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Saurashtra language


Saurashtra language

Region Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala (India)
Native speakers
190,000  (2001 census)[1]
Saurashtra, Latin, Devanagari, Tamil
Language codes
ISO 639-3 saz
Glottolog saur1248[2]

Saurashtra or Sourashtra or ꢱꣃꢬꢵꢰ꣄ꢜ꣄ꢬꢵ or Palkar or Patkar (Sanskrit: सौराष्ट्र, Tamil: சௌராஷ்டிரம்) is an Indo-Aryan language[3] spoken by the Saurashtrian community native to Gujarat, who migrated and settled in Southern India. Madurai in Tamil Nadu has the highest number of people belonging to this community and also remains as their cultural center.

The language is largely only in spoken form even though the language has its own script. The lack of schools teaching Saurashtra script and the language is often cited as a reason for the very few number of people who actually know to read and write in Saurashtra script. Latin, Devanagari or Tamil script is used as alternative for Saurashtra Script by many Saurashtrians.

Census of India places the language under Gujarati. Official figures show the number of speakers as 185,420 (2001 census).[4]


  • History 1
  • Classification 2
  • Writing System 3
    • Saurashtra Script 3.1
      • Vowels and Consonants 3.1.1
      • Compound Letters 3.1.2
      • Numerals 3.1.3
  • Sounds 4
  • Loanwords in Saurashtra Language 5
  • Dialects 6
  • Sourashtra Vidya Peetam 7
  • Geographical Distribution 8
  • Sourashtra Vijayaaptham 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • Related Links 12


The origin of the name dates back to the time when the ancestors of these people inhabiting the kingdom of Saurashtra in the modern day state of Gujarat.[5] Different roots were suggested for the origin of the name "Saurashtra". "Sou" in Hindi refers to the number,'100' and "rashtra" refers to 'region'. So in general, sourashtra refers to a province of 100 regions. Another possible origin of the word is, the Sanskrit term "Saura" means sun. Since Saurashtra people built and worshipped Sun or "Saura" God they were called as Saurashtrians and the region they lived was naturally called as Saurashtra Province.

Though there is little historical evidence available to support the argument that the Saurashtrians lived in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat in Western India, folklore, and recent linguistic and genetic researches have been able to establish, that this region was indeed once the habitat of the Saurashtrians. However, their language has more similarities with Marathi and Konkani, both Indo-Aryan languages of Western India, than it does with Modern Gujarati, the language of present-day Gujarat. Linguists have been able to explain why it is so: Both Saurashtra and Gujarati branched off from a common parent, and have since taken completely different paths to modernity. Gujarati came under the influence of Hindi, Persian, and Arabic, whereas Saurashtra, taking off from Gujarat before it had made any Muslim contact, was influenced by Marathi, Konkani, Kannada, Telugu, and finally, Tamil. It has been acknowledged that Persian and Arabic have had only limited influence on Marathi and Konkani, and this is why they still retain a good amount of vocabulary and grammar derived from Sanskrit, as compared to other daughter languages of Sanskrit. It is possible that the vocabulary and grammar shared between Modern Saurashtra and Marathi is what was originally derived from Sanskrit.

The southward flight of the Saurashtrians seems to have been triggered by the frequent Muslim invasions, most notably by Mahmud of Ghazni, of their homeland and the instability caused by it. No details are available whether it was a mass migration and when it took place. They found safe haven in the Vijayanagara Kingdom, with its capital at Hampi in present-day Karnataka, which was then expanding southwards. Weaving being their traditional occupation, they were able to win the attention of the Emperor and were soon elevated to the position of royal weavers. Telugu and Kannada were the court languages, though other languages such as Sanskrit and Tamil were also in use. It was during this period that Saurashtra started absorbing Telugu and Kannada words into its lexicon.

Vijayanagara rulers had the practice of appointing Governors, known as Nayaks, to manage far-flung regions of the empire. When Madurai and Thanjavur were annexed to the empire, Governors were appointed to administer the new territories. A part of the Saurashtra community may have moved to Madurai and Thanjavur at the time to serve the Governors.

The Vijayanagara empire collapsed after more than two centuries of rule, in 1565, after the Sultans of Deccan Confederacy won the battle of Talikota, thus opening up southern India for Muslim conquest. Soon afterwards, the Governors of Madurai and Thanjavur declared themselves the new rulers of the respective territories.

