Volume - 2 : Issue - 1

Published : Jan. - Mar. 2003

Group : Language


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Sindhi, My Mother Tongue

By Prem Matlani

It has always been a riddle for me to find many Sindhis openly deriding their own community as well as language, mostly on flimsy grounds. Sindhis are observed speaking any language but their mother tongue and proudly proclaiming that they could not speak Sindhi, for no fault of the language itself. Many examples may be cited in this regard but just look at few utterances published in October, 2002 issue of ‘Sindhishaan’. A lady feels ashamed to be termed as “Papar Khau”, as if it were an abuse. Since when and in which society, eating of papars is regarded as a menial practice? On the other hand, there are some people who describe Sindhis as a superior race, though I personally do not subscribe to this point of view as I regard all human beings as equal. Isn’t it a fact that superiority complex itself is nothing but simply a form of inferiority complex? In order to educate present generation of Sindhis, I would like to put some hard facts before them regarding Sindhis, Sindh and their mother tongue Sindhi.

Sanskrit, popularly believed to be mother of all languages is credited to the Aryans, who are said to have come from Mesopotamia region into Sindhu valley via its north-western entrances around 1500 B.C. This theory of Aryans being alien to Sindhu is contested by many historians. It is believed that Aryans were original inhabitants of Sindh who had to go out for want of different pursuits around 5000 B.C. Out of them, some returned back to Sindhu valley in and around 1500 B.C. The discovery of Indus civilisation after excavation of Mohen-jo-daro has also proved beyond doubt that Sindhu civilisation existed in its most refined form, some 7000 years back. They had a full fledged language, which was not only spoken but written too as is proved by discovery of the seals from Mohen-jo-daro ruins. What would people term a language spoken by inhabitants of Sindh? Of course, Sindhi! The vagaries of climate, natural disasters, mass scale migrations and frequent attacks of aliens on Sindhi soil may have resulted in dilution of that language, but no one will at least ever deny of its existence. Though the language may have metamorphosed from its earlier form into present one with the passage of time.

Dr. Krishna Rao M.V.N., says in ‘Indus Script Deciphered’: “The reading of Sindhu valley writings leads us to believe that original inhabitants of Indus valley were a mixed generation of Arya with Ashoor. They had not come to Sindh from outside, but were natives and original residents of this part of the world. They were known as Arya to contemporary people. It was one of four nationalities of the times. Apart from Sindhu valley’s Aryans, other three were Semetic, Hami and Turanians.” Even Sir Grierson G. had admitted in his book ‘Linguistic Survey of India’ Volume 1, Part 1, “The Sanskrit is derived from a dialect Udechya of Prakrit spoken in north western area of the banks of Sindhu river.”

Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji, a linguistic expert has also corroborated the theory and said in his book, ‘Indo Aryan and Hindu’ : “The languages of Aryans were divided into three groups namely Udechya or north western dialect, Madhya Deshya or Central Indian dialect and Prachya or eastern dialect. Out of them Udechya dialect was nearer to the language of Rig Veda”. He further said, “Sanskrit emerged from Udechya dialect which was enthusiastically patronised by brahamans in Central India, Europe and South.

Noted Sindhi linguist, Ali Nawaz Jatoi had dwelt extensively on this subject in his book ‘Ilm Lisaan ain Sindhi Zuban’ (Page 170) and concluded that Sindhi is an indigenous language, even older than Sanskrit, though it has adopted many words from latter, just like it has absorbed many words from Persian, Arabic or English. The understanding of a word ‘Sindhi’ in Sanskrit, which later on changed to Sandhi would be interesting for benefit of our readers. Whenever a new term is devised by addition of any prefix or suffix with any infinitive, it is known as Sandhi in Sanskrit. Pei Mario and Frank Gaynor’s ‘Dictionary of Linguistics’, New York Philosophical Library, 1954, (Page-190); has defined ‘Sandhi’ as, a term of Sanskrit origin (literary meaning linking), designing the phonetic changes of a word according to its function or position in a sentence. Another expert on phonetics, Mr. Daniel Jones has defined ‘Sandhi’ or ‘Assimilation’ as, “the process of replacing a sound by another sound, under the influence of a third sound which is near to it in the word or a sentence.”

Above discussion can go on and on, but the end result will be none other than this, that no language of Indian sub-continent is derived from Sanskrit , rather Sanskrit is derived from Udechya dialect of the Prakrit spoken in north-western area of  Indus valley. In other words, the origin of Sanskrit is a dialect of primary Prakrit.

Sir Richard Burton in his notes, ‘Population of Sindh’ (1847 A.D.) page 643, says : “Sindhi dialect is a language, perfectly distinct from any spoken in India. It is used with many varieties, from the northern boundary of Kathiawar, as far north as Bahawalpur and extends from the hills to the west, to the desert which separates Sindh from the eastern portion of Indian peninsula. Its grammatical structure is heterogeneous, the noun and its branches belong to the Sanskrit, whereas the verb and adverb are formed apparently upon the Persian model. Pure as well as corrupted Sanskrit words, perfectly unintelligible to unlearned natives of the Indian peninsula are perpetually occurring in Sindh, as Saeen (Sir), Kukur (Cock), Jas (Victory) and Apar (Endless) etc”.

