Linguistic Survey of India - Dadra and Nagar Haveli


The Linguistic Survey of India (LSI) is an ongoing project of the Government of India that aims to document and study how languages have changed in the country over the years. It considers shifts in society, administrative regions and the reorganisation of states based on linguistic identity. This project has been undertaken by the Language Division, Office of the Registrar General, Government of India.

Part of this project is the ‘Linguistic Survey of India – Dadra and Nagar Haveli’ which studies the Varli language spoken in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The survey began in 1988. The survey works on the census framework according to which ‘language’ and ‘mother tongue’ are ‘co-terminus’ or mean the same.

The present-day LSI is an extension of the survey first proposed by George Abraham Grierson, an Irish linguist who documented Indian languages during the pre-Independence era. This project ‘supplements and complements’ Grierson’s work.

The document is divided into 4 chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Phonology (Chapter 2); Morphology (Chapter 3);  and Syntax (Chapter 4). The first chapter discusses the history, culture, demography and linguistic composition of the union territory. Chapters 2-4 present the linguistic descriptions of the Varli language. The survey concludes with a comparative lexicon of more than 400 terms in Davar Varli, Dungar Varli, Dhodia, Koki/Kokna/Kukna, Gujarati and Marathi.


  1. As recorded in the 1991 Census, Bhili or Bhilodi was the most spoken language in Dadra and Nagar Haveli with 76,207 speakers or 55.03 per cent of the population. The next most spoken language was Gujarati with 30,346 speakers (21.91 per cent) followed by Konkani with 17,062 speakers (12.32 per cent). Hindi and Marathi made up the rest of the top five languages spoken with 6,992 (5.05 per cent) and 4,936 speakers (3.56 per cent) respectively.

  2. The most widely spoken mother tongue recorded in the 1991 Census was Varli with 67,678 speakers making up 48.87 per cent of the union territory’s total population. Other widely spoken mother tongues were Gujarati (30,346 or 21.91 per cent speakers), Konkani (17,062 or 12.32 per cent speakers), Dhodia (6,430 or 4.64 per cent speakers), and Hindi (6,338 or 4.58 per cent speakers).

  3. The survey notes seven tribal communities and their mother tongues as recorded in the 1991 Census. The communities were: Dhodia, Dubla and Halpati, Kathodi, Kokna, Koli and Kolgha, Naikda or Nayaka, and Varli. People from these communities noted one of these languages as their mother tongue: Bhili/Bhilodi, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Konkani, Urdu and others.

  4. The Varli language faced a classification issue, the survey notes. It was initially grouped under Marathi Grierson and later by Professor A.M. Ghatage but contested due to its lack of acceptance and mismatch with the linguistic reality of the union territory.

  5. Based on responses to the 1961 Census, the survey states that Varli speech in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and parts of Dharampur Tehsil in Gujarat is distinct from Marathi and Gujarati due to political isolation of the union territory under Portuguese rule. Linguistically, Varli here refers to two dialects, Dungar Varli and Davar Varli, and does not encompass the speech of Varlis in Thane district of Maharashtra.

    Focus and Factoids by Saakhi Rai.


Language Division, Office of the Registrar General, Government of India


Language Division, Office of the Registrar General, Government of India