Memorandum for Inclusion of Kosli Language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution

Following report is from

Dr. Manmohan Singh, Honourable Prime Minister of India

Smt. Partibha Patil, Honourable President of India
Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Honourable UPA Chairperson
Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Honourable Leader of Opposition
Mr. P. Chidambaram, Honourable Union Minister of Home Affairs
Mr. Kapil Sibal, Honourable Union Minister of Human Resource Development
Shri Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare, Honourable Governor of Odisha
Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Honourable Chief Minister of Odisha
Honourable Members of Parliament from Odisha

Esteemed Honourable Prime Minister, Dr. Singh,

In the past few years the central govt. has included different Indian languages in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution by the recommendation of various committees.  It shows prudence on the part of Indian government in being flexible in recognizing the complexity of linguistic diversity in India. In 2003, the 93rd Constitutional Amendment was passed which enabled the government to have a fresh look at the possibility of inclusion of other Indian languages in the 8th schedule. Consequently, four languages, viz. Bodo, Dogri, Santhali and Maithili were judged to be included in the 8th schedule. We the people of Western Odisha were hoping that Kosli be included as well because our situation is identical to that of Maithili as it is explained in the following sections of this memo. Therefore, we humbly request you to examine our request by the same yardstick used to include the four recent languages in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution.

It is said that the right of a mother tongue is a basic cultural right of the people which link them with their economy, socio-cultural system and political right. UNESCO has recognized that the concept of language equality among all languages is important irrespective of whether the languages have a script or not. Furthermore, the Indian government is promoting the mother tongue based multilingual education to reduce the school drop-out rates and to enhance communication using a mother tongue.1 This is a good and praiseworthy initiative taken by the Indian government. In this regard, the Kosli language (also called Kosli-Sambalpuri, Sambalpuri) is the mother tongue of ten districts of western Orissa (Kosal region) viz. Balangir, Bargarh, Boudh, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Sambalpur, Sonepur, Sundargarh, and Athmallik subdivision.2 In addition, a large population of Raipur, Mahasamund and Raigarh districts of Chhattisgarh state also uses Kosli language as their mother tongue.2

The Kosli language and literature is vast as it is blessed with a group of dedicated writers. A large number of books are published regularly and available in the Kosli language. Epics like “Ramayana”, “Mahabharat” and “Meghduta” are translated into Kosli language.2 Kosli language has a rich literature in different areas viz. Architecture, Astrology, Mantra-Tantra-Yantra science, Medicine, Yoga, Music, Arts, Dance, Drama, Yoga, Philosophy, and Grammar.

Kosli dramas, songs, and dances are popular across the world. Kosli dramas are highly acclaimed and regularly staged at various places of India. For instance, a recent Kosli language play “Maau” is aiming to enter the Limca record book by becoming the biggest ever stage show of its kind in the world.2 In addition, the Kosli language cinema is attracting world wide attention. “Bukha (Hunger)” a Kosli language movie has won the Indian national award, an international jury award at the Gijón International Film Festival, Spain and was selected for World Rural Film Festival, Aurrilac, France.2 The All India Radio (viz. Sambalpur, Balangir, and Bhawanipatna) and television channels (viz. Nxatra news and OTV) are broadcasting their news and entertainment programs in Kosli language.

More than five registered newspapers and seventy magazines are available in Kosli language.2 Unfortunately Kosli language has no political and official support although there was a discussion in the Indian parliament to include Kosli language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian constitution.3 Recently the Orissa govt. has recommended the Ho language for its inclusion in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution.4 This is a welcome step. Along this line, we sincerely hope that the Orissa govt. will recommend Kosli language for the inclusion in the 8th Schedule of the Indian constitution.

For the people of western Orissa it is not just a language but a way of life that propel progresses and harmony in the region. The inclusion of Kosli language in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution will have following positive impacts on the people of western Orissa:

· Kosli language as a mother tongue and medium of instruction:
Western Orissa area contains 40 to 50 % of the state’s population. The key to development of western Odisha is the Kosli language. Drop out rate in schools particularly in rural and Adivashi area can be ascribed to, among other variables, teaching in Odia language which is not used in day to day communication. It is as if learning through an alien language. Kosli is the dominant means of communication through out western Odisha. Though we have several tribal languages, all tribals have functional capability in Kosli not Odia. That is the main reason why KBK has been found literacy rate is so low. We also have large population of scheduled caste in the area who are similarly impacted. It has caused various problems viz. i) the overall marks of students from western Orissa are lower than the students of coastal Orissa and ii) many bright students of western Orissa fail again and again in both 10th and 10+2 examinations because of their poor knowledge in Odia language. Recognition of Kosli language will facilitate education among the kids of western Orissa in their mother tongue and solve the above mentioned problems.

