Marathi language

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Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western India (Maharashtrians). It serves as the official language of the state of Maharashtra, with roughly ninety million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi ranks 4th in India with respect to the number of people who claim it as their primary language. Along with Bengali, Marathi is the oldest of the regional literatures in Indo-Aryan languages, dating from about AD 1000.

Marathi is at least fifteen hundred years old, and derives its grammar and syntax from Pali and Prakrit. The Marathi language was earlier known as Maharashtri, Maharathi, Malhatee or Marthi in ancient times.

Some of the peculiar features of Marathi linguistic culture include Marathi drama, with its unique flavour of 'Sangeet Natak' (musical dramas), scholarly discourses called 'Vasant Vyakhyanmala' (Lectures in Spring), Marathi folk dance called 'Lavani', and special editions of magazines for Diwali called 'Diwali anka'.


Geographic distribution

Marathi is primarily spoken in Maharashtra and, to a lesser extent, in the neighboring states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, union-territories of Daman-diu and Dadra Nagar Haveli. The cities of Baroda and Ahmedabad (Daxini) in Gujarat, Belgaum, Hubli, Dharwad and Bidar in Karnataka, Indore and Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh have a sizable number of Marathi-speaking communities. Marathi is also spoken by Maharashtrian émigrés in North America and Europe. The Ethnologue states that Marathi is even spoken in Israel and Mauritius.

Official Status

Marathi serves as an official language of Indian state of Maharashtra. The Constitution of India recognizes Marathi as one of India's twenty-two official languages.

In addition to universities in Maharashtra, universities at Baroda (Gujarat), Osmania (Andhra Pradesh), and Panjim (Goa) all have special departments for higher studies in Marathi linguistics.


Marathi literature

Marathi started on its own quite early, but began its literary career only in 13AD. Marathi can be traced back far beyond the 10th century. It descends from Sanskrit through Pali, Maharashtri and Maharashtra - Apabhramsa. Maharashtri Prakrit was most popular amongst Prakrit languages and widely spoken in western and southern India. Today's Marathi and Kannada speaking parts were speaking Maharashtri from centuries. A gradual process of change and modification in the spoken language has led to the rise of the present Marathi.

Pre-13th Century A.D.

Earliest forms There is no unanimity amongst scholars about the origin and antiquity of Marathi language. The earliest known written form is on the copper plate of Vijayaditya found in Satara, dated 739 CE. The stone inscription at the feet of Shravanabelgola Gomateshwar, whose first line reads as "Chavundarajen Karaviyalen" (श्रीचावुण्डराजे करवियले, श्रीगंगराजे सुत्ताले करवियले, meaning Built by Chavundaraja, the King), is another old specimen, constructed in 983 CE. Also, an interesting couplet is found in the Jain monk Udyotan Suri's 'Kuvalayamala' in the 8th century, referring to a bazaar where the Marhattes speak Dinnale (Dile - given), Gahille (Ghetale - taken). The Marathi translation of Panchatantra is also considered very old.

(Pratishthan) Satvahanas Scholars believe that Marathi descended from Maharashtri Prakrit, the official language of the Satavahana empire during its early periods. With the patronage of the Satavahana empire based at Pratishthana (now Paithan), Maharashtri became the most widespread Prakrit language of its time, and was also dominant amongst the three Dramatic Prakrits, (Sauraseni and Magadhi being the other two). A version of Maharashtri, Jaina Maharashtri, was used in part of the Jain canon. The most famous literature in Maharashtri is the Gathasaptashathi, an anthology of poems collected by the Satavahana Emperor Hala (150 BC). (See reference publications).

13th Century A.D. to 1905 A.D.

