Kumaoni (कुमाऊँनी; pronounced [kuːmɑːʊni]) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by over two million people of the Kumaon region of the state of Uttarakhand in northern India and parts of Doti region in Western Nepal.[1] As per 1961 survey there were 1,030,254 Kumaoni speakers in India.[4] The number of speakers increased to 2.2 million in 2011.

The word "Kumaoni" written in Devanagari script
PronunciationIPA: [kuːmɑːʊni]
Native toIndia
RegionKumaon (India)
Doti[1][2] (Nepal)
Native speakers
2.2 million (2011 census)[3]
Language codes
ISO 639-3kfy
Kumaoni Language Speakers in India (2011 Census)

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.[5]

Script edit

Kumaoni is written using the Devanagari script.[6]

Geographic distribution and dialects edit

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:[7]

Some Kumaoni speakers are also reportedly found in Western Nepal.[2]

History edit

Flag of Kumaon Kingdom
Kumaoni written on an old copper inscription from 989CE. using Devanagari script.

Various Kumaoni text have been found from the Katyuri and Chand era on temple stones and as copper plate inscriptions.[8][9] Kumaoni was also the official language of the Kumaon Kingdom.[citation needed]

Phonology edit

Consonants edit

Labial Dental/
Retroflex Post-alv./
Velar Glottal
Nasal voiced m n ɳ ŋ
voiceless p t ʈ k
aspirated ʈʰ tʃʰ
voiced b d ɖ ɡ
breathy ɖʱ dʒʱ ɡʱ
Fricative s ʃ h
Rhotic voiced r ɽ
breathy ɽʱ
Lateral voiced l ɭ
Approximant w j
  • /ʃ/ can also be heard as [s] in free variation, depending on the dialect.[10]

Vowels edit

Front Central Back
ɪ ʊ
Mid ə
ɛ ɔ
Low (æ) ɑ ɑː
  • /ɛ/ can be heard as [æ] in free variation.[11]
  • /ɑ/ can be heard as either back [ɑ] or central [ä] in free variation.
  • /ɔ/ can be heard as [ɒ] in free variation.[12]

Grammar edit

Being part of the Indo-Aryan dialect continuum Kumauni shares its grammar with other Indo-Aryan languages like Dotyali, Nepali, Hindi, Rajasthani, Kashmiri and Gujarati. It shares much of its grammar with the other language of the Central Pahari group like Garhwali. 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
  Nepali 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 conjugation edit

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

Present tense edit

Singular Plural





मैं लेखनू

main lekhnu

I write





हम लेखनु

hum lekhnu

we write







तू लेख छे

tu lekh chhe

you write







तुम लेख छो

tum lekh chho

you write




उ लिखनो

U likhno

he writes







ऊँ लेखन छन

un lekhan chhan

they write

Past tense edit

Singular Plural





मेल लिखौ

maile lekho

I wrote





हमुल लेखौ

humul lekho

we wrote





त्वील लिखौ

tveel lekho

you wrote





तुमुल लेखौ

tumule lekho

you wrote





वील लिखौ

veel lekho

he wrote





उनुले लेखौ

unule lekho

they wrote

Future tense edit

Singular Plural





मैं लिखूंलो

main lekhulo

I will write





हम लेखुंला

hum lekhula

we will write





तू लेखले

tum lekhle

you will write





तुम लेखला

tum lekhla

you will write




उ लेखल

u lekhal

he will write





ऊँ लेखल

un lekhal

they will write

Example short phrases edit

Words/phrases Transliteration Meaning
जै देव Jai Dev Hello 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? Kajāh? Where?
कसिक? Kasik? How?
कैक? Kaik? Whose?
को? Ko? Who?
किलै Kila? Why?
के? Ke? What?
के हेगो? Ke hego. What happened?
तुमऱ नौ के छ? Tumar nau ke che? What is your name?
बेरे घर (ध्याव ) ऐै जया Baere ghyav ajayaa 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?
ओ बबो O babo Oh my god!