· Freedom of expression in legislative and social sphere:
In spite of aggressive Odianisation, population of western Orissa has retained Kosli language for day to day communication. In large population centers where people of other states, especially from Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat and other North Indian area have come to work, they have opted Kosli instead of Odia because the accent of Kosli follows North Indian pattern. And when poor Koslis go out of their area to seek employment they choose to go to other Hindi speaking area such as Chhattisgarh, U.P, Bihar and Jharkhand instead of Odia speaking area in Odisha. All Kosli can be easily identified by their accent when they try to speak Odia. Elected representatives from western Orissa can not engage in debates in the State Assembly because of their poor knowledge in Odia language. Recognition of this language will facilitate communication in the legislative and social sphere.

· Research and development:
Dictionaries, grammar books, plays, novels, anthology of poems, granthavalis of major poets, Kosli panjikas, several books on history of Kosal (western Orissa), and biographies on Kosli heroes are already available without any financial help from the government. Recognition of Kosli language will avail grants directly from the central government. This will facilitate the research and future development of Kosli language.

· Ease of governance:
Currently, notices are given in the villages of western Odisha in Odia; not very literates do not understand the full implications of these notices. Civil servants from other areas who do not even have rudimentary knowledge of Kosli language can not communicate with citizens, thus resulting in miscommunication. In fact, Orissa is among the minority of states which claims to have only one language. Out of 28 states, 15 have more than one official language. Out of 7 union territories, 6 have more than one recognized language. In a democracy, freedom of expression is a fundamental right of the citizen. Good governance requires efficient communication between the citizens and the government. In this context, inclusion of the Kosli language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian constitution will facilitate governance in western Orissa.

· Kosli as a distinct language and its socio-cultural impact:
The linguistic characteristics of Kosli language are markedly different. Kosli language is a direct derivative of Sanskrit.5 Odia scholars have accepted it as a dialect of Odia language and Odia language as a member of Eastern Magadhi group of Indo-Aryan family. But genealogical analysis shows two different sources of origin of the two languages, that is, Odia and Kosli language. Odia is originated from the Magadhi Prakrit; whereas, Kosli language is originated from Ardha-Magadhi Prakrit.4 So there is remarkable difference between the two in the sphere of phonology, morphology, semantics and syntax.5 The researchers at the Sambalpur University, Odisha have shown that the Kosli is a distinct and old language.6

Kosli language is intimately connected to the distinct culture and heritage of western Odisha, quite distinct from Odia culture. The unique folk songs and dances blends neatly with rhythm and punctuation of Kosli language. Inclusion of Kosli language in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution will promote the culture and heritage of western Orissa.

Keeping the above mentioned points into consideration we request you to recommend the inclusion of Kosli language in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution.

Thanking you with best regards,

People of western Odisha and members of the Kosal Discussion and Development Forum (KDDF)

Acknowledgment: We thank the members of KDDF and other e-forums for suggestions. We are grateful to the people of western Odisha for constant support and encouragement.


5. Kosli Bhasa Ra Sankhipta Parichay, Kosal Ratna Prayagdutta Joshi, pp 6, 7, 16, 17, Ed. Dr.  Dolagobinda Bishi, 1991.
6. Peculiarities of Sambalpuri Language in Its Morphology; Dr. Ashok Kumar Dash, Surta, pp 35-38, Ed. Saket Sreebhushan Sahu, 2009.

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Kosli Language: A Perspective on Its Origin, Evolution and Distinction

Following is a report from

Dr. Sanjib Kumar Karmee, PhD
Department of Biotechnology, Delft University of Technology
Julianalaan 136, 2628 BL Delft,
The Netherlands

Kosli language has a very rich history. The first Kosli language poem was published by “Madhusudan” in 1891 (Sambalpur Haitesini, 3rd Issue, 15 number, 1891).[1] Earlier, a team lead by Dr. Nilamadhab Panigrahi, Mr. P. R. Dubey and Pandit Prayag Datta Joshi organized the “Kosal Sammellan”. This group jointly started and spearheaded the “Kosli language” movement in western Odisha. As an addition to this movement, late Satya Narayan Bohidar of Sonepur contributed immensely in the 1970s by writing the first dictionary and grammar books for Kosli language.[2] Later a notable contribution came from scholar late Sri Hemachandra Acharya, who wrote “The Kosli Ramayana-Ram Raha”.[3] This book was published by Sambalpur University and available online.[3] This book helped a lot to popularize the Kosli language in its written form. Late Shri Acharya is popularly known as “Kosli Balmiki” in the western Odisha. Dr. Nilamadhab Panigrahi is another notable personality of Kosli literature. He is known for writing the “Kosli Mahabharat”. [4] He has also authored a Kosli grammar book along with Dr. Prafulla Tripathy. It is said that he did not accept the “Sarala Samman” because of his affection towards Kosli language.

