In the realm of ignorance: Koshur the neglected language?

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By Shriya Katoch

  • Koshur is the language of Kashmir, which is at least 750 years old.
  • Though, recognized as one among the 22 scheduled languages of India, the language is slowly disappearing.


The Kashmiri language known as “koshur” has many influences associated with it. It is one of the oldest languages in the world, with Indo-Aryan roots and has a very rich history.
The language itself has elements of different languages, borrowing from Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Russian, Persian, Punjabi, and even English.

Though its origin emerges from an ancient linguistic group of Dardi in the 8th and 9th century. According to European linguist G.T Venn, this time worn language has half of its words from Sanskrit, 33% from Tibetan, 10% Persian, 5% Hindi, and 2% from Dogri.

The Kashmiri language is the only Dardi language that has a literature of its own. In fact, Kashmiri literature dates back to about 750 years , this is equivalent to the age of modern English.


The Kashmiri language did not have its own script until the late 20th century. Three orthographical structures are set in place to write the Kashmiri language: the Sharada script, the Devangiri script, and the Peso Arabic script. After the 8th century AD the Kashmiri language was written in Sharada script, but this has been discontinued and has only been revisited by the Kashmiri Pandits during religious ceremonies.

In  modern times it is written in Peso -Arabic and Devangiri script. Through the times Kashmiri Peso Arabic script has been affiliated with the Muslim community, whereas the Devangiri script is associated with the Kashmiri Hindu community.

The reason why Koshur is different from other old Indo Aryan languages like Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, etc. is because it has retained its Aryan roots. Infact, some vocabulary features that Kashmiri preserves clearly date from the Vedic Sanskrit era and had already been lost even in Classical Sanskrit.


Even after surviving the test of time after 750 years,  Koshur is dying. The Koshur language is among the dying heritages of the world.

In a multilingual state like Kashmir, it is hard to make a language so time worn to survive. Though attempts have been made by the government.

Koshur has been declared as the official language of Jammu and Kashmir. It has also been included as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.

A group of writers in the Kashmir attempted to popularize the age old language to empty results. Finally, in 1980 government included Koshur in their academic syllabus and opened a Kashmiri department in Kashmir university, but all these attempts could not restore the tarnished language. Only the older population in Kashmir uses this language,with most youngsters using  more common languages like Urdu, Hindi or English.

As of November 2008 Kashmiri language has been made a compulsory subject in all schools in the valley up to the secondary level.

Despite all these attempts made by the government to restore the glory of this age old language, the attempts have been made way too late. The government needs to create a way in which  this centennial old language can be a common tongue in households.

Shriya Katoch multitasks as an Engineering student, an avid reader, a guitar player and a death note fan. Twitter: @katochshriya538