Official status edit

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.[13][14]

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.[15]

Kumaoni literature edit

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

  • Lokratna Pant or Gumani Pant (1790–1846)
  • Gauri Dutt Pant "Gaurda" (1872-1939)
  • Charu Chandra Pandey (1923–2017)
  • Shailesh Matiyani (1931–2001)
  • Mohan Upreti (1925–1997)
  • Brijen Lal Shah (1928-1998)

Media and art edit

Films edit

  • Megha Aa, (First Kumaoni Film).[16] Director Kaka Sharma, Produced S S Bisht, 1987[17]
  • Teri Saun, (First film both in Kumaoni and Garhwali),[18] written, produced, and directed by Anuj Joshi,[19] 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.[20]
  • Aapke Liye, a 1985 TV show aired in Doordarshan Directed by sharbat sanzarr and presented by Mohan Manral showcases the kumaoni mela "kauteek".

Theatre edit

Kumaoni theatre which developed through its 'Ramleela' plays,[21] 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.[22]

Folk music edit

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

Musical instruments used in Kumaon music include thedhol, damoun, turri, ransingha, dholki, daur, thali, bhankora, andmasakbhaja. 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 a popular 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.

Radio edit

  • 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[23]
  • 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[24]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "History of Nepal". T.R.Vaidya Publications. Archived from the original on 9 February 2005. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  2. ^ a b Eichentopf, Stephanie R. (2014). A Sociolinguistic Study of Dotyali (Report). Tribhuvan University and SIL International. p. 14.
  3. ^ Simons, Gary F; Fennig, Charles D, eds. (2018). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (21st ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International.
  4. ^ "indianmothertongues1961".
  5. ^ "UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger". UNESCO. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  6. ^ Grierson, George Abraham. Linguistic Survey Of India, Volume 9.4. p. 190.
  7. ^ a b "Uttaranchal Dialects and Languages - Uttarakhand Worldwide - Kumaoni and Garhwali - Kumaon and Garhwal Dialects -". 5 March 2012. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  8. ^ Śarmā, Devīdatta (1983). Linguistic History of Uttarākhaṇḍa. Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute.
  9. ^ Miśra, Nityānanda (1994). Source Materials of Kumauni History. Shree Almora Book Depot. ISBN 978-81-85865-24-9.
  10. ^ Sinha, Sweta; Raghavan, Radhika Gopalakrishnan. Segmental Sounds of Kumauni and Garhwali: An Analytical Comparison.
  11. ^ Sharma, D. D. (1989). A Linguistic Geography of Kumaun Himalayas (A Descriptive Areal Distribution of Kumauni Language). Mittal Publications.
  12. ^ Śarmā, D. D. (1985). The formation of Kumauni language / Pt. I, Phonology and morphophonemics. New Delhi : Bahri.
  13. ^ "Members want inclusion of Kumaoni, Garhwali in 8th schedule". 27 March 2012. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  14. ^ Saxena, Shivani (22 February 2016). "Postcards demand official language status for Kumaoni, Garhwali". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  15. ^ "CM releases Kumaoni books for school students". The Times of India. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  16. ^ Kumaoni Cinema Archived 11 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine Pahari Shabdkosh.
  17. ^ "First Kumaoni Film Of Uttarakhand". Youtube. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  18. ^ The Times of India Teri Saun, 10 May 2003.
  19. ^ Film set in 1994 Uttarakhand Movement Archived 3 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine Nandadevi Campaign.
  20. ^ Maduhli[permanent dead link] Kumaoni Films at uttarakhandandbeyond.
  21. ^ Indian Traditions Theatre at iloveindia.
  22. ^ "कुमाउनी नाटक (जैल थै, वील पै)" (PDF). 7 October 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  23. ^ "Teri launches Kumaon Vani community radio service". One India. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  24. ^ Dr. Shailesh Upreti (23 February 2011). "First e Radio of Uttarakhand". official. bedupako. Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2008.

Further reading edit

  • 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 links edit