(Devgiri) Yadavas The origin and growth of Marathi literature is indebted to two important events. The first was the rise of the Jadhava (Yadava) dynasty, whose capital was Devgiri. The Yadavas adopted Marathi as the court language and patronized Marathi learned men. The second event was the coming of two religious sects known as Mahanubhav Panth and Warkari Panth. During the period of 'Devagiri', the Yadavas of Devagiri' Maharashtri slowly evolved into Marathi over the course of the 13th and 16th centuries CE. There were several saint-poets during this time, such as Chakradhar Swami of the Mahanubhav Sect (events and anecdotes from whose miracle filled life were compiled by his close disciples as "Li?acaritra" (लीळाचरीत्र) shortly after his passing "northwards" from their midst. It is the oldest biography and probably the oldest book in prose form in Marathi), Mukundaraj who wrote Vivekasindhu(विवेकसिंधु). One of the more famous saints of this period is Sant (which means saint in Marathi) Dnyaneshwar (1275-1296) who wrote Bhawarthadeepika, which is popularly known as Dnyaneshwari. Mahanubhav panth and Warkari panth adopted Marathi as the medium for preaching their doctrines of devotion.

Warkari sect They were followed by the Warkari saint-poet Eknath ((1528-1599). Mukteswar translated the great epic Mahabharata into Marathi. Social reformers like saint-poet Tukaram transformed Marathi into a rich literary language. A real genius, Tukaram’s poetry contained his wonderful inspirations. He was a radical reformer. Conciseness, clarity, vigor and earnestness were the peculiarities of his poetry. Writers of the Mahanubhav sect contributed to Marathi prose while the saint-poets of Warkari sect composed Marathi poetry. However, the latter group is regarded as the pioneers and founders of Marathi literature.

Maratha Period Since 1630, Marathi regained prominence with the rise of the loose-knit Maratha empire beginning with the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji (1630 – 1680). Subsequent rulers extended the empire northwards to Delhi, eastwards to Orissa, and southwards to Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. These excursions by the Marathas helped the spread of Marathi over broader geographical regions.Politically, the 17th Century was hectic and war-ridden for the region. At the time, Samartha (a title meaning The Able One) Ramdas (1608-1681) made important contributions to Marathi poetic literature. But by the late 18th century, the Maratha Empire's influence on a large part of the country was on the decline.

18th Century In the 18th century, some well-known works like Yatharthadeepika by Vaman Pandit, Naladamayanti Swayamvara by Raghunath Pandit, Pandava Pratap, Harivijay, Ramvijay by Shridhar Pandit and Mahabharata by Moropanta were produced.

Modern Period (after 1800) Late 19th century in Maharashtra was a period of colonial modernity. Like the corresponding periods in other Indian languages, this was the period dominated by English-educated intellectuals. It was the age of prose and reason. It was the period of reformist didacticism and a great intellectual ferment. The first Marathi translation of an English book took place in 1817, and the first Marathi newspaper was started in 1835. Newspapers provided a platform for sharing literary views, and many books on social reforms were written. The Marathi language flourished as Marathi drama gained popularity. Musicals known as 'Sangit Natya' also evolved.

20th century to present

The first half of 20th century was marked by new enthusiasm in literary pursuits, and socio-political activism helped achieve major milestones in Marathi literature, drama, music and film.

Post-independence, Marathi was accorded the status of a scheduled language on the national level.

By May 1, 1960, Maharashtra State emerged re-organised on linguistic lines adding Vidarbha and Marathwada region in its fold and bringing major chunks of Marathi population socio-politically together. With state and cultural protection, Marathi made great strides by the 1990s.

A literary event called Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan (All-India Marathi Literature Meet) is held every year. In addition, the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Natya Sammelan (All-India Marathi Theatre Meet) is also held annually. Both events are very popular amongst Maharashtrians.

In the present scenario, while literary contributions go on, Indian strides post-1990 in the global IT market, rapid techno-educational growth and widening economic opportunities have underscored the importance of English in the Indian context. In view of this, the Government of Maharashtra decreed that English be taught as a second language in schools where the medium of teaching was Marathi, right from the first standard (first grade). This decision has been controversial and has caused many Marathi people to worry about the fate of their language, a concern which is compounded by the Marathi middle class's increasing preference for English-medium schools.In addition to this, increasing use of Hindi in urban Maharashtra has saddened Marathi people and linguists alike.

