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Title: Garhwali  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Devanagari, Music of India, Sunderlal Bahuguna, Chipko movement, Nuristani languages, British Indian Army, Hindi language (Hindi belt), Garhwal division, Pahari languages, Dehradun
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Region Garhwal (Uttarakhand, India)
Native speakers 2.9 million  (2000)
Census results conflate some speakers with Hindi.[1]
Language family
Writing system Devanagari script
Official status
Official language in ISO 639-3 gbm
Linguist List

Garhwali (गढ़वळि भाख/भाषा) is a Central Pahari language belonging to the Northern Zone of Indo-Aryan languages. It is primarily spoken by the Garhwali people (गढ़वळि मन्खि) who are from the north-western Garhwal Division (गढ़वाळ) of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand in the Indian Himalayas.

The Central Pahari languages include Garhwali and Kumauni (spoken in the Kumaun region of Uttrakhand). Garhwali, like Kumauni, has many regional dialects spoken in different places in Uttarakhand. The script used for Garhwali is Devanagari.[2]

Garhwali is one of the 325 recognised languages of India[3] spoken by over 2,267,314[4] people in Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Dehradun, Haridwar and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand.[5] Garhwali is also spoken by people in 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.

However, due to a number of reasons, Garhwali is one of the languages which is shrinking very rapidly. UNESCO's

Almost all people who can speak and understand Garhwali can also speak and understand Hindi, one of the most commonly spoken languages of India.

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[7][8] although some scholars believe "Shaurseni Apabhransa" to be the source of the Garhwali.[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.[10] Till the 17th century, Garhwal was always a sovereign nation under the Garhwali Kings.[11] Naturally, Garhwali was the official language of the Garhwal Kingdom[11] for hundreds of years under the Panwar (Shah) Kings and even before them, until the Gurkhas captured Garhwal and subsequently the British occupied half of Garhwal, later called British Garhwal which was included under the United Province. Garhwal Kingdom acceded to the Union of India as a part of Uttar Pradesh in 1949.

Garhwali Dialects

    • Srinagariya (सिरिनगरिया) – classical Garhwali spoken in erstwhile royal capital, Srinagar, accepted as Standard Garhwali by most scholars.[12]
    • Tihriyali (टीरियाळि)/Gangapariya (गंगपरिया) – spoken in Tehri Garhwal.
    • Jaunsari (जौनसारी) – spoken in Jaunsar-Bhabar area, only limited mutual intelligibility with the other dialects.
    • Badhani (बधाणी)- spoken in Chamoli Garhwal.
    • Dessaulya(दसौल्या)
    • Lohabbya (लोहब्या)
    • Majh-Kumaiya (मांझ-कुमैया)- spoken at the border of Garhwal and Kumaon.
    • Nagpuriya (नागपुर्या)- spoken in Rudraprayag district.
    • Rathi (राठी)- spoken in Rath area of Pauri Garhwal.
    • 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.
    • Bangani (बंगाणी)- spoken in Bangaan (बंगाण) area of Uttarkashi.
    • Parvati – reportedly not mutually intelligible with other dialects.
    • Jaunpuri (जौनपुरी)- spoken in Uttarkashi and Tehri districts.
    • Gangadi (गंगाड़ी) (spoken in Uttarkashi)
    • Chaundkoti चौंदकोटी- spoken in Pauri.

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

Sources and Vocabulary

The basic vocabulary and language of primitive Garhwali is said to have been developed on the language used by the inhabitants of pre-historic age belonging to Negrito Australoid, Dravidian and Mongoloid ethnic groups.[9] These are primarily the Munda,Bhil, Naag, Yaksha, etc. The other non-Aryan tribes from Northwest, such as Kunind, Kirat, Shak, Hun, Gurjar, Pisach, Darad also contributed to its vocabulary and influenced the language. The languages of the powerful Khasas, who still form a majority in Garhwal, is believed to be the source of Garhwali language.[11] The later Aryans with their Vedic Sanskrit and Prakrit languages helped in adding to the vocabulary. Subsequently, Saurseni and Rajasthani Apbhransha had considerable influence in shaping the Garhwali Language. During the Medieval period, due to increasing interaction with outside regions, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali words also crept into the repertoire of spoken Garhwali. Contact with the Delhi rulers resulted in intrusion of Persian, Arabic, Turkish and English words. From the 18th century, Hindi, however, started exerting the maximum impact, not only in enriching the vocabulary, but also on the grammatical formation and syntax of Garhwali Language. Nevertheless, more than one third of the vocabulary remained of native base and indigenous structure.


