Garhwali language

Garhwali (गढ़वळि भाख) is an Indo-Aryan language of the Central Pahari subgroup. It is primarily spoken by over 2.5 million Garhwali people in the Garhwal region of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, in the Indian Himalayas.

'Garhwali' as spelled in Garhwali language
Native toIndia
RegionGarhwal, Uttarakhand
EthnicityGarhwali people
Native speakers
2.5 million (2011)[1]
Official census results conflate some speakers with Hindi.
Devanagari script
Śāradā script (historical)
Takri alphabet (historical)
Language codes
ISO 639-3gbm

Garhwali has a number of regional dialects and it is most closely related to the Kumaoni language spoken to the east. It is written using the Devanagari script.[3]

Garhwali is not an endangered language (Ethnologue lists it as "vigorous"), it is nonetheless designated as "vulnerable" in UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, which indicates that the language requires consistent conservation efforts.[4]

Almost all people who can speak and understand Garhwali can also speak and understand Hindi, one of the most commonly spoken languages of India. As per a study, Garhwali is only 50% intelligible for Hindi speakers and there is one-way full intelligibility of Hindi for Garhwali speakers because of the high rate of Hindi literacy in Uttarakhand and the popularity of Hindi in Northern India.[5]

Geographical distribution

Garhwali is spoken primarily by people in Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Dehradun districts of Garhwal division in the state Uttarakhand.[6] Garhwali is also spoken by Garhwali migrants to other parts of India including Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. According to various estimates, there are at least 2.5 million Garhwali migrants living in Delhi and the National Capital Region.

It is difficult to estimate the exact number of Garhwali speakers, as different agencies give different accounts of this number. According to the 2001 Census of Languages in India, there were 22,67314 Garhwali language speakers, while Ethnologue gave a much larger figure of 29,20,000 Garhwali language speakers in a 2005 report.[5] As per the latest 2011 Census of Languages in India, there are an estimated 2,482,089 speakers.[7]

Alternate names

The Ethnologue has catalogued alternate names by which Garhwali is known such as Gadhavali, Gadhawala, Gadwahi, Gashwali, Girwali, Godauli, Gorwali, Gurvali, and Pahari Garhwali.[6] These alternate names of the language may have come from the speakers having more than one name for their language, or variant spellings and pronunciations of what is essentially the same name.

Development of Garhwali

In the middle period of the course of development of Indo-Aryan languages, there were many prakrit. Of these, the "Khas Prakrit" is believed to be the source of Garhwali[8][9] . The early form of Garhwali can be traced to the 10th century which is found in numismatics, royal seals, inscriptional writings on copper plates and temple stones containing royal orders and grants. One such early example is the temple grant inscription of King Jagatpal at Dev Prayag (1335 AD). Most of the Garhwali literature is preserved in folk form, handed down verbally from generation to generation but since the 18th century, literary traditions are flourishing. Till the 17th century, Garhwal was always a sovereign nation under the Garhwali Kings.[10] Naturally, Garhwali was the official language of the Garhwal Kingdom

Garhwali dialects

  • Srinagariya (सिरिनगरिया) – classical Garhwali spoken in erstwhile royal capital, Srinagar, accepted as Standard Garhwali by most scholars.[11]
  • Chandpuriya (चांदपुरिया) - spoken in Chandpur region (North-Eastern foothills of Dudhatoli range in Chamoli district)
  • Tihriyali (टीरियाळि) - Spoken in and around the ancient town of Old Tehri.
  • Gangapariya (गंगपरिया) – North of Bhagirathi river valley in Tehri Garhwal, present-day Pratapnagar area.
  • Badhani (बधाणी) - spoken in Gwaldam region of Chamoli Garhwal.
  • Dessaulya(दसौल्या) - spoken in Gopeshwar region of Chamoli Garhwal.
  • Lohabbya (लोहब्या) - Spoken in Lohba area (Eastern foothills of Dudhatoli range) of Chamoli district.
  • Majh-Kumaiya (मझ-कुमैया)- spoken at the border of Garhwal and Kumaon in Pauri Garhwal district (Bironkhal and Thalisain blocks of Pauri Garhwal and Salt (सल्ट) block of Almora.
  • Nagpuriya (नागपुर्या) - spoken in Rudraprayag district.
  • Rathi (राठी) - spoken in Raath area of Pauri Garhwal, covers most of the Dudhatoli range and its foothills.
  • Salani (सलाणी) - spoken in Talla Salan, Malla Salan and Ganga Salan parganas of Pauri.
  • Ranwalti (रंवाल्टी) - spoken in Ranwain (रंवाँई), the Yamuna valley of Uttarkashi.
  • Bangaani (बंगाणी) - spoken in Bangaan (बंगाण) area of Uttarkashi, geographically to the east of Chanshal Pass.
  • Parvati (पर्वती) – spoken in Mori block of Uttarkashi, reportedly not mutually intelligible with other dialects.
  • Jaunpuri (जौनपुरी) - spoken in Jaunpur block of Tehri Garhwal district.
  • Gangadi (गंगाड़ी) - spoken in Bhagirathi river valley of Uttarkashi)
  • Chaundkoti चौंदकोटी - spoken in Chaundkot region (Ekeshwar block and surrounding areas) of Pauri Garhwal district.

