Uttarakhand Stories

Garhwali as an endangered dialect

by Pragati Chauhan
Feb 16, 2016

Whether old or new all the languages are important for us as they are a part of our rich cultural heritage. One must not forget that ”diversity of all kinds is a treasure of mankind

Garhwali a Central Pahari language

Garhwali is a language spoken by the people of Garhwal who are also referred to as ‘Pahari’. It is a Central Pahari language which is spoken by over 2,267,314 people of Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Dehradun, Haridwar and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand. The native language belongs to the Northern Zone of Indo-Aryan languages and is widely spoken by the people of north-western Garhwal Divison. It is one of the 325 recognized languages of India and the script used for Garhwali is Devanagari.

The Central Pahari languages include Garhwali and Kumauni which are spoken in Garhwal and Kumaun region respectively. Garhwali, like Kumauni, has many regional dialects spoken in different places of Uttarakhand. Garhwali is also spoken by people residing in other parts of India which includes Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. There about 2.5 million Garhwali migrants who live in Delhi and the National Capital Region but sadly only a few among them are fluent in Garhwali.

The bond with the mountains should never be broken

Garhwali is one of the languages which is shrinking very rapidly due to numerous reasons. According to the UNESCO’s report given by Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, indicates Garhwali language in the unsafe category. Therefore, effective measures should be taken to save the language. Those who know Garhwali can communicate in Hindi, which is one of the most commonly spoken languages of India.

However, this is one of the dialects which is dying slowly and is becoming out of fashion. No sooner we will see Garhwali as an endangered dialect as it is on the verge of extinction because people belonging to the hills have fashioned themselves in modernization.

”You are who you are, never lose your originality for the sake of others”

Garhwali ladies cooking food for their family.

Lively Garhwali ladies smiling while preparing food. Photo credit: Bhawana Sayana

People have lost touch with their mother tongue and those who speak Garhwali are looked down as underdeveloped natives. People residing  in the cities don’t communicate in Garhwali and have adapted Hindi and English as their first language. A nation becomes strong when there is harmony between people of different communities who converse in a language which is threaded with love and reminds them of their roots. Therefore, efforts should be taken to save our language from burning to ashes. The loss of dialect will only be understood by the denizens when they will hear its name only in books and Wikipedia till then the shroud of modernity will blindfold their eyes with mysticism.

Diversity of all kinds is a treasure of mankind

Small steps taken at the time of distress can lead to a great outcome. To save our colloquial dialect we must join hands and work together for preserving our language. Not just Garhwali but other ”Pahari” dialects like Kumauni, Jaunsari and Bhotia must be preserved. Our coming generations must value the richness of our culture and should feel proud by being attached to their roots. We must work altogether for saving our heritage given by our forefathers in the form of our dialect. ”Death of a dialect resembles the loss of concern for the people who keep mum on the lack of academic concern for preserving the language”.

Preserving a colloquial dialect is like paying homage to our forefathers

Just like a toddler learns to stand up on his toes with the support of his parents our dialect should also be supported by the older generations so the younger ones can learn it. If parents will converse in Garhwali with their children then they will adopt the language as their mother tongue. The mind of a child is like clay which when molded by a skillful potter results in beautifully crafted pots. Just like a potter gently curves and shapes a utensil in his potter’s wheel, similarly, the parents must inculcate the feeling of love and respect in their children for their roots, their language and their origin.

So far no efforts have been done by the government to recognize the language

Although Garhwali is the most spoken language of Uttarakhand, the state government has not recognized it yet. In spite of making the long-standing demand to make it the official language of Uttarakhand, the government has preferred to keep silence on this matter. Blame it on rampant migration, lack of interest, or the present generation’s seemingly less knowledge about its own dialect. There is hardly anybody from the younger lot who knows the language.

