Deccan or Dakan, also spelt Dakkan and Dakhan, literally means south. The region lies in southern parts of the Indo-Pak subcontinent, hence the name. As opposed to Deccan, the north is called uttar or uttara, as in Uttar Pradesh (pradesh means region or province).

Some experts say Dakani, or Deccani, the local variety of Urdu developed and spoken in Deccan, is a dialect of Urdu. Others believe it is a regional variety of Urdu. The Dakani variety of Urdu has numerous words that originally came from local languages spoken in the south and they are, mostly, Dravidian languages while Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language. But Dakani has some peculiar grammatical rules, too. For instance, one way of forming plurals in Dakani is to add aan at the end of a noun and raataan and baataan are simply plural of Urdu raat (night) and baat (talk or conversation), respectively, though correct the Urdu usage would be raaten and baaten.

Secondly, Sanskrit, Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi have influenced Dakani to a large extent. But Dakani’s basic grammar and vocabulary is based on Urdu, spoken in the north. So Dakani is just a regional variety of Urdu spoken in the northern India and it travelled from north to south with conquerors, traders and Muslim Sufis and preachers. Strangely enough, though Urdu was born in north, the earliest pieces of Urdu literature were penned in south (Deccan).

But Dakani has some peculiarities that pose difficulties to those not familiar with it, which inspired some scholars to compile separate dictionaries of Dakani Urdu. Here is a brief introduction to the dictionaries of Dakani published so far:

Farhang-e-Usmania (1929)

This is a 318-page specialised dictionary and gives terminology used in official correspondence in state of Deccan, as Deccan’s official language was Urdu — that is, till India annexed state of Deccan by force in 1948. Naseeruddin Hashmi in his Dakan Mein Urdu has written that Urdu was made state of Deccan’s official language in 1884. Compiled by Mir Lutf Ali Qazi Arif Abul ‘Alai and published from Hyderabad (Deccan) in 1929, it also includes some general Urdu words used in Deccan.

Dakan Ki Zaban (1935)

This dictionary of Dakani, too, was compiled by Mir Lutf Ali Qazi Arif Abul ‘Alai. It was planned to record 100,000 words and was to be published in 30 volumes, but only first volume, consisting of 48 pages, could be published.

Dakani Lughat

A pocket dictionary of Dakani having just 104 pages, it was compiled by Syed Shi’aar Ahmed Shi’aar Hashmi. Dakani Lughat does not show the year of publication. But it was published, probably, prior to 1947, as the introduction by Abdullah Imadi shows (Imadi was a scholar who died in 1947). The interesting aspect is that it carries some slangy expressions that are rarely found in standard Urdu dictionaries, such as apan (we, us) and chillar (small money, change, coins).

Dakani Urdu Ki Lughat (1969)

Compiled by Dr Masood Husain Khan and Ghulam Umer Khan, this was the first-ever comprehensive and reliable Dakani dictionary.

First published in 1969, the dictionary cites explanatory quotations from published and unpublished works of Dakani literature, to authenticate the meaning and usage.

Dakani Lughaat (1970)

Compiled by Muhammad Sibghatullah and Syed Abu Turaab Khataai Zamin, it comprises of 152 pages and has an introduction describing the history of Dakani literature.

Dakani Farhang (1972)

Compiled by Ameer Arifi, it is basically a glossary of Urdu masnavis written in Deccan and includes vocabulary from famous masnavis, namely, ‘Qutb Mushtari’, ‘Man Lagan’, ‘Tooti Nama’, ‘Gulshan-e-Ishq’ and ‘Saif-ul-mulook-o- Bad’ee-ul-Jamal’.

Qadeem Urdu Ki Lughat (1973)

Though not intended to be read as a dictionary of Dakani, this work by Jameel Jalibi includes words from Urdu’s classical and early literature, naturally making it a partial dictionary of Dakani as well, since Urdu literature’s earliest works were penned in Deccan.

Behr-ul-Ma’ani (1987)

Compiled by Javed Vashisht and subtitled Dakani Urdu Ka Lughat, the 700-page work mentions Dakani’s literary works from where the words have been picked. But some scholars have expressed their doubts about authenticity of this work.

Dakani Lughat-o-Tazkira-e-Dakani Makhtootaat (2002)

Prof Agha Hyder Hasan Mirza (1892-1976) was a scholar, poet and an incurable collector of rare manuscripts, rare books, antiques and paintings. He had begun writing a dictionary of Dakani and a descriptive catalogue of Dakani Urdu’s manuscript, many of which were part of his invaluable collection. But he could not finish it and Mughni Tabassum had to edit it. This scholarly work was finally published in book form in 2002.

Dakani Lughat (2008)

Compiled by a renowned scholar of Dakani like Dr Syeda Jafer, this is, perhaps, the most comprehensive and most authentic when compared with similar works. Explanatory quotations from classical literary texts and a brief but erudite preface make it even more valuable.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2021



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