(Linguistically unrelated but geographically neighbouring languages include: the Tibeto-Burman language Marchi/Bhotia – spoken by Marchas, neighbouring Tibet.)



Garhwali pronouns

 NominativeObliqueReflexivePossessive determinerPossessive pronoun
1st pers. sing.मीमीसणी/मीथैम्यारोम्यारो
2nd pers. sing./pl.(तु/ती inf) , (थांउ f /तीमी sf)(तीम्सणी/तीम्थै inf) , (थांऊ f /तीम्सणी/तीम्थै sf)(त्यारो inf) , (तिम्रो sf /थांउझु f)(तीम्सणी sf) , (तिम्रो sf /थांउझु f)
3rd pers. sing., वे, , सिवीँ, वे, , सेवीँ, वे, , सेवीँ, वे, , से
1st pers. pl.आमिआम्सणी/आम्थैआम्रोआम्रो
3rd pers. pl.तौंल , श्या , सीतौंतौंतौं

Garhwali cases

WrittenSpoken (Low Speed)Spoken (fluently)
Nominative न/लन/लन्/ल्
Vocative रेरेरे
Accusative सणिसणिते/ते/सन्
Instrumental न/ल/चेन/ल/चेन्/ल्/चे
Dative बानाबानाबान्
Ablative न/ल/चे/मनन/चुले/बटिनन/ल/चे/मनन/चुले/बटिनन्/ल्/चे/मनन्/चुले/बटि
Genitive ऑ/ई/ऊ/ऎऑ/ई/ऊ/ऎऑ/ई/ऊ/ऎ
Locative पुट्टु/फुण्ड/तड़गेपुटुक/फुण्/तड़गेपुटु/पुन्/तड़गे


Number NumeralWrittenRTGSIPA
5पाँचpaanch or paa~/pʌ~ç/ or //pʌ~/
9 नउ nau /nəu/


There are many differences from Hindi and other Indic languages, for example in the palatal approximant /j/, or the presence of a retroflex lateral /ɭ/. Garhwali also has different allophones.

Phone or phoneme

Monophonic vowels

There are many theories used to explains how many Monophthongs are used in the Garhwali language. The Non-Garhwali Indian scholars with some Garhwali scholars (who believes Garhwali as a dialect of Hindi) who follows Common Hindustani phonology argue that there are eight vowels found within the language are ə, ɪ, ʊ, ɑ, i, u, e, o. A Garhwali language scholar Mr. Bhishma Kukreti argues that /ɑ/ is not present in the language instead of it long schwa i.e. /ə:/ is used. Although it can be accepted that southern Garhwali dialects have uses of /ɑ/ instead /ə:/. If we follow his rule of vowel length we found that there are five vowels found in Garhwali. The three are ə, ɪ, ʊ with their vowel length as /ə:/, /ɪ:/, /ʊ:/. Other two /o/ & /e/ with no vowel length. But there are 13 vowels founded by Mr. Anoop Chandra Chandola[12] as follows /ə/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/, /ɑ/, /i/, /u/, /e/, /o/, /æ/, /ɨ/, /y/, /ɔ/, /ɯ/. His arguments can be accepted as universal (also /ɑ/ which is used only in Southern dialects but borrowed to Standard dialect for distinction purposes) . But Bhishma Kukreti's argument about vowel length is also accepted. Hence we concluded that Garhwali (Standard Garhwali in this mean) has twelve vowels (/ə/, /ɪ/, /ʊ/, /i/, /u/, /e/, /o/, /æ/, /ɨ/, /y/, /ɔ/, /ɯ/) where three has vowel length (/ə:/, /ɪ:/, /ʊ:/).


There are Diphthongs in the language which makes the words distinctive than other. However diphthongs vary dialect by dialect.

Diphthongs (IPA)Example (IPA)Glos
उइ /ui/ कुइ /kui/anybody
इउ /iu/ जिउ /ʤiu/Heart, mind
आइ /ai/ काइ /bəkɑi/After-all, besides
अइ /əi/ कइ /bəkəi/Balance
आउ /au/ चाउ /bətʃou/Save (verb)
अउ /əu/ चउ /bətʃəu/Safty

Triphthongs are less commonly found in the language. The most common word where a triphthong may occur is ह्वाउन [English: may be] /hɯɔʊn/ (in standard Garhwali) or /hɯaʊn/ (in some dialects). However many speakers can't realize the presence of triphthongs. Other triphthongs might be discovered if more academic research were done on the language.

