Garhwali people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Garhwali People
Total population
5 million (estimated)
Regions with significant populations

4 million

 United Kingdom

 United States

  • Garhwali (गढ़वळि भाख/भासा)
Related ethnic groups

Garhwali people (Garhwali: गढ़वळि मन्खि) are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group who primarily live in the Garhwal Himalayas of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. Any person who has ancestral Garhwali roots or lives in Garhwal and has a Garhwali heritage is called a Garhwali.

They include all those who speak the Garhwali language or any of its numerous dialects, living in Dehradun, Haridwar, Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand, India.

There is documented evidence that the Garhwal region has been inhabited by the mankind at least since the Vedic period, and the people of Garhwal today are the descendants of different waves of migration of Indo-Aryan people to these hills which took place over several centuries.

Significant communities of Garhwalis are present in the surrounding Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra along with a sizable population overseas. According to various estimates, there are at least 2.5 million Garhwali migrants living in Delhi and the National Capital Region.


The region was originally settled by Kols, an aboriginal people of the Austro- Asiatic physical type who were later joined by Indo-Aryan Khas/Khasas tribes that arrived from the northwest by the Vedic period. However, in the Middle Ages Saka Indo Sycthians swept and settled in these hills, giving them the richness of their culture and traditions. The ruler of Kumaon nearby region was called Sakaditya 'Lord of Sakas', thereby attesting claims of Sakas settling in the Himalayas.

The hill people are typically thought to be descendants of the ancient Kamboj people who were of eastern Iranian origin. Historians[who?] of Kumaun and Garhwal say that in the beginning there were only three castes: Rajput, Brahmin and Shilpkar. The main occupation of Rajputs and Brahmin was of Zamindari and law enforcement. Occupation of some Brahmins was to perform religious rituals in temples and education of the elite. Shilpkar were mainly working for Brahmins and Rajputs, in their lands and were expert in handicrafts.

Jaguri Brahmins find their roots in Jogath village near Uttarkashi with isth devta as Brahmanath Devta. With passage of time, myriad of this clan went in search of livelihood and settled in different parts of Uttarakhand, while some went on to Rudraprayag settling in gram Sann, the others to Tehri, Pauri etc. Surnames of these Khas origin people are associated with the name of villages they belonged to, e.g. Bahuguna from Bughani, Baluni, Jaguri]] from Jogath, Painuly (Panuly) from Panyala, Naithani from Naithana and nainwal from nainital, Nautiyal from Nauti, Deoli from Dewalgadsari and Balodi from Balod, Silori from Silora etc. However, one's surname does not necessarily indicate the cast of the Garhwali people.

These people of Garhwal were later joined by others through several waves of migration, mainly due to pilgrimages, which took place over centuries from various parts of India. The immigrants, who mostly settled, brought in their own cultures which blended in with the existing local traditions over time.

Garhwal Kingdom[edit]

Main article: Garhwal Kingdom
Location of Uttarakhand within India.
Location of Garhwal in Uttarakhand.

The Kingdom of Garhwal was founded by Panwar/Parmaar Rajputs nearly 700 years ago at a place called Chandpur Garhi. Earlier Garhwal used to have 52 principalities called Garhs(cluster of habitaions). Garh was ruled by a Chief, one of these chiefs, Ajai Pal ruler of Chandpur Garhi from Panwar dynasty, reduced all the minor principalities under his own sway with the power of his sword, and founded the Garhwal Kingdom. He and his descendants ruled over Garhwal in an uninterrupted line till 1803, when the Gurkhas invaded Kumaon and Garhwal, driving the Garhwal chief into the plains. For twelve years the Gurkhas ruled the country with a rod of iron, until a series of encroachments by them on British territory led to the Anglo–Nepalese War in 1814. At the termination of the campaign, Garhwal Kingdom and Kumaon Kingdom were converted into British districts, while the Tehri principality was restored to a son of deceased king Pradyumn Shah, King Sudarshan Shah. The another part was taken by Britishers called British Garhwal and had an area of 5,629 sq mi (14,580 sq km). Garhwal rapidly advanced in material prosperity. Two battalions of the Indian army (the 39th Garhwal Rifles) were recruited in the district, which also contained the military cantonment of Lansdowne. Grain and coarse cloth were exported, and salt, borax, livestock and wool were imported, and the trade with Tibet was considerable. The administrative headquarters were at Pauri, but Srinagar(Garhwal) was the largest city. It was an important mart, as was Kotdwara -the terminus of a branch of the Oudh and Rohilkhand railway from Najibabad. Later it was part of the Punjab Hill States Agency of British India, consisting of the present day Tehri Garhwal district and most of the Uttarkashi district and acceded to the Union of India in 1949. Garhwal is a holy place of India.