The Saurashtrians had to migrate again since they no longer enjoyed the royal patronage they were used to, and so, once again, were on the move. As there were Saurashtrians already present in Madurai and Thanjavur, it was only natural that they migrated further south to join their folks living there. The language would undergo one last alteration, this time influenced by Tamil, to bring it to its modern form. To this day, Saurashtrians are densely populated around the Royal Palace of Thirumalai Nayak, the greatest of the Nayak Rulers that ruled Madurai. There are good number of people staying in Mumbai (Maharashtra) in a place called Cheeta Camp and also in other parts of the city, but they all migrated from Salem etc. places within a period of a century.

It is important to note that the Marathi-speaking community in Thanjavur should not be mistaken for Saurashtrians. The Marathi community arrived in Thanjavur during King Serfoji's reign and they are culturally and linguistically distinct from Saurashtrians.

The greatest of the Nayak Rulers had great liking for silk wears and as the Saurashtrians were specialists in the weaving trade, they were invited by the King for weaving special silk clothing for the palace dwellers and that is how they settled around the palace of Thirumalai Nayak. Vrajlal Sapovadia consider Saurashtra language even older than original Gujarati and mix of Gujarati, Devnagari, Marathi & Tamil.[6]


Sourashtram is classified under Indo-European Family – Aryan Sub Family -Indo-Aryan Branch – Inner Sub Branch Central Group-and pending some authoritative work, is tentatively grouped under Gujarati according to Linguistic Survey of India. vide Census of India 1961 Volume I INDIA Part II-C (ii) Language Tables p. ccxvii, published by The Manager of Publications, Civil Lines, Delhi, 1967. “Sourashtra Brahamanargal Sarithiram” is a well renowned book in Tamil which descirbes about their ancestry, how they descended south during ghazini’s invasion. Mostly they are categorized as Brahmins and when there was argument between them and Tamil Brahmins during “Upakarma” at vaigai river, madurai, they were arrested and presented in nayakkar’s court. Local Brahmins claimed that Sourashtra people were doing same kind of rituals as Brahmins and they want to understand how ritual they were. Thirumalai Nayakar ordered a debate to test their knowledge on Vedas and Upanishads. Without any doubt, Sourashtra Brahmins were able to answer all questions with rich explanations and Nayakar ordered a “Pattayam” stating that Sourashtras are considered as Brahmins and they have right to use Iyers and Iyengars surname. This “Pattayam” is still found evident in Sourashtra Club, Madurai."Saurāshtra is, through and through, an Indo-Aryan language. Sourāshtran publications are sufficient proof that it is an adequate medium for literary expression" vide The Saurashtrans of South India, By Dr. H. N. Randle, Plate VIII, published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London October 1944.

Writing System

The language has had its own script for centuries, the earliest one available from 1880. Dr. H.N. Randle has written an article 'An Indo-Aryan Language of South India—Saurashtra Bhasha' in the Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS) 11 Part 1 p. 104-121 and Part II p. 310-327 (1943–46)Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies. This language is not taught in schools and hence had been confined to being merely a spoken language. But many great works like Bhagavath Gita and Tirukkural were translated into Sourashtram. It is now a literary language. Sahitya Akademi has recognized this language by conferring Bhasha Samman awards to Sourashtra Scholars.

Most Saurashtrians are bilingual in their mother tongue and Tamil and are more comfortable using their second language for all practical written communication though of late, some of them started writing in Sourashtram using Sourashtra script. There is an ongoing debate within the Saurashtra community regarding the use of the script for the Sourashtra language right from 1920 when a resolution was passed to adopt Devanagari Script for Sourashtra Language. Though some of the books were printed in Devanagari script, it failed to register the growth of the language.

But in practice because of lack of printing facilities, books are continued to be printed in Tamil Script with diacritic marks with superscript number for the consonants ka, ca, Ta, ta and pa and adding a colon to na, ma, ra, and la for aspirated forms, which are peculiar to the Sourashtra language. For writing Sourashtram using Devanagari Script, we require seven additional symbols to denote the short vowels 'e' and 'o' and four symbols for aspirated forms viz. nha, mha, rha and lha. We also require one more symbol to mark the sound of 'half yakara' which is peculiar to the Sourashtra language. The books printed in Devanagari Script were discarded because they did not represent the sounds properly.

The Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, Allahabad by his letter No.123/5/1/62/1559 dated November 21, 1964 Communicated to Sourashtra Vidya Peetam, Madurai that the State Government were of the view that as only one book in Sourashtra Language had so far been submitted by Sourashtra Vidya Peetam for scrutiny, there was no point in examining the merits of only one book specially when the question regarding the usage of script - Hindi or Sourashtram, was still unsettled, and that the question of text books in Sourashtram might well lie over till a large number of books is available for scrutiny and for being prescribed as text books in Schools.

The Leaders in the Community could not realize the importance of teaching of mother tongue in schools and did not evince interest in production of textbooks in Sourashtram for class use. Now an awareness has arisen in the Community, and Sourashtra Vidya Peetam wants to teach the Sourashtra language through multimedia as suggested by Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities in his 42nd Report for the year (July 2003 to June 2004). Of late in internet, many Sourashtra Yahoo groups in their website use the Roman script for the Sourashtra language.

Now the Sourashtra font is available in computers and this enabled the supporters of Sourashtra Script to print books in its own script. An electronic journal, printed in the Sourashtra Script, VISHWA SOURASHTRAM has been started Another website is available for practicing the Sourashtra Script. One journal, Bhashabhimani, is published from Madurai, in Sourashtra Script. Another journal, 'Jaabaali', is also published by the same Editor of Bhashabhimani from Madurai. The 'Zeeg' Sourashtra script practice Magazine is also published from Madurai only. All the three journals support the Sourashtra script only. There is no journal in Devanagari.

Saurashtra Script

The letter order of Saurashtra script is similar to other Brahmic Scripts. The letters are vowels, consonants, and the compound letters which are formed essentially by adding a vowel sound to a consonant.

Vowels and Consonants

Compound Letters



The phoneme inventory of Saurashtra is similar to that of many other Indo-Aryan languages, especially that of the Konkani language. An chart of all contrastive sounds in Saurashtra is provided below.

  Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Alveopalatal Velar Glottal




s ʃ h
Nasals m

Liquids ʋ
l ɾ
ɭ j
  Front Central Back
High i   u
Mid e ə o
Low   a  

Loanwords in Saurashtra Language

The language itself is more similar to modern day Hindi and Marathi. However, in the course of migration to South India, the language was influenced by Dravidian Languages such as Telugu and Kannada and accumulated words from those language in its vocabulary as loanwords.


Each of the traditional Saurashtrian settlements has its own dialect. Since there is not a central linguistic body governing the rules, and establishing what is standard and what is not, each dialect speaker considers his own the standard form. Because people were not used to write their language, proper study of the dialect variations were not undertaken. Recently only an awareness has arisen and people are slowly practicing written Sourashtram. Dictionaries have been compiled, but dialect variations are not properly noted. One Saurashtra-English Dictionary by Uchida Norihiko is available. Saurashtra-Tamil-English Dictionary by K. R. Sethuraman (in Tamil Script) and another by T.V.Kubendran (in Sourashtra, Tamil and Roman script) are available. English-Saurashtra Dictionary is being compiled.

Sourashtra Vidya Peetam

Sourashtra Vidya Peetam is the oldest body which is working for the cause of the language by preserving the Script and the old literature. The earliest Sourashtra Book printed in Sourashtra Script available now is SOURASHTRANADHI by Pandit Lakshmanachariyar (1880). T. M. Rama Rai is the doyen of the development of Sourashtra Script and Literature. He published many books in Sourashtra Script and wrote Grammar and Text books in Sourashtram.

First Sourashtra Language and Literacy Awareness Conference was held in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, India on 31 May 2009.

Geographical Distribution

The speakers of the Saurashtra language, known as Saurashtrians, maintain a predominant presence in Madurai, a city, also known as 'Temple City' in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. Though official figures are hard to come by, it is believed that the Saurashtra population is anywhere between one-fifth and one-fourth of the city's total population. Other places with significant Saurashtra Population are Arni, Ambur, Palayamkottai, Paramakudi, Salem, Tanjore, Kumbakonam, Dindigul, Chennai, Vellore, Walajapet, Kancheepuram, Kottar, Coimbatore, Tirupathi, Bangalore, Palakkad.Narayanavaram, Nellore, Nagari, Tirumala and Mangalam ( Tirumala Nagar )

In the course of migration, Saurashtra people moved in groups and settled in different regions of South India and that caused a slight dialect variation between each group and is noticeable by a Saurashtra speaker when interacting with another group. Saurashtra people have "Saurashtra Sabha" (or association) in each city with sizable Saurashtra population. People from Saurashtra Community meet regularly at Saurashtra Sabhas to discuss communal development and also promote linguistic and cultural activities among themselves. Saurashtra People in Tamil Nadu are called as "Pattunoolkaarar"(Silk weavers).