At the same time, the spread of spoken Marathi has increased beyond its regular boundaries due to the increase of its élite, well-educated global Maharashtrian diaspora.

Dialects of Marathi language

Standard Marathi is based on dialects used by academicians and the print media, and is influenced by educated élite of the Pune region. Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad (MSP) is apex guiding body for literary institutions of Marathi language. From time to time, MSP helps out in discourses over various aspects of Marathi and in laying down precedents by framing rules, whenever required.

Historically, the major dialect divisions have been:


Ahirani is spoken in the west Khandesh North Maharashtara region.

Ahirani is a language today spoken in the Jalgaon, Nandurbar, Dhule and Nashik (Baglan, Malegaon and Kalwan tehsils) districts of Maharashtra, India. It is further divided into dialects, such as Chalisgaon, Malegaon and Dhule group. Amalner is considered the cultural capital of Khandesh as Amalner has witnessed Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan. Adapting & bending the words from Hindi and Gujarati, Ahirani has created its own words which are never found in these languages. Ahirani is a colloquial form and uses the Devnagari script for its writing. Though it is the written form of devnagari but it is very difficult to write rather than to speak.


Khandeshi is spoken in East Khandesh specifically in Yawal and Raver Talukas. Khandeshi is also called as Tawadi which is specifically spoken by Leva Patils dominant cast of east Khandesh. Bahinabai Chaudhari is well known poet in Khandeshi, the study of her literature is studied and included in Marathi language. It is often misquoted that Bahinabai is an ahirani poet.


Varhadi or Vaidarbhi is spoken in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.

In Marathi, the retroflex lateral approximant ? (IPA: [?]) is common, while in the Varhadii dialect, it corresponds to the palatal approximant y (IPA: [j]), making this dialect quite distinct. Such phonetic shifts are common in spoken Marathi, and as such, the spoken dialects vary from one region of Maharashtra to another.


The constitution of India considers Konkani as one of the 22 scheduled (official) languages. In Maharashtra, Konkani is considered a dialect of Marathi. Konkani in Maharashtra-Goa is sub-divided into several sub-dialects. Warli, Kankon Konkani, Malavani, Dangi are some of them. Maharthis and Konkanis in Goa have had bitter fights over the official language issue. Most Konkani people in Maharashtra speak and write fluent Marathi.


This dialect may not be named thus though, but was primarily spoken by Wadvals which essentially means agricultural plot owners, of the Naigaon, Vasai region . This language is preserved by Roman Catholics native to this region and is also spoken by the Hindus. But due to external influence ordinary Marathi is now more popular among the Hindus)


Samvedi is spoken in the interiors of Nala Sopara and Virar region to the north of Mumbai in the Vasai Taluka, Thane District of Maharashtra. The name of this language correctly suggests that its origins lie with the Samavedi Brahmins native to this region. Again this language too finds more speakers among the Roman Catholic converts native to this region (who are known as East Indians). This dialect is very different from the other Marathi dialects spoken in other regions of Maharashtra, but resembles Wadvali very closely. Both Wadvali and Samavedi have relatively higher proportion of words imported from Portuguese as compared to ordinary Marathi, because of direct influence of the Portuguese who colonized this region till 1739.

Thanjavur Marathi & Namdev Marathi

(Also Bhavsar Marathi) spoken by many Southern Indians. This dialect evolved from the time of occupation of the Marathas in the Thanjavur in southern Tamil Nadu. It has speakers in parts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.


  • Dangii (spoken near the Maharashtra-Gujarat border)
  • Judæo-Marathi (spoken by the Bene Israel Jews)
  • Malvani (spoken in southern Konkan near Malvan)
  • Kadodii (spoken near Vasai)

Other dialects of Marathi include Karwari(a sub-dialect of Konkani spoken in Karwar, Mangalore and nearby areas of South Kanara), Chitpavani(original dialect spoken by Konkanastha Brahmins but most speak standard Marathi), Kudaalee(dialect spokan in Kudal Taluka of Ratnagiri District), Kunabi of Mahad, Cochin Konkani(spoken in west coast of Kerala), Konkani of Kasargod, Warli of Thane District, Gawdi of Goa(spoken by Gawdi tribes in Goa), Dakshini (Marathwada), Deshi (Eastern Konkan Ghats).