Main article: Garhwali

The Garhwali language: It is primarily spoken by the Garhwali people who are from the north-western Garhwal Division of the northern state of Uttarakhand in the Indian Himalayas. uttarakhandi languages include Garhwali and Kumauni (spoken in the Kumaun region of Uttrakhand). Garhwali, like Kumauni, has many regional dialects spoken in different places in Uttarakhand. Garhwali is one of the 325 recognised languages of India, spoken by over 2,267,314 people in Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Dehradun, and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand. However, due to a number of reasons, Garhwali is one of the languages which is shrinking very rapidly. UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger designates Garhwali as a language which is in the unsafe category and requires consistent conservation efforts. Garhwali was the official language of the Kingdom of Garhwal since 8th century. Any person who has ancestral Garhwali roots or lives in Garhwal and has a Garhwali heritage is called a Garhwali. They include all those who speak the Garhwali language or any of its numerous dialects. Garhwali people are divided into two castes- Garhwali Brahmin, & Garhwali Rajput. The later Aryans with their languages helped in adding to the vocabulary & had considerable influence in shaping the Garhwali Language. Garhwal was always a sovereign nation under the Garhwali Kings. Naturally, Garhwali was the official language of the Garhwal Kingdom for hundreds of years under the Panwar (Shah) Kings and even before them, until the Gurkhas captured Garhwal and subsequently the British occupied of Garhwal, later called British Garhwal.

The Garhwali language (गढ़वळि भाख/भासा) is a Central Pahari language belonging to the Northern Zone of Indo-Aryan languages and is native to Garhwal. Garhwali like other languages changed a lot with the course of time. Ancient Garhwali was close to Sanskrit being a dialect of it and which was later influenced by Prakrit and the famous Saursheni apabhrasha of Hindi. So it can be said that that the Garhwali language developed from or is a mixed form of the following languages:

Garhwali is one of the 325 recognised languages of India[1] spoken by over 2,267,314[2] people in Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Dehradun, Haridwar and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand.[3] Garhwali is also spoken by people in other parts of India including Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the official language of India. However, due to a number of reasons, Garhwali is one of the languages which is shrinking very rapidly. UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger designates Garhwali as a language which is in the unsafe category and requires consistent conservation efforts.[4]


The culture of the present Garhwal is an amalgamation of influences from the indigenous population coupled with traditions superimposed by various immigrants, especially the Khas-Aryans, who settled in the region from time to time. And thus due to this the myths, dialects, languages, folk literature, festivals, fairs and forms of artistic expression, arts form the basis and the general essence of the character that Garhwali people generally possess. Culture and tradition of Garhwal is a little similar to that of the neighbouring regions of Himachal and Kumaun.

Garhwali people follow Hinduism along with a mix of traditional Garhwali Animism. Since the majority of the population of Garhwal consists of Brahmins, so the other castes also follow some or the other Brahmin traditions or at least have Brahmin influence in their own traditions. Due to this influence, Sanskrit is used freely in almost all the rituals of Pandits and non-Pandits .

As per Hinduism, Garhwalis relate every peak, lake or mountain range somehow or the other to God and Goddess, ranging from those associated with the Shaiva, Shakta and Vaishnava traditions, to local Gods like Mahasu, Sameswar, Bhairav, Nagraja, Narsingh, Khetrapal, Ghandiyal, Aachris, Dainkinis, Sainkinis etc. The protagonists of the epic Mahabharat, the Pandavas, are said to have ended their life on earth by ascending the slopes of a peak in Western Garhwal called Swargarohini – literally, the 'Ascent to Heaven'. They are worshipped at in Garhwal and just like the epic unfolds that the five Pandava brothers had a common wife similar tradition have been reported in some areas like Jaunsaar-Bawar and Rawaayien. Temples are dedicated to the nine famous Goddesses, other local Goddesses, Bhairava,Brahmanath Devta(Incarnation Of Narhsingh), Surya, Ganesh, Kandar devta, Bhagwati, Ghandiyal. The Char Dham or the four pilgrimage which are auspicious to the Hindus are all located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. There are many famous temples in and around various areas of Garhwal but most temples are dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva, Kalbhairav, Bhagwati, Ghandiyal, Nagraja, Narhsingh and Khetrapal.


