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PAHARI (properly Pahāṛī, the language of the mountains), a general name applied to the Indo-Aryan languages or dialects spoken in the lower ranges of the Himalaya from Nepal in the east, to Chamba of the Punjab in the west. These forms of speech fall into three groups—an eastern, consisting of the various dialects of Khas-kuṛā, the language of Nepal; a central, spoken in the north of the United Provinces, in Kumaon and Garhwal; and a western, spoken in the country round Simla and in Chamba. In Nepal, Khas-kuṛa is the language only of the Aryan population, the mother tongue of most of the inhabitants being some form or other of Tibeto-Burman speech (see Tibeto-Burman Languages), not Indo-Aryan. As may be expected, Khas-kuṛa is mainly differentiated from Central Pahari through its being affected, both in grammar and vocabulary, by Tibeto-Burman idioms. The speakers of Central and Western Pahari have not been brought into close association with Tibeto-Burmans, and their language is therefore purely Aryan.

Khas-kuṛā, as its speakers themselves call it, passes under various names. The English generally call it Nēpālī or Naipālī (i.e. the language of Nepal), which is a misnomer, for it is not the principal form of speech used in that country. Moreover, the Nepalese employ a corruption of this very word to indicate what is really the main language of the country, viz. the Tibeto-Burman Nēwārī. Khas-kura is also called Gōrkhālī, or the language of the Gurkhas, and Pahārī or Parbatiyā, the language of the mountains. The number of speakers is not known, no census ever having been taken of Nepal; but in British India, 143,721 were recorded in the census of 1901, most of whom were soldiers in, or others connected with, the British Gurkha regiments.

Central Pahari includes three dialects—Garhwālī, spoken mainly in Garhwal and the country round the hill station of Mussoorie; Jaunsārī, spoken in the Jaunsar tract of Dehra Dun; and Kumaunī, spoken in Kumaun, including the country round the hill station of Naini Tal. In 1901 the number of speakers was 1,270,931.

Western Pahari includes a great number of dialects. In the Simla Hill states alone no less than twenty-two, of which the most important are Sirmauri and Keonṭhalī (the dialect of Simla itself), were recorded at the last census. To these may be added Chambiālī and Churāhī of the state of Chamba, Mandeālī of the state of Mandī, Gādī of Chamba and Kangra, Kuluhī of Kulu and others. In 1901 the total number of speakers was 1,710,029.

The southern face of the Himalaya has from time immemorial been occupied by two classes of people. In the first place there is an Indo-Chinese overflow from Tibet in the north. Most of these tribes speak Indo-Chinese languages of the Tibeto-Burman family, while a few have abandoned their ancestral speech and now employ broken half-Aryan dialects. The other class consists of the great tribe of Khaśas or Khaśiyās, Aryan in origin, the Κάσιοι of the Greek geographers. Who these people originally were, and how they entered India, are questions which have been more than once discussed without arriving at any very definite conclusion.[1] They are frequently mentioned in Sanskrit literature, were a thorn in the side of the rulers of Kashmir, and have occupied the lower Himalayas for many centuries. Nothing positive is known about their language, which they have long abandoned. Judging from the relics of it which appear in modern Pahari, it is probable that it belonged to the same group as Kashmiri, Lahnda and Sindhi. They spread slowly from west to east, and are traditionally said to have reached Nepal in the early part of the 12th century A.D.

In the central and western Pahari tracts local traditions assert that from very early times there was constant communication with Rajputana and with the great kingdom of Kanauj in the Gangetic Doab. A succession of immigrants, the tide of which was materially increased at a later period by the pressure of the Mussulman invasion of India, entered the country, and founded several dynasties, some of which survive to the present day. These Rajputs intermarried with the Khasa inhabitants of their new home, and gave their rank to the descendants of these mixed unions. With the pride of birth these new-born Rajputs inherited the language of their fathers, and thus the tongue of the ruling class, and subsequently of the whole population of this portion of the Himalaya, became a form of Rajasthani, the language spoken in distant Rajputana.

The Rajput occupation of Nepal is of later date. In the early part of the 16th century a number of Rajputs of Udaipur in Rajputana, being oppressed by the Mussulmans, fled north and settled in Garhwal, Kumaon, and western Nepal. In A.D. 1559 a party of these conquered the small state of Gurkha, which lay about 70 m. north-west of Katmandu, the present capital of Nepal. In 1768 Prithwi Narayan Shah, the then Rajput ruler of Gurkha, made himself master of the whole of Nepal and founded the present Gurkhali dynasty of that country. His successors extended their rule westwards over Kumaon and Garhwal, and as far as the Simla Hill states. The inhabitants of Nepal included not only Aryan Khasas, but also, as has been said, a number of Tibeto-Burman tribes. The Rajputs of Gurkha could not impose their language upon these as they did upon the Khasas, but, owing to its being the tongue of the ruling race, it ultimately became generally understood and employed as the lingua franca of this polyglot country. Although the language of the Khasas has disappeared, the tribe is still numerically the most important Aryan one in this part of the Himalaya, and it hence gave its name to its newly adopted speech, which is at the present day locally known as “Khas-kura.”

