Marathi is a Southern Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in the Indian state of Maharashtra, and in the neighbouring states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Telangana, and in the union-territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. In 2011 there were 83 million native speakers of Marathi in India, and another 12 million people speak it as a second language. In addition, there are Marathi speakers in the USA, Australia, Israel, Canada, the UK and New Zealand.
Marathi is also known as Maharashtra, Maharathi, Malhatee, Marthi and Muruthu.
Marathi is thought to be a descendent of Maharashtri, one of the Prakrit languages which developed from Sanskrit in about the 3rd century BC.
Marathi first appeared in writing in 739 AD on a copper-plate inscription found in Satara, a part of Maharashtra state. Other inscriptions in Marathi appear in texts in Sanskrit or Kannada dating from the second half of the the 11th century. These early inscriptions were in the Kadamba alphabet.
From the 13th century until the 19th century the Modi alphabet was used for administrative purposes, while the Balbodh (बाळबोध) version of the Devanāgarī alphabet was used for literature, particularly poetry.
In 1805 William Carey published the first grammar of Marathi using the Balbodh script, as printing in the Modi script was not possible at the time. Later editions of his book were publishing in the Modi script.
Balbodh became the main script of administration in the Bombay Presidency in July 1917. The Modi script continued to be used and taught in schools until the 1940s however. Since then Balbodh has been the main script for Marathi, although there is a movement to revive the Modi script.
The name Balbodh, or बाळबोध (bāḷabōdha) [baːɭboːd̪ʱ] in Marathi, means "understood by children" and comes from बाळ’ [baːɭ] (child), and ‘बोध’ [boːd̪ʱ] (perception). Other names for Balbodh include Balabodh and Balabodha, and it is also used to write Korku, a Munda language spoken in central India.
Learn how to write and pronounce these letters and numerals
Sarva manuṣyajāt janmataḥc svataṅtra āhe va sarvajaṇāṅnā pdkulkarni samān pratiṣṭhā va samān adhikār āhēt. Tyānnā vicāraśakti va sadasadvivekabuddhi lābhalelī āhe va tyāṅnī ekamekaṅśī baṅdhutvācyā bhāvanēnē ācaraṇ karāvē.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Thanks to Arvind Iyengar for providing the above sample text and to Mrunal for corrections to this page.
Online Marathi lessons
Marathi phonology (includes recordings)
Online Marathi dictionaries
Devanagari script tutor
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