India is a country of rich cultural diversity where 22 officially recognised languages and over 1650 dialects are spoken across 29 states and 7 union territories, as in 2019. The 2011 Census of India last listed 1369 ‘mother tongues’, however, our country has been a witness to a great number of tongues over the centuries. One such distinctive and culturally rich language is Telugu.

The last couple of years have witnessed a massive influx of non-English internet users on the web as well as user generated content in Indian languages in India. Interestingly, KPMG and Google even went on record to say that by 2021, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil internet users alone are expected to form 30% of the total Indian language internet user base*. In light of ‘vernacular’ being the future of digital India, let’s take a look at one such regional language that is spoken in southern India, specifically in Andhra Pradesh, where an elegant Indian classical dance form called Kuchipudi, was also born.


Telugu – what, where and how much?

One of the 22 official languages of India and one of the six classical languages as designated by the Indian government, Telugu is the official language in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, as well as the Yanam district of Puducherry.

Spoken by over 75 million people around the world including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, some parts of Jharkhand and the Kharagpur region of West Bengal, Telugu is a Dravidian language that happens to be the third-most-spoken language in the Indian subcontinent after Hindi and Bengali.


Tracing back the links

The Telugu script is derived from that of the 6th-century Calukya dynasty and is related to that of Kannada as well. Even though the first written material dates back to about 575 CE, Telugu literature begins in the 11th century with a version of the Hindu epic Mahabharata by the writer Nannaya Bhatta.

During the period 575 CE to 1022 CE – Telugu was more influenced by Sanskrit and Prakrit. Its literature was initially found in inscriptions and poetry in the courts of the rulers, and in written literary works. Later towards the 17th century, there was a lot of Persian and Arabic influence thanks to the Mughal Empire and the dynasty of the Nizam of Hyderabad.


Of scripts and lineages

The origins of the Telugu alphabet can be traced back to the Brahmi alphabet of ancient India, which developed into an alphabet used for both Telugu as well as Kannada, which in turn, split into two separate alphabets between the 12th and 15th centuries AD. It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that the script broke away from the archaic style, and a new written standard then emerged based on the modern spoken language.


Trending today

As part of the new digital revolution, it is true that Hindi users are likely to outgrow the English users, and moreover, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil and Telugu are expected to form 30% of the total Indian language internet user base. Indian language internet users expected to account for nearly 75% of India’s internet user base by 2021*.

*Statistics taken from ‘Indian Languages – Defining India’s Internet’- report by KPMG in India and Google


Content curated & SmartRead by: Team Vernac
Author: Alifya Thingna