In the manner described above the Aryan language of the whole Pahari area is now a form of Rajasthani, exhibiting at the same time traces of the old Khasa language which it superseded, and also in Nepal of the Tibeto-Burman forms of speech by which it is surrounded. (For information regarding Rajasthani the reader is referred to the articles Indo-Aryan Languages; Prakrit; and Gujarati.)

Khas-kura shows most traces of Tibeto-Burman influence. The gender of nouns is purely sexual, and, although there is an oblique case derived from Rajasthani, it is so often confounded with the nominative, that in the singular number either can be employed for the other. Both these are due to Tibeto-Burman influence, but the non-Aryan idiom is most prominent in the use of the verb. There is an indefinite tense referring to present, past or future time according to the context, formed by suffixing the verb substantive to the root of the main verb, exactly as in some of the neighbouring Tibeto-Burman languages. There is a complete impersonal honorific conjugation which reminds one strongly of Tibetan, and, in colloquial speech, as in that tongue, the subject of any tense of a transitive verb, not only of a tense derived from the past participle, is put into the agent case.

In Eastern and Central Pahari 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 r̥cchami, I go, does not change for gender. But in Pahari and Kashmiri it must be derived from the rare Sanskrit particle *r̥cchitas, 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:—

Khas-kura. Kumauni. Kashmiri.



 Masc.   Fem.   Masc.   Fem.   Masc.   Fem. 







 I am

 Thou art 

 He is

 chu

 chas

 cha

 chu

 ches

 che

 chū

 chai

 ch

 chū

 chī

 chī

 chus

 chukh

 chuh

 ches

 chekh 

 cheh

Here we have a relic of the old Khasa 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, or the modification of a vowel by the one which follows in the next syllable, and the frequent occurrence of disaspiration. Thus, Khas siknu, Kumauni siknō, but Hindi sīkhnā, to learn; Kumauni yēsō, plural yāsā, of this kind.

Regarding Western Pahari materials are not so complete. The speakers are not brought into contact with Tibeto-Burman languages, and hence we find no trace of these. But the signs of the influence of north-western languages are, as might be expected, still more apparent than farther east. In some dialects epenthesis is in full swing, as in (Churāhi) khā̃tā, eating, fem. khaīti. Very interesting is the mixed origin of the postpositions defining the various cases. Thus, while that of the genitive is generally the Rajasthani , that of the dative continually points to the west. Sometimes it is the Sindhi khē (see Sindhi). At other times it is , where is here a locative of the base of the Sindhi genitive postposition . In all Indo-Aryan languages, the dative postposition is by origin the locative of some genitive one. In vocabulary, Western Pahari often employs, for the more common ideas, words which can most readily be connected with the north-western and Piśāca groups. (See Indo-Aryan Languages.)

Literature.—Khas-kura has a small literature which has grown up in recent years. We may mention the Birsikkā, an anonymous collection of folk-tales, and a Rāmāyana by Bhānu Bhaṭṭa. There are also several translations from Sanskrit. Of late years local scholars have done a good deal towards creating an interest in Central Pahari. Special mention may be made of Ganga Datt Upreti's Proverbs and Folklore of Kumaun and Garhwal (Lodiana, 1894); the same author's Dialects of the Kumaun Division (Almora, 1900); and Jwala Datt Joshi's translation of Danḍiṇ's Sanskrit Daśa Kumāra Carita (Almora, 1892). A local poet who lived about a century ago, Gumānī Kavi by name, was the author of verses written in a peculiar style, and now much admired. Each verse consists of four lines, the first three being in Sanskrit, and the fourth a Hindi or Kumauni proverb. A collection of these, edited by Rewa Datt Upreti, was published in the Indian Antiquary for 1909 (pp. 177 seq.) under the title of Gumānī-nītī. Western Pahari has no literature. Portions of the Bible have been translated into Khas-kura (under the name of “Nepali”), Kumauni, Garhwali, Jaunsari and Chambiali.

Authorities.—S. H. Kellogg's Hindi Grammar (2nd ed., London, 1893) includes both Eastern and Central Pahari in its survey. For Khas see also A. Turnbull, Nepalī, i.e. Gorkhali or Parbate Grammar (Darjeeling, 1904), and G. A. Grierson, “A Specimen of the Khas or Naipālī Language,” in the Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft (1907), lxi. 659 seq. There is no authority dealing with Western Pahari as a whole. A. H. Diack's work, The Kulu Dialect of Hindi (Lahore, 1896), may be consulted for Kuluhi. See also T. Grahame Bailey's Languages of the Northern Himalayas (Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1908). Vol. ix., pt. iv., of the Linguistic Survey of India contains full particulars of all the Pahari dialects in great detail.

  1. See ch. iv. of vol. ii. of R. T. Atkinson’s Himalayan Districts of the North-Western Provinces of India, forming vol. xi of the “Gazetteer of the North-Western Provinces” (Allahabad, 1884), and the Archaeological Survey of India, xiv. 125 sqq. (Calcutta, 1882).