As Uttarakhand is a major source of recruits for the Indian Army. Garhwali ladies are therefore very laborious working right from dawn to dusk. They are bound to do this as most of the men are out for earning a living for their families. There is also widespread migration to urban areas due to lack of employment opportunities in the state, especially in rural and remote areas. People work hard for their livelihood.

Armed forces[edit]

The Indian Armed Forces and the Paramilitary forces of India have been the major source of employment for the Garhwali population. Designated as a "Martial Race" under British India, recruits from Uttarakhand are still over-represented in the armed forces compared to other states. The nineteen battalions of the Garhwal Rifles together with the Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army clearly reflects the participation of the Garhwali people in defending and safe-guarding the frontiers of India.


The Garhwali people observe and celebrate all the Hindu fasts and festivals, enjoying a variety of festivals ranging from Makraini Sakraant/uttarayani (Makar Sankranti), Basant Panchmi, Holi, Diwali (Bagwali), Vijaydashmi, Bikhot, Maun etc. During festivals, Garhwalis perform various folk dances like Raaso, Harul, Jhumeilo, Taandi, Pandav Nritya, Langvir nritya, Thadya, Chauphula, Nanda Devi Rajyatra etc.


Garhwali food is very simple but very nutritious completely suits the hard environment. Pulses like Gehet, gauth,swanta,toor(tur), gauthare fashioned into different preparations like ras-bhaat, dubuk (from gwauth), chainsu, faanu and thatwaani, thatchwari, kwuadu attu, miceyani roti all are unique preparations. In sweet dishes primarily tasmai, lapsi, arsa, rwatna, kandku, palyu are relished by all Garhwali people. In chutneys bhangjeera has no substitute. Jholi or curry (known as Kapul) seasoned with curd. Chudkani and jhol made from bhatt pulses. Cereals like Koda with rice and wheat are popular. Kaaphli which is the same as saag of Punjab is also popular. The beverages like buransh juice, rose juice, Malta juice are famous. Fruits like maltas(mekauti), narangi grow in the upper himalayas and papayas and mangoes in somewhat lower hilly areas such as pola(near tilwara) are grown. Apart from these fruits like kaafal (bayberry), hisoi, kilmudi are found in jungles.

Since garhwal region comprises rugged mountains so the flora and fauna of different climatic conditions are readily available to be used in everyday cooking. This naturally provides the scope for the variety of cuisine in a garhwali kitchen.

Local deities[edit]

Chota Char Dham
Kedarnathji-mandir.JPG Badrinathji temple.JPG
Kedarnath Badrinath
Gangotri temple.jpg Yamunotri temple and ashram.jpg
Gangotri Yamunotri

Nanda Devi (Raj Jat): is an ancient tradition, which has been in vogue in the region for a long time. The genesis of Nanda worship is wrapped in mystery. However, most scholars agree that its genesis dates back to the 9th century or even before. According to the folk songs sung at Nauti during this Jat, King Shalipal of Chandpur Garhi is said to have laid the foundation of this tradition. He directed his royal priests to worship the Goddess according to his instructions. Nandadevi Raj Jat is an important religious event of Garhwal region of Uttrakhand It involves a long trekking for taking the areas reigning deity Goddess Nanda to her divine destination of Gaungati peak which is believed to be the abode of her consort, Lord Shiva. The Raj Jat is taken up every 12 years, after elaborate preparations by the descendants of the royal priests now living at village Nauti and royal class of Kunwars living in Kansuwar. The purpose of the 280 km. long arduous trek undertaken by thousands of devotees is to escort the Goddess to her in-laws place. The Jat resembles the postnuptial rite of ceremonially seeing off a daughter as she leaves for her husbands home with all her personal effects and dowry.

