Oriya is one of the 22 languages recognized and spoken by close to 40 million people all over the world. Besides being the mother tongue of the state of Orissa, one can find Oriya speaking people in Seraikela Kharsawan district of Jharkhand, Midnapore district of West Bengal, Bastar district of Chhatisgarh and Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh.
Oriya belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family that has a strong influence of the two modern languages; viz Bengali and Assamese. However, the Oriya interestingly seems to be relatively the least dominated by Arabic and Persian, despite being under the Mughal rule for a long time.
Tracing back its roots to the 10th century, Oriya has originated from the Eastern Magadhi Apabhramsa, along with Bengali and Assamese. In the 16th and 17th century, Oriya was greatly influenced by Sanskrit, but it followed a fresh line of approach during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Oriya language is divided in the following 5 categories:
Modern Oriya spoken today is known to have been derived from the Prakrit form known as Pali or Magadhi, a language that was prevalent across cultures and kingdoms in Eastern India, about 1500 years ago.
Oriya is essentially the modified version of Odri Prakrit, which in turn is derived from Sanskrit via the transitional Bibhasas. The Modern Oriya’s vocabulary is projected to be 70% Sanskrit, 2% Arabic / Persian / Hindustani and the remaining 28% of "Adivasi" origin.
The 2nd century B.C Ashokan edicts script at Jaugada and Dhauli as well as the inscriptions of Kharavela in Hati Gumpha of Khandagiri give us the first glimpse of the possible birth of the Oriya language.
The script of modern Oriya is a development of the Kalinga script. In the year 1051, the initial inscription in the Oriya language in the Kalinga script was discovered. The rounded appearance of the alphabets reveals key features of the Oriya script. This appearance was largely due to the ancient practice of writing manuscripts on palm leaves that has a tendency to tear if too many straight lines were used on the surface.
Oriya is a relatively young language in comparison to some other Indian languages. The huge display of styles in Oriya literature highlights the modern outlook of the Oriyas as a whole. Thus, this powerful and dynamic language will continue to retain its exclusive place in the gamut of modern Indian history and culture with the digitization efforts being undertaken currently.
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