In brief

Hindi’s ever-growing hegemony as mother tongue in India

More than 43% of Indian population speak it as native language in 6-point increase in last 40 years

"India" page on Hindi language version of Wikipedia.
"India" page on Hindi language version of Wikipedia.
Hindi is the mother tongue of 528 million Indians which equals to an increasing share of the population of the Asian country. Linguistic data of the 2011 Indian census, released in an official publication a couple of weeks ago, show that 43.6% of Indians speak it as a mother tongue. In 2001 they were 41% but, if we go back in time, in 1971 the share was only 37%.

The 528 million figure needs however further explanation, as it not only includes Hindi proper, but all the linguistic variants that are close to it, which form a dialect continuum being officially recognized in India as Hindi. According to the census, Hindi proper has 322 million speakers.

Bengali, Marathi and Telugu are the three languages that follow it, each with more than 80 million speakers. Bengali, however, is also spoken in neighbouring Bangladesh and in several other countries abroad, raising the figure to at least 250 million speakers worldwide.

The other three languages exceeding 50 million mother tongue speakers in India are Tamil, Gujarati and Urdu. The latter, which is very similar to Hindi but bearing a distinct political, religious and social background— is the only one among the 15 most spoken languages in India that is losing speakers.

Sanskrit, the liturgical language of Hinduism, was declared by 24,800 Indians as their mother tongue.