The mass pilgrimage at Kumbh Mela unites Hindus in a splendid showcase of faith & devotion
India is not for the faint-hearted. It is sensory overload; there are no grey areas: either you’ll love to travel the country or hate it well enough to take the first flight out. India can break you with its poverty, lack of privacy and dirt; ironically, Western travellers claim to have found inner spirituality after a two-week trip. The Kumbh Mela – the largest spiritual gathering in the world, when Hindus gather en masse to bathe in a sacred river and cleanse themselves of sin – is the ultimate test. First documented by a Chinese traveller in the seventh century, the colourful celebration of the world’s oldest religion is held once every 12 years. The exact date of the festival is determined according to a combination of the zodiac positions of Jupiter, the sun and the moon.
Languages in India
The Indian metalanguage has 122 active languages and over 1,500 sub-dialects.
Hindi, the national language, is spoken throughout Northern and Central India. Some 75 percent of Indians speak the Indo-Aryan languages, which originated mostly from Iran, while the rest converse through Dravidian dialects. Persian, which has influenced Farsi and Urdu, was the predominant language during the Mughal period and used in courts in Northern India.
The English language was introduced under British rule. Prior to the British Raj, ancient words in Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu and Tamil found their way to foreign tongues. The influence of the Indian language on English is vast: jungle, veranda, patchouli, shampoo, pyjamas, loot, bungalow, pundit, thug... the list goes on. South Asian words were brought to the West by trade through the East India Company. The soft wool from picturesque Kashmir is known as the root of the famous cashmere shawl or sweater that we cherish today.
One Hundred Years of Song, Dance and Masala.
Hindi is the official language of the republic of India, and an official language in Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname. Estimates of the number of speakers very considerably, dpending on what speech varieties are subsumed by the term 'Hindi'. Ethnologue gives a figur of 260 million speakers of the language in India alone, give it the fourth largest number of native speakers among languages of the world. The language is directly descended from the classical language of Sanskrit and belongs to the Indo-Aryan language group, a sub-set of the Indo-European family. It has been influenced by various languages, among which are Persian, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Portuguese and English.
(Read more on India and its many languages from the full story available in print. Subscribe to our magazine via here)