The language of the Dogras is spoken in the region which includes parts of three States: the whole of Jammu province south of the Pir Panjal range, parts of Himachal Pradesh (Kangra, Chamba, Kullu, Mandi, Suket), some parts of Punjab (Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Nurpur, Hoshiarpur) and some parts of Pakistan (Shankargarh tehsil of Sialkot).
Dogri belongs to the Indo-European family of languages in India and is derived from Sauraseni Prakrit. With the passage of time, Dogri has gradually absorbed a large number of Arabic, Persian and English words.
The earliest known reference to the Dogri language is to be found in Amir Khusrau's list of Indian languages, which also includes Sindhi, Lahauri, Kashmiri, Dhursamundari, Tilangi, Gujarati, Malbari, Gaudi Bengali, Awadhi and Dehalavi. The existence of Dogri language prior to Khusrau’s lifetime are to be found in certain inscriptions dating from 12th century.
The earliest extant Dogri work is Rajauli, a Dogri translation by Tehaldas from the original Persian work by Bali Ram. The work was translated for Raja Dhyan Singh of Kotla in the latter half of 18th century. Rev. Carey mentioned Dogri in his list of Indian languages in 1916. A Dogri translation of the new testament is said to have been published by Christian missionaries of Sirampur. A few pieces of Dogri poetry of Dattu of second half of 18th century and of Rudradatta, Ganga Ram and Lakkhu of the 19th century are available. Jyotishi Vishveshar translated Lilavati, a Sanskrit work on Mathematics into Dogri in 1873.
It was in the 20thcentury that Dogri writing showed a quick growth in various fields of poetry, prose, novels, short stories, plays etc.
Life for the Dogra community has never been easy. Although the territory they inhabit is rich in flora and fauna, yet the sons of the soil have had to toil hard to earn their livelihood; consequently there was hardly any time to nurture literature and poetry. Defence services provided the only other option. This necessitated the young men having to leave behind their loved ones. It is but natural that many of the songs depict the anguish of separation. Even love and romance is tinged with a bit of sadness.
The brightest star in the firmament of Dogri literature is Dr. Karan Singh who has many novels, travelogues, philosophical treatises to his credit. He also performed a highly commendable task of translating the eternally popular Dogri songs into English so as to acquaint the non-Dogri speaking people with their beauty, immense richness and variety. Some of Dr Singh’s notable works are: Towards a New India (1974), Hinduism: The Eternal Religion (1999), Welcome The Moonrise (1965) an anthology of poems and the novel Mountain of Shiva (1994) besides a large number of essays on a diverse range of subjects.