Tenuis consonants
GPA (Garhwali Phonetic Alphabet) /IPA /Phoneme /IPA alternate/Phonemic categoryExample /<IPA Alternate>/ (<Description>)Hindustani language alternate of the word
क /kə/क् /k/voiceless velar stop ळ्यो /kaɭyo/ (Literary meaning:- Breakfast) नाश्ता, कलेवा
ग /gə/ग् /g/voiced velar stop रु /gərʊ/ (Literary meaning:- Heavy weight) भारी
च /tʃə/च् //voiceless palato-alveolar affricateचिटु /iʈɔ/ (Literary meaning:- White; masculine) सफ़ेद, श्वेत
ज /ʤə/ज् //voiced palato-alveolar affricateज्वनि /ɯni/ (Literary meaning:- Youngage) जवानी, यौवन
ट /ʈə/ट् /ʈ/voiceless retroflex stopटिपुण् /ʈɨpɯɳ/ (Literary meaning:- to pick; a verb) चुगना, उठाना
ड /ɖə/ड् /ɖ/voiced retroflex stopडाळु /ɖɔɭʊ/ (standard) or /ɖaɭʊ/ (in some southern dialects),(Literary meaning:- Tree) डाल, पेड़, वृक्ष
त /tə/त् /t/voiceless dental stopतिमुळ /tɨmɯɭ/ ,(Literary meaning:- Moraceae or Fig; a fruit) अञ्जीर/अंजीर
द /də/द् /d/voiced dental stopदेस /deç/ ,(Literary meaning:- Foreign) [don't be confused with देस /des/; meaning "country" borrowed from Hindustani]विदेश, परदेस, बाहरला-देस
प /pə/प् /p/voiceless bilabial stopपुङ्गुड़ु /pʊŋuɽ, (Literary Meaning:- Farm or Field)खेत or कृषि-भुमि
ब /bə/ब् /b/voiced bilabial stopबाच /batʃə, (Literary Meaning:- Tongue, Phrasal & other meaning:- Voice)जीभ, जुबान, आवाज़
ल /lə/ल् /l/dental lateral approximant लाटु /lʌʈɔ/ (Literary meaning:- idiot or mad or psycho; when used in anger. insane; when used in pity or love) झल्ला, पागल
ळ /ɭə/ळ् /ɭ/retroflex lateral approximantगढ़वाळ् /gəɖwɔɭ/ (Literary meaning:- One who holds forts, Generally used for the land of Garhwallis People, or Garhwal) गढ़वाल
य /jə/ य् /j/ palatal approximant यार /jar/ (Literary meaning:- Friend, commonly used as vocative word) यार
व /wə/ व् /w/ labio-velar approximant बिस्वास /biswɔs/ (Literary meaning: Faith) विश्वास, भरोसा
म /mə/म् /m/bilabial nasalमुसु /mʊs/ (Literary meaning: Mouse) मूषक, चुहा
न /nə/न् /n/dental nasalनिकम् /nɨkəm/ (Literary meaning:- Useless, Worthless) बेकार, व्यर्थ
ण /ɳə/ण् /ɳ/retroflex nasalपाणि /pæɳ/ (Literary meaning:- Water) पानी
ङ /ɳə/ङ् /ɳ/velar nasalसोङ्ग or स्वाङ्ग /sɔɳ/ (Literary meaning:- Easy) सरल, आसान
ञ /ɲə/ञ् /ɲ/palatal nasalञ्चु /pʰəɲtʃɔ/ (Literary meaning:- Bundle or Bunch) पोटली
Aspirated consonants

य्, र्, ल्, ळ्, व्, स् and the nasal consonants (म्, न्, ञ्, ङ्, ण्) have no aspirated consonantal sound.

Alphabet /<IPA alternate>/Phoneme /<IPA alternate>/Example /<IPA alternate>/ (<Description>)Hindustani language alternate of the word
ख /kʰə/ख् //खार्यु /ɔryʊ/ (Literary meaning:- Enough, Sufficient) नीरा, पर्याप्त, खासा
घ /gʰə/घ् //घंघतौळ /ɔŋgtoɭə/ (Literary meaning:- Confusion) दुविधा
छ /tʃʰə/छ् /tʃʰ/छज्जा /tʃʰəʤə/ (Literary meaning:- Balcony, Gallery) ओलती, छज्जा
झ /dʒʰə/झ् /dʒʱ/झसक्याण /dʒʱəskæɳ/ (Literary meaning:- to be scared) डर जाना
थ /tʰə/थ् //थुँथुरु /ɯ~tʊr/ (Literary meaning: Chin) ठोड़ी
ध /dʰə/ध् //धागु /ɔgʊ/ (Literary meaning: Tag or thread)धागा
ठ /ʈʰə/ठ् /ʈʰ/ठुङ्गार /ʈʰɯɳʌr/ (Literary meaning: Snacks) स्नैक्स्, नमकीन
ढ /ɖʰə/ढ् /ɖʱ/ढिकणु /ɖʱikəɳʊ/ (Literary meaning: Coverlet)ओढने की चादर
फ /pʰə/फ् //फुकाण /ʊkaɳ/ (Literary meaning:- Destruction)नाश
भ /bʰə/भ् //भौळ or भ्वळ /ɔɭə/ (Literary meaning:- Tomorrow)कल (आने वाला)


The Garhwali speakers are most familiar with allophones in the Garhwali language. For example, (IPA //) is used as फ in the word फूळ (IPA /pʰu:ɭ/ English: flower) but pronounced as (IPA /p/) in the word सफेद (IPA /səpet/, English: "white").

