ꢱꣃꢬꢵꢰ꣄ꢜ꣄ꢬ ꢩꢵꢰꢵ
சௌராட்டிர மொழி
సౌరాష్ట్ర భాష
सौराष्ट्र भाषा
ಸೌರಾಷ್ಟ್ರ ಭಾಷೆ
Word "Saurashtra" in Saurashtra Script
Native toIndia
RegionTamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka
Native speakers
247,702 (2011 census)[1]
Early form
  • Northern Saurashtra
  • Southern Saurashtra
Saurashtra script (Brahmic)
Tamil script
Telugu script
Devanagari script
Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3saz

Saurashtra (Saurashtra script: ꢱꣃꢬꢵꢰ꣄ꢜ꣄ꢬ ꢩꢵꢰꢵ‎, Tamil script: சௌராட்டிர மொழி, Devanagari script: सौराष्ट्र भाषा) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken primarily by the Saurashtrians of Southern India who migrated from the Lata region of present-day Gujarat to south of Vindhyas in the Middle Ages.

Saurashtra, an offshoot of Sauraseni Prakrit,[2] once spoken in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, is now chiefly spoken in various places of Tamil Nadu and are mostly concentrated in Madurai, Thanjavur and Salem Districts.[3]

The language has its own script of the same name, but is also written in the Tamil, Telugu, and Devanagari scripts. The Saurashtra script is of Brahmic origin, although its exact derivation is not known. Unlike most of the surrounding Dravidian languages, Saurashtra is Indo-European. There is some debate amongst speakers of the Saurashtra language as to which script is best suited to the language.[4] Census of India places the language under Gujarati. Official figures show the number of speakers as 247,702 (2011 census).[5]


Main article: Indo-Aryan languages

Saurashtra belongs to the western branch of the Indo-Aryan languages, a dominant language family of the Indian subcontinent. It is part of the greater Indo-European language family. It is also classified as being part of a Gujaratic languages that, alongside Saurashtra includes the languages like Gujarati (see SIL Ethnologue).


According to the oral legends of the Saurashtra people, they migrated to South India from the Saurashtra region of modern-day Gujarat; however, scholars believe this account lacks historical basis, and that the Saurashtrans actually migrated from the area of Mandsaur.[6]

The name "Saurashtra" itself is from Sanskrit सौराष्ट्र (saurāṣṭra, transl. from Saurashtra), the vṛddhi form of सुराष्ट्र (surāṣṭra, transl. Saurashtra), derived from सु (su, transl. good) + राष्ट्र (rāṣṭra, transl. country, realm). Thus the name literally means "(of/from) a good country."[7]


See also: Sauraseni Prakrit

The oldest available inscriptions in Saurashtra are found in Mandasaur, which is a city in the Malwa region (present day Madhya Pradesh). The language is the modern living and active form of ancient Sauraseni Prakrit. However, it also shows some similarities with Maharashtri Prakrit, the ancestor of Marathi and Konkani.[2]

Saurashtra was once commonly spoken in the coastal areas of Mahi and Tapti rivers, which extends throughout the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh and Saurashtra region of southern Gujarat. It was also spoken by the people living along Konkan region, which extends throughout the western coasts of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.[2]

Saurashtra is a amalgamation of various present day Indo-Aryan languages like Marathi, Konkani, Gujarati and the older dialects of Rajasthani and Sindhi. However, the current spoken form of Saurashtra is mixed with the Dravidian languages like Kannada, Telugu and Tamil and it might have originated in 16th or early 17th century.[2]

Geographical distribution

Main article: Saurashtra people

Speakers of the Saurashtra language, known as Saurashtrians, maintain a predominant presence in Madurai, Thanjavur, Salem, Dindigul, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Kanchipuram, Ramanathapuram, Kanyakumari, Chennai, Tiruvannamalai and Vellore Districts of Tamil Nadu.[3] They are also present in significant numbers in Tirupati of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.[3]


In the course of migration, Saurashtrians 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 Saurashtrian speaker when interacting with another group. Saurashtra language has two dialects, which are broadly similar, with slight variations.