Being part of the Indo-Aryan languages,Garhwali shares its grammar with other Indo-Aryan languages especially Hindi, Rajasthani, Kashmiri and Gujarati. It shares much of its grammar with the other Pahari languages like Kumaoni and Nepali. The peculiarities of grammar in Garhwali and other Central Pahari languages exist due to the influence of the ancient language of the Khasas, the first recorded inhabitants of the region and the root of Garhwali language.

In Garhwali the verb substantive is formed from the root ach, as in both Rajasthani and Kashmiri. In Rajasthani its present tense, being derived from the Sanskrit present rcchami, I go, does not change for gender. But in Pahari and Kashmiri it must be derived from the rare Sanskrit particle *rcchitas, gone, for in these languages it is a participial tense and does change according to the gender of the subject. Thus, in the singular we have: – Here we have a relic of the old Khasas language, which, as has been said, seems to have been related to Kashmiri. Other relics of Khasa, again agreeing with north-western India, are the tendency to shorten long vowels, the practice of epenthesis, the modification of a vowel by the one which follows in the next syllable, and the frequent occurrence of de-aspiration. Thus, Khas – siknu, Garhwali – sikhnu, but Hindi – sikhna, to learn; Garhwali – inu, plural – ina, of this kind.

Khas-Kura Garhwali Kashmiri
Gloss Masc Fem Masc Fem Masc Fem
I am chu chu chhaun chhaun thus ches
You are chas ches chhei chhei chukh chekh
He is cha che ch ch chuh cheh

Garhwali literature

Garhwali has a rich literature in all genres including poetry, novels, short stories and plays.[9] Earlier, Garhwali literature was present only as folklore. Although Garhwali was the official language of the Kingdom of Garhwal since 8th century, the language of literature was mostly Sanskrit. The oldest manuscript 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 Sah wrote "Sabhaasaar". In 1830 AD, American missionaries published the New Testament in Garhwali. Thereafter, Garhwali Literature has been flourishing despite government negligence. Today, newspapers like "Uttarakhand Khabarsar" and "Rant Raibaar" are published entirely in Garhwali.[13] Magazines like "Baduli", "Hilaans", "Chtthi-patri" and "Dhaad" contribute in the development of Garhwali language. Some of the important Garhwali writers and their prominent creations are:

    • Baldev Prasad Din (Shukla) "Bata Godai kya tyru nau cha" (Garhwali Nirtya-natika)
    • Abodhbandhu Bahuguna – "Ankh-Pankh", "Bhoomyal" and "Ragdwaat"
    • Kanhaiyyalal Dandriyal – "Anjwaal"
    • Jayakrishna Daurgadati – "Vedant Sandesh"
    • Sadanand Kukreti
    • Atmaram Gairola
    • Liladhar Jaguri – "Poet & Writer & Novelist"
    • Taradutt Gairola – "Sadei"
    • Satyasharan Raturi – "Utha Garhwalyun!"
    • Bhawanidutt Thapliyal – "Pralhad"
    • Chandramohan Raturi – "Phyunli"
    • Chakradhar Bahuguna – "Mochhang"
    • Bhajan Singh 'Singh' – "Singnaad"
    • Keshavanand Kainthola – "Chaunphal Ramayan"
    • Bholadutt Devrani – "Malethaki Kool"
    • Bhagbati Prasad Panthri – "Adah Patan" and "Paanch Phool"
    • Shreedhar Jamloki – "Garh-durdasa"
    • Mahaveer Prasad Gairola – "Parbati"
    • Govind Chatak – "Kya Gori Kya Saunli"
    • Dr. Shivanand Nautiyal
    • Lokesh Nawani – "Phanchi"
    • Durga Prasad Ghildiyal – "Bwari", "Mwari" and "Gaari"
    • Premlal Bhatt – "Umaal"
    • Sudaama Prasad Premi – "Agyaal"
    • Lalit Mohan Thapliyal – "Achhryunki taal"
    • Jayanand Khugsaal – "Jhalmatu dada"
    • Harsh Parvatiya – "Gainika nau par"
    • Purushottam Dobhal
    • Dr. Narendra Gauniyal – "Dheet"
    • Pratap Shikhar – "Kuredi phategi"
    • Gireesh Juyal 'Kutaj' – "Khigtaat"
    • Madan Mohan Duklaan – "Aandi-jaandi saans"
    • Veerendra Negi – "Inma kankwei aan basant"
    • Lalit Keshwan – "Khilda Phool Hainsda Paat", "Hari Hindwaan"
    • Sulochana Parmar
    • Beena Benjwal – "Kamedaa Aakhar"
    • Chinmay Sayar – "Aunar"
    • Bachan Singh Negi – "Garhwali translation of Mahabharat and Ramayan"

