Celebrating Linguistic Diversity: A Journey Through The Multitude of Tongues in India

India, a land of rich cultural heritage, is home to an array of customs, traditions, and, not to forget, languages. From the snow-capped Himalayas in the north to the tropical greenery in the south, the subcontinent is as varied in its tongues as it is in its landscapes. This article explores the total languages in India, their historical significance, and the role they play in shaping the country’s identity.

A Tapestry of Tongues: The Magnitude

The magnitude of linguistic diversity in this nation is astounding. With every state, sometimes every district, one might stumble upon a different dialect or tongue. While there are 22 officially recognised dialects, the number of dialects and tongues spoken across the nation is far greater, reaching up to 1,652, according to some sources. This reflects the richness and complexity of the country’s heritage and history, as each dialect holds within it centuries of traditions and stories. They form the backdrop against which the country’s rich literature, folk traditions, and societal structures have evolved. 

The Classical Dialects: Pillars of Cultural Heritage

Among the multitude, there are a few that have been recognised as ‘Classical Languages’. These are tongues that have a rich literary tradition and ancient heritage. Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Odia hold this esteemed status. These dialects have been an integral part of the subcontinent’s history, with texts and literature dating back thousands of years. They serve as a window into the ancient world, giving insights into the social, cultural, and political life of yesteryears. The importance of these classical languages extends beyond just historical and cultural significance. They continue to enrich the modern Indian tongues, providing them with a vast lexicon of words and a structural framework. 

The Modern Vernaculars: The Voice of Contemporary Society

Apart from the classical ones, there are modern vernaculars that are spoken by the majority of the population. Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, and Gujarati are some of the widely spoken dialects in contemporary times. These are not only a means of communication but also play a significant role in the social and cultural identity of the regions they are prevalent in. Literature, cinema, and media in these vernaculars have a massive impact on the life and culture of the people. 

The Role of Tongues in Unity and Diversity

In a country with such vast linguistic diversity, tongues play a crucial role in both unifying and diversifying the population. On one hand, they create a sense of identity and belonging among people who speak the same dialect. On the other, they contribute to the rich tapestry of diversity that defines the nation. The national tongue, Hindi, and English, which is widely spoken, serve as lingua franca enabling communication across linguistic barriers. 

Protecting the Lesser Known: A Responsibility

While the nation boasts of a high number of tongues, there are several that are dwindling and are on the brink of extinction. These lesser-known dialects are an integral part of the country’s heritage. Efforts are needed to protect and preserve these linguistic treasures. Documentation, promotion of literature, and incentivising their learning and usage can play a significant role in this endeavour. In a globalised world, where smaller tongues are facing the threat of being swallowed by dominant ones, the preservation of these dialects becomes even more crucial.


As this post explored the sheer diversity and richness of the total languages in India, it becomes evident that they are not just means of communication but are intrinsically linked to the country’s identity and heritage. From the classical dialects that offer a glimpse into ancient history, to the modern vernaculars that define contemporary culture, the role of tongues in the nation is multifaceted. Protecting and cherishing this linguistic diversity is integral to preserving the subcontinent’s rich cultural tapestry. Encouraging the study and use of these languages, especially the lesser-known ones, will ensure that they continue to thrive and enrich the nation’s cultural mosaic for generations to come.