Gujarati, Kathiwadi or  Kutchchi, which is the language of Gujarat?

Indians love variety, whether it is in our traditions, cultures, outfits, food or languages. If someone had to make an exhaustive list of all the languages and the variations within them, they would probably lose their minds before finishing the list. But each dialect of the languages in India deserves recognition. So, in an attempt to lose my mind, I decided to follow the languages of India throughout the country. And what better way to get to know a place than to travel through the veins of the country, the roads? All I needed now was a partner for this adventure, and Savaari shared the same love for the culture and travels in India that I just knew it had to be them. 

For this time, we travelled through Gujarat. When it comes to cultures and languages, Gujarat is where the party is. Picture this – colourful clothes, like the ladies rocking those stunning ‘ghagra cholis‘ and the dudes’ sporting cool dhoti, jhabba (short kurta) or pehran (shirt) and turban. And don’t even get me started on the dance moves! The whole state comes alive with the energetic beats of Garba and Dandiya. Now let’s get to the best part – the food! Gujarat is a vegetarian paradise with lip-smacking dishes like dhokla, thepla, and undhiyu that’ll make your taste buds dance with joy. 

Different languages of Gujarat infographics

The words of Gujarat

On my travels in the gorgeous state of Gujarat, I noticed something fascinating unravelling as I explored the different parts of the state. I noticed that Gujarati sounds different depending on where you hear it. As I kept digging deeper, it unveiled a captivating medley of diverse dialects and tongues. It was like stumbling upon a linguistic treasure trove! From the melodic tones of Saurashtra to the lyrical notes of Kutchi and the rhythmic beats of Bhili, each region boasted its own unique linguistic flavour.

When it comes to language, Gujarati is the star of the show. It’s a lively and melodious language that’s part of the Indo-Aryan family, and the Gujarati script? It’s a total work of art! But here’s the kicker, folks – they didn’t just stop at Gujarati. Gujarat is a place where tradition meets modernity and where culture and languages collide in the most delightful way. There are various dialects of the language, mainly segregated regionally within the state. Like Kathiawadi in Saurashtra, Surti in South Gujarat, Kutchchi language in Kutch and  Charotari language in Central Gujarat.

languages of Gujarat - Gujarati alphabets

Hindi and Gujarati – Siblings from the same family

Gujarati and Hindi, two popular languages in India, have a lot in common because they both originated from Sanskrit, an ancient language. Think of Sanskrit as the ancient ancestor of these languages. This shared ancestry means that the languages in Gujarat and Hindi have many similar words, grammar rules, and sentence structures. It’s like they have a family resemblance! The way they are written, using the Devanagari script, also has its roots in the same ancient script that was used for Sanskrit. So, when you hear Gujarati or Hindi, you may notice some words that sound familiar or even understand some basic conversations because they have this shared background. It’s like they’re distant cousins, similar but with their own distinct identities.

Gujarati –  Echoing cultural vibrancy and expressive flair.

Gujarati is the major language spoken all over Gujarat. It is like the mother of all the languages spoken in Gujarat. In fact, a lot of people are under the misconception that it is the only language spoken in Gujarat. With its rhythmic cadence and expressive tones, Gujarati has the power to captivate anyone who dares to listen. From its beautifully intricate script derived from Devanagari to its rich literary tradition, Gujarati is a gateway to a world of enchanting stories and deep cultural roots. So, if you’re up for an adventure of language and culture, dive into the mesmerising world of Gujarati and let your curiosity be rewarded!

Gujarat women in garba attire

When I started my trip with Jignesh bhaiya, he picked me up from the Ahmedabad airport. The first thing I asked him for was a few phrases in Gujarati that I might need for my time here. He told me a few common phrases and noticed that I was noting them down in my diary. He inquired about the reason for my interest in the language, and I told him that I am a writer and have an interest in languages. That’s when he then told me that his daughter studies at the Gujarat University School of Language and he would be able to get me in touch with a professor who teaches Gujarati there. I jumped at the opportunity. A few calls and 45 minutes later, we were there, and I was gathering information about the language. 