Some Measures to Conserve Garhwali language

  1. Technology can play a major role in conserving a language as there are many applications, catalogs, stores, podcasts and eBooks from where one can learn the language.
  2.  Written documents and manuscripts can also help in preserving information about the native literature and linguistics of languages.
  3. Music, art and literature can also play an important role in preserving the dialect. Promotion of local music and cinema should be done on a larger scale to attract more and more Garhwali audience.
  4.  Regional functions should be held in which people can showcase their traditional values and cultures through poems, short stories and debates held in the native language. Festivals and fairs should be held at the state level in which people can display their local cuisines, traditional attire and jewellery.
  5.  Organizing Garhwali theme parties and events can help in attracting the youth as well as children.
  6.  Promotional works should be done for preserving the language by those people who have represented their culture on a public platform. The responsibility for preserving the native language should be given to the famous personalities who can request people to join hands with them for saving the dialect.
  7.  A separate subject should be added to the curriculum of schools which will help in giving hype to the native language.
  8. The government can also open language centres where people can learn Garhwali language from fluent teachers.

In our next article, we will update all the books which will help you learn and understand Garhwali language.

Pragati Chauhan

Pragati Chauhan

A writer by profession, thinker by choice and a nature lover since birth. I have always loved expressing myself through words, I believe words have a certain kind of melody which can be understood by anybody.

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31 Responses


नेगी हरि Says

भोत बढिया अगर अपणी गढवाली भाषा प्रति इनि चिंतन कना रोला त हमरि भाषा बचली ही दगडा मा बोलण वालों कु संख्या भी बढती जाली। पर सिर्फ लेख लेखण से कुछ नि होण। धरातल पर भी त दिखोण चैंद अर गढवाली भाषा का प्रति काम भी होण चैंद। वैकु प्रचार- प्रसार भी होण चैन्द ताकि जै ते नि होलु या जै ते बोलण मा शरम लगदी हो या हिचकीचान्दु होलु वो भी बोलण लगी जालु।

Maninder Singh Bisht Says

I love Garhwali

Maninder Singh Bisht Says

I am born in Delhi but I am not interested in Garhwali as it disturb your Hindi speaking tone .

Samit Says

I love my Garhwali language. Khati English pidi bhendi mai.

Samit Says

Pragati behen namaskar. Mithe u Jan kar baoot Khushi vahi ki aapal ya pehal shuru kari. Mi bas aapna bhe-bhandhu thay bas idga bhulunu chaandu ki aaapni Garhwali bhasha thay ki vilupt ni hoon dhyava. Aapna bacho thay Garhwali shikawa . Pragati behen aapako bahut bahut aabhar ki AAP idga Aachu karya kana chaun. Behen Mai IAS Banna chahata Hun aur aapne Matra bhasha Ko official bhasha ka Sarja dilaunga jai Uttrakhand

Hemanti Says

I thank my parents who gave us an environment where we easily learnt garhwali. They not only spoke garhwali in front of us but also encouraged us to speak it. Now as we have grown up and now we can link us to garhwali culture inspite of far from garhwal. At least we have some cultural identity giving example of unity in diversity in India.

Pragati Chauhan Says

Oh! I am extremely sorry for that I misunderstood it.

Pramod Chandra Kuniyal Says

This reply is in response of the comment made by Shilpa Jee on September 24, 2014.

1. As you have mentioned in the first line, it is impractical. I thought nothing is impractical.
See when we had (I am talking about every Garhwali of our age) took birth and enjoying our childhood. And suddenly our parents, relatives, and pressure groups (artificial societal force) forced us to learn A, B, C, D etc. & One, Two, …… Eleven and twelve (was difficulty to pronounce at early age). Why? Just because of English as a part of our school curriculum or syllabus.
I mean Introducing Garhwali as a part of course curriculum will enable us to understand its root and significance.
2. Feeling shy, just because of others is a misperception. A scientific study clearly concluded that about 98 percent individual leave their original behavior just because of what others are thinking about them, but in practice only 2 percent people think about others.
3. The people/s you are talking about those who avoid speaking Garhwali. I suggest you please try to find the causes why actually they are avoiding speaking Garhwali. I am sure you will find the genuine cause/root cause, which I want to convey.

