that too only in poetry; no one had paid the least attention to prose. For all necessary business was transacted in Persian. But behold the power of God: within a brief period a number of natural effects came together. And the primary cause was general understanding: since everyone knew the language, the writers became eager to receive exclamations of 'Bravo!'. #24# Mīr Muḥammad ʿAt̤ā Ḥusain Ḳhān 'Taḥsīn' wrote the qiṣṣah of the Four Dervishes in Urdu, and gave it the name Nau t̤arz-e muraṣṣaʿ. This work was begun in the reign of Shujāʿ ud-Daulah, and was completed in A.D. 1798 (A.H. 1213), in the reign of Navab Āṣif ud-Daulah.
Here, this lively boy [Urdu] was delighting everyone, in poets' gatherings and the courts of the wealthy, with the mischievous pranks of his youth. There, the wise European was seated with a telescope atop the fort of Fort William in Calcutta. He looked--and his hawk-like glance deduced that the boy was promising, but needed training. It was decided that whatever land they govern, they must learn its language. Accordingly, in A.D. 1799 (A.H. 1214), Mīr Sher ʿAlī 'Afsos' wrote Bāġh-e urdū, and in A.D. 1805 (A.H. 1220), Ārāʾish-e maḥfil. Mīr 'Amman' Dihlavī, in A.D. 1802 (A.H. 1217), beautifully arranged Bāġh o bahār, and during the same period translated Aḳhlāq-e muḥsinī. Along with this, John Gilchrist Sahib wrote an Urdu grammar in English. In A.D. 1802 (A.H. 1218), Shri Lallūjī Lāl Kavī wrote the Prem sāgar,e and the Baitāl pachchīsī,f which had come from Sanskrit into Braj Bhasha in the time of Muḥammad Shāh. Now, having been turned into widely understood Urdu, it was written in Devanagari [script]. But no one can suppress the sound of this drumroll of pride: that Mīr Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān is the first person who, in A.D. 1807 (A.H. 1222), wrote an Urdu grammar, and made the flowers of wit bloom on the branch of *invention.
Religious works in Urdu: It is especially interesting that Religion too, seeing how widely the language was understood, placed its hand of blessing on the head of Urdu. That is to say, in A.D. 1807 (A.H. 1222), Maulvī Shāh ʿAbd ul-Qādir Sahib translated the Holy Quran into Urdu. After that, Maulvī Ismāʿīl Sahib wrote some *pamphlets in Urdu, for the understanding and admonition of ordinary followers of Islam.
Urdu newspapers: From A.D. 1835 onwards, some government offices too began to use Urdu. After some years, all the government offices used it. In the same year, newspapers began to be issued freely. In A.D. 1836, an Urdu newspaper was started in Delhi. And that was the first newspaper in this language; it issued from the pen of my late father [Maulvī Muḥammad Bāqar].
Urdu in government offices: #25# In short, because of its easiness, and because it's the language of the country, it was declared it the official government office language too. Urdu began gradually to push Persian back, and step forward itself. Then the government considered it proper that the people of this country should be taught English arts and sciences in their own language. Accordingly, from A.D. 1842 a society [sosāʾīṭī] was formed in Delhi, and translations began to be made; and because of the need, scholarly words began to become available. Just think: a language with only this much of a foundation--what kind of a language can it have been, and how wide a scope for expression can it have had? Indeed, we can now hope that perhaps it too will one day attain some rank in the array of learned languages.
Urdu changes its complexion with every day that passes: Urdu is changing its complexion so very quickly that if a writer himself compares his own work of one year with his work of another year, he'll find a difference in his language. Nevertheless, it's not yet capable of expressing every kind of idea to the desired extent, or freely translating books of all the sciences. The reason is that many sciences and thousands of intellectual problems have emerged in European countries, which in former times absolutely did not exist. Thus even Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Bhasha, and so on, which are Urdu's elders, do not have words in their treasuries to express such meanings. And thus we cannot be particularly surprised at the poverty of poor Urdu. Especially since both Hindus and Muslims have let their respective inheritances from their ancestors slip through their hands.
a 'San' means 'complete', and 'krit' means 'having been made'. Sanskrit was made by the civilized. 'Prakrit' means 'emerged from nature'; thus the Prakrits are those languages that nature [nechar] has produced in its various fields.
c In the Dari language, mez is a translation of 'table' [ṭebal]. But Urdu did not get it from current Persian--the Sahibs brought it.
e The Prem sāgar was turned into Bhasha in Samvat 1860 .
f Maẓhar ʿAlī 'Vilā' wrote the Baitāl pachchīsī in Urdu in A.D. 1805.