Other languages having considerable Marathi influence

Dakhini and Hyderabadi Urdu spoken in Hyderabad and some parts of Deccan are considerably influenced by Marathi. The grammar of Hyderabadi Urdu is adapted from Marathi. In fact, it is also called a creole between Marathi and Urdu with some Telugu words. Kannada: especially the northern Karnataka Kannada has been heavily influenced by Marathi. E.g. the feature of aspiration, quite non-native to any Dravidian language, is found in northern Kannada. Also some kinship terms like vahini (brother's wife) are adapted from Marathi.


The phoneme inventory of Marathi is similar to that of many other Indo-Aryan languages. An IPA chart of all contrastive sounds in Marathi is provided below.



Writing system

Marathi is written in the Devanagari script, an alphasyllabary or abugida consisting of 16 vowel letters and 36 consonant letters making a total of 52 letters. It is written from left to right.


Like other alphasyllabaries, Devanagari writes out syllables by adding vowel diacritics to consonant bases. The table below includes all the vowel symbols used in Marathi, along with a transliteration of each sound into the Roman alphabet and IPA.


There are two more vowels in Marathi to denote the pronunciations of English words such as of 'a' in act and 'a' in all. These are written as 'अँ' and 'आँ'. The IPA signs for these are /æ/ and /ɔ/, respectively.

Marathi retains several features of Sanskrit that have been lost in north-Indian Sanskrit-based languages such as Hindi and Bengali, especially in terms of pronunciation of vowels and consonants. For instance, Marathi retains the original Sanskrit pronunciation of अं /əⁿ/, ऐ /əi/, and औ /əu/. However, as was done in Gujarati, Marathi speakers tend to pronounce ऋ ṛ somewhat similar to /ru/, unlike most other Indic languages which changed it to /ri/ (e.g. the original Sanskrit pronunciation of the language's name was saṃskṛtam, while in day-to-day Marathi and Gujarati it is saṃskrut. In other Indic languages it is closer to sanskrit). Also, the Marathi pronunciation of ज्ञ (jña) very closely resembles Sanskrit pronunciation, compared to gya in Hindi. Interestingly, spoken Marathi allows for original Sanskrit pronunciations of words like राम (rama) with an emphasis on the ending vowel sound, a feature that has been lost in Hindi.


The table below includes all the consonant bases onto which vowel diacritics are placed. The lack of a vowel diacritic can either indicate the lack of a vowel, or the existence of the default, or "inherent", vowel, which in the case of Marathi is the schwa.


A defining feature of the Marathi language is the frequent substitution of the consonant ल (la) in Sanskrit words with the retroflex lateral approximant ळ (ḷa). For instance, कुळ (kuḷa) for the Sanskrit कुलम् (kulam or clan) and कमळ (kamaḷ) for Sanskrit कमलम् (kamalam or lotus). Such Marathi words become tongue-twisters for native speakers of North Indian languages such as Hindi and Bengali in which ळ is absent. Moreover, the unique pronunciations of the consonants च and झ in Marathi make it a difficult language to learn even for speakers of other Sanskrit-based languages like Gujarati and Hindi.

The combination of the vowels with the k-series


Consonant clusters

Consonant clusters in speech

Consonant clusters in orthography

When two or more consecutive consonants are followed by a vowel then a jodakshar (consonant cluster) is formed. Some examples of consonant clusters are shown below:

  • त्याचे - tyāce
  • प्रस्ताव - prastāv
  • विद्या - vidyā
  • म्यान - myān
  • त्वरा - tvarā
  • महत्त्व - mahattva
  • फक्त - phakt
  • बाहुल्या - bāhulyā

Marathi has a few consonant clusters that are rarely seen in the world's languages, including the so-called "nasal aspirates" (?h, nh, and mh) and liquid aspirates (rh, ?h, lh, and vh). Some examples are given below.

