Marathi is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. It is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western India. The 4th most spoken language in India and the 15th most spoken language in the world, Marathi has almost 90 million fluent speakers worldwide. It is spoken in India, Israel and Mauritius. Marathi speaking population is also found in United States, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Netherlands, Canada, UAE, South Africa, Israel, Pakistan Singapore, Germany, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
The history of Marathi can be traced back far beyond the 10th century. It descends from Sanskrit through Pali, Maharashtri and Maharashtra - Apabhramsa. It is said have evolved from Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha, with grammar and syntax derived from Pali and Prakrit. A gradual process of change and modification in the spoken language has led to the present day Marathi. The origin and growth of Marathi literature is indebted to two important events. The first was the rise of the Jadhava dynasty, whose capital was Devgiri.
The Jadhava’s adopted Marathi as the court language and patronized Marathi learned men. The second event was the coming of two religious sects known as Mahanubhav Panth and Warkari Panth that adopted Marathi as the medium for preaching their doctrines of devotion. Writers of the Mahanubhav sect contributed to Marathi prose, while the saint-poets of Warkari sect composed Marathi poetry. However, the latter group is regarded as the pioneers and founders of Marathi literature.
During the 11th century, written Marathi first appeared in the form of inscriptions on stones and copper plates. It is written in both Devanagari and Modi script.
Marathi has been written with the Devanagari alphabet since 1950. Marathi Devanagari script, also known as Balbodh script is written from left to right and is different from Hindi or any other languages. It consists of 16 vowel letters and 36 consonant letters making a total of 52 letters.
It was written with the Modi alphabet from the 13th century until the mid 20th century. Most writings of the Maratha Empire are seen in Modi script. It was written in modi script which was basically designed for minimizing the lifting of pen from paper while writing.
Dialects are the linguistic varieties that generate when slight changes in the original language are seen. There are many varieties of Marathi language, depending upon the various parts, region, areas and most importantly the speakers. Indic scholars distinguish 42 dialects of spoken Marathi. Historically, according to the scholars, the major dialect divisions have been Ahirani, Khandeshi, Varhadi, Wadvali, Samavedi Are Marathi, Konkani, Thanjavur Marathi, Namdev Marathi, Dangii, Judæo-Marathi, Kadodii, Warli, Dakshini, Deshi, Deccan, Nagpuri, Ikrani and Gowlan.