Pramod Chandra Kuniyal Says

My above reply was towards the comment made by Shilpa Je on September 24, 2015.

Pragati Chauhan Says

I have mentioned in my article that including Garhwali as a subject can help children in getting attached to their roots. This can further help in preserving the dialect which is slowly dying. I think everybody is entitled to their own opinion and I respect yours but for what I have observed so far, I find no other good reason to avoid speaking a language that has its own rich history, plus being a multilingual is always better as you can converse with people having different ethnicities.

Pramod Chandra Kuniyal Says

1. As you have mentioned in the first line, it is impractical. I thought nothing is impractical.
See when we had (I am talking about every Garhwali of our age) took birth and enjoying our childhood. And suddenly our parents, relatives, and pressure groups (artificial societal force) forced us to learn A, B, C, D etc. & One, Two, …… Eleven and twelve (was difficulty to pronounce at early age). Why? Just because of English as a part of our school curriculum or syllabus.

I mean Introducing Garhwali as a part of course curriculum will enable us to understand its root and significance.

2. Feeling shy, just because of others is a misperception. A scientific study clearly concluded that about 98 percent individual leave their original behavior just because of what others are thinking about them, but in practice only 2 percent people think about others.

3. The people/s you are talking about those who avoid speaking Garhwali. I suggest you please try to find the causes why actually they are avoiding speaking Garhwali. I am sure you will find the genuine cause/root cause, which I want to convey.

Pragati Chauhan Says

There are many schools who have included foreign languages in their curriculum but leaving few of the aspirants who are willing to work abroad the language is of no use to the rest of the students. My main reason of including this point was, when government can emphasize on promoting foreign languages why can’t regional languages be included in the curriculum ? This initiative may help in preserving the dialect.

shilpa Says

A good attempt..though i find ur point 7 to introduce it as subject a bit impractical..not sure how a dialect in a curriculum can help its people advance. I am born and raised in delhi so not many garhwali speaking ppl were around me while growing up. Though i remember trying to speak in garhwali with my cousins whenevr we were outside so that ppl around us dnt understand us.:) whenever i get a chance i do try to listen to some garhwali music as well. Its sweet.
Although, sadly, i have met people who have lived in uttranchal for many years, trying to avoid speaking in garhwali. If they cant admire their own dialect no one else will.

Pragati Chauhan Says

प्रशंसा करणा का वास्ता धन्यवाद, आप बिलकुल सही बोल्दां हम सब तै आपरी भाषा माँ बात करणे की कोशिश हमेसा करीं चैंदी तभी हम वैते ढंग सी समज पाला. आप का सुझाव का वास्ता धन्यवाद, हम पूरी कोशिश करला अपणा लेख स्थानीय भाषा माँ अनुवाद कन्ने की. धन्यवाद

दिवाकर रतूड़ी Says

लेख पढ़ी ते अच्छू लगी और यु एक सरहनीय कार्य छ…

मेरु जन्म दिल्ली कु छ और मेरी बोली गढ़वाली मा बहुत बढ़िया नी पर में बच्योणे पूरी कोशिश करदू.. किलैकि मेते अपनी पहाड़ी बोली-भाषा सी बहुत प्यार छ।

परंतु आपसी एक अनुरोध छ की आप अपणा लेख कु गढ़वाली अनुवाद भी करा, धन्यवाद_/\_

Pragati Chauhan Says

Yes, surely we will :)

Ashish Negi Says

I have to admit I am one those who belongs to Uttarakhand but is unable to speak garhwali. I can understand it though. My parents and relatives still converse in Garhwali. I am sure we all can contribute one way or the other for its preservation. I think with our efforts we would be able to conserve our heritage.

