Hindi is an Indian language spoken in most states in northern and central India. It is an Indo-European language, more specifically a prakrit. Hindi became the official language of India on January 26, 1965 and is the third most spoken language in the world, after Chinese and English. About 600 million people speak, read and write Hindi, in India and abroad, and the total number of people who can understand the language exceeds 1.3 billion. In a number of countries including Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, and Suriname Hindi is the majority language.
Linguists think of Hindi and Urdu as the same language, the difference being that Hindi is written in Devanagari and draws vocabulary from Sanskrit, while Urdu is written in Arabic script and draws on Persian and Arabic. The separation is largely a political one, for before the partition of India and Pakistan by the British, Hindi and Urdu were considered one and the same language, Hindustani.
More than 180 million people in India regard Hindi as their mother tongue. Another 300 million use it as second language. Outside of India, Hindi speakers are 100,000 in USA; 685,170 in Mauritius; 890,292 in South Africa; 232,760 in Yemen; 147,000 in Uganda; 5,000 in Singapore; 8 million in Nepal; 20,000 in New Zealand; 30,000 in Germany. Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, spoken by about 41 million in Pakistan and other countries, is essentially the same language. Dakhini is an older, southern form of Urdu that uses fewer Persian or Arabic words.
Hindi speaking regions: Himachal, Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajsthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Pakistan, Bombay, Hyderabad. Also used in Bangalore, Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates.
Dialects of Hindi: Marwari, Braj, Bundeli, Kanauji, Urdu, Chattisgarhi, Bagheli, Avadhi, Bhojpuri and many others. It is not easy to delimit the borders of the Hindi speaking region. There has been considerable controversy on the status of Punjabi and Maithili, map . Sometimes they are regarded to be independent languages and sometimes dialects of Hindi. A 1997 survey found that 66% of all Indians can speak Hindi, and 77% of the Indians regard Hindi as "one language across the nation".
Hindi's popularity has been helped by the Hindi film industry. These movies have an international appeal and now they have broken into the Western markets as well.
The beginnings of Hindi literature go back to the Prakrits that are a part of the classical Sanskrit plays. Tulasidas's Ramacharitamanas attained wide popularity. Modern masters include Sumitra Nandan Pant, Maithili Sharan Gupta, Mahadevi Varma, Ajneya.