Currently, poet Haldhar Nag, Poet Bipin Acharya, Dr. Dologobind Bishi, Dr. Harekrushna Meher, Nimai Charan Panigrahi, novelist Dhanpati Mahapatra, and dramatist Kesha Ranjan Pradhan, are leading the Kosli language movement. In 2011 a “Kosal Sahitya Academy” was constituted and the academy felicitated several literary personalities of Kosli language and literature. [5] A movement is continuing in the western Odisha or Kosal region for the recognition and development of “Kosli language”.  Various linguists, writer, and intellectuals of this region are leading this movement. A large numbers magazines, newspapers, novels, and books are available in this language. “Beni”- a leading Kosli language magazine is published regularly from Bargarh by Mr. Saket Sahu. Also, Kosli grammar books are already adopted by writers.

There is a sense among the people of western Odisha that writings in Kosli language are not respected among Odia pundits. It is reported that some member of the “Odisha Sahtya Academy” does not recognize Kosli as an independent language. They think that Kosli language is a dialect of Odia language.

It is believed that that the difference between a dialect and a language depends upon attitude of the person who claims that there is a difference between the two. There is no strict scientific and linguistic norm to distinguish a language and a dialect. A well known linguist “Edward Fenigan””, states in his book “Language: Its Structure and Use”,” that some people seems to believe and claim that only other people speak a dialect, but they themselves don’t. Instead they think of themselves as a speaker of a particular language. In reality everyone speaks a “dialect”, he says: the characteristic linguistic practices of ethnic groups, socioeconomic groups, gender groups and age groups also constitute of different dialects. You speak a dialect that is typical of your nationality, your region, your sex, your socioeconomic status, your community and other characteristics. And so does everyone else.

In practical terms, when linguistic characteristics of communication are sufficiently unique, then language/dialect can be distinguished from another language/dialect. Odia is sufficiently different from Bengali, and Kosli language is sufficiently different from Odia, Bengali, Hindi and other Indian languages. In fact the difference between Bengali and Odia is less pronounced than the difference between Oriya and Kosli. A book “Kosli Bhasa Ra Sankhipta Parichay” (A brief introduction to Kosli language) by Kosal Ratna Pandit Prayaga Dutta Joshi (edited by Dr. Dologobind Bishi) gives a snap shot on the importance and distinction of Kosli language.[6,7] Researchers argue that Kosli language is directly evolved from Sanskrit like various Indian languages. The trend of evolution of Kosli language is: Sanskrit > Prakrit > Hindi > Kosli. Consider some of the following Kosli words that are originated from the ancient Prakrit language:

Prakrit Hindi Kosli
aru aur Aru
kachhar kachrA kechrA
kArabelah karelA karlA
khambo khambA khamb
juNa purAnA junhAn
patanga patang patAngi
punah phir pher/phen
bahaNi bahan bahen/bahani
masAn samsAn masAn
lALan lAd (pyar) lAda (gela)
homi hungA hemi

Some argue that Kosli is not a distinct language as it is using Odia script. If we will go by this logic, it is worth noting that the script of Marathi and Hindi, Bengali and Assamese languages are same. All these languages are flourishing and maintaining their identities. In addition, there are many languages in the world with similar script. Most of the European languages use Roman script. They are still different. Each language is successful. Along this line, it may be noted that Germans thinks that Dutch is a mixture of English and German language. So what? Dutch language is still progressing and it has its own literature, heritage and culture. However, if one will read and learn, then Dutch is distinct from German and it has its own grammar. In this context, Kosli and Odia language are different although they use same script.

The strength of a language depends mainly on its literary personalities, their creations and its readers. A team led by Dr AK Das of Sambalpur University has established that Kosli is a distinct language. [7]

On regular basis essay competition, debate competition, seminar, group discussion, and poetry recitation are organized in this language in western Odisha. Intellectuals are also demanding that Kosli language should be the medium of instruction at the primary school level in western Odisha.[8] It is argued that such a move will reduce the school drop out rates in western Odisha as the kids of this region do not understand Odia. There is also a continuous demand for the inclusion of Kosli language in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution. [9,10]


  6. Kosli Bhasa Ra Sankhipta Parichay, Kosal Ratna Prayagdutta Joshi, pg 6, 7, 16, 17, Ed. Dr. Dolagobinda Bishi, 1991.