Surkunda Devi: is a Hindu temple situated close to the small resort hamlet of Dhanaulti in Tehri District. It is at an altitude of about 2,757m metres, or 9500 ft; lies close to nearby hill stations of Dhanaulti (8 km) and Chamba (22 km). It is surrounded by dense forests and affords a scenic view of the surrounding region including the Himalayas to the north, and certain cities to the south (e.g., Dehradun, Hrishikesh) The Ganga Dussera festival is celebrated every year between May and June.

Chandrabadni Devi Temple: this place is in Tehri garhwal and one can reach the temple either from Kandikhal en route Srinagar-Tehri, from where it is an 8 km walk to the temple or from Janikhal en route Dev Prayag-Tehri via a link road up to Jurana (9 km) and then take a bridle path (1.5 km) up to the temple. A big fair is held in April every year. Adding to the various religious and culture performances, the view of the snowcapped Himalayas is soul lifting. A visit to the shrine is an experience to cherish.[5]

Jwalpa Devi Temple: This is a famous shaktipeeth of garhwal dedicated to Goddess Jwalpa. It is situated on the Right Bank of the Nawalika River, 34 km from Pauri, on the main Pauri- Kotdwar road. According to a legend in Skandha Puraan, Sachi(daughter of the demon king Pulom) wanted to marry devraj Indra so she worshipped The Supreme mother Goddess 'Shakti' here at this place. The Goddess then appeared in the form of Deeptimaan Jwalehwari and her wish was fulfilled. This name then gradually as the time passed was cut short and moduled to Jwalpa Devi. Adi Guru Shankaracharya visited and prayed in this temple and it is said that The Goddess appeared to him. Every year Navratri fair is held twice, on the occasion of Chitra and Shardiya Navratri. Anthwals are the traditional priests and care-takers of this temple as the present temple was constructed by Late Pt Shri Dutta Ram Anthwal(Anthwals being the zameendaar of the area, originally from village Aneth). Every year thousands of people visit this temple, specially unmarried girls as it is said that the girls get fine grooms just like Indraani(sachi) got Lord Indra by the grace of The Goddess.

Jaagar Spirit Worship: Jaagar (जागर) falls in the category of ghost and spiritual worship, in the form of a folk song or at times combined with dances. Sometimes, Jaagar may also be in the form of Puja folk songs and are sung in honour of the various gods and goddesses. There are more than 500 ballads on indigenous spirits, gods and goddesses, fairies and ghosts. It can be termed as a mast hysteria. The chief priest, Jagariya, fixes the time on which a jagar is to be performed. Around the burning fire, in a circle, are members of the village or family-suddenly the Dangariya or medium, slowly, and with measured drum beats, starts to invoke the spirit. Coupled with his singing, punctuated by the exotic drum-beats, and the shrill sound of the thali', the crescendo, builds up and drives the listeners into a trance. In a fit of ecstasy they leap, shout, tremble and jump. As they move around the fire, the Das starts to address them by the name of the spirit or spirits involved and asks the spirits, the questions that are sought by some families and the remedies. Usually the spirit demands a sacrifice of a goat or a chicken. The spirit is sent back to its Himalayan abode and the spell breaks-the dance and the ceremony is over. While in a state of trance the dancers lick red-hot pokers, or shove their hands into the blazing fire without being harmed. The instruments used are a big Drum (Dhol), a smaller Drum (Damau), Hurka and Thali. There are evidences that this all started as a means of entertainment in old age Garhwal same as enactment of Ramayana but subsequently got coupled with superstitions of ghosts and was transformed into present form.

Umra Narayan Koteshwar Mahadev
Dhari Devi.jpg Kalimathmaa.jpg
Dhari Devi (Uttarakhand) Kalimath
Template:Rudraprayag/srinagar temples

Umra Narayan : placed between the mystic and peaceful hills of Rudraprayag lies the Devine temple of Lord Umra Narayan (Isth Dev of gram sann). According to mythology this temple was built during the time of Adi Shankracharya and it is believed that it was built by his holiness Adi Shankracharya when he was on his way to Lord Badrinath's temple. The temple now has been renovated and is 5–7 km away from the main city of Rudraprayag with Maa Alaknanda flowing tranquily nearby. It is also believed that most of the Isth Devas of Garhwal regions are incarnations of Lord Vishnu (Narsingh dev ji) or sometimes Vishnu itself.

