Garhwali Language

Native Speakers – More than 2.5 million

This central Pahadi language is not only spoken by the people belonging to the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand but it also covers people from Himachal Pradesh. The roots of this language can be classified with Indo European, indo Iranian, indo Aryan and languages of other intermediate divisions. However various districts have modified the pronunciations of some words with time but the root remains the same for eg. The languages for Pauri and Srinagari are very similar. The use of this language is very vigorous amongst the population in the local villages as well as in cities and towns since the people from these villages migrate to these nearby towns. Almost everyone speaking in Garhwali can also speak and understand Hindi (the most commonly spoken language in India). According to researches for Hindi speakers Garhwali is only 50% understandable.

History of Garhwali Language

The earliest form of Garhwali can be traced back to 10th century during the middle of the course of development of the indo Aryan languages in India when there were numerous Prakrits (closely related literary languages) and one such ‘Khasas’ Prakrit went on and developed into Garhwali or Gadwahi. Various seals, inscriptions, copper plates and temple stones possessing royal orders and grants have been found with writings in Garhwali language. For example, the temple grant inscriptions by King Jagatpal in Devprayag have been found and can be dated back to 1335 AD. Up until the 17th century Garhwal region was a sovereign ruled by various Garhwali kings who made it an official language of their kingdom.

Why Garhwali is not the Official Language of Uttarakhand?

The history for this will take us back to the time when Uttarakhand was still a part of the state of Uttar Pradesh. In 1998 ‘Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (revolutionary party of Uttarakhand) began the agitation demanding a separate statehood for Uttarakhand. 2 years later the parliament of India passed the bill named ‘Uttar Pradesh reorganization act’ and on 9th November 2000 the 27th state of India was formed. However after its formation, no consideration was given to changing its official languages of Hindi and Sanskrit to Garhwali and Kumaoni. One of the main reasons is that it is not a dialect but is a language which stems from Hindi. All these reasons along with negligence and ignorance by political leaders and parties have led to this.

An Endangered Dialect According to UNESCO

According to the recent UNESCO’s report provided by Atlas of the world’s language in danger, showcases that Garhwali language is in the unsafe category along with quickly becoming extinct. There are several reasons as to why this is happening, where one of the prime reasons is that there are more than 2.5 million migrants from Uttarakhand in their nearby cities. With time the people on the hills are also speaking in Hindi more than in Garhwali since it is the most common way of communicating to each other putting it in a verge of extinction. The people have lost touch with their roots since it is looked down on by the people in the developed parts of the country. The worst part is that there are no efforts or active being made by the people or political leaders for the conservation of this now almost extinct language.

Issues Regarding Garhwali Language:

  • Large scale migration of the population to cities and towns due to lack of opportunities.
  • Minimal use of Garhwali for communication social as well as official.
  • Hindi language being used for everyday conversation within families.
  • Lack of support from the government.
  • Rapidly shrinking interest shown towards it by the people themselves.

There are attempts and demands being made to quickly make Garhwali the official language for Uttarakhand so that it could be taught in schools as well as universities and it can be easily preserved then.

How Garhwali can be Conserved

  • The native kids and especially the younger generation here have lost touch with their language roots in this case, technology can play a major role in its conservation where they can be taught Garhwali through podcasts, ebooks etc.
  • Language can also be promoted via music, literature, cinema, TV shows etc, where it can be successfully preserved for a longer duration of time and pass it on to the next generation in an even more convenient manner.
  • Large scale regional fairs and functions should take place where people can represent their cultural and traditional values with the help of songs, debates, stories etc. various state level competitions should be held where the locals display their traditional jewellery, food, attire etc.
  • The younger generation and kids can be taught Garhwali by organizing fun Garhwali themed parties along with performing various public promotion works on large cultural platforms.
  • Famous personalities can be also approached to lend a helping hand in protecting and successfully preserving the dialect in a more effective manner.

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