Languages of Gujarat - Gujarati script

History of Gujarati

Gujarati, a vibrant language spoken predominantly in the Indian state of Gujarat, has a fascinating history that stretches back centuries. Its origins can be traced to the 12th century when it emerged as a distinct language influenced by the regional Apabhramsha Prakrit. Over time, Gujarati developed its own unique script derived from the Devanagari script. It flourished as a literary language during the medieval period, with notable poets and writers contributing to its rich body of literature. During the colonial era, Gujarati played a vital role in India’s freedom struggle, with prominent writers using it as a medium to inspire and mobilise the masses. Today, Gujarati continues to thrive as a dynamic and widely spoken language, reflecting the cultural heritage and linguistic diversity of Gujarat.

The Gujarati language has gone through different stages in its history. It started with Old Gujarati, also known as the ancestral language of Rajasthan and Gujarat, spoken by the Gurjars in northern Gujarat and western Rajasthan. This was followed by the development of Middle Gujarati from the 1500s to the 1800s, which had some phonetic differences from the previous stage. Modern Gujarati, the form used today, originated in the 18th century and gradually gained prominence. In the mid-19th century, significant milestones were achieved in the development of Gujarati literature, including the first personal diary in 1840 and the first novel, “Karan Ghelo,” in 1866. The same year also saw the release of an autobiography in Gujarati. These milestones marked the progression of Gujarati as a language with diverse literary compositions.

Gujarati Culture: Timeless Traditions and Vibrant Heritage of Gujarat”

Gujaratis are known for their business acumen, entrepreneurship, and vibrant culture. The Gujarati language is their mother tongue. Gujarati cuisine is primarily vegetarian, influenced by Jainism and Buddhism, and includes dishes like dhokla, khakhra, thepla, and fafda. Navaratri, Uttarayan (kite festival), and Diwali are significant celebrations.

Popular phrases in Gujarati – 

  • Kem cho? (How are you?)
  • Majama (I am good.)
  • Aavjo (Come again/Goodbye)
  • Hu tane prem karu chhu. (I love you.)
languages of Gujarat

Kathiawadi, the fearless dialect with an adventurous charm

After spending a couple of days in Ahmedabad, the next stop was Rajkot. On the way, we stopped at a dhaba for some food, and I noticed that people there were speaking a little differently. One of the major differences that I noticed was that in the Gujarati language, they usually end with “chhe”, but here, they were using “sa”. Good thing I still had the number of the professor, who was more than ready to help me. She was very happy to see that someone was taking so much interest in a regional language. The truth is that with globalisation came English, and with that came the darker days for regional languages. We often forget the beauty of these native languages. 

The professor told me that Kathiawadi is a regional language primarily spoken in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, India. It is a distinctive dialect of Gujarati, enriched with unique linguistic features and cultural influences specific to the Kathiawar region. Kathiyawadi has its own distinct vocabulary, pronunciation, and intonation patterns, setting it apart from the languages spoken in Gujarat. It is widely spoken by Kathiawadis and serves as a significant part of their cultural identity. Kathiawadi language reflects the rich heritage and vibrant traditions of the region, and its colloquial nature adds a touch of authenticity and charm to conversations. Whether it’s the rhythmic folk songs, colourful proverbs, or lively banter, Kathiyawadi truly encapsulates the essence of the Kathiawar Peninsula and its people.

History of Kathiawadi

The Kathiawar Peninsula was initially inhabited by indigenous Koli and Kunbi people. In the early 11th century, various Kshatriya clans such as Kathi, Rajputs, Ahirs, Mers, and Bharwads migrated to the region from present-day Rajasthan, Sindh, and surrounding areas. The Charans also arrived from the north and northwest. Among these migrants were the Jadejas, who are considered a branch of the Samma Rajputs from Sindh. With their arrival, the influence of the Sindhi language became apparent. As a result, the Kathiawari language developed a distinct accent and included several words that differed from standard Gujarati.

Kathiawadi Culture: Rich Heritage and Colorful Traditions of Kathiawar 

Kathiawadis hail from the Kathiawad region of Gujarat, which comprises the majority of the Saurashtra peninsula. Kathiawadi cuisine is spicy compared to general Gujarati food and includes dishes like sev tameta nu shaak, ringan no oroh (eggplant mash), and bajra no rotlo. They’re traditionally known for their valor and their significant contributions in fields such as agriculture and arts.

