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General Studies 2 >> Governance

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1. Context

September 14 is celebrated as Hindi Diwas, a day dedicated to marking the significance of Hindi as the official language of India. This observance honours the decision made by the Constituent Assembly of India to designate Hindi as the official language of the Union government.

2. Hindi Language

  • Hindi is the fourth most spoken language in the world and is written in Devanagari script. The language got its name from the Persian word 'Hind' - meaning 'land of the Indus River', and is a descendant of Sanskrit.
  • Turk invaders in the early 11th century named the language of the region Hindi, 'language of the land of the Indus River'.
  • It is the official language of India, English being the other official language.
  • Hindi is also spoken in some countries outside India, such as in Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and Nepal.
  • Hindi in its present form emerged through different stages, during which it was known by other names. The earliest form of old Hindi was Apabhramsa. In 400 AD Kalidas wrote a romantic play in Apabhramsa called Vikramorvashiyam.
  • The modern Devanagari script came into existence in the 11th century.

3. Debates in the Constituent Assembly

The Constituent Assembly debated the issue of the official language for three days in September 1949. There were many different views expressed, with some members arguing for Hindi, some for Hindustani, and some for English.

  1. RV Dhulekar from Uttar Pradesh argued that Hindi should be the national language, not just the official language. He said that the nation was not ready to wait for 15 years to start reading the Vedas and the Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and Lilavati and other mathematical works in Hindi.
  2. Frank Anthony from Central Provinces and Berar made a case for English. He said that English was one of the greatest assets that India possessed in the international field and that it should not be given up.
  3. Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra from Bengal argued that Sanskrit should be the national and official language. He said that Sanskrit was the revered grandmother of languages of the world and that it was still alive with full vigour and vitality.
  4. Qazi Syed Karimuddin from Central Provinces and Berar argued that Hindustani should be the national language. He said that Mahatma Gandhi had championed Hindustani and that it was the only language in which both Hindus and Muslims could easily express themselves.
  5. TA Ramalingam Chettiar from Madras said that they had agreed to Hindi simply because it was spoken by a large number of people in the country. He argued that Hindi could not be the national language, because it was no more national to them than English or any other language.

4. Munshi-Ayyangar Formula

  • In the end, the Constituent Assembly adopted the Munshi-Ayyangar formula as a compromise solution.
  • This formula said that Hindi would be the official language of the Union government, but English would continue to be used for all official purposes of the Union for 15 years.

5. Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 343 of the Indian Constitution, as adopted in 1950, established Hindi in the Devanagari script as the official language of the Union.
  • It also specified that English would continue to be used for official purposes for 15 years.
  • After this period, concerns arose about the imposition of Hindi in non-Hindi-speaking regions, particularly Tamil Nadu.

6. Conclusion

  • The debate on the official language of India was a long and heated one, with different members of the Constituent Assembly expressing different views.
  • The Munshi-Ayyangar formula was eventually adopted as a compromise solution, making Hindi the official language of the Union government, but also allowing English to continue to be used for all official purposes for fifteen years. The debate over the official language of India continues to this day.
For Prelims: Official language, National Language, Hindi Diwas, Munshi-Ayyangar Formula, Constituent Assembly of India, RV Dhulekar,  Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, Lilavati, Frank Anthony, Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra, Sanskrit, Qazi Syed Karimuddin, Hindustani, TA Ramalingam Chettiar, 
For Mains: 
1. Discuss the historical context and the debates within the Constituent Assembly regarding the choice of the official language of India. How did the Munshi-Ayyangar formula attempt to address the linguistic diversity of the country? (250 Words)
Previous Year Questions
1. Official language of the Indian Union is  (ACC 121 CGAT 2019) 
A. Hindi in Devnagari script
B. Hindi and English
C. English
D. Hindi, English and Urdu
Answer: A
2. When is 'Hindi Diwas' celebrated? (HP TGT (Arts) TET 2014)
A. 14 September  B. 15 September    C. 16 September    D. 17 September
Answer: A
3. On which day is “World Hindi Day’ (WHD) observed every year to mark the first anniversary of World Hindi Conference (WHC), which was held in 1975? (RRC Group D 2018) 
A. 5th September    B. 14th October      C. 10th January         D. 26th January
Answer: C
4. Who said in the Constituent assembly debate on 27 August 1947, “I believe separate electorates will be suicidal to the minorities." (NTPC CBT-I  2021) 
A. R V dhulekar     
B. 'Govind Bhallabh Pant
C. B. Pocker Bahadur
D. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Answer: B
5. What are Upanishads? (HP TGT (Arts) TET 2017)
A. Religious book of Hindus
B. Book dealing with ancient Hindu Laws
C. Book on Social Behaviour of man
D. Book of prayer to God
Answer: A
6. Ramcharitmanas was the influential work on Ramayana by: (MP Jail Prahari 2018) 
A.Tulsidas       B. Kalidas   C. Ramananda         D. Kabirdas
Answer: A
7. Who wrote the book Ramayana? (Soldier GD 2021)
A. Surdas        B. Kalidas          C. Veda Vyasa          D. Valmiki
Answer: D
8. The Lilavati of Bhaskara is a standard text on: (CDS GK 2016) 
A. Mathematics        B. Surgery       C. Poetics        D.  Linguistics
Answer: A
9. The author of 'Lilavati', Bhaskar-IInd was - (UKPSC 2022)
A. Physician        B. Mathematician       C. Musician         D. Sculptor
Answer: B
10. Who was the first nominated Deputy Chairman of the Constituent Assembly? (MPPSC 2020)
A. T. T. Krishnamachari   
B. V. T. Krishnamachari
C. H.C. Mukherjee
D. Frank Anthony
Answer: D
11. With reference to Dhrupad, one of the major traditions of India that has been kept alive for centuries, which of the following statements are correct? (UPSC 2012)
1. Dhrupad originated and developed in the Rajput kingdoms during the Mughal period.
2. Dhrupad is primarily devotional and spiritual music.
3. Dhrupad Alap uses the Sanskrit syllabus from Mantras.
Select the correct answer using the codes given below:
A. 1 and 2 only       B.  2 and 3 only      C. 1, 2 and 3         D.  None of the above is correct
Answer: B
Source: The Indian Express

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