Allophones of aspirated consonants
Conversion to tenuis consonant or loss of aspiration

Almost every aspirated consonant exhibits allophonic variation. Each aspirated consonant can be converted into the corresponding tenuis consonant. This can be called loss of aspiration.

Alphabet /IPA/Phoneme /IPA/Allophone /IPA/Example /IPA/ (Description)Hindustani language alternate of the word
ख /kʰə/ख् //क् [k]रेण [ukreɳ] (Literary meaning:- pass away or die) गुजर जाना
घ /gʰə/घ् //ग् [g]ड़ण [ugəɽɳ] (Literary meaning:- to open or to release) खोलना, विमोचन
थ /tʰə/थ् //त् [t]थुँथुरु [tʰɯ~tʊr] (Literary meaning:- Chin)ठोड़ी
फ /pʰə/फ् //प् [p]रण [upə:ɳ] (Literary meaning:- to unbind or to undo or to unlace) खोलना, विमोचन (बंधी हुइ चीज़ को खोलना)
Allophone of छ
Alphabet /<IPA alternate>/Phoneme /<IPA Alternate>/AllophoneExample /<IPA Alternate>/ (<Description>)Hindustani Language Alternate of the word
छ /tʃʰə/छ् /tʃʰ/स़् [ç]न्नी [çəːni] (Literary meaning:- Shed; but used specially for cattle-shed, some southern dialects sometime use छ as an pure phonem so words like छन्नी pronounced as छन्नी or as स़न्नी) छावनी,पशु-शाला
छ /tʃʰə/छ् /tʃʰ/च़् [c]छ्वाड़ [cɔɽ] (Literary meaning:- Bank, Side)छोर, किनारा
Allophones of tenuis consonants
Conversion from voiced to voiceless consonant

A few of the tenuis consonants have allophonic variation. In some cases, a voiced consonant can be converted into the corresponding voiceless consonant.

Alphabet /<IPA alternate>/Phoneme /<IPA Alternate>/AllophonePhonemic Category of AllophoneExample /<IPA Alternate>/ (<Description>)Hindustani Language Alternate of the word
ग /gə/ग् /g/क् [k]voiceless velar stopकथु [kətuk] ,(Literary meaning:- How much)कितना
द /də/द् /d/त् [t]voiceless dental stopसफे [səpet] ,(Literary meaning:- White)सफेद
ड् /ɖə/ड् /ɖ/ट् [ʈ]voiceless retroflex stopपरचण्ड [pərətʃəɳʈ] ,(Literary meaning:- fierce)प्रचण्ड
ब /bə/ब् /b/प् [p]voiceless bilabial stopखरा [kʰərap] ,(Literary meaning:- Defective)खराब
Other allophones
Alphabet /<IPA alternate>/Phoneme /<IPA alternate>/AllophonePhonemic category of allophoneExample /<IPA alternate>/ (<Description>)Hindustani language alternate of the word
ज /ʤə/ज् /ʤ/य़् [j]palatal approximantजुग्गा [jɯggə] ,(Literary meaning:- Able)योग्य, क़ाबिल
स /sə/स् /s/स़् [ç]voiceless palatal fricative(a) सि [çɨ] (Literary meaning:- This), (b) देस /deç/ (Literary meaning:- Foreign)(a) यह (b)बाहरला-देस, परदेस
च /tʃə/च् /tʃ/च़् [c]voiceless palatal stopचाप [capə] (Literary meaning:- Anger)कोप, गुस्सा


Garhwali exhibits deep Assimilation (phonology) features. Garhwali has schwa deletion during sandhi, as in Hindi, but in other assimilation features it differs from Hindi. An example is the phrase राधेस्याम. When we write this separately, राधे & स्याम (IPA:- /rəːdʰe/ & /syəːm/) it retains its original phonetic feature, but when assimilated it sounds like रास्स्याम /rəːssyəːm/ or राद्स़्याम /rəːdçyəːm/.

