There are about 6,900 languages currently spoken in the world. Of these, Hindi ranks second after Mandarin Chinese. The third rank goes to Spanish, followed by English (Ref. World Languages & Cultures). About 42 % of India
's 1150 million people speak Hindi, either as their mother tongue or second language.
Hindi and its dialects belong to the Indo-Aryan languages group and are spoken predominantly in the north and central areas of India
. It has evolved from Sanskrit
through Prakrit, an ancient form of the language and Apabhramsha, a dialect deviated off the former, and took shape as a language by tenth century, according to historians, though there is no consensus over the details of it. There were other dialects too, like Braj, Awadhi, Punjabi (Punjab
), Bihari (Bihar
), Chhatisgarhi (Chhattisgarh
, Marwari, Mundeli, Kanuji, Bhojpuri, Maithili and some other khari (khadi) boli (lingua franca of north India
) variants. The long spell of Muslim
rule over Northern India
, khari boli acquired Perso-Arabic words in abundance and this has resulted in the development of Urdu as a language. The term Urdu for the variant form of the language came into existence by 1645. Hindi was more close to Sanskrit
, whereas Urdu was to Arabic and Persian. Urdu and Hindi are almost similar in their vocabulary and grammar. While Urdu is now the official language of Pakistan, Hindi is the official language of India
, along with English. Hindi is written in the Devanagari script, where as Urdu uses its own script, which is a variant of Perso-Arabic script. Hindi has a very powerful and remarkable literary culture and history. There are immortals in its literary skyline like Amir Khosrow (1253-1325) poet, scholar and musician, Kabir Das (1398-1518) the mystic poet, Mira Bai (1498-1547), the legendary devotee of Krishna
and author of bhajans, Sant Surdas (1478-1583), the blind poet who wrote Sur Saagar which originally contained 100,000 poems, Tulsidas (1532-1623) who wrote Ramacharitamanasa, an avadhi version of Valmiki
are noted names of the Middle period of Hindi literary history. During the Modern period, a great name is that of Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan (1796-1869). Ghalib was his pen-name. Born in Agra, he was a great classical poet in Urdu and Persian, and was very popular and highly influential for his poems. Then there was Munshi Prem Chand (1880-1936), author of novels and short stories in Hindi and Urdu. His works like Sevasadana, Maanasarovar, Premashrama, Karmabhumi and Godan made him one of the most popular writers of his time, for his simple language and style, depicting rural life. Jayashankar Prasad (1890-1937), one of the most famous figures in modern Hindi literature, as a dramatist, novelist and poet, he belonged to the chhayaavadi school of Hindi poetry, Yashpal the novelist, Maithilisharan Gupta, the poet, Mahadevi Varma, the novelist, Rahul Samkrityayan (1893-1963), the scholar who spent 45 years of his life traveling away from his home, and writing novels short stories, travelogues and biographies of great persons, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, the poet, and Narendra Kholi, the novelist are some other names of prominent writers of the modern period.