Pragati Chauhan Says

Truly said, all the languages are a part of rich culture of Uttarakhand. We must work as one to treasure it for the coming generations.

aishwarya mehta Says

It is shocking and sad to see that not only Garhwali is endangered but Kumaoni shares the same fate. They have been identified by the UNESCO as endangered languages and need immediate attention and action from the people of Uttarakhand. What will really make a difference here is the effective and efficient implementation of the measures to popularize and preserve the regional languages.

Pragati Chauhan Says

Good to hear that you share a great bond with Uttarakhand. I myself belong to a family of Hindi speakers but my grand parents used to converse in Garhwali with us. Since then I have a huge liking for this language and always had a keen interest in learning it. Though I can speak it but I am not a fluent speaker of Garhwali. One must try to converse in regional dialects no matter how much bad you are in it, otherwise they will become extinct. A language is like literature beautiful yet diverse. So love all the languages and make peace.

MUKUL ANAND Says

I love my language, whenever I am in my home, I always try to speak in Garhwali, I love Uttarakhand, Whenever I make a visit in Uttarakhand, as Dehradun is my hometown, i feel a kind of awesomeness thing that i cannt explain in words, and also I Have no issues with speaking it in public. u know what, Even I know I am not that much good with the language, but I try my best and somehow speak enough to make the person in front of me to get an idea of what I am trying to say.

Pragati Chauhan Says

Happy to know that you are still attached to your roots.

Ashutosh Baunthiyal Says

Truly said.. I am outside Uttarakhand this time and whenever I called my parents at home, I speak in Garhwali. I love the language and feel proud even communicating in public. I have some friends with whom I always communicate in Garhwali. No matter what,we don’t have to forget our roots

Pragati Chauhan Says

Thanks a lot.

Pramod Chandra Kuniyal Says

One of the best way to learn Garhwali is to spend some time with local people who are fluent speakers of Garhwali.

The Best Advise Ever!!!! Great

Pragati Chauhan Says

There is an app ‘Chakhul Garhwali Dictionary’ which is available on Android play store also there is an Uttarakhand regional radio app called ” Uttarahand radio” where you can listen regional songs and stories with local R.J’s. One of the best way to learn Garhwali is to spend some time with local people who are fluent speakers of Garhwali. You can spend your holidays in villages of Uttarakhand where you can converse with the local people and learn how to talk fluently in Garhwali.

ankita Says

Comment: can you please suggest me some books and ways by which I can learn garhwali fluently.. I really want to learn it. I knw it in tits bits bt I want fluency.

Pragati Chauhan Says

I agree with you.

Nitish Negi Says

Exactly!

At least people living in Uttaranchal should converse in Garhwali.
People not living there might face problems with conversing in Garhwali with everybody as not everybody in Delhi/Chandigarh/Bombay are Garhwalis.

But if you are living in Uttaranchal and almost every 2nd person being there a Garhwali, you are still finding it disgraceful to talk in Garhwali, then you are the one who is a discgrace.

Pragati Chauhan Says

Those who share a bond with the mountains shy away from associating themselves with their homeland. However, this a matter of pride that we are a part of a rich culture. Without respecting the dialect, art, culture and traditions which represents our diverse culture we cannot develop a feeling of responsibility. This grave matter should be taken seriously otherwise we will loose our heritage in the hands of modernization.

Nitish Negi Says

The article very much similar to what I along with my family discussed a couple of months back.

The worst part is people who migrate from garhwal to other cities for work avoid speaking the lingo. I have seen few of my wannabe cousins who claim that they don’t know garhwali even though they were born and brought up in Garhwal.
And the funny part is that when they say out, “Mujhe garhwali aati nahi hai na..”, this comes out in a garhwali tone. LOL

I am born and brought up in Chandigarh and still love the language. Have no issues with speaking it in public. I know I am not excellent with the language, but I try my best and somehow speak enough o make the person in front of me get an idea of what I am trying to say.

And discussing about “So far no efforts have been done by the government to recognize the language”, you want government to ask people speak in garhwali? Nope.
It has come from within. Don’t be a wannabe, be what you are.