Example of short phrases

ढकुलीDhakuliHello (lit. praise the lord) Formal.
कन छै?Kan chhe ?How are you ? Informal
कन छौ?Kan chau ?How are you ? Formal
कख जाणा छौ?Kakh Jana Chau ?Where are you going
कित्तूख?Kitukh ?How much?/How many ?
कख ?Kakh ?Where ?
किलैई?Kilaiyi ?Why ?
कैक?Kaik ?Whose ?
कु?Ku?Who ?
कि वैगी ?Ki vegi ?What happened ?
त्यार नौं कि छ ??Tyaar nau ki chh ?What is your name ?
कुडा बिट्टि बोडे ।Kuḍa biṭṭi bodereturn home early
कख बटिक अयाॅ छौ थांउ ?Kakh baṭik ayaann chauu thaanu .From where have you come home ?

Earliest known audio recordings

The earliest known audio recordings of Garhwali language were done in the monumental Linguistic Survey of India (LSI) led by George Abraham Grierson, a member of the Indian Civil Service and a linguist. LSI documented more than 300 spoken Indian languages and recorded voices and written forms between 1894 and 1928. Garhwali language was featured in Part IV - 'Pahari Languages & Gujuri' of Volume IX - 'Indo-Aryan Languages, Central Group' published in 1916 by Grierson. Recordings include the parable of The Prodigal Son and of a well-known folk-tale-the fable of the 'Bundle of Sticks' in Garhwali.

Debates concerning the classification of the Bangani dialect

The Bangani dialect of Garhwali is of interest amongst scholars of Indo-European languages, due to some unusual features.

Since the 1980s, Claus Peter Zoller – a scholar of Indian linguistics and literature – has claimed that there is a centum language substrate in the Bangani dialect. Zoller has also suggested that Bangani has been misclassified as a dialect of Garhwali and is more closely related to the Western Pahari languages.

The substance of Zoller's claims has been rejected by George van Driem and Suhnu Sharma, in publications since 1996,[13] which claim that Zoller's data was flawed and that Bangani is an unambiguously satem language. Zoller does not accept the findings by van Driem and Sharma.[14][15]

Some support for Zoller's hypothesis has been offered by other linguists and/or Indologists, such as Anvita Abbi, Hans Henrich Hock,[16] and Koenraad Elst.[17]

Comparative analysis with other Indian languages

Comparison with Hindi

Garhwali is generally regarded as a language distinct from Hindi. Although some scholars call it a dialect of Hindi, Garhwali differs from it in various aspects of phonology, morphology, semantics and syntax.

Using instrumental and ablative cases and degrees

Garhwali language has more specific words used for the instrumental and ablative cases and degrees while Hindi has only one. Here are the examples shown:

Feature Garhwali /IPA/Hindi /IPA/English Example Translation in English Translation in Hindi
Comparative Degree चुले /tʃule/से /se/Greater than चैतु मि चुले बोळ्या च Chetu is stupider than me. चैतु मुझसे झल्ला है.
Superlative Degree मनन /mənən/से /se/Greatest मी छौं सब मनन ग्वरु I am fairest. मैं सबसे गोरा हूं
बटिन /bəʈɨn/ से /se/ From मी ब्यळी दिल्ली बटिन औं I came from Delhi yesterday मैं कल दिल्ली से आया
चे //tʃɪ/ से /se/ By सि मि चे ह्वाइ It is done by me. यह मुझ से हुआ
मुङ्गे or मुंगे //

Comparison with Gujarati

The most similar feature in both languages is using of ār in Gujarati & ɪr like suffix er is used in English for person's relation with its object of occupation.

Problems and issues

According to the UNESCO Atlas of World’s Languages in Danger, Garhwali is in the category of “vulnerable language”.[4]

The reasons for this are manifold. Key amongst them is the lack of patronization at the State and Central government levels. Garhwali is regarded as a ‘dialect’ or ‘mother tongue’ as per the Census of Languages and is counted as a dialect of Hindi. It has not received patronage at the State level. History has a role to play as well. Historically, Sanskrit was the language of the Garhwali court and Garhwali was the language of the people. During the British Raj and in the period after Independence of India, the Garhwal region was included in the Hindi-speaking state of Uttar Pradesh for decades. Further, Uttar Pradesh government's policy of affirmative action through the law of reservation of jobs for the SCST population in Uttar Pradesh is said to have led to increased migration of Hindi speakers from the plains of Uttar Pradesh to the cities of Garhwal to make up for the low percentage of SCST population in Garhwal. These factors are also said to contribute to increased importance of Hindi and reduced prestige for Garhwali language in the minds of the local population.[5]

Today, Garhwali is not used in the official domain. It is not taught at school or college level. Its usage remains limited to home and local use. Further, migration to other parts of India and the ever-increasing pressure of globalization has led to diminishing importance of Garhwali for the local population. Knowledge of Garhwali is not regarded as a special skill and gathering Hindi and English skills for economic and social progress are viewed as critical.[5]

Out-migration for economic reasons has further relegated the language to ‘low prestige’ status amongst its speakers. Since the creation of Garhwal army regiments during the British rule, temporary out-migration had been the trend. Over the last century, as most of the economic opportunities tended to concentrate in plain areas, temporary out-migration followed by eventual return-migration was witnessed. Since 2000, the situation has changed substantially with many out-migrating permanently along with families from Garhwal mainly to eke out their livelihoods and better future of their children.[18]

I think of my parents’ generation, the ‘socially mobile’ one which grew up in the urban. They listened to Garhwali all their lives from their parents. But their naturalisation was in Hindi (lingua franca of the north Indian urban, including Dehradun) and then English at school. They speak the language either when someone comes from the village, or as a mock-performative thing (like the kidspeak with dadi). By the time you come to our generation, the traces are almost gone.

