Kumaoni language

Kumaoni (कुमाऊँनी) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by over 2 million people of the Kumaon region of the state of Uttarakhand in northern India. It is most closely related to neighbouring Garhwali, the two languages making up the Central Pahari group.

Kumaoni written in kumaoni language2019.png
'Kumaoni' written in Devanagari Script.
Native toIndia
RegionKumaon, Uttarakhand
EthnicityKumaoni people
Native speakers
2 million (2011 census)[1]
Devanagari script
Śāradā script (historical)
Takri alphabet (historical)
Language codes
ISO 639-3kfy

Kumaoni is not endangered but UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger designates it as a language in the unsafe category, meaning it requires consistent conservation efforts.[2] almost all people who can speak and understand Kumaoni can also speak and understand Hindi[citation needed], one of the official languages of India.

Wiktionary has a category on Kumaoni language


Kumaoni language is written in Devanagari. However, historically the Takri script was also used as for other Khas languages but it has completely faded out and replaced by Devanagari.

Picture of Baj Bahadur with Takri text in the top right corner.

Additionally, there have been recent findings of inscriptions in Gupta Script(Parent script of Takri script) at the Taleshwar Temple, documented in "Two Taleshwar copper plates"

Geographic distribution and dialectsEdit

There are several dialects spoken in the Kumaon region. There is not single accepted method of dividing up the dialects of Kumaoni. Broadly speaking, Kali (or Central) Kumaoni is spoken in Almora and northern Nainital. North-eastern Kumaoni is spoken in Pithoragarh. South-eastern Kumaoni is spoken in South-eastern Nainital. Western Kumaoni is spoken west of Almora and Nainital.

More specifically:[citation needed]

Some Kumaoni speakers are also reportedly found in Western Nepal.[4]


Kumaoni written on an old copper inscription from 989CE. using Devanagari script.

Various Kumaoni text founded from the katyuri and chand era on temple stones and as copper plate inscriptions.[5][6] Kumaoni was official language of Kumaon Kingdom.[citation needed]


Being part of the Indo-Aryan dialect continuum Kumauni shares its grammar with other Indo-Aryan languages, Hindi, Rajasthani languages, Kashmiri and Gujarati. It shares much of its grammar with the other languages of the Central Pahari like Garhwali and Jaunsari. The peculiarities of grammar in Kumaoni and other Central Pahari languages exist due to the influence of the now extinct language of the Khasas, the first inhabitants of the region. In Kumauni 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 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 sikhno, but Hindi sikhna, to learn; Kumauni yeso, plural yasa, of this kind.

Language Comparison
  Khas-kura Kumauni Kashmiri
  Masc Fem Masc Fem Masc Fem
I am chu chu chic chu thus ches
You are chas ches chai chi chukh chekh
He is cha che ch chi chuh cheh

Verb conjugationEdit

Conjugation of the verb Lekh (लेख) to write, in all three tenses in Kumaoni.

Present tenseEdit

  • Singular
Kumaoni Transliteration English
मैं लेखनू main lekhnu I write
तू लेख छे tu lekh chhe you write
उ लिखनो U likhno he writes
  • Plural
Kumaoni Transliteration English
हम लेखनु hum lekhnu we write
तुम लेख छो tum lekh chho you write
ऊँ लेखन छन un lekhan chhan they write

Past tenseEdit

  • Singular
Kumaoni Transliteration English
मेल लिखौ maile lekho I wrote
त्वील लिखौ tveel lekho you wrote
वील लिखौ veel lekho he wrote
  • Plural
Kumaoni Transliteration English
हमुल लेखौ humul lekho we wrote
तुमुल लेखौ tumule lekho you wrote
उनुले लेखौ unule lekho they wrote

Future tenseEdit

  • Singular
Kumaoni Transliteration English
मैं लिखूंलो main lekhulo I will write
तू लेखले tum lekhle you will write
उ लेखल u lekhal he will write
  • Plural
Kumaoni Transliteration English
हम लेखुंला hum lekhula we will write
तुम लेखला tum lekhla you will write
ऊँ लेखल un lekhal they will write

