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Gujarati is a language belonging to the Indo-Iranian
group of the Indo-European languages. It is spoken
mainly in Gujarat, a state in western India, where
it is a regional language officially recognized by
the Constitution. It is written in Gujarati script,
an abugida very similar to Devanagari (the script
used for Sanskrit and Hindi), but without the
continuous line at the top of the letters.
It is spoken by about 46 million people worldwide, making it the 23rd most spoken language in the world. Of these, roughly 45.5 million reside in India, 150,000 in Uganda, 250,000 in Tanzania, 50,000 in Kenya and roughly 100,000 in Pakistan. Considerable population of Gujarati speakers exists in North America as well. Two most common surnames are Shah and Patel
Premananda was a "vyakhyan-kar", a travelling story teller, who narrated his subject in song form and then perhaps elaborated on the lines in prose. His style was so fluent that the long poems running into hundreds of lines were memorised by the people and are still sung during the morning routines. In this sense the oral tradition of the much more ancient Vedas was clearly continuing in India till late. Premananda's famous poetry-stories deal with epic themes couched in stories of mythical kings, and the puranas. He also wrote a drama based on Narasinh Mehta's life capturing his simplicity and his disregard for worldly divisions of caste and class.
The Gujarati spoken today takes considerable vocabulary from Persian due the more than five centuries of the rule of Sultan kings who were Muslim. These words occur mostly in reference to worldly and secular matters. The other elements of the language however draw quite a lot on native tribes of the specific region, as listed below under Dialects. Modern exploration into Gujarat and its language is credited to British administrator Forbes. During the nineteenth century at a time when the British rule was more consolidatory and progressive this gentleman explored much of the previous thousand years of the history of the land and compiled a large number of manuscripts. The learned body devoted to Gujarati language is named after him, Farbas Gujarati Sabha with headquarters in Mumbai.
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