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Dakhni – The Language of South India

Dakhni – The Language of South India

Not Hyderabadi or Hindi, neither Hyderabadi Urdu nor Hyderabadi Hindi, the language spoken in Hyderabad is actually known as Dakhni. It isn’t a localized version of the Rekhta or Dehlavi as usually perceived but that thought could be contested vehemently by some. Although most of Dakhni’s vocabulary does comes from Marathi, Telugu, Kannada, Persian, Dehlavi and Rekhta along with bits and pieces from Arabic, it has an essence of its own. Due to the political positioning of cities like Bidar, Gulbarga and Hyderabad, Dakhni has had an ideal mixture of multiple languages.
"Buzdil hai woh jo jeetey ji marne se darr gaya
Ek maich tha toh jo kaam hi kuch aur kar gaya
Jab maut aake mere ko karne lagi salaam
Main walaikum salam bola aur marr gaya"
- Ghouse Mohiuddin Khamkha
Dakhni is spoken in a majority of the Deccan region which includes modern day Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. It isn’t as prevalent in the neighboring states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, although Vellore does have a Dakhni speaking population. The distribution of Dakhni speakers is quite expansive due to the existence of various dynasties over the centuries. Notable empires of the region include the Kakatiya’s, Vijaynagara, the Marathas, the Bahamani Sultanate and its successors ending with Asaf Jahi rule.

Literature in Dakhni under the Bahamani Kings flourished. Many centers of learning were set up for the perpetuation of the language. It worked as a binding force for the people in Gulbarga, Bidar, Ahmednagar, Golkonda, Bijapur, Mysore and Madras. This allowed them to keep their differences aside and celebrate common ground ensuring stability in the region. It was during the time of Feroz Shah Bahmani that the first books in Dakhni prose and poetry were written by the saint Hazrat Khwaja Banda Nawaz.

Other writers of this time were Mushtaq, Lutfi, Feroz and Ashraf. They happened to be contemporaries of each other with each one of them having a commendable impact on Dakhni literature of their time. Mushtaq was known for his ghazals and qasidey and so was Lutfi. Feroz was a disciple of saint Hazrat Maqdoomji Shaikh Mohammed Ibrahim. He achieved great fame for his masnavis in the Golkonda region. Ashraf was known for masnavis. In his book titled 'Nousas Har', Ashraf refers to Dakhni as 'Hinduvi' due to the fact that it was still developing as a language and was referred to by different names.

Dakhni reached its zenith under the Kings of Golkonda. This is due to their stable status in the Deccan region when compared to other rulers and the fact that the ruling class themselves took special interests in learning languages, arts and culture. An exemplary example in writing is that of the founder of Hyderabad, Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, whose collection contains over 50,000 lines of Dakhni poetry. He was also the first poet of Urdu whose complete collection was published. Wajihuddin Wajhi, Gavvasi, Ibn e Nishati and Shah Raju were some of the poets of that time. The genre of marsia developed to a great extent during the Qutub Shahi period.

Other areas of the Deccan plateau and elsewhere also witnessed the growth of Dakhni poets. Shaik Ali Sir Gham Dhani, Shaik Bahuddin Bhajan and Shaik Khoob Mohammed rose from Gujarat. Bahri and Hasan Shouki grew and settled in Golkonda. Vali Vellori grabbed the limelight in Vellore followed by Momin in Mysore. Most of these writers had a heavy influence of religious philosophy and Sufism on their work. There were a select few like Abdulla Qutub Shah who wrote on romance and other worldly topics. Not to forget Wali Dakhni who mesmerized greats like Shah Hatem and Meer Taqi Meer with his ghazals.

"Neem Hakeem khatrah e jaan
Neem Mullah khatrah-e-imaan"

As of today, Dakhni is spoken on a large scale but when it comes to reading and writing, standard Urdu is used. This is due to the fact that Dakhni’s written script has long been dead. The loss was due to Mughals taking over the region in the 18th century and appointing the Nizams as their governors. Official languages were then changed to Persian and Urdu. Owing to this alteration in patronization, poets shifted to writing in standard Urdu, hoping to avail benefits that came along. Despite this crisis, Dakhni has remained a spoken language and can be heard in most of South India.

For many North Indians, a tryst with Dakhni is the surprise of a lifetime. Visitors from the Hindi belt feel that everyone understands them and like the patronizingly awful Indian, they approve of the fact that the natives are speaking tolerably understandable Hindi! What they fail to understand is that Dakhni has a different dialect in every region of South India. The Bangalori dialect has a splash of Kannada and Tulu whereas the Aurangabadi style has more of Marathi in it. However, the Hyderabadi style has a mix of Telugu with pinches of Marathi while the dialect spoken in Tamil Nadu has a tinge of Tamil and Kannada.

Dakhni in today’s India has lost its shine. This could be attributed to its differences with standard Urdu and Hindi. However, modern day poets and scholars of Dakhni have tried to spread its sweetness. Some of them include Zabiulla, Sulaiman Khateeb, Mohammed Himayathullah, Syed Mustafa Kamal and the immortal of Ghouse Khamkha Hyderabadi. Characters played the legendary actor Mehmood also used to have a depiction of Dakhni in them. An attempt to revive the language was made by Gautam Premaraju in his documentary titled Kya Hai Ki, Kya Nai Ki: A Tongue Untied. Films like 'The Angrez' did reignite the flame of Dakhni for a brief period. There is a requirement of consistent efforts to revive the language and its literature.

Sources:

  1. The Value of Dakhni Language and Literature – Sayed Mohamed

  2. Not 'Urdu’, not 'Hyderabadi Hindi’, its Dakhni. Understanding our spoken language – Yunus Lasania

  3. Dakhni: People’s Language – T. Vijayendra

  4. Rediscovering DakhniReshmi Chakravorty

  5. When a Northern tongue moved South – Karthik Venkatesh

  6. Bengaluru’s rishta with Urdu – Reema Behl

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