The two dialects are:

  1. Northern Saurashtra[3]
  2. Southern Saurashtra[3]

However, there are numerous variations and dialects of the Saurashtra language. The different dialects can be based on the location within northern and southern parts of Tamil Nadu. Those are Madurai, Thanjavur, Salem, Tirunelveli and Kanchipuram dialects and Tirupati dialect of Andhra Pradesh.


The phoneme inventory of Saurashtra is similar to that of many other Indo-Aryan languages, especially that of the Konkani language. An IPA chart of all contrastive sounds in Saurashtra is provided below.[8]

  Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex (Alveolo-)
Velar Glottal
Nasal plain m ɳ
murmured n̪ʱ
voiceless p t͡s ʈ t͡ʃ k
aspirated t̪ʰ (tsʰ) ʈʰ t͡ʃʰ
voiced b d͡z ɖ d͡ʒ ɡ
murmured d̪ʱ d͡zʱ ɖʱ d͡ʒʱ ɡʱ
Fricative s ʃ h
Approximant plain ʋ l ɭ j
murmured ʋʱ
Flap/Trill plain r
  Front Central Back
High i   u
Mid e ə o
Low   a  

Writing system

Saurashtra script

Main article: Saurashtra script

The word "Saurashtra" written in the Saurashtra script.

Saurashtra for most of the part had been an oral language lacking any script of its own. Around the 17th to 18th centuries some attempted to write it in Telugu script. Around 19th century a script was invented. There were attempts to revitalize the script in the latter half of the 19th century, ignoring most of the complex conjunct characters.[9]

The Saurashtra script is an abugida, that is, each letter represents a consonant+vowel syllable. There are thirty-four such letters. An unmarked letter represents a syllable with the inherent vowel [a]; letters can be marked with one of eleven vowel diacritics to represent a syllable with a different vowel. Vowel diacritics are attached to the top right corner of a base letter or written alongside it. There are also twelve letters for writing independent vowels (i.e. word-initial vowels). The four vocalic liquid letters r, ru, l and lu behave in the same way as vowels, so are often included in the vowel class.[4]

Early Saurashtra texts use a number of complex conjunct forms for writing consonant clusters. However, when the script was restructured in the 1880s these were abandoned in favour of a virama diacritic, which silences the inherent vowel of the first consonant in a cluster.[4]

The script uses a letter called upakshara, a dependent consonant sign which attaches nasals and liquids to aspirate them. That is, the letter m with upakshara attached represents [mha]. An aspirated nasal or liquid which is followed by a vowel other than [a] is written with the vowel diacritic attached to the upakshara, not to the base letter. Some analyses of the script classify aspirated nasal and liquids as a separate set of single discrete letters divided into two parts.[4]

There is a script-specific set of numbers 0–9, some of which closely resemble Devanagari digits. The widely attested Indic punctuation marks danda and double danda are used to mark the end of a sentence or clause. Latin comma, full stop and question mark symbols are also used.[4]

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.



Compound letters


Devanagari script

Recently, the Saurashtrian community has largely switched to the use of the Devanagari script.[10] The alphabet chart containing vowels, consonants and the compound letters in Devanagari script are as follows:

Saurashtra alphabet chart released with guidance of CIIL


The language itself is more similar to modern day Gujarati and Marathi as both originated from Prakrit. 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.

