India is the world’s most populous nation, with more than 1.3 billion people who speak a multitude of different languages and even countless more dialects. For a size comparison, GZERO’s Signal points out that, “many Indian states are equal in population to some of the world’s biggest countries. India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, for example, has more people than Brazil. Maharashtra has more than Japan. Even tiny Assam, the 15th most populous state in India, has more people than Saudi Arabia.” This is all to say that it’s a massive melting pot of culture, history, and the lense through which those two pillars of society manifest themselves: language.
There are 22 major languages in India, written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects. The official Indian languages are Hindi and English, which is also widely spoken according to Just Landed. Breaking it down from a technical standpoint, spoken language in India belongs to several lingual families, the major ones being the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by 78.05% of Indians and the Dravidian languages spoken by 19.64% of Indians. As Vista Wide notes, “while most countries have one or a handful of official or nationally recognized languages, there are typically groups of people residing in each country whose first language is something other than the nation’s lingua franca. The numbers of such groups differ from country to country, and the size of these minority languages “groups” can range from a single individual to millions of speakers.” India is one of these countries, and another one is Papua New Guinea which is the country that speaks the most languages.
The oldest languages in India are most likely Tamil and Sanskrit although putting dates on ancient spoken word is extremely difficult. Today, Hindi is the most spoken language in India, according to World Atlas. “It is also one of the country’s official languages. Hindi is also the fourth most spoken language in the world after Mandarin, Spanish, and English. Currently, there are 551,416,518 Hindi speakers in India.