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

December 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm Leave a comment

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]


  1. https://kddfonline.com/2011/08/01/the-first-published-kosli-poem/
  2. https://kddfonline.com/category/eminent-persons/satyanarayan-bohidar/
  3. https://kddfonline.com/category/eminent-persons/hemachandra-acharya/
  4. https://kddfonline.com/category/eminent-persons/dr-nilamadhab-panigrahi/
  5. https://kddfonline.com/2011/11/01/kosal-sahitya-academy-samman-2011/
  6. Kosli Bhasa Ra Sankhipta Parichay, Kosal Ratna Prayagdutta Joshi, pg 6, 7, 16, 17, Ed. Dr. Dolagobinda Bishi, 1991.
  7. https://kddfonline.com/2011/10/25/kosli-language-a-fresh-look-on-its-distinction-and-evolution/
  8. https://kddfonline.com/2011/07/31/mother-tongue-based-multilingual-education-kosli-language-as-a-medium-of-instruction-in-the-schools-of-western-odisha/
  9. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-otherstates/article2475325.ece
  10. https://kddfonline.com/category/kosli-language-and-literature/

Entry filed under: Athmallik, Balangir, Bargarh, Boudh, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Kosli language and literature, Language, Nuapada, Region watch, Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Sundergarh.

Odisha govt. suppressing Kosli language and culture A rare video of Hirakud dam construction by Roberto Rossellini

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