English Saurashtra loanword Donor-language word
"Rasam" (Tamarind extract) Pilchar Charu (Telugu)
Read/ Study Cheduvi Chaduvu (Telugu)
Mirror Adhham Adhham (Telugu)
Flattened rice Adkul Atukulu (Telugu)
Shop Angadi Aṅgaḍi (Kannada)
Rangoli Muggu Muggulu (Telugu)
Cloth Bottal Batte/Battalu (Kannada/ Telugu)
Swallowing Mingi Miṅgaḍamu (Telugu)
Jump Dhungi/Dhumki Dumuku (Kannada/ Telugu)
Scratch Giktha Gīkuḍu (Telugu)
Vehicle Bondi/Bandi Bandi (Kannada/ Telugu)
Children Pillan Pillalu (Telugu)
Way Vaat Vaat (Gujarati / Marathi )
Punch (blow with the fist) Guddhu Guddhu (Kannada/ Telugu)
Sprinkles Chinkul Chinukulu (Telugu)
Drop Bottu Bottu (Kannada /Telugu)
Work Kaam Kaam (Gujarati/ Marathi/ Hindi)
Monkey Kothi Kothi (Telugu/ Kannada)
Milk Dhoodh Dūdha (Gujarati)
Water Pani Pāṇī (Gujarati)
Cow Gaaye/Goru Gaay (Gujarati), Gaaye (Hindi/ Marathi)
Who Kon Kōṇ (Marathi/ Gujarati)
Out Bharad Bahāra (Gujarati)
Come Aav Āvō (Gujarati)
Do Ker Karā (Marathi), Kar (Gujarati)
Go Jha Jā'ō (Gujarati)
Home Gher Ghar (Gujarati)
Rice Bath Bhāt (Gujarati, Marathi)
No Nokko Noko (Marathi)
Sour Ambad/Ambut Amlo(Sanskrit) / Ambot (Konkani)
Spicy Thikke tīkhaṭ (Marathi), Tīkhu (Gujarati)
Curry Amti Amti (Marathi)
Fog/Snow Manchu Man̄cu (Telugu)


The literature of Saurashtra is not as large as the literature of other literary languages such as Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu. The earliest available Saurashtra literature that survives to this date is the Saurashtra translation of the great Sanskrit epic of Ramayana. It was written by Venkatasoori Swamigal (1800 AD), a Sanskrit scholar and disciple of Venkataramana Bhagavathar who lived in Ayyampettai of Thanjavur district.[11]

Other important literary works in Saurashtra are:

Besides Tirukkural, Sankhu Ram has done many literary works in Saurashtra like Gnanamritha Geetham, Shiddhashrama Prabhaavam and so on. The first Saurashtra dictionary was brought out by T.M. Rama Rai, the author of Vachana Ramayana, in 1908. It was printed in Saurashtra script and was in the form of slokas. Apart from these he is also credited for Niti Sambu and Natanagopala Nayaki Swami's Kirthanas.[9]

The Sahitya Akademi Award is given to authors writing in the Saurashtra language since 2007. A former Sanskrit Professor of Sourashtra College in Madurai, T.R. Damodaran won the award for his book Jiva Sabda Kosam, a compilation of 1,333 Saurashtra words with English and Tamil meanings. However, Saroja Sundararajan, was also awarded for Yogendran Monnum Singaru Latun (in Tamil, 'Yogendra Thalaivarkalin Manathiley Ezhuntha Azhagiya Alaigal'), a rendition of works of Adi Sankara's Soundaryalahiri, Kanagadhara stotra and Mahishasuramarthini stotra, Natana Gopala Nayagi Swami's 'Mooschi Deshad,' 'Subramanian Mahatmiyam' and songs of Sai Baba.[11]

See also


  1. ^ "Statement 1: Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2011". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Paul John, Vijaysinh Parmar (2016). "Gujaratis who settled in Madurai centuries ago brought with them a unique language – Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Saurashtra". Ethnologue. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Script Description [Saurashtra]". ScriptSource. Retrieved 16 April 2018. Material was copied from this source, which is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
  5. ^ "Statement 1: Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2011". Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  6. ^ Ramaswamy, Vijaya (5 July 2017). Migrations in Medieval and Early Colonial India. Routledge. pp. 176–177. ISBN 9781351558242.
  7. ^ Turner, Ralph Lilley (1969–1985). "súrāṣṭra". A Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages. London: Oxford University Press. p. 779.
  8. ^ Colin Masica, 1993, The Indo-Aryan Languages
  9. ^ a b R. V, SOWLEE (2003). "The Hindu : Saurashtra dictionary". Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  10. ^ Venkatesh, Karthik (10 June 2017). "Of little-known Indian languages and scripts". Livemint. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  11. ^ a b Kolappan, B. (24 December 2016). "Akademi award for TN writers who revived Sourashtra literature". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  12. ^ Staff Reporter (22 May 2017). "Set up Thirukkural research centre". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Mahabharatha in Saurashtra language". The Hindu. 25 April 2013. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  14. ^ Kolappan, B. (18 May 2018). "A Tamil classic translated into Sourashtra". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 25 November 2018.