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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

The Punjabi Language

Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language native to the region of Pakistan and India. It is one of the most widely spoken native languages. Over 95% of people who speak Punjabi as their first language live in Pakistan and India. In Pakistan, it is spoken as the first language by over 65% people and there were 145 million Punjabi speakers in Pakistan in 2023. In India, Punjabi is spoken as a native language by 4% of the population. There were 70 million Punjabi speakers in India in 2023. Punjabi is the official language of Punjab, and it is an additional official language of Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi. Large numbers of people ( 65% ) speak Punjabi as their mother tongue in Pakistan but still it is not declared as an official language as it is done in India. While a lower number ( 4% ) of people speak Punjabi in India, a large Punjabi-speaking region is with Pakistan. Pakistan is capable of keeping the Punjabi language alive forever as many important Punjabi writers belong to Pakistan like Waris Shah, Shah Mohammad, Baba Farid, Baba Kabir, Bule Shah, Famodar Gulati, Shah Husain, Khwaja Gilliam Farid, Hashim, Guru Nanak, Anwar Masood, Amrita Pritam, Prof. Mohan Singh, Dhani Ram Chatrik, Nanak Singh, and Shiv Kumar Batalvi. We all must try to learn as many languages as we can and respect all languages so that we can feel comfortable in different regions wherever we may go and live.

In India, Punjabi is written in Gurmukhi and in Pakistan in Shahmukhi/Urdu. In spite of the large number of speakers of Punjabi, and rich traditions of popular poetry, other languages were used: Mughal and Sikh Empires used Persian as the official language, British and Pakistan - Punjab used Urdu as the official language. In India, Punjab took 19 years to make the Punjabi language an official language of Punjab. Languages are not associated with the religions, they are associated with the region. In Maharashtra, Marathi is the official language; in Gujrat, Gujarati is the official language; in Tamil Nadu, Tamil is the official language; in Bengal, Bengali is the official language. Similarly in both Punjab ( East Punjab and West Punjab ) Punjabi may be the official language.

The vast majority of Punjabi speakers reside in Pakistan ( Punjab, Sindh ) and India ( Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Chandigarh, Jamu ). There is a Punjabi diaspora in the United Kingdom, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, the United States, Australia, Kenya, South Africa, and Fiji. The Punjabi community has become an important, influential and quite large community in the world and this community respects each other. In India and Pakistan, Punjabi people often cannot interact with each other due to political situations, but in other countries they respect each other and have developed cordial relations with each other. Some people of India visited Pakistan and Pakistani people showed great respect and honour, and the same happened when Pakistani people visited India.

Majha is Punjabi’s standard dialect which includes: Lahore, Sheikupura, Kasur, Okara, Nankana Sahib, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Narowal, Gujrat, Pakpattan, Hafajabad, Mandi Bahauddiin, Amritsar, and Gurdaspur Districts. Other dialects of Punjabi include Rachnavi, Chenavari, Chhachhi, Jandali, Saraiki, Hindoko, Potohari, and are similar to Punjabi. Punjabi is a very rich language in all respects; we can sing in a great tone in Punjabi, we can make great jokes in Punjabi and there are large number of Punjabi phrases and Punjabi loke-geet which are mostly used in Hindi and Urdu shows and films.

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