Popular phrases in Kathiawadi – 

  • Kem che? (How are you? – slightly different pronunciation from standard Gujarati)
  • Aavshe (Will come – pronunciation difference)
  • Su kare che? (What are you doing?)
  • Jaao cho? (Where are you going?)
Fort in Vadodara - Laxmi Vilas Palace

Surti, where words mirror the warm hospitality

As the name suggests, Surti is spoken mostly in Surat or in the southern towns of the state. The language might sound a little harsh to some people when compared to other languages in Gujarat. It is characterised by its unique pronunciation, intonation, and vocabulary. Surti language has been shaped by the cultural and historical influences of the city, known for its vibrant textile industry and bustling trade. While it retains the essence of Gujarati, the Surti language has its own flavour, reflecting the local dialect and colloquial expressions specific to the region. It adds a touch of uniqueness and charm to conversations, contributing to the cultural diversity within the Gujarati language itself.

I came across Surti during my travels in Surat. At first, when I heard it, I thought the people of Surat had a lot of energy. But later realised that they were speaking a different dialect altogether. The culture in Surat is deeply influenced by the position it holds as a major trading hub and its rich textile heritage. The people of Surat are known for their entrepreneurial spirit, and the city has a thriving business community. Surti culture celebrates artistry and craftsmanship, with a focus on traditional crafts like zari work, bandhani, and embroidery. The city is also renowned for its delectable street food, which includes mouth-watering snacks like undhiyu, locho, and ghari. 

History of Surati

The history of the Surati language in Gujarat is intertwined with the rich cultural and historical fabric of Surat. Surati language, also known as Surti Gujarati, emerged as a distinct dialect within the broader Gujarati language. Surat, being a major port and commercial centre, attracted traders and settlers from various regions, resulting in linguistic influences from different communities. The city’s historical significance as a prosperous trading hub and its association with the textile industry further contributed to the development of the Surati language. Today, the Surati language serves as a reflection of the cultural diversity and the vibrant spirit of Surat, adding its own flavour to the linguistic tapestry of Gujarat.

Surati Culture: A Vibrant Tapestry of Tradition and Diversity

Surtis are people from Surat, a city in Gujarat known for its diamond and textile industries. Surti cuisine has a unique flavor profile with dishes like Surti Sev Khamani, Ghari (a sweet dish), and Locho. Their dialect of Gujarati, Surti Gujarati, has a softer tone compared to other dialects. Surtis are known for their love of food and relaxed lifestyle.

Popular phrases in Surati –

  • Su chale che? (What’s happening?)
  • Ghani khama ghaani (A respectful greeting)
  • Lai jao (Take it and go)
  • Chamach (Spoon – while in Gujarati it’s referred to as ‘Chamchi’)
Gujarati food - Dhokala

Charotari – Unveiling the rich heritage and cherished traditions

The next dialect that came was noticed somewhere in Vadodara. Charotari language, also known as Charotari Bhili, is a distinct language spoken in the Charotar region of Gujarat. I was lucky enough to have been there during the Navaratri season. The driver bhaiya was telling me about the festival and how it is celebrated with so much enthusiasm in Gujarat. 

While the rest of the country celebrates this nine-day festival as a victory of good over evil, welcoming Lord Ram back to Ayodhya and so on, the state of Gujarat goes a step beyond and turns it into this cultural extravaganza. As soon as I entered the city, I saw that celebrations were in full swing and I could already see people painting the town a rainbow with their attires. The street-side shops looked like a flamboyant palette of colours. And that was just the beginning of what would be an eventful weekend.

History of Charotari

The Charotari language, also known as Charotari Bhili, is a distinct language spoken in the Charotar region of Gujarat, India. It is primarily spoken by the Charan community, who are believed to have migrated to Gujarat from the north and northwest regions. Among the languages of Gujarat Charotari language has its roots in the Bhili language, which is a part of the larger Bhil language family. However, it has developed its own unique features and vocabulary specific to the Charotar region. The language reflects the cultural heritage and traditions of the Charan community, and it plays a vital role in preserving their identity. The language is cherished by its speakers as a means of communication and cultural expression, enriching the plethora of languages in Gujarat.