Example short phrasesEdit

Words/phrases Transliteration Meaning
जै देव Jai Dev Hello (lit. praise the lord) Formal.
पैलाग Pailaag Hi/Hello (lit. touch your feet as a sign of respect used by younger members to greet older members)
कस हेरे छे? Kas hare chhe? How are you? Informal
कस हेरो छा? Kas haro cha How are you? Formal
भल हेरो Bhal hero I am fine
काँ जाण छा? kaa jaan chha? Where are you going
होए Hoye. Yes.
ना Nā. No.
कतु? Katu? How much?/How many?
काँ? Kaa? Where?
कसिक? Kasik? How?
कैक? Kaik? Whose?
को? Ko? Who?
किला Kila? Why?
के? Ke? What?
के हेगो? Ke hego. What happened?
तुमऱ नौ के छ? Tumar nau ke che? What is your name?
जट्ठ घर (ध्याव ) अजया Jattha ghyav ajayaa YOU come home early
आपूं कां बटे आछा? Aapoun kan bate aachcha? From where do you come?
को जाल बजार? Ko jal Baazar Who will go to market?

Official StatusEdit

There have been demands to include Kumaoni along with Garhwali in the 8th schedule of the Constitution of India so that it could be made one of the Scheduled Language of India. In 2010, a private member's bill was introduced for discussion in the Lok Sabha whose aim was to include Garhwali and Kumaoni in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.[7][8]

However In a step to promote and protect indigenous languages in December 2019 Government of the state introduced Official Kumaoni Books for Classes 1-5 students of kumaon division Schools.[9]

Kumaoni literatureEdit

Kumaoni language has had many noteworthy writers, prominent among them are

Media and artEdit


  • Megha Aa, (First Kumaoni Film).[10] Director Kaka Sharma, Produced S S Bisht, 1987[11]
  • Teri Saun, (First film both in Kumaoni and Garhwali),[12] written, produced, and directed by Anuj Joshi,[13] 2003.
  • Aapun Biraan (Apne Paraye) by Shri Kartikey Cine Productions. Written by Rajendra Bora (Tribhuvan Giri). Produced by Bhaskar Singh Rawat. 2007.
  • Madhuli by Anamika Film, 2008.[14]
  • Aapke Liye, a 1985 TV show aired in Doordarshan Directed by sharbat sanzarr and presented by Mohan Manral showcases the kumaoni mela "kauteek".


Kumaoni theatre which developed through its 'Ramleela' plays,[15] later evolved into a modern theatre form with the efforts of theatre stalwarts like Mohan Upreti, Naima Khan Upreti and Dinesh Pandey, and groups like 'Parvatiya Kala Kendra' (started by Mohan Upreti) and 'Parvatiya Lok Kala Manch'. "Ankhar" of Lucknow did a very good work in the field of kumaoni theater. Ankhar played a number of kumauni plays like "mee yo gayun, mee yo satkyun" writer Nand Kumar Upreti, "Punturi" by Charu Chandra Pandey, "Motor Road" by Govind Ballabh Pant, "Labh Ribhadi" writer Nand Kumar Upreti, "Kagare Aag" and "Tumhare Liye" by Himanshu Joshi, Kumauni translation Naveeen Joshi and कुमाउनी नाटक-जैल थै, वील पै.[16]

Folk musicEdit

Folk song genres include ceremonial mandals, martial panwaras and melancholy khuded, thadya and jhoda.

Musical instruments used in Kumaon music include the dhol, damoun, turri, ransingha, dholki, daur, thali, bhankora and masakbhaja. Tabla and harmonium are also used, but to a lesser extent.

Some prominent singers are:

  • Mohan Upreti, the most famous personality associated with Kumaoni folk music, who is known for his Nanda Devi Jagar & Rajula Malu Shahi Ballad. He is famous for the great Kumaoni song Bedu Pako Baro Masa which for many years the identity of the hills of Uttarakahand. It is said this song was also a favourite of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who heard it in a band march as this song is also apopular marching song.
  • Naima Khan Upreti - She was the wife of Mohan Upreti and was a prominent folk singer. Mohan Upreti and Naima Upreti used to sing folk songs as a duet and they also made the first HMV recording of songs like Bedu Pako and O Lali, O Lali Haushiya. Naima Upreti had collected a large number of songs of the Kumaon and Garhwal region and she rendered them on several occasions.
  • Gopal Babu Goswami - who is considered to be a legend in Kumaon for his melodious voice. His songs on the life of the members of the armed forces and their families like Kaile baje muruli, Ghughuti na basa (Hirda cassettes) and many others are legendary, it is said that when these songs were transmitted on All India Radio women could not help but weep when they heard the soul touching voice of Gopal Da as he was lovingly called.
  • Heera Singh Rana - identified as a contemporary poet and singer who touched upon various shades of hill life, particularly the plight of women. Besides beauty, love, and romance, his poetry illustrates pains and sufferings and are sharp in satire on the political class.