Martand Badoni, Outlook Magazine: Garhwali: My Grandmother Tongue


Successive state governments have not done much to stem the tide. The state does not accord Garhwali the status of state language. Hindi and Sanskrit are the official languages of Uttarakhand. State universities did not have Garhwali language departments till as recently as 2014. Garhwali has not received much attention from the academia, and much of the research on the language has been driven by local linguists.[5] In 2017, the state government announced a proposal to adopt English as the medium of instruction for early-age learners (from Class 1) in 18000 government schools, thus ignoring the key role played by the mother tongue or home language in early learning and subject-based learning.[20]

The economic development experience of Uttarakhand continues to mainly centred in three plain districts of the State, and ten hill districts remain far behind in this increasing prosperity of the State. Due to this lopsided development, the pace of out-migration could not slow down from the hill districts of the Uttarakhand after its formation. The pace of out-migration is so huge that many of the villages in Garhwal are left with a population in single digit.[18]

These are some of the factors contributing to the deteriorating health of Garhwali and the declining number of its speakers. While the UNESCO “vulnerable language” category is by far the healthiest category amongst the categories of endangered languages, it does not take long for a language to gradually head towards the category of ‘critically endangered’.[5]

Struggle for official recognition

Since the formation of Uttarakhand in 2000, successive state governments have been slow-footed in promoting and developing the regional languages of Uttarakhand. Like other languages of Uttarakhand, Garhwali, the most spoken language does not have official recognition. In 2010, Hindi was made the official language and Sanskrit the second official language of the Uttarakhand.[21]

Ceding to long-standing demands to make Garhwali the official language of Uttarakhand and to be taught at schools and universities,[22] in 2014 the Uttarakhand state government issued orders to set up departments of Kumaoni and Garhwali languages at Kumaon University and Garhwal University respectively and to introduce Kumaoni and Garhwali language courses at the undergraduate level.[23][24] In 2016, State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) announced that Garhwali, Kumaoni, Jaunsari and Rang languages would be introduced on pilot basis for students in standard one to 10th in government schools Under the ‘Know Your Uttarakhand’ project.[25] In July 2019, the Uttarakhand government announced that Garhwali language school books would be introduced in primary schools from classes 1 to 5 in a pilot project in 79 schools in Pauri Garhwal district.[26][27]

At the national level, there have been constant demands to include Garhwali in the 8th schedule of the Constitution of India so that it could be made one of the Scheduled Language of India.[28][29] In July 2010, a Member of Parliament from Pauri Garhwal, Satpal Maharaj brought a private member's bill in the Lok Sabha to include Garhwali and Kumaoni languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.[30][31] As is the case with most private member's bills, this bill was not discussed in parliament and has since lapsed.[5]


There have been small movements to preserve and develop Garhwali language and culture but primarily, these have been restricted to individuals and communities.

The Akhil Garhwal Sabha, a citizen's group in Dehradun aims to raise awareness amongst young Garhwalis about Garhwali language and culture. From 2012 onwards, it has been organising an annual 2 week Garhwali language workshop in which it provides training in the language and presents the interesting specificities of the language to the learners in Dehradun.[32] It has also been the organiser of a series of 7 days cultural programmes called Kautig Uttarakhand Mahotsava from 1998 onwards to promote traditional folk dances and traditions of Uttarakhand.It publishes a monthly Garhwali newspaper called Rant Raibar. On the initiative of the Akhil Garhwal Sabha, the Uttarakhand state department of culture published a comprehensive dictionary of the Garhwali language which has Hindi and English meanings of the Garhwali words. A team of authors led by eminent Garhwali scholars Achalanand Jakhmola and BP Nautiyal sourced Garhwali words spoken in all areas of Garhwal and compiled them in a most comprehensive lexicon of the language.[33]

Winsar Publishing Company is an organisation that has dedicated a large part of its publications to Garhwali language and literature.[5]

The first Garhwali language app called ‘Chakhul Garhwali Dictionary’ that lists Garhwali words as well as information on Garhwali culture, traditions and heritage was launched in 2015.[34]

In 2017, the Delhi state government announced its intention to create 12 regional language academies under the government's Art, Culture and Languages Department including an academy for Garhwali language.[35] In 2018, the Uttarakhand state government announced plans to launch a State Cultural Centre as a hub of all cultural activities in Dehradun which would have an auditorium, six art galleries, a library, a museum, an amphitheatre and a place for symposiums and seminars to promote Uttarakhand's traditional ‘Pahari’ language and culture.[36]