Sir Richard Burton in his book, ‘Sindh and Races that inhabit the valley of Indus’ says, “The origin of the Sindhi dialect appear to be lost in the obscurity of antiquity, but there are ample reasons for believing that it is as old as any of the vulgar tongues of modern India. It belongs to the Indian class of languages and is directly derived from the Sanskrit, yet it is a perfectly distinct dialect and not as has been asserted a mere corruption of Hindustani.” He further says, “The Sindhi grammar is much more complicated than those of the modern dialects of Western India. The alphabet to begin with contains five sounds unknown to the cognate tongues, viz:

B        a peculiar labial, formed by forcible pressing the lip together,
G       resembles our g but it’s articulated deep in the throat,
J        a mixture of dental and palatal sounds, somewhat resembling the rapid articulation of d and y “dya”
Dr  a compound cerebral and liquid, of the same formation as Dr.

The anomalous structure of the grammar is remarkable. The terminations of nouns, substantive and adjective, the formation of cases by means of insignificant affixes, the pronoun and pronominal adjectives; and in the verb, the inflexion of conjunctive participle, all belong to the Indian tongues. The points in which it resembles the Persian, are the affixed pronouns of the three persons, and the verb which form the second person of the imperative forms an aorist, which is converted into a present by the addition of unmeaning particles. In some ways, Sindhi is superior to both. The system of analogical casual verbs is more complete and complicated than that of Urdu. Sindhi is superior to most of the dialects of Western India in various minor points of refinement and cultivation, as for instance in the authorised change of terminations in poetical words, the reduplication of final or penultimate letters to assist the rhyme, and many similar signs of elaboration. The Sindhi language again is remarkable for a copiousness and variety of words, which not only infrequently degenerates into a useless luxuriance, and a mere plurality of synonyms. There is not a single article of any kind in the province, for which the vernacular dialect unlike the barbarous Sindho-Persians has not a name. In the case of words denoting external objects, and those most familiar to the people, as for instance the camel, there are often a dozen different names, some synonymous, others distinct in their several shades of meaning. Abstract words are borrowed from the more cultivated tongues, Arabic, Sanskrit and Persian, almost ad libitum, and the result is a very extensive vocabulary”.

Dr. Ernst Trumpp, in his ‘Grammar of Sindhi language’ says : “The Sindhi is a pure Sanskritical language, more free from foreign elements than any other of the north-Indian vernaculars. If we compare Sindhi with its sister tongues, we must assign to it in a grammatical point of view, the first place among them. It is much more closely related to the old Prakrit than the Marathi, Hindi, Punjabi and Bengali of our days, and it has preserved an exuberance of grammatical forms for which all its sisters may well envy it”. Dr. Ernst Trumpp’s love for Sindhi language was so profound that he came out with his first book in Sindhi, titled ‘Sindhi Reading Book’ in 1858 from London when he was just 30 years old.

Professor Annemarie Schimmel, in her book ‘Pearls from the Indus’ agrees with Dr. Ernst Trumpp and says, “He is quite right, when he says that Sindhi has an amazing abundance of forms and is more pliable and harmonious, but much more difficult than the other Indian languages”. Everyone who has tried to learn it will agree with him. Dr. Ernst Trumpp’s love for Sindhi compelled him to come out with ‘Shah-jo-Risalo’, a compilation of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s poems, which he got published from the German city of Leipzig in 1866. Another service rendered in the field of Sindhi by Dr. Ernst Trumpp was his compilation of ‘Grammar of the Sindhi language’ in 1872. Later on, when he wrote ‘Grammar of the Pushto or language of Afghans’, even there he never ceased to show a predilection for Sindhi. He compared many a grammatical form of both these languages. In his introduction to the Pushto grammar, he wrote: “very large stock of pure Pushto words is directly derived from the adjoining Prakrit idioms (chiefly the Sindhi, less so the Punjabi), that the whole bears the closest analogy to the Sindhi, and the whole structure of Pushto’s active and casual verbs in the past tenses fully coincide with and can only be explained by Sindhi.” Even in writing a translation of ‘Guru Granth Saheb’, the holy book of Sikhs, he made comparisons of the dialects used in the Granth Saheb with Sindhi.

Professor Annemarie Schimmel, in the introduction of her book, ‘Pearls from the Indus’ says, “To end my various answers to the question, why do you learn Sindhi, of all languages? Let me confess that as a woman, I love the way Shah Abdul Latif describes his heroines: ‘full of love, faithful to their country (Marui), ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of their love, courageous enough to face danger and death on the road’ to the Eternal Beloved. Would not such poetry alone be worth studying and loving?”

Professor Anne further describes the intelligence of Sindhis and narrates a story, “Apparently the inhabitants of the Indus valley were quite enterprising and took to travelling not only to the court in Baghdad, where we find Indian (means Sindhi) physicians, but even farther:  Ibn Fadlan tells, that a man from Sindh was killed by Bulghars in northern Russia to be offered to their God, because of his extreme intelligence.”

Sindh has always remained as a cradle of cultures right from the dawn of civilisation, where people of different socio-cultural background have always migrated and settled down and have accepted it as their abode enriching Sindhis’ culture, civilisation as well as its language.
For me to describe multifarious dimensions of Sindhi language, not only an article, not only a book, rather battery of books would be needed to encompass its different qualities. Then too perhaps no any single writer would be able to do justice to the Sindhi language…