Charotari Culture: Unveiling the Enchanting Traditions and Heritage 

The Charotari people are from the Charotar region, the fertile land between the rivers Mahi and Sabarmati in Gujarat. People here are primarily engaged in farming and dairy businesses. The Charotar region is known for producing tobacco, dairy products, and Kheda district is famous for its “Charotari Gai” or Kankrej cattle breed.

This isn’t a distinct dialect but more of a regional variation of Gujarati.  However, people from this region may have their unique phrases or use of words due to local cultural influences.

Kutchi – Weaving tales of tradition and vibrant artistry.

Kutchchi is a language that I learned in Bhuj. Kutch, known for its vast salt marshes, the Great Rann of Kutch, and the enchanting white desert, the Little Rann of Kutch, offers a surreal and awe-inspiring experience, particularly during sunrise and sunset. The region not only boasts breathtaking landscapes but also celebrates its vibrant culture through various events and activities. One of the top things to do in Kachchh is to attend the Rann Utsav, a colourful festival that showcases traditional music, dance, and crafts, providing a firsthand experience of the region’s rich heritage. Additionally, exploring local villages allows you to witness skilled artisans crafting intricate embroidery, tie-dye textiles, and vibrant handicrafts, immersing yourself in the artistic traditions of Kutch.

History of Kutchi

Katchhi, also known as Kutchi, is a language spoken primarily in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India. It is a distinct language with its own unique characteristics, vocabulary, and pronunciation. Katchhi language is part of the larger Sindhi language family and shares some similarities with Sindhi due to historical and cultural connections between the regions. The language reflects the rich cultural heritage of the Kutch region, which is known for its vibrant folk traditions, art, and crafts. Katchhi language plays a vital role in preserving and promoting the local culture and identity, with its use in storytelling, folk songs, and community gatherings. It adds to the linguistic diversity of Gujarat and serves as a strong link to the rich history and traditions of the Kutchi people.

Kutchi Culture: Rich Traditions and Artistic Marvels of Kutch

Kutchis hail from the Kutch region of Gujarat, which is a desert area. They have a unique dialect, Kutchi, although many also speak Gujarati. Kutchi cuisine includes dishes like Dabeli and Kutchi dabeli. Kutch is also famous for its distinct art forms like Kutchi embroidery, bandhani (tie-dye), and pottery.


Popular phrases in Kutchchi –

  • Khabar aahin? (How are you?)
  • Meherbani karan! (Thank you!)
  • Aavjoon (Come again)
  • Mein tawhaa prem karu chhun. (I love you.)

The languages of Gujarat

India is a linguistically diverse nation with a multitude of languages spoken across its vast landscape. Gujarat, in particular, stands out with its rich tapestry of languages. People in Gujarat can speak about 90 languages, Surat is the most linguistically diverse district in Gujarat. People here can speak about 57 different languages. From the widely spoken Gujarati language to regional dialects like Surti, Charotari, and Katchhi, Gujarat showcases the linguistic diversity within its borders. These languages not only reflect the cultural heritage and historical influences of different communities but also contribute to the unique identity of Gujarat. 

The linguistic mosaic of Gujarat is a testament to the inclusive and multicultural nature of the state, where people from various linguistic backgrounds coexist and celebrate their rich linguistic heritage. Exploring the linguistic kaleidoscope of Gujarat opens doors to understanding the cultural nuances, local traditions, and shared experiences of its diverse communities. It is a reminder that languages are not just modes of communication but windows into the vibrant tapestry of human expression and identity.

Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Swati Deol

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Gujarati, Kathiwadi or  Kutchchi, which is the language of Gujarat?
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Gujarati, Kathiwadi or  Kutchchi, which is the language of Gujarat?
There are a wide arena of languages spoken in Gujarat like Surti, Charotari, and Katchhi, Gujarat showcases the linguistic diversity.
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About the author

Being a passionate wanderer and storyteller, Aarushi's love for exploration began during her childhood adventures across India. With a background in teaching, she crafts narratives that intertwine cultural insights she learned and observed with travel experiences. Her articles reflect a deep connection to heritage and an insatiable curiosity about India's diverse landscapes.

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