A snapshot of Himachali languages

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By: SUREKHA DHALETA

Himachal Pradesh is relatively a small hill state, but unlike its size, it exhibits a vast heterogeneity in various aspects. For example, if we take languages into consideration, survey conducted by the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) in the People of India series indicates that as many as 32 languages are spoken in Himachal.

Classification of languages in Himachal
The classification of the language reveals that six of them belong to the Tibeto-Burman family, three fall in the unclassified category, two are of foreign category, twenty one belong to the Indo-Aryan or its sub-Pahari family.

Indo-Aryan family

Tibeto -Burman

Foreign

Unclassified

Pahari/Himachali group

Other Indo-Aryan

Bharmauri/Gadiali

Banjari

Bhotia

Khakha

(Chinese)

Chanali/

Chenali

Bilaspuri/Kehluri

Haryanvi

Kanasi

Persian

Sansi

Bhushari/Busheri

Hindi

Khanpa

Manchat

Chambiali

Nepali

Kinnauri

Gujjari

Punjabi

Ladhaki

Hinduri

Rajasthani

Lahauli

Kangri

Urdu

Manehat

Khaskura

Kulvi

Mandiali

Pahari/Himachali

Pangwali

Saraji/Siraji

Sirmauri

According to the ASI survey Pahari language is spoken by the largest of communities, i.e. twenty-one communities along with Bilaspuri closely followed by Kangri which is spoken by around fourteen communities, Chambiali by nine communities, Kulvi by five communities and Mandiali by four communities. Nine ST communities speak Bhotia, Gadiali, Khanpa, Kinnauri, Pangwali.

Anglo scholar Dr. G. A Grearson had also conducted a survey on languages of India during pre-independence phase. According to this survey Pahari language has been categorised into eastern, western and Central Pahari. Nepali falls in the category of eastern Pahari, Garwhali has been categorised as central Pahari. Pahari language of Himachal falls under the category of Western Pahari.

Scripts of Pahari
Before independence Pahari language was written in ‘Tankri’ script. Princely states kept records in Tankri script. It is said that manuscripts of Tankri are still available in many parts of Himachal. Presently Pahari is frequently written in Devnagari script. Apart from Devnagari and Perso-Arabic scripts, minor scripts like Tankri/Takri, Bhatakshi and Tibetan are also used in Himachal. Bhatakshi was also an earlier form of Tankri, which was frequently used in Shimla and Sirmaur areas.

A majority, i.e. 90% of people of Himachal speak western Pahari dialects, known as Pahari. It is an Indo-Aryan language that is more akin to Sanskrit and Hindi than Punjabi. In its forms of speech Pahari shows many variations in dialects in different areas separated from each other by mountainous ranges. Pahari language has more swaras as compared to Devnagri and there is more dhwani bheda in the vyanjanas of Pahari as compared to Devnagari.

Sources of Pahari
Shaursaini Upbransh (distorted version of Sahursaini) is said to be the source of origin of Pahari like other languages, i.e. Braj bhasha, Punjabi, Haryanvi, Rajasthani to name a few. Shaursaini as the dictionary suggests, derive its name from the language of old Brajmandal also known as Nagar, which was a province, ruled by Shoorsain. When Shaursaini Upbransh spread to the hills, Himalayan flavour was added to it. Older Kol, Kirat and Kinner dialects were added to Shaursaini Upbransh and it cumulatively formed the Pahari language of Himachal, but keeping its distinct regional touch alive, that is why today Pahari shows many variations in dialects in its forms of speech.

References
*People of India: Himachal Pradesh, Vol. XXIV, ASI, 1996, Editor B. R. Sharma, A. R. Sankhyan
**Himachal Pradesh, Devraj Sharma

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