  • कण्हेरी - kaṇherī - "a shrub known for flowers"
  • न्हाणे - nhāṇ - "bath"
  • म्हणून - mhaṇūn - "because"
  • तऱ्हा - taṟhā - "different way of behaving"
  • कोल्हा - kolhā - "fox"
  • केंव्हा - keṃvhā "when"

Modi script

Marathi was written in Modi script-- a cursive script designed for minimising the lifting of pen from paper while writing in the ancient times. All writings of Maratha empire is in Modi script. However, with the advent of large-scale printing, Modi script fell into disuse, as it proved very difficult for type-setting.However,with the curiosity of youngsters and availability of Modi fonts,the script is far from being vanished. The courts in the olden days also used Persian-based scripts under the influence of Muslim and Maratha rulers.


Marathi grammar shares similarities with other modern Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, etc. The first modern book exclusively on Marathi Grammar was printed in 1805 by 'William Kerry'. Sanskrit Grammar used to be referred more till late stages of Marathi Language.

Contemporary grammar

The contemporary grammatical rules described by Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad and endorsed by the Government of Maharashtra are supposed to take precedence in standard written Marathi. These rules are described in Marathi Grammar, written by M.R Walimbe. The book is widely referred to in schools and colleges.

Sanskrit influence

Traditions of Marathi Linguistics and above mentioned rules give special status to 'Tatsam' (Without Change) words adapted from the Sanskrit language. This special status expects the rules for 'Tatsam' words be followed as of Sanskrit grammar. While this supports Marathi Language with a larger treasure of Sanskrit words to cope up with demands of new technical words whenever needed; maintains influence over Marathi.

An unusual feature of Marathi, as compared to other Indo-European languages, is that it displays the inclusive and exclusive we feature, that is common to the Dravidian languages, Rajasthani, and Gujarati.


Unlike its related languages, Marathi preserves all three grammatical genders (Linga) from Sanskrit.

  • masculine — पुल्लिंग (pulliṃga)
  • feminine — स्त्रीलिंग (strīliṃga)
  • neuter — नपुंसकलिंग (naṃpusakliṃga)

Masculine proper nouns usually end in the short vowels a or u while feminine proper nouns tend to end with the long vowels a, i or u.


There are three grammatical voices (Prayog) in Marathi.

  • Kartarii prayog refers to a sentence construction in which the verb changes according to the subject, which is comparable to the active voice in English.

Raam mhanato "Raam says", Raam aambaa khaato "Raam eats a mango"

  • Karmanii prayog refers to a sentence construction in which the verb changes according to the object, which is like the passive voice in English.

Raamaane aambaa khallaa "The mango was eaten by Raam", Raamaane saangitale "It was told by Ram"

  • Bhaave prayog refers to a sentence construction in which the verb does not change according to either the subject or the object. This is used for imperatives.

Maajha nirop tyaala jaaun saang "Give my message to him"


There are three grammatical persons (Purushh) in Marathi.

  • Pratham purushh (First person)
    • mi "I"
    • aamhi "we" excluding the listener (exclusive "we")
    • aapan "we" including the listener (inclusive "we")
  • Dwitiya purushh (Second person)
    • tuu "you"
    • tumhi "you" (plural or formal)
    • aapan (extremely formal)
  • Trutiya purushh (Third person)
    • to "he"
    • tii "she"
    • te "it"
    • te "they" (masculine) or "he" (formal)
    • tyaa "they" (feminine)
    • tii "they" (neuter)

Parts of speech

Marathi words can be classified in any of the following parts:

1. naama (noun)

2. visheshanaama (proper noun)

3. sarvanaam (pronoun)

4. visheshaNa (adjective)

5. kriyaavisheshaNa (adverb)

6. kriyapada (verb)

7. avyaya (indeclinables or uninflected word)

  • ubhayanvayi avyaya
  • shabdayogi avyaya
  • kevalaprayogi avyaya

Sentence structure

The usual word order in a sentence is Subject Object Verb (SOV); however, because of the extensive declension and conjugation patterns, order can be changed for stess purposes without a loss in meaning (unlike English).