Garhwali literature

Modern day Garhwali has rich literature in all genres including poetry, novels, short stories and plays.[37] Earlier, Garhwali language was present only as folklore. It had practically no literature. Though according to Saklani, a regular literary activity throughout the known history of Garhwal has been reported with most of such efforts related to the orthodox themes of religious matters, poetics, astronomy, astrology, and ayurveda, etc. Most of these works were the copies of the ancient texts, however, few original works related to history, poetry, religion, and architecture are also said to exist. It was only in the 20th century, due to the influence of English language, modern literary forms and themes were adopted. This literature was written both in Hindi and Garhwali.[38]

The oldest manuscript in Garhwali that has been found is a poem named "Ranch Judya Judige Ghimsaan Ji" written by Pt. Jayadev Bahuguna (16th century). In 1828 AD, Maharaja Sudarshan Shah wrote "Sabhaasaar". In 1830 AD, American missionaries published the New Testament in Garhwali. The Gospel of St. Matthew in Garhwali was printed at Lucknow in the year 1876.[39] Pandit Gobind Prasad Ghildyal, B.A. translated the first part of the Hindi Rajniti into Garhwali, and this was printed at Almora in 1901.[39] Several specimens of Garhwali were also found in Pandit Ganga Datt Upreti's 'Hill Dialects of the Kumaon Division'.[39] Pandit Ganga Datt Upreti also collected and published 'Proverbs & folklore of Kumaun and Garhwal' in 1894.[40] The principal forms of Garhiwali Grammar were first published in Dr. Kellogg's Hindi Grammar (2nd edition, London, 1893).[39] The first and comprehensive research work about the Garhwali language, its various dialects, where is it spoken, number of speakers, grammar, vocabulary, phrases and specimens was done in Part IV - Volume IX of the Linguistics Survey of India.

The five local Hindi newspapers of Garhwal of the early 20th century helped to bring about cultural and political awakening in Garhwal. The early writers keen to project and nurture the cultural heritage of Garhwal. These papers were conscious of the cultural-exclusiveness of the region and nurtured the feeling for 'Garhwal nationalism'. Atma Ram Gairola wrote in a poem that Garhwalis of both the parts (State and British) are extremely proud of the fact that 'we are Garhwalis'. Writers like Chandra Mohan Raturi and Tara Dutt Gairola asked the young writers to write only in the 'Garhwali' language, because one could write more sweetly, poignantly and judiciously in one's own mother tongue. These poets and writers brought renaissance in the Garhwali literature. Collections of various oral-folk-literary traditions, like ancient folk songs, Mangal, Bhadiyali, Panwara etc were also made available during this period.[38]

Some of the famous writers of Garhwal of that era were Sudarsan Shah, Kumudanand Bahuguna, Hari Dutt Sharma (Nautiyal), Hari Krishna Daurgadutti Rudola, Urvi Dutt Shastri, Bal Krishna Bhatt, Mahidhar Dangwal, etc. Few writers writing in Garhwali were Chandra Mohan Raturi, Satyasaran Raturi, Atma Ram Gairola, Sanatananand Saklani, Devendra Dutt Raturi, Suradutt Saklani, etc. Some of the historians were Mola Ram, Miya Prem Singh, Hari Dutt Shastri, Hari Krishna Raturi, Vijaya Ram Raturi.[38][41]

Contemporary Garhwali literature

Garhwali literature has been flourishing despite government negligence. Today, newspapers like "Uttarakhand Khabarsar" and "Rant Raibaar" are published entirely in Garhwali.[42] Magazines like "Baduli", "Hilaans", "Chitthi-patri" and "Dhaad" contribute to the development of the Garhwali language.

In 2010, the Sahitya Akademi conferred Bhasha Samman on two Garhwali writers: Sudama Prasad 'Premi' and Premlal Bhatt.[43] The Sahitya Akademi also organized "Garhwali Bhasha Sammelan"(Garhwali Language Convention) at Pauri Garhwal in June 2010.[44] Many Garhwali Kavi Sammelan (poetry readings) are organized in different parts of Uttarakhand and, in Delhi and Mumbai.[45]