In 2010, the Sahitya Akademi has conferred Bhasha Samman on two Garhwali writers- Sudama Prasad 'Premi' and Premlal Bhatt.[14] The Sahitya Akademi also organized "Garhwali Bhasha Sammelan"(Garhwali Language Convention) at Pauri Garhwal in June 2010.[15] Many Garhwali Kavi Sammelan (poetry readings) are organized in different parts of Uttarakhand and, in Delhi and Mumbai.[16]

Garhwali People

Main article: Garhwali people

Garhwalis are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group who primarily inhabit the Garhwal Himalayas. Any person who has ancestral Garhwali roots or lives in Garhwal and has a Garhwali heritage is called a Garhwali. They include all those who speak the Garhwali language or any of its numerous dialects.

The culture of the present Garhwal is an amalgamation of influences from the indigenous population coupled with traditions superimposed by various immigrants who settled in the region from time to time. Majority of the people are involved in the agriculture, tourism and the defence industry.

Garhwali people are divided into three castes- Garhwali Brahmin, Garhwali Rajput and Shilpkaar. Most of the Garhwali Brahmins and Rajputs are of Khas origin and practice the Khas traditions like 'Sautiya baant', 'Gharjawain', 'Dewar-Bhabhi Vivaah' etc. They are closely related to each other. Their surnames are based either on the names of their villages (Jaguri(Jagudi), Kaparwan, Sajwan, Hatwal, Uniyal, Bahuguna, Thapliyal, Naithani, Semwal, Nautiyal etc.) or according to their professions (Bhatt, Pundir, Bisht, Negi, Joshi, Rawat kukretietc.). Shipkaars, on the other hand, are composed of various sub-castes and are classified as Scheduled Castes in the Constitution of India.

Garhwali in Media

In the last few decades many Garhwali folk singers like Narendra Singh Negi, Bhartwan and many more have roused people's interest in Garhwali language by their popular songs and videos. On average there is one movie in four or five years in Garhwali. If you are planning to visit tourist places of this Middle Himalayan Region (Badrinath, Kedarnath, Uttarkashi, Joshimath etc.), your knowledge of Garhwali can be useful.

  • 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 on global screen, the very first internet radio of Kumaon/Garhwal/Jaunsar was launched in year 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 year 2010. This was named after a very famous melody of hills of Himalaya, Bedupako Baramasa O Narain Kafal Pako Chaita Bedupako[17]

Indo-European studies

The Bangani dialect of Garhwali played a role in Indo-European studies in the 1980s, when Claus-Peter Zoller announced the discovery of apparent traces of a centum language in it. However, George van Driem and Suhnu Sharma later went there to do further fieldwork,[18] and claim that it is in fact a satem language, and that Zoller's data were flawed. Zoller does not accept this,[19][20] and claims that it was their data that was flawed. He writes also that Bangani is a West Pahari language. This would imply it is not a dialect of Garhwali.

Official recognition

Although Garhi is the most spoken language of Uttarakhand, the state government has not recognised it yet. There are demands to make it the official language of Uttarakhand and to be taught at schools and universities.[21] At the national level, there are 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.[22][23] Recently, Member of Parliament from Pauri Garhwal, Satpal Maharaj brought a private member's bill to include Garhwali language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, which is being debated in the Lok Sabha.[24]

See also

Further reading

  • 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.


External links

  • E-magazine of Uttarakhand with Garhwali poems, stories etc.[2]
  • Learn Garhwali phrases through English [3]
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