In the early 1990s songs on the turning life style mainly on the one who are heading towards town being made in which meri kumau ki gaadi, hit meri punjaban billo uttarakhand pahara, bwaari tamaaku pija etc. criticize the changing attitude in kumaoni society, the songs of mohan manral straight away criticize of the changing mindset of metropolitan kumaoni society running away from their roots.

However, in an attempt to revive the love for these songs, especially among the youth, unplugged or reprise covers of folk songs like, "Haaye Teri Rumaala", "Chhaana Bilauri", "Hit Dagadi Kamla", "Gughuti na Baasa" by several young artists like Suraj Verma, Gaurav Pandey, Priyanka Meher, etc. have been produced.


  • In 1962, a new programme was introduced from Akashwani Lucknow- "Utterayana". this programme was specially for the Chinese border area. Jay dev sharma "kamal" Banshidhar Pathak Jigyasu and Jeet Singh Jardhari started this programme. Najeebabad Akashwani kendra relayed this programme .
  • With the aim to create a common platform for local communities of Supi in Uttarakhand, TERI launched 'Kumaon vani', a community radio service on 11 March 2010. Uttarakhand Governor Margaret Alva inaugurated the community radio station, the first in the state. The 'Kumaon Vani' aims to air programmes on environment, agriculture, culture, weather and education in the local language and with the active participation of the communities. The radio station covers a radius of 10 km reaching out to almost 2000 locals around Mukhteshwar[17]
  • 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[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Simons, Gary F; Fennig, Charles D, eds. (2018). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (21st ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International.
  2. ^ "UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger". UNESCO. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  3. ^ "Uttaranchal Dialects and Languages - Uttarakhand Worldwide - Kumaoni and Garhwali - Kumaon and Garhwal Dialects". Uttaranchal.org.uk. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  4. ^ Eichentopf, Stephanie R. (2014). A Sociolinguistic Study of Dotyali (Report). Tribhuvan University and SIL International. p. 14.
  5. ^ Śarmā, Devīdatta (1983). Linguistic History of Uttarākhaṇḍa. Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute.
  6. ^ Miśra, Nityānanda (1994). Source Materials of Kumauni History. Shree Almora Book Depot. ISBN 978-81-85865-24-9.
  7. ^ "Members want inclusion of Kumaoni, Garhwali in 8th schedule". 27 March 2012. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  8. ^ Saxena, Shivani (22 February 2016). "Postcards demand official language status for Kumaoni, Garhwali". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  9. ^ "CM releases Kumaoni books for school students". The Times of India. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  10. ^ Kumaoni Cinema Archived 11 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine Pahari Shabdkosh.
  11. ^ First Kumaoni Film[permanent dead link] Bollywood Sargam.
  12. ^ The Times of India Teri Saun, 10 May 2003.
  13. ^ Film set in 1994 Uttarakhand Movement Archived 3 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine Nandadevi Campaign.
  14. ^ Maduhli[permanent dead link] Kumaoni Films at uttarakhandandbeyond.
  15. ^ Indian Traditions Theatre at iloveindia.
  16. ^ (PDF). 7 October 2015 https://web.archive.org/web/20151007071047/https://navinjoshi1.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/jail-thai-weel-pai.pdf. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2020. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "Teri launches Kumaon Vani community radio service". One India. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  18. ^ Dr. Shailesh Upreti (23 February 2011). "First e Radio of Uttarakhand". official. bedupako. Retrieved 28 June 2008.

Further readingEdit

  • Upreti, Ganga Dutt (1894). Proverbs & folklore of Kumaun and Garhwal. Lodiana Mission Press.
  • Dr. Shashi Pandey, Ramesh Ch Pandey, Rama Pandey: Uttarakhandi Lokoktiyan (Published 2014, Kumaoni and Garhwali Editions)
  • Devidatta Sarma; Linguistic geography of Kumaun Himalayas: A descriptive areal distribution of Kumauni language (Studies in Tibeto-Himalayan languages). Mittal Publications; 1994. ISBN 81-7099-529-9.
  • Devidatta Sarma; The formation of Kumauni language (SILL : series in Indian languages and linguistics). Bahri Publications; 1985. ISBN 81-7034-005-5

External linksEdit