Umra Narayan

Koteshwar Mahadev  :Located about three km inside the 'heart' of Rudraprayag, kuteshwar/Koteshwar Mahadev Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This place is presumed to be the same spot where Lord Shiva had stopped for meditation on his way to Kedarnath. According to a local mythology this temple has its presence since the time of bhasmasur (the Deadly Asur/demon who got a boon/vardan from lord Shiva that whosoever's head will be touched by him, will be turned into bhasma or ashes .Seeing the powerful effects of this boon he tried to bhasam lord Shiva Lord Shiva kept on hiding from place to place and finally came to this place which was a cave, lord Shiva resided here for some time meditating lord Vishnu and finally lord Vishnu helped him by killing the demon. The temple is filled with amazing energy/aura and one can feel it. Few drops of water keeps on dropping in lords lingam seeping through the hill. Just a few metres down lies Alaknanda river only whose water is poured down the lords lingam."OM NAMAH SHIVAY"

Dhari Devi (Uttarakhand)  :The temple of Dhari Devi is situated on the banks of river Alaknanda. One has to travel a distance of 15 km. from Srinagar (Pauri Garhwal) on Srinagar-Badrinath highway up to Kaliya Saur, then down trek another half a kilometre towards Alaknanda river. The upper part of Goddess Kali is worshipped here and the remaining part in Kalimath. As opinion of villagers the face of the idol changes as a girl,a woman and an old lady as the progress of time. This idol is in open sky. Many a times villagers and some philanthropists have tried to built a roof for Maa, but every time it has been destroyed. Local myths say that Maa Likes to shower her blessings in open. As per Srimad Devi Bhagwat there are 108 shakti peethas in India and this holy shrine is one of them.

Kalimath: Kalimath (originally known, and still sometimes referred to, as Kaviltha) is a village which is regarded as a divine place and shakti peeth. It lies at an altitude of around 6,000 feet (1,800 m) on the river Saraswati in the Himalayas, surrounded by the peaks of Kedarnath in Rudraprayag District of Uttarakhand, India. Kalimath is situated close to Ukhimath, and Guptakashi. It is one of the "Siddha Peeths" of the region and is held in high religious esteem. The temple of Goddess Kali located here is visited by a large number of devotees round the year and specially during the "Navratras". There are 108 Shakti Peethas in India and this holy shrine is one of them as per Srimad Devi Bhagwat. The upper part of Goddess Kali is worshipped in Dhari Devi(Uttarakhand) and the remaining part in Kalimath Religious tradition is that Kalimath is where Kali killed the demon Raktavija and had gone under the earth. Kalimath is only the place where goddess Kali is worshipped along with her sisters Laxmi and Saraswati. There is a temple of the goddess Kali, which is visited by a large number of devotees throughout the year, and especially during the Navratras. A peculiar thing about the temple is that there is no idol that is worshipped here, instead, the Sri Yantra, is the object of devotion. On one day each year the goddess is taken out and Puja is performed at midnight, with only the chief priest present. The temple is other ancient temples to Laxmi, Saraswati, Gauri Shankar and many antique Shivlings, idols of Nandi, Ganesh etc. An eternal holy flame always burns in the temple of Laxmi. Bhairava Mandir is also located very near. Barti Baba is credited for preserving the sanctity of this holy shrine.All the people who met him and the locals say that he had direct connection with Maa Kali. The guru and Member of Parliament, Satpal Maharaj, has set up a small Dharamshala very close to the temple. Pilgrims can stay there. The village is the birthplace of Kalidas, a Sanskrit poet.

Notable people[edit]

In Armed Forces-

Victoria Cross Recipients:

Ashok Chakra Recipient:

Mahavir Chakra Recipient:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "India languages". We make learning fun. Hindikids. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "Sensus Data Online". We make learning fun. Hindikids. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Claus-Peter Zoller (March 1997). "Garhwali. A language of India". Ethnologue. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger". UNESCO. Retrieved 14 May 2013.  Search 'Garhwali'
  5. ^ "Chandrabadni Devi Temple". Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  6. ^