OpenSource | The Influence of Persian on Old Marāṭhi

(This is a book extract from “Extracts and Documents Relating to Marāṭhā History; Volume 1; Śiva Chhatrapati; Being a translation of Sabhāsad Bakhar with extracts from Chiṭṇīs and Śivadigvijaya, with notes, By Surendranath Sen”. This book was published in 1920, and this is an exact reproduction (with some obvious corrections)  of the matter in the book as it appears there.)

The book is available as a free download from here.




(From Mr. V. K. Rajwade’s Māraṭhi Article)

In modern Marāṭhi, Sanskrit words abound as much as in modern Bengali, but in the Marāṭhi of Śivāji’s time there was a preponderence of Persian words, so much so that old Marāṭhi documents are as unintelligible to a non Persian-knowing Marāṭhā, as to a foreigner. Yet in the earliest Marāṭhi writings like Dnāneśvarī or, Parśarāmopdeś, not one word of Persian origin is found. From Śivāji’s time downwards the Marāṭhā writers were striving for eliminating Persian from their writings, and although the movement was crowned with eminent success, Persian has not failed to leave a lasting impression, not only upon the Māraṭhi vocabulary, but also upon its style and syntax.

How far Marāṭhi was influenced by Persian is very interesting to note. Mr. V. K. Rajwade says that out of 91 words in a letter written by Diānat Rāv, a Brahman minister in the service of the Bijāpur Government, thirty were purely Persian and out of the rest all except three or four were translation of Persian words or terms. Even अखंडित लक्ष्मी प्रसन्न and परोपकारमूर्ति in the address of the letter are nothing but a literal translation of Dāmdaulathun and Mushfikmihrbān. The word सेवक so often found in Marāṭhi letters, is also, according to Mr. Rajwade, an imitation of Persian bandā — for such use is not found in the few Sanskrit and pre-Muhammadan Marāṭhi letters that have come down to us. It may be objected,—says Mr. Rajwade—that Diānat Rāv was an officer of a Muhammadan state and the prevalence of Persian in his letters, does not prove that other Marāṭhās also used so many Persian or Persianised words in their everyday language. In answer to this possible objection Mr. Rajwade points out that in a letter of Śivāji himself no less than 31 Persian words have been used and some of them more than once. The following figures collected by Mr. Rajwade is worth noticing

Date of letters Persian Word Marāṭhi Total Percentage of Marāṭhi words
1628 202 34 236 14.4
1677 51 84 135 62.2
1728 8 119 127 96.3

Nor was this influence confined to state papers and diplomatic correspondence alone. Although the general literature and poetry were better protected against the foreign invasion,they had not escaped altogether unscathed. And to illustrate how the poetic language also had been affected by Persian influence Mr. Rajwade quotes an extract from Eknāth’s writings. We quote here only half a dozen verses from the above mentioned extract and a cursory glance will convince the reader how far Persian had replaced words of purely Sanskrit origin—

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 20.49.59

Let us now see how far Marāṭhi syntax and style have been influenced by Persian. In Marāṭhi documents and state papers, we come across, at every step, expressions likes किल्ले A, मौजे B, and परगणे C; Mr. Rajwade points out that in pure Marāṭhi they should be किल्ला A, मौजा B and परगणा C, but the form in use is the Persian form Killā-i A, Maujā-i B and Parganā-i C. Some common expressions like शफथ खाणे (to swear) and हाक मारणे (to call out) are nothing but literal translation of Persian expressions like Kasam Khurdan and Bang jadan. Instances of this kind could be multiplied, it will suffice here if we simply quote from Rajwade some Persian adjectives and adverbs now in common use in Marāṭhi

  1. हर (each), हर रोज
  2. बे (without), बेदील (disheartened)
  3. देखील, with, even
  4. ते (to) चोळीस ते पान्नास
  5. गैर (wrong) गैर राहा etc

A list of proper names of Persian extraction, once so common in Mahārāshṭra will also be of interest to us—

(1) Sultān Rāv, (2) Jān Rāv, (3) Bājī Rāv, (4) Rustum Rāv,(5) Śāhājī Rāv, (6) Śāhu, (7) Phirangojī Rāv, (8) Diānat Rāv,(9) Sarje Rāv, (10) Haibat Rāv, (11) Sarfojī Rāv, (12) Gul Bāī,(13) Daryājī Rāv, etc. And surnames like Chiṭṇīs Faḍnīs,Potnīs, Mushrif have also been borrowed from Persian. We may also note that for such sobriquets as अबा, बाब, अबु, अमा, मामा, अमी, मामी, नाना, नानी, काका, काकी, etc., Marāṭhi is indebted to Persian.

How far Marāṭhi writers have been successful in shaking off the influence of Persian may be seen also from a comparative study of the three bakhars presented here to our readers. In style as well as in language, Sabhāsad’s work gives evidence of the Persian influence, and the style and language of Chiṭṇīs and Śivadigvijaya as conclusively show that their work belonged to a period when Persian words had gradually yielded place to words of Sanskrit extraction


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