Uttarakhand has a rich history which can be traced back to the Vedic age and today is home to various communities and tribes, each having their own distinct culture. Music and dance is an integral part of this culture. This state is broadly divided into two parts, Kumaon and Garhwal region but in these regions, one can also find various tribes like Tharu, Jannsari, Bhotia, among others. Uttarakhand is home to people of multiple ethnicities who speak multiple languages. Although the main languages Uttarakhand is associated with are Garhwali and Kumaoni, but these are not the official languages of the state. Mentioned below are some of the major languages of Uttarakhand.
1. HindiHindi is one of the major languages of Uttarakhand and is spoken by the majority of the population. In the recent year, the state has seen a rise in the Hindi speaking population, making it the highest the state has seen, around 88.26% of the total population.
Hindi is the official language of the state of Uttarakhand, and even the illiterate can understand this language. Hindi is also one of the official languages of India as recognised by the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. It is taught in schools and is used as a medium to teach other subjects as well. Even in the schools located in the remote areas of Uttarakhand, Hindi is the language in use. Although it isn't the mother tongue of the people living in the remote regions of Garhwal or Kumaon, it is the one they are educated in.
2. SanskritSanskrit is mostly read in texts and taught in schools. This ancient language is no longer in popular use or has any practical purposes, but it is an important language in which other languages are rooted. Although Sanskrit isn't a language which is used by people to interact on a daily basis, it has been given the status of the second official language of Uttarakhand.
Although many of us might not even remember Sanskrit, it is taught as a compulsory subject in schools. Even in Uttarakhand, children learn to read and write this language in schools. Now, it also being considered to introduce this language in madrasas.
Garhwali is a regional language which is spoken in the northwestern Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. The language has many dialects like Srinagariya, Badhani, Tehri, Lohbya, Jaunsari etc. which differ from one another. For instance, people in Tehri Garhwal and Pauri Garhwal speak a different type of Garhwali which often is hard to understand by the people of other community.
Garhwali belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages. It is often the first language of the Garhwali community living in Uttarakhand, although they do understand Hindi. One can find a lot of migrant Garhwali speaking population in Delhi and National Capital Region. It is spoken by over 22 lakh people in India as per the Census.
Garhwali has mostly been existent as a spoken language that was passed on from one generation to another, verbally. Even the culture consisted of folklore, folk songs which were told verbally. Today, one can find Garhwali prevalent in the form of songs. It has been popularised through folk songs, the most well known being Bedu Pako and folk singers like Narendra Singh Negi. Apart from Uttarakhand, Garhwali language has even been established in cities like Delhi and Mumbai where Garhwali Kavi Sammelans have been hosted.
Kumaoni is another dominant regional language of the state of Uttarakhand. It is a Central Pahari language like Garhwali. It is spoken by people belonging to the Kumaon region. As per the Census, there are around 20 lakh people in India, whose mother tongue is Kumaoni.
As Garhwali, there are regional dialects in Kumaoni although they do not differ much from one another. They can be broadly categorised according to the region as central Kumaoni in Almora and Nainital, north-eastern Kumaoni in Pithoragarh, and southeastern Kumaoni in the south-eastern part of Nainital.
Kumaoni language uses the Devanagari script and follows the same rules of grammar as other Indo-Aryan languages. Kumaon has a rich culture which is reflected in its literature, theatre and folk music. Today, Kumaoni speaking population is declining, and the government needs to put in efforts to conserve this language.
5. JaunsariJaunsari is a language which is spoken by the Jaunsari tribal community of Uttarakhand. It is a Western Pahari language and is spoken by 1 lakh people in India. The Jaunsari tribe is found in the Jaunsar-Bawar region of Dehradun district and is considered a scheduled tribe as per the Constitution of India. This tribe believes themselves to be the descendants of the Pandavas of the Mahabharata. Jaunsari language is regarded as a dialect of Garhwali language, but it listed as another language because Jaunsari is a significant tribal community of Uttarakhand. Today, Jaunsari is a "definitely endangered" language as per the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.
6. UrduUttarakhand is also home to Urdu speaking population which comes down to 5.88%, as per the 2011 Census. Urdu is one of the 22 official languages of India as per the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. Urdu speakers are a minority group in Uttarakhand. One can find them not in the remote regions of the mountains but cities like Haridwar.
Uttarakhand is a multilingual state which is home to a people of various communities. Today, there are a lot of migrants who have shifted to this Himalayan state either for business or pleasure, thus increasing the diversity of Uttarakhand. In the recent years, the population of Punjabi, Bengali and even Nepali speakers has seen a rise. The above mentioned were some of the significant official or regional languages of Uttarakhand.