Nominal inflection

Marathi is a highly inflected language, like the other ancient Indo-Europeanlanguages such as its own mother Sanskrit. While English uses prepositions, in Marathi, such functions are indicated through the use of case-suffixes. These are referred to as vibhaktii pratyay. There are eight such vibhaktii in Marathi. The form of the original word changes when such a suffix is to be attached to the word, and the new, modified root is referred to as saamaanya ruup of the original word. For example, the word gho?aa ("horse") gets transformed into ghau?yaa- when the suffix -var ("on") is attached to it to form ghau?yaavar ("on the horse").


Sharing of linguistic resourses with other languages

Over a period of many centuries Marathi language and people came in touch with many other languages and dialects. The primary influence of Prakrit, Maharashtri, Apbhramsha and Sanskrit is understandable.

While Marathi has shared both directions, vocabulary and grammar with languages like Indian Dravidian languages, and also a few foreign languages like Persian, Arabic, English and a little from Portuguese.

While recent genome studies suggest some amount of political and trade relations between the Indian subcontinent and East Africa, Middle East, Central Asia over a millennium, these studies are still not conclusive about exact effect on linguistcs.

Influence of foreign languages

  • Usage of punctuation marks was one of the major contributions to Indic script by foreign languages. Previously, due to Sanskritised poetry, texts punctuation requirements of many texts may have been less.

Word formation and origin

Marathi has taken and given words from/to Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, and Portuguese.

  • Khurchii "chair" is derived from Arabic kursi
  • Jaahiraat "advertisement" is derived from Persian zaahiraat See Note 1
  • Shiphaaras "recommendation" is derived from Persian sifarish
  • Marjii "wish" is derived from Persian "marzi"
  • Batataa "potato", is derived from Portuguese
  • Ananas "pineapple", is derived from Portuguese See Note 2
  • Niga "looking after" is derived from Persian nîgâh "sight-vision"
  • Hajeri Attendance from Hajiri Urdu

A lot of English words are commonly used in conversation, and are considered to be totally assimilated into the Marathi vocabulary. These include "pen" (native Marathi lekha?ii), "shirt" (sadaraa).

Many Marathi words are very close to English. It is interesting to have a look at its similarity.

  • Navy compared to Nau
  • Dew compared to Dav
  • Tree compared to Taru

Forming Complex Words

Marathi uses many morphological processes to join words together, forming complex words. These processes are traditionally referred to as sandhi (from Sanskrit, "combination"). For example, ati + uttam gives the word atyuttam.

Another method of combining words is referred to as samaas (from Sanskrit, "margin"). There are no reliable rules to follow to make a samaas. When the second word starts with a consonant, a sandhi can not be formed, but a samaas can be formed. For example, miith-bhaakar ("salt-bread"), udyog-patii ("businessman"), ash?a-bhujaa ("eight-hands", name of a Hindu goddess), and so on. There are different names given to each type of samaas.

Counting system

Like many other languages, Marathi uses distinct names for the numbers 1 to 20 and each multiple of 10, and composite ones for those greater than 20.

As with other Indic languages, there are distinct names for the fractions ¼, ½, and ¾. They are paava, ardhaa, and pau?a respectively. For most fractions greater than 1, the prefixes savvaa-, saa?e-, paava?e- are used. There are special names for 1.5 (dii?) and 2.5 (a?ich).

The powers of ten are as follows:

  • 100: shambhar (also constructed with number prefix and "-she" suffix)
  • 1,000: hazaar (or sahasra, a word close to the Sanskrit version)
  • 100,000: laakh (or laksha)
  • 10,000,000: koti
  • 1,000,000,000: abja
  • 10,000,000,000: kharva
  • 100,000,000,000: nikharva
  • 100,000,000,000,000,000: parardha

A positive integer is read by breaking it up from the tens digit leftwards, into parts each containing two digits, the only exception being the hundreds place containing only one digit instead of two. For example, 1,234,567 is read as 12 laakh 34 hazaar 5 she 67.

Some short phrases