Sourashtra Vijayaaptham

Sourashtra Vijayaaptham denotes the era of Sourashtra Migration. It commences from Tamil Calendar Chitrai 1st. It is derived from subtracting 1312 from the Gregorian Calendar year. It is 697 from 14 April 2009 to 13 April 2010.It is not known how the Era started. But currently it is stated in the Almanac Panchangam and people are using it.

See also


  1. ^ Saurashtra at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Saurashtra". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ "Equivalent of Saurashtra in the Linguistic Survey has been recorded as Saurashtri which is yet another name of Patnuli dialect of Gujarati spoken by the silk weaving community of Madurai who are considered to have migrated from Gujarat to the south several centuries ago. On the basis of current preference for the name of their mother tongue, we have, however, adopted the name ‘Saurashtra’ and not Saurashtri. On account of several generations of association in the Dravidian Language area, the speech is supposed to have been strongly affected by Dravidian traits. We preferred to call that dialect of Gujarati with such traits as Saurashtra. … Regarding Saurashtra, however, some interest has been shown, of late, on the technical aspects of this variety while the inclination to affiliate it with Marathi is also visible among some scholars.In any case, some authoritative work on this variety of language remains to be done.Pending the same, however, we have to keep it under Gujarati according to the Linguistic Survey." vide Census of India 1961 Vol.I INDIA Part II –C (ii) Language Tables, Published by the Manager of Publications, Civil Lines, Delhi, pp. CCXLIV + 554, (1967).
  4. ^ "Census of India 2001: Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues". New Delhi, India: The Registrar General & Census Commissioner. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  5. ^ J.S. Venkatrama Sastri, Sourashtra Charitra Sangraham (Madura, 1915)
  6. ^
  7. ^ Colin Masica, 1993, The Indo-Aryan Languages

Related Links

  • Sourashtrians Facebook Group
  • Palkar.Org - Sourashtra Homepage
  • Sourashtra Friends Club (SFC) - Largest network of Sourashtra Friends
  • Sourashtra AkaRaadi/Dictionary
  • Sourashtra Matrimony
  • Sourashtra World
  • - a language academy
  1. Chandira Sekaran k. k., Saurastra nhanna Bagulas, published by the Author Nirma Chaandu, publishers Nethaji Nagar, Dindugal pp. 1–32 (2012)
  2. saurashtri thurni certificate course book,by K.K.Chandrasekaran Dindigul Tamilnadu, Phone 09942481337, Published by Saurashi Academy Dindigul, Tamilnadu.
  3. Saurashi - saurastri fonts in devanagari, to free download by Saurashi Academy Dindigul.[1]
  4. Saurashtri Kalanni Diploma course book, by K.K.Chandrasekaran Dindigul Tamilnadu, Phone 09942481337, Published by Saurashi Academy Dindigul, Tamilnadu.
English Equivalent Saurashtra Loanword Donor Language Word
"Rasam" (Thor Dhal Juice) Pilchar charu(Telugu)
Read / Study Cheduvi Chaduvu (Telugu)
Mirror Adhham Adhham (Telugu)
Pressed rice Adkul Atukulu (Telugu)
Rangoli Muggu Muggulu (Telugu)
Cloth bottal battalu (Telugu)
Gulp/deglutition Mingi miṅgaḍamu (Telugu)
Jump Dumki dumuku (Telugu)
Scratch Giktha gīkuḍu (Telugu)
Vehicle Bondi bandi (Telugu)
Children Pillan pillalu (Telugu)
Boy Bedugo Abbayi (Telugu)
Girl Bedugi Ammayi (Telugu)
Way Dhaar Daar (Telugu)
Punch(blow with the first) Gudhu Guddu (Telugu)
Sprinkls Chinkul Cinukulu (Telugu)
Drop Bottu Bottu (Telugu)
    Saurashtra language test of WorldHeritage at Wikimedia Incubator

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