Notable Garhwali writers

  • Abodh Bandhu Bahuguna – (1927–2004) Known for his contribution to modern Garhwali writing including plays, poems, and essays. Some writings include Gaad, Myateki Ganga, and Bhumyal.
  • Atmaram Gairola
  • Ravindra Dutt Chamoli
  • Bachan Singh Negi – "Garhwali translation of Mahabharata and Ramayana"
  • Baldev Prasad Din (Shukla) "Bata Godai kya tyru nau cha" (Garhwali Nirtya-natika)
  • Beena Benjwal – "Kamedaa Aakhar"
  • Bhagbati Prasad Panthri – "Adah Patan" and "Paanch Phool"
  • Bhajan Singh 'Singh' – "Singnaad"
  • Bhawanidutt Thapliyal – "Pralhad"
  • Bholadutt Devrani – "Malethaki Kool"
  • Bijendra Prasad Naithani "Bala Sundari Darshan", "Kot Gaon Naithani Vanshawali", "Ristaun ki Ahmiyat", "Chithi-Patri-Collection"
  • Chakradhar Bahuguna – "Mochhang"
  • Chandramohan Raturi – "Phyunli"
  • Chinmay Sayar – "Aunar"
  • Dr. Narendra Gauniyal – "Dheet"
  • Dr. Shivanand Nautiyal
  • Durga Prasad Ghildiyal – "Bwari", "Mwari" and "Gaari"
  • Gireesh Juyal 'Kutaj' – "Khigtaat"
  • Govind Chatak – "Kya Gori Kya Saunli"
  • Harsh Parvatiya – "Gainika nau par"
  • Jayakrishna Daurgadati – "Vedant Sandesh"
  • Jayanand Khugsaal – "Jhalmatu dada"
  • Kanhaiyyalal Dandriyal (Kavi/Poet) – "Anjwaal", "Mangtu", "Nagraja" (in 2 parts)
  • Keshavanand Kainthola – "Chaunphal Ramayan"
  • Lalit Keshwan – "Khilda Phool Hainsda Paat", "Hari Hindwaan"
  • Lalit Mohan Thapalyal – "Achhryun ku taal"
  • Leeladhar Jagudi – (1944) Writer and novelist. PadmaShri
  • Lokesh Nawani – "Phanchi"
  • Madan Mohan Duklaan – "Aandi-jaandi saans"
  • Mahaveer Prasad Gairola – "Parbati"
  • Pratap Shikhar – "Kuredi phategi"
  • Premlal Bhatt – "Umaal"
  • Purushottam Dobhal
  • Sadanand Kukreti
  • Satyasharan Raturi – "Utha Garhwalyun!"
  • Shreedhar Jamloki – "Garh-durdasa"
  • Sudaama Prasad Premi – "Agyaal"
  • Sulochana Parmar
  • Taradutt Gairola – (1875– 1940) Known for his contribution to the folk-lore of Garhwal and for writing modern Garhwali poetry including 'Sadei' (सदेई).
  • Virendra Panwar – "Inma kankwei aan basant"(Poetry)"Been(critic)Chween-Bath(interviews)Geet Gaun Ka(Geet)kathga khauri haur(Translation of Hindi story Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank to Garhwali)
  • Vishalmani Naithani "Chakrachal", "Kauthik", "Beti Buwari", "Pyunli Jwan Hwegi", "Matho Singh Bhandari Nirtya Natika", "Meri ganga holi ta mai ma bauri aali", "Jeetu Bagdwal", etc. scripts writer.


In media

In the last few decades Garhwali folk singers like Narendra Singh Negi, Preetam Bhartwan and many more have roused people's interest in the Garhwali language by their popular songs and videos. On average there is one movie in four or five years in Garhwali. Anuj Joshi (Hindi: अनुज जोशी) is one of the prominent Garhwali film director.

In order to create a folk genome tank of Uttarakhand where one can find each genre and occasions in the form of folk music, and to bring the melodious folk from the heart of Himalaya to the global screen, the very first Internet radio of Kumaon/Garhwal/Jaunsar was launched in 2008 by a group of non-resident Uttarakhandi from New York, which has been gaining significant popularity among inhabitants and migrants since its beta version was launched in 2010. This was named after a very famous melody of the hills of Himalaya, Bedupako Baramasa O Narain Kafal Pako Chaita Bedupako[46]

See also

Further reading

  • Upreti, Ganga Dutt (1894). Proverbs & folklore of Kumaun and Garhwal. Lodiana Mission Press.
  • Govind Chatak-"Garhwali bhasha", Lokbharti Prakashan, Dehradun, 1959.
  • Haridutt Bhatt 'Shailesh'- "Garhwali bhasha aur uska sahitya", Hindi Samiti, UP, 1976.
  • Abodhbandhu Bahuguna- "Garhwali bhasha ka vyakaran", Garhwali Prakashan, New Delhi.
  • Rajni Kukreti- "Garhwali bhasha ka Vyakaran", Winsar Pub., Dehradun,2010.
  • Govind Chatak- "Garhwali Lokgeet", Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2000.
  • Yashwant Singh Kathoch- "Uttarakhand ka Naveen Itihaas", Winsar Pub, Dehradun, 2006.
  • Pati Ram Bahadur- "Garhwal:Ancient and Modern", Pahar Publications, 2010.
  • Bachan Singh Negi – "Ramcharitmanas, Sreemad Bhagwat Geeta" – Garhwali translations, Himwal Publications, Dehradun, 2007.
  • Part IV - Volume IX of The Linguistics Survey